Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 in Review

First of all, I'll jump on board the mosaic train to show you a collage of my finished projects from this year. I'm actually pleasantly surprised at how much I was able to finish this year. I'd attribute most of this closure to the Year of Schnibbles project; always having a queue of small-ish projects I could finish quickly definitely boosted my closure rate for 2010.

2010 finished projects

Finally, let's (cringe while we) reflect on my 2010 resolutions...

1) Floss at least 4 nights/week. Hehehe, EPIC fail. There's not really much else to say. Gah, I hope no one in my dentist's office ever finds this blog.

2) 10,000 steps/day or bust. This one kind of waxed and waned, depending on the weather.

3) Crafty resolution #1: Cut into my fat quarter bundles - Christmas Past (Minick & Simpson) and Mistletoe Manor (3 Sisters). Again, another epic fail. I just can't bring myself to do it. I keep telling myself that the reason I buy fabric is to USE it. For my birthday, the in-laws were kind enough to give me a copy of the latest Miss Rosie book, which uses mainly fat quarters. I'm hoping that will be enough inspiration for me.

4) Crafty resolution #2: Make 1 quilt top from my scrap bins. (almost) DONE! Unfortunately, this quilt, which used 42 strips from my dark 2.5" bin, made a very small dent in my stash of scraps. That bin still doesn't close all the way.

5) Try out at least one new Durham restaurant each month. We didn't really keep up with this resolution all the way through the year, but I think we found a restaurant to fit each of the requirements we were looking for:
*a tasty diner (preferably one that always serves breakfast) - 1) Elmo's 2) back-up = Honey's
*a good pizza joint - we didn't pursue this one quite as purposefully as others, mainly because the Hubz is so awesome at homemade calzones, but Amante is always a good option if we want fancy pizza. If we just want quick and cheap, Big Cheese Pizza was passable.
*a standby cheap Mexican place - El Corral
*Asian food - Shanghai for take-out Chinese, Thai Cafe for Thai (duh)
*a local pub - Tyler's has never led us astray
*somewhere nice enough to take the folks - original choice: Tosca, but sadly, it closed over the summer. Now it's Dos Perros.
By no means have we tried EVERYTHING Durham has to offer. That would take forever. But I'm glad we have the basics covered. Of course, the list of our essentials is subject to change.

our first Christmas tree

Christmas was great fun, but in some ways I think I need another week off. We got to see a whole flock of cute kids like this one,

more cuteness

this one,


and this one.

cuteness cont'd

We also helped my parents pack and move across town into their new house. Hence, the need for another break.

Like most folks, I have a whole list of resolutions for 2011 queued up to share. I'll be sharing those with you over the next few days.

Hope everyone's enjoying the New Year and (on their way to) feeling rested and rejuvenated!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Night Sew-In

It's crunch time.

Christmas is slightly over a week away, and I'm planning to make a quilt for a gift. The problem?

I just started cutting last night.

That's right. I didn't even finish cutting the fabric.

There's work to be done.

Here's my stack of fabric.


Here's what's for dinner: Big Cheese Pizza

And here's the guy who knocks over the bathroom trash can and digs through it when I sew for hours on end and ignore him.


If you need me this weekend, I'll be parked in front of the sewing machine, with my 69 cent iTunes holiday mix playing in the background.

I might emerge for a little while to visit the local quilt shop to redeem the Santa bucks that I earned on the above stack of fabric.

See you on the other side.

Update: If anyone else is in such dire straits, you might consider participating in tonight's Friday Night Sew-In.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Around My Sewing Room

After an unplanned blogging vacation of sorts, I'm happy to say that I'm baaaaacckk, with a quick tour of what's been going on in my sewing room.

I spent most of this past weekend in my warm fuzzy sweatpants, with my nose to the quilting grindstone. Last night, I finished quilting my first scrap quilt ever. Hard to believe, huh? I've been quilting for 5 years now, and this is the first quilt that originated completely from my stash without any sort of manufacturer intervening on which prints/colors go with what.


Final pictures will have to wait on 1) the binding and 2) optimal weather conditions, which have been few and far between in these here parts the last few weeks.


Another exciting development is that my sewing room has become a little bit more ergonomically sound, and unlike most ergonomic upgrades, it cost less than $15. (Did I just hear the sound of 3 people doing that weird snore/snort thing that happens when they nod off in the middle of a boring meeting?) I know, I know, ergonomics is kind of a snooze. I know I always click through the obligatory ergonomics powerpoints during office orientation as quickly as possible so I can get back to my exciting spreadsheets. BUT quilting is my hobby, and I don't want it to cause me pain.

Anyways, I'd like to introduce you to the risers.


Anyone who's short on space has probably seen these risers before. You usually put them under the legs of your bed to increase storage space. While increased storage space is a nice side benefit, my goal was to make my rotary cutting experience a little less painful. Whenever I had to cut for more than 15 minutes or so, my neck, shoulders, and lower back would be crying out in old lady pain. I'm already an old soul. I don't need to have an old achey body, too.

I use a little depression-era table for my cutting table. Mom got it for me from one of the local antique shops when I moved into my first apartment. I love this little table, but it's slightly short for a cutting table. Over the summer, I was perusing this book at Mom and Dad's house. It recommended that the surface of your cutting table fall an inch or two below your ELBOWS. The surface of my cutting table was roughly parallel with my WRISTS. Sheesh, no wonder I've been in such pain.

The book showed all these big fancy cutting tables that looked absolutely luxurious, and once I started doing research, I realized that they can be kind of expensive, unless you're lucky enough to find a used one. Honestly, y'all, I'd rather spend my money on fabric than on furniture, even if it is for the sewing room.

So, armed with a Bed Bath and Beyond gift card and a couple of those ubiquitous BB&B coupons that don't actually expire, I picked up a box of 4 (7") risers. And voile!


I'm very pleased to introduce you to my (messy) ergonomically-friendly cutting table. Total upgrade costs: $12. Money saved on ibuprofen over the next year: $50 (estimated).

Here are a couple of upcoming projects in various stages of completion and disarray around my sewing room:


A stack of Fig Tree fabric for a Christmas gift/Just One Charm Pack tutorial (time to GET ON that)


My Plan C Schnibbles in Simple Abundance, with the batting and backing that I need to piece together, then baste.

Finally, on to the food for the week...

For more menus, be sure to check out this week's edition of Menu Plan Monday on OrgJunkie.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Crafting: Keepin' it Real


I'm going to try really hard not to sound too preachy here, especially in light of the fact that I'm preaching to myself. But I need to confess that I'm overwhelming myself ever so slightly with the insatiable need to diy an unreasonable amount of Christmas gifts and decorations. While yes, it would be great to have a houseful of decorations I'd made myself and give all my friends and family meaningful gifts I've stitched with luv, I do want to spend some time outside the sewing room enjoying the season and eating cookies. Just as a reminder to myself more than anything, here are a few tips and reminders on having a happy handmade holiday, where hopefully, your gifts don't end up on regretsy.
  1. Have a PLAN.
  2. Have a plan in PLACE by 1 December at the absolute latest.
  3. Have all needed supplies by 5 December.
  4. Will any of these gifts need to be shipped? They need to be completed and in the mail by 15 December. Adjust your plan accordingly.
  5. Set realistic limits. Don't go whole-hog handmade Christmas if this is your first year making your own handmade gifts. Ease into it. Start out by making gifts for just a few people on your list. Alternately, if the gift is handmade, don't feel like the wrapping job and gift tag need to be a work of art.
  6. Accept the fact that making these gifts is going to cut into your normal crafty time. Adjust other crafty goals and commitments accordingly.
  7. Have FUN. This is your hobby.

Anyone else have any sage advice or words of encouragement about holiday crafting to pass along?

If anyone is here for the food, here's what we're eating this week...

And I would be remiss if I failed to share with you the excellent recipe I used to knock out the bag of shredded turkey leftovers I scored from the in-laws - Old-Fashioned Turkey Noodle Soup from The Foster's Market Cookbook - Labor-intensive? Um, definitely. But well worth it.

For other menu plans, be sure to check out this week's Menu Plan Monday post on!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Best of My World This Week

  • Log Cabin Baby Blocks - You could do this with pretty much any other quilt block, too.
  • Fake Hexies - because I just don't think I have the patience to deal with all those little pieces of paper.
  • Hanger Coats - I don't know that I would every actually take the time to do this, but they look cute.
  • Moose on the Loose - a free pattern from Carrie Nelson
  • Inverted 9-Patch - Is it vain that I'm linking to my own tutorial? If so, sorry, but I'm so excited about it!



  • Free Printable Gift Tags - It takes about 15 seconds to print out a sheet of cute tags. I'm never paying for them again.
  • Christmas Subway Art - All you have to do is print it out and put it in a frame. Honest. Instant Christmas decoration.
  • Wine Cork Christmas Tree - I save all our wine corks, and I'm always on the lookout for something to do with them besides put them in the crystal bowl we got for a wedding gift.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just One Charm Pack - Inverted Nine Patch

This is the first pattern that I scratched out on a piece of scrap paper sometime last year, and I've made it or some variation of it 3 times since then. So it has a near and dear place in my quilter's heart. I hope you love it!


First, the supplies:
  • 1 charm pack or (42) 5" squares - I used 12 Days of Christmas by Kate Spain
  • 3 yards of background fabric (you'll have extra) - I used Kona Charcoal
  • 1 yard for the inner border and binding - from 12 Days of Christmas
  • 1.75 yards of a coordinating print for the outer border (you'll have extra if you want to make throw pillows, etc.) - also from 12 Days of Christmas
  • 4.5 yards of backing fabric - from the sale rack @ Thimble Pleasures
  • 2-2.5 yards of batting - I used Warm & Natural

Now, I need to talk to you for a minute about buying your yardage. Yes, it looks gorgeous when your borders are all matchy-matchy and come from the same line of fabric as your charm pack. But if you're like me, you don't always think this far ahead when you buy the charm pack. If you're absolutely desperate for the charm pack and borders to come from the same collection, but said collection came out 2 years ago, throw yourself at the mercy of, etsy, and/or ebay, and be prepared to maybe pay some hefty prices ($9-11/yard in some cases). If you're a little more flexible, look for coordinating prints from the designer's more recent collections. Or go whole hog crazy and find something from a completely different collection/designer/manufacturer. Despite what you may have seen or read, mixing fabrics from different designers and manufacturers can have beautiful results.

Back to the regularly scheduled tutorial...

Preface: All seams are 1/4" (0.25"), unless you like to live dangerously.

1. I'll go ahead and put myself out there and say that the first thing I always do is pre-wash my YARDAGE because I'm old skool like that. Feel free to ignore me and not pre-wash. My feelings won't be hurt. Just don't try to pre-wash your charm squares. The final results will make you cry, okay? Please, just don't do it.

2. Next, you'll want to open your charm pack (one of the most exhilirating steps for me) and closely examine all the lovely fabrics.

3. After that, cut each charm square into (2) 2.5"x5" logs. If your rotary blade is nice and sharp, feel free to stack 2-3 charm squares at a time to make the process go a little quicker. After you're all done, set them aside for now.


4. The next step is to cut the background fabric. All in all, you'll need (33) 2.5" strips.


5. After you've cut your strips, sub-cut 11 of them into (84) 2.5"x5" logs.


Then cut 3 of them into (42) 2.5" squares. Set aside the other background strips for now.


**As I cut, I like to use Bonnie Hunter's trick of pinning 10 units together, so I can quickly eyeball how many squares or logs I've cut thus far.


Assembling the blocks...

7. Take 1 background log (2.5"x5") and one log from a charm square and sew them together along the 5" line.


Rinse and repeat 83 more times. (Chain-piecing is your friend!)


8. Iron seams, according to your own preference (open or to the side). In this case, since there are no pesky triangle points to create lots of bulk, I'm ironing towards the background side.


9. At this point, the units should measure roughly 4.5"x5." If making these measurements exact is important to you, please square up each unit accordingly.

10. Next, cut each of the 4.5"x5" units into (2) 2.5"x4.5" logs, each with a charm and background square. Note: If you'd like the charm square prints in each 9-patch block to match, be sure to keep like log squares together. If you're less concerned with matching, feel free to dump them in a sack and shuffle them around to increase the scrappiness of the quilt.


11. Now, it's time to piece again. Grab 3 and only 3 logs. If you want the charm square prints within each block to match, be sure you're grabbing 3 logs from the same print. First create a typical 4-patch with 2 logs - where the charm and background squares alternate to create their own mini-checkerboard. Press the seam.


12.Now, add the 3rd log to the top or bottom of the 4-patch. At this point, it really doesn't matter which side you attach it to, as long as you keep the charm-background squares alternating. Press the seam.


13. With the final charm-background log, grab one of the 2.5" background squares from waaaaay back in step 5, and sew it to the charm pack print of the log.


14. Then press the seam.


At this point, your block should be in 2 pieces - a 4.5"x6.5" log, and a 2.5"x6.5" skinny log.

15. Being careful to align the seams, sew together these two pieces so that the background and charm prints alternate.

16. Then press the seam.


17. If all went according to plan, you should be looking at a 6.5"x6.5" finished square. Admittedly, very little in my sewing room goes exactly according to plan, so I sometimes need to square up the egregiously misformed blocks.


Now, it's time to make a decision about sashing. Let me just say that I love adding sashing to quilts because it makes it a lot easier to fudge blocks that are ever so slightly different in size. Don't believe me? Ask Sharyn Squier Craig. I heard her at my first quilt guild meeting ever, and she is a genius with tons of great ideas on how to solve the problem of blocks that are not exactly the same size. Sashing is one of them.

But if you'd prefer NOT to sash these blocks, I totally understand. I even skipped it once when I was short on time, so short on time,in fact, that I didn't take a picture of the finished quilt. But here's a picture of the quilt top, where you get the idea. For you renegades who decide not to sash, see below.

9-patch quilt for Merissa's grandmother

If you decide to sash, please follow me.

18. Lay out your 9-patch blocks on a design wall, the floor, or anywhere you have enough space, in a 6x7 grid (assuming you used 42 squares). Keep in mind that you'll have sashing between each block, so don't get too caught up in making the flow of colors absolutely perfect. The sashing will ever so slightly break up that flow.


19. Since I don't have a design wall set up anywhere, I try to stack and pin each row of blocks in nicely-labeled stacks, where top to bottom, the squares are running left to right. Honestly y'all, what would we do without post-it notes?


20. From 10 leftover background 2.5" strips we set aside in step 5, cut (49) 2.5"x6.5" logs.


21. Now, it's time to cut the horizontal sashing strips. All told, you'll need 8 of them, and they'll all need to be 50.5". So, it varies from one manufacturer to another or even one bolt to another exactly how wide a piece of fabric is. I'm going to assume that *most* not all bolts will be roughly 42" wide. So set aside 8 pieces of 2.5"xWOF strips and then cut (8) 2.5"x9" strips from the 2 remaining strips.


22. Next, you'll need to sew together the 2.5"xWOF strip and the 2.5"x9" strip to create the horizontal sashing strips.

23. Press the seam.

Assembling the middle of the quilt top

24. Grab the pieces of vertical sashing (2.5"x6.5") and start attaching them to the 9-patch squares. On the first 9-patch of each row, attach the vertical sashing to both the right and left side of the square. After that, only attach it to the right side of the square.


25. I press all my seams as I go along towards the 9-patch. I've found that the rows turn out considerably less wonky if I press as I go, as opposed to waiting until I get to the end of the row to press seams. I'm also careful to pin the row label back on the left-most block, so that I can better keep track of which row is which.

26. Rinse and repeat steps 24 and 25 5 more times.

Y'all we're getting really close. I'm starting to get really excited right about now.

27. Attach the horizontal sashing. At this point, I become a fanatic with the straight pins and pin the sashing to the rows every 4 or 5 inches. If you like living dangerously, by all means, please ignore me. For Row 1, be sure to attach horizontal sashing to both the top and bottom of the row. For rows 2-7, just attach horizontal sashing to the bottom of each row.


28. Press all those seams you just sewed towards the 9-patches.

29. Now at this point, you're probably looking at a little bit of extra fabric on one of both sides of the horizontal sashing. Take a trip over to the cutting board to trim the overages.


Time for borders!!


30. It's time for the dreaded task of adding borders. This is my least favorite task because I'm oh so close to the end but still kind of far away. So, for the inner border, cut (6) 2.5" strips from your inner border fabric.


31. Sew 2 strips end to end, and press the seam. Rinse and repeat with 2 more strips.


32. For love of Jove, PIN these strips to 2 sides of your quilt, so you're not stuck with any wavy surprises later - I like to start with the long sides to get them over with.

Now, you can sew them, remove the pins, and press the seams. Then cut off the excess. (If you're a deputy member of the Quilt Police, please forgive me for not measuring my quilt top 8 times before I attach the borders, then simply lopping off the excess.)


33. For the shorter sides, attach one piece of the excess inner border you just trimmed to one of the remaining 2.5XWOF strips. Repeat for the other excess strip and the final 2.5XWOF inner border strip.

34. Repeat step 32 for the shorter sides of the quilt.

35. Now to start on the larger borders. For this particular pattern, I usually cut them the same size as the 9-patch. So, cut 6 strips of fabric - 6.5"xWOF - this will be Just Enough. It might be a good idea to cut 7 strips to be on the safe side if you cut off your selvages.


36. Repeat Steps 31 and 32 with your 6.5" strips, beginning with the long sides (assuming you started with the long sides. If not, then start with the short sides).

37. Repeat step 33 to create the outer borders (6.5" strips) for the short sides of the quilt.

38. Just keep pinning! At this point, I'm tempted to start getting sloppy, but believe me, if you keep pinning, your life will be much easier. Pin this last set of borders to the shorter sides of the quilt, sew the seams, remove the pins, then press.

39. Sit back and admire all your handiwork, while you ponder how you'll quilt it.

40. Now it's time to make your backing. Since I still make lots of snafus when machine quilting, I like to use a somewhat busy print for the backing to mask some of my mistakes. When it comes to piecing the back, I don't like to sew any more than one seam. Since few of my quilts have ever been wider than 80", that means I usually buy between 3.5-5 yards of fabric, find the half-way point, make one cut, trim the selvages, them sew the trimmed sides together (that used to have selvages). This is just how I usually do things. If you have another method, please feel free to use it instead. After that's all done, don't forget to press your seam(s) and also take a moment to press the rest of the backing fabric itself.

41. Next up is basting the quilt. The best tutorial I've found for safety-pin basting is here at Oh, Fransson. Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, I'm going to point you to Elizabeth's sage advice.

42. Now it's time to quilt! Again, I'm no machine-quilting expert by any means, but here are a few links for inspiration. I know some of them are for long-arm quilters, but don't be discouraged! A lot of long-armers quilt free-motion, and watching their videos can be incredibly helpful if you're looking for ideas. I've also had great success tracing designs onto tracing paper, pinning the paper on my quilt (being sure to remove safety pins below!), then following the design, and ripping off the paper.


43. Whew, almost done! The tie that binds... I almost always do straight-grain binding - that is, no bias cuts for me. If you prefer bias cuts, have at it! For straight-grain binding, you'll probably need about 7 strips - I like a skinny binding, so I cut my strips 2.25" wide, fold them over, then press them, attach to the front of the quilt with my machine, then I tack the binding down by hand while I watch a movie on the couch. Here are some binding tutorials with play by play instructions:

I hope that you love this pattern as much as I do! If you decide to embark on this tutorial, I'd love to see pictures of the finished product and/or your adventures along the way!!

Finally, for a PDF version of this pattern, click here.