Monday, December 31, 2012

The Only Snow I've Seen This Season

For December, I threw my jelly roll/strippy resolutions to the wind and went over to the dark side. I hit up Fat Quarter Shop's holiday sale, ordered a LOAD of Cuzco yardage by Kate Spain, and made my own layer cake. Well, the equivalent of 2 layer cakes actually.

cuzco yardage ftw!

You see, I used almost all my spare time this month making a KING-sized quilt top to go on my sister-in-law's bed. In between all the nuttiness that goes along with the holiday season - traveling to/from get-togethers, holiday gift shopping, and dealing with the fallout credit card fraud (2 rounds of it to be exact) that goes along with aforementioned holiday gift shopping - I was stealing some time in the sewing room piecing my little heart out.

Here's a sneak peek of the top. I used Natalia's tutorial for Verna's Quilt (minus the flower applique). I love the oversized snowball blocks - they're perfect for showcasing large-scale prints. Hopefully, I'll have some pictures of the finished quilt to show soon! We're meeting up with the in-laws sometime in January to exchange gifts, so I still have a bit of breathing room to finish the quilting.

snowballs!

Who snuck over to their sewing machines this month to work on a strippy (or not) project? Link up below! The party will rage on until January 7th around 11pm.

jellyroll!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Soldja' Quilt

As you might guess, today's quilt is going straight to Quilts of Valor.

just one star blocks 

DOQ sponsored a sew-in one Saturday LAST summer, where folks brought their sewing machines, the guild brought the fabric, and we worked on soldier quilts to give to Quilts of Valor.

scrappy just one star blocks in progress 

It was hot outside, and I was too lazy to haul my sewing machine out in the heat, unload it, etc, so I just brought my rotary cutter and rulers and stationed myself at a cutting mat and ironing board the whole day. I trimmed blocks and pressed seams as people needed it. In between, I went through the huge boxes of patriotic scraps the guild had accumulated and starting cutting up the small pieces to make Just One Star blocks. By the end of the day, I had cut out enough fabric to make the star centers of 36 blocks. So I took the mini-kits home, made up the blocks, added the larger sashing pieces from my stash, and sewed them all together. Then the quilt top sat at the bottom of my pile for months. Literally, months.

quilt of valor backing 

I finally worked up the gumption to make the backing and baste the quilt early this summer. Then the quilt sat a little longer. I finally quilted it with a large meander stippling stitch, and then I let it sit quilted but unbound for even longer. Come September, I finally decided enough was enough. I made the binding from some of the leftover backing fabric, and tacked it on there by machine on both sides.

just one star quilt 

I really like the scrappiness of the blocks, and I think the fact that I only used 2-3 sashing fabrics to set the stars on point helps to tone down the busy-ness of the stars.

just one star quilt 

Vital Stats:
Started: July 2011
Finished: September 2012
Machine-pieced, machine-quilted

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Central Park Flower Garden


For a good long time, I didn't really get the whole english paper piecing hexagon craze. I saw lots of hexagon flowers popping up in my flickr and blog feeds but didn't really pay them too much attention. Then I started going to quilt bee meetings, and I found myself scrambling to get my most current project in a state where it was portable. I was either rushing to quilt something so I could bind by hand at the meeting, or I would start a new project just so I could bring some fabric to cut on my little portable cutting mat, etc. One night at bee, I ran out of stuff to do - I finished all the portable work I brought for that meeting. One of the women was kind enough to show me her hexagon/flower garden project and show me how to baste the fabric around the templates. I won't lie. The basting I did that night was pretty darn rough, but I caught the bug. I went home that night, browsed the internet for some hexy inspiration, and started planning my first hexagon project.

central park hexagons 

I decided to start with the traditional flower shape. I had been hoarding a charm pack - Kate Spain's Central Park, and I was ready to put it to use. I cut it up into a bunch of 2.5" squares - they're the perfect size for basting 1" hexagons. In retrospect, I maybe should have picked out a charm pack without so many large-scale prints. When I cut them into the tiny pieces, some of the prints lost a bit of their charm (get it? 'cuz they're charm squares?), but oh well. Live and learn.

I picked out a couple of complimentary solids for the center hexagon and the outer rings on the flowers and started basting away. Complimentary solids = Kona Buttercup (yellow) and Kona Grass (green).

green borders with a warm colored flower 

By the way, Kona Grass is one of my new favorite solids now - it's the perfect green for so many different stacks of fabric that will one day be quilts in my stash. It took between 1/2-2/3 yard of each solid to make enough hexagons for the flower's outer border and the centers.

For my templates, I just use scratch copy paper, and I print off my templates from here, using the 1" template. I'm able to use the templates 3-4 times before they start getting ratty and too pliable. Then they're off to the shredder and then to the compost. Admittedly, it does take time to cut out all those hexagons, but I'm too cheap to spring for the plastic templates. Also, my hexagon projects are my mindless projects, so I don't want to have to think so hard about the best way to construct the hexy shapes in order to re-use a limited number of plastic templates. For me, taking the time to cut out the shapes on copy paper is totally worth it.

Central park hexagons 

It took about 8 months and a heckalotta football games for me to finish the flowers. I took them everywhere - to bee, on road trips, on visits to see family where I knew we'd be sitting and talking for a long time, and then I worked on them in front of the TV while we cleared out the DVR on the weekends. I very, very briefly toyed with the idea of joining them all together to make an all-hexy quilt top, then quickly decided I didn't want to live with this project for that long.

yellow borders with a cool colored flower 

So I just pressed them and machine appliqued them onto some bright blue background fabric (Kona Bahama Blue, 2 different die lots of it apparently) with a blanket stitch.

chicken scratch quilting 

For the quilting, I used a "chicken scratch" stitch that I first saw from Elizabeth Hartman. See her guest post on the Modern Quilt Guild blog for some great pictures of this stitch (and for tips on wrastling a big quilt into your domestic machine). The quilting on this went incredibly quickly - it's a great pattern if you're in a hurry to finish holiday projects but are weary of regular stippling.

crazy backing 

The backing is a great purple print from JoAnn's, and I used an orange Tanya Whelan print from the stash to bind it. There are a lot of crazy colors going on in this quilt, but the charm pack had lots of colors going on, so it all ties back together.
grandmother's flower garden quilt with central park

This quilt is on its way to Durham Foster Care via TMQG. I know there's some kid out there in town with a strong affinity for bright colors and a need for a cuddly quilt of their very own.

Vital Stats:
Started: August 2011
Finished: November 2012
Hand and machine-pieced, Machine quilted

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Granny Squares are FINISHED


Picking up where I abrubtly left off last week, I'm back with another finished quilt and a few giveaway winners. First the quilt.

etchings granny square quilt

I caught the Granny Square craze that swept QuiltBlogLandia earlier this year/late last year. I had every intention of following the ubiquitous tutorial to a T, but the road to @#$% is paved with good intentions and fabric shortages. I ran out of the solid I was using (Kona Oatmeal, which is one of my new favorites), and I couldn't find it anywhere. Even my go-to online shops had it on back-order. So I had to nix the sashing. At first, I was a bit bummed to go sash-less, but after letting the project percolate for awhile, I decided that I like it better that way.

broken down 
I tried following the tutorial for the block construction. Honestly, I did. But my piecing isn't quite precise enough for things to come out the way they're supposed to. So I came up with my own way to construct the blocks. See here for a quick tutorial.

IMG_3065-e 
The fabric I used is Etchings by 3 Sisters, with some Kona Coal thrown in for good measure. I used charm squares in the center of the blocks, and I cut a bunch of 2.5" strips from a few half-yard cuts to round out the other prints for the blocks. I love this fabric. I try not to toss that phrase around too much, I dunno how successful I am in that endeavour, though. But this time I really do mean it.

paisley ftw! 
I think this is one of those fabric lines that I'm going to still love in 5 years. I'm a true traditionalist at heart. What can I say? All those paisleys and florals make me all gooey inside.

feather quilting 
To ham up the traditionality of the fabric prints, I decided to machine quilt some feather shapes in each block. I pulled out my book o' feather patterns from Golden Threads and picked out a design that fit neatly in the blocks (no re-sizing here!).

tedium unplugged 
Since I had never tried any feather quilting before, I decided to use the tracing paper method. This method has its benefits and drawbacks. It's great for transferring unfamiliar designs to a quilt without having to mark on a quilt top. I'm terrified of using markers on my quilt tops, and I'd rather pluck my many chin hairs than use stencils to trace patterns on anything. I'm glad there are people out there who find stencils an effective tool for quilting, home decor, etc, but unless I have some kind of psychotic break, I will probably not be one of those people anytime soon. It's also somewhat efficient - I usually stack and pin 3-5 pieces of tracing paper together, trace the design on the top sheet of paper, and then use my (unthreaded) machine to perforate the design on sheets below. I had 42 squares on this quilt and only had to trace the design about 8-10 times.

map prints are my favorite 
The drawbacks? I'm usually left with a lot of little pieces of tracing paper that get stuck in the stitches and require surgical instruments to remove and many rounds of vacuuming to dislodge from the carpet. Admittedly, if I made consistently smaller stitches, this might not be a problem. Another drawback is that I'm not good at following pre-set lines, so my curves are not graceful arcs. They're wobbly as a 3-legged chair. Go figure, since I'm not very good at following directions either - see above, where I didn't follow the tutorial. That's right, a traditionalist at heart who can't follow directions or pre-set lines.

fmq feather practice 
So I'm thinking that next time, I might be better off spending the time it takes to trace and perforate all those pattern sheets practicing/sketching unfamiliar feather designs instead. Sometimes, you learn these lessons the hard way, amIrite?

scallop machine quilting 
Anyways, moving along. In the border, I did an allover scallopy shell-ish paisley pattern. And I bound it with some more Kona Coal.

DS Quilts backing 
The backing is a DS Quilts print from the Picnic line, I think? The colors match the colors on the top, but the fabric's personality definitely doesn't match the top's personality. I think that's okay, though. It's a nice surprise when you turn the quilt over.

This particular quilt is going to Quilts of Valor. The colors themselves are awfully patriotic, but hopefully, they won't look too closely/ignore the French map prints.

Started: March 2012
Finished: September 2012 (Yes, September. I warned you I was behind on the blogging front.)
Machine-pieced, machine quilted

Also, I almost forgot AGAIN. It's time for me to announce winners for both the OCTOBER and November jelly roll parties. (Thanks to Sharon for reminding me about October!)

The October winner is Colleen, who made a rockin' string quilt!

And the November winner is Anna, who made such an elegantly simple quilt!

I've sent y'all emails - send me your mailing addresses, and I'll get some fabric lovin' in the mail to you ASAP!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

November Jelly Roll Party!

lots of feathers
Today's finished quilt might look familiar. I made the top over the summer, and I finally got that puppy basted and quilted this month.

ruby shortcake - finished! 
I used Cluck Cluck Sew's Shortcake pattern - no triangles or fancy cutting/piecing here. Since it's all squares and right angles, along with being border-less, the quilt top came together in a snap. If you're looking for a quick-ish pattern, I'd definitely recommend this one.

9-patches forever 
For the quilting, I made my first foray into feathers. I spent some time this summer working through some of the sketching exercises in the book, Create Your Own Dream Feathers, by Peggy Holt. After a few more months of practice here and there, I was ready to go from pen/paper to needle/thread/fabric.

prettiest curves 
I was pleasantly surprised at how my first feathers came out - there are definitely a lot of wobbly arcs and curves, but I was able to find a groove pretty quickly.

feather quilting in progress 
Another pleasant surprise was how quickly the quilting went - I was able to cover lots of space in a matter of a few hours. Granted, my feathers are pretty fluffy and far apart, but I only spent about 5 or so hours total quilting this top. I'm definitely flagging this quilting pattern to use again, perhaps with this quilt top, trying out denser feathers.

backing and binding 
For the binding, I used some Kona Chartreuse, left over from backing my Joy quilt. And the backing is a white tone on tone polka dot print. At the end of the day,  I'm so happy I was able able to completely finish two jelly roll projects this month! It feels nice to knock a few WiPs out of my life.

favorite block 
Did anyone else work on a jelly roll quilt this month? If so, link up below!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

White Space

Last winter, I had this crazy idea to make a quilt for my bed, my QUEEN-SIZED bed.

IMG_2208

The starting point for this madness? These itty bitty 2.5" blocks.
IMAG0050.jpg
(Note to self: if you ever stop biting your nails again, this is what they look like. Nice, eh?)

Yes, I stretched one of those mini-charm packs into a queen-sized quilt. All it took was a little bit of solid red fabric and a little bit of solid blue fabric and half a bolt of Kona White. Oh, and 8 yards of backing fabric. Yes, 8. I have never bought that much of one fabric at one time in my life.

The blocks themselves are pretty simple. I sashed the tiny 2.5" squares with a skinny border and then nested them in some Kona White to make your typical modern offset square in a square block that finishes at 12". See other variations of this pattern here, here, and here.

finished bliss bed quilt! 
With a 6x7 block layout, along with a few borders, I managed to make the quilt {just} small enough to fit batting from my trusty roll of Warm and Natural (90" wide). The quilt measures 88x100, so I was able to eke by with about an inch of batting on either side. Luckily, I quilted it myself, so I didn't need to worry about igniting any longarmers' ire.

This was the biggest beast of a quilt I've made. Ever.

Basting this quilt was enough to scare me off of the quilting. We moved almost as much furniture so I could baste this puppy as we did the day we moved in the house. Scratch that, we had movers move our furniture into the house, so we moved MORE furniture in preparation for basting this quilt than we did when we moved in the house.

To do clutter 
I spent one afternoon basting this bad boy and then folded it up, set it in a corner, and studiously ignored it for a YEAR while I worked on other projects. See that blue quilt at the bottom of the pile there? That's the Beast, hoping to blend in with the blue-ish carpet.

Enter the Durham-Orange Quilt show this fall, which had a newly-minted modern category. Over the summer, I was trying to decide which projects to enter in the show, specifically in the "modern" category. I decided this particular project is probably the most modern-looking project I've worked on thus far that was closest to being finished. It was time to swallow my fear and get the quilting party started. Once I finally worked up the gumption to quilt it, I opted to use a tried and true quilting pattern I'm comfortable with - the square stippling - in ALL the white space. I just stitched in the ditch around the printed squares to make them pop a little more.

a favorite 
I have a tough time picking out my favorite printed squares.

another favorite 
Seriously, don't make me choose.

This quilt breaks ALL the husbatron's rules when it comes to quilts for our bed:
1) It has pink.
2) It has polka dots.
3) It has flowers.

finished bliss quilt from the side

But he hasn't said anything, so I'm not saying anything. Maybe the quilt's modern-ish layout with its huge swaths of white space compensates for the girly prints? Maybe he knows better than to criticize my projects?

stats:
Started: February 2011
Finished: August 2012
Machine-pieced, machine-quilted

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fresh Starts


I've said it before, but I'll say it again. In some ways, I like Mondays - they smack of fresh starts, and I always have this glass half full Pollyanna kind of hope that this is the week I'll make something AMAZING happen.

This week, I'm feeling especially optimistic. I'm coming off an unplanned two-week break from work. I came down with the kind of cold that I wouldn't wish on the nastiest member of the quilt police force. The downside(s): my work email was a disaster zone when I got in today, and I think I'll be catching up on laundry for the rest of the year. The upside: I completely lost my appetite for two weeks straight and have started the holiday season 5 pounds lighter - hollaback, y'all! I'll claim my small victories where I can.

I didn't really have enough energy to muster sitting upright in front of the sewing machine while I was sick. I spent most of my time off curled up on the couch with my trusty heating pad and cozy fall quilts, watching Desperate Housewives, Bones, and Game of Thrones. Luckily, I had just returned from the TMQG retreat, where I had finished quilting my hexagon quilt and had the binding all ready to go. And there were a few other quilts that I had finished MONTHS back that still needed to have threads nipped and tucked before they were camera-ready. I logged many hours on the couch last week and the week before, stitching and snipping away in an over the counter drug-induced haze. When I wasn't sleeping or petting the pup, I was stitching and snipping. Also, just before I came down with The Pestilence, I had snapped some photos of other completed quilts that have been sitting in my mental "to blog" file for a good long time now. All this to say, I have a load of finished quilts to show this week.

How about a good old-fashioned quilt parade to kick off the holiday season?

In the spirit of the upcoming season, let's start with this beauty.

Joy string quilt!
I pieced this quilt top back in July for my jelly roll/strippy monthly challenge. I used some scraps of Joy, Kate Spain's holiday collection for this year, to make some basic string blocks.

concentric circle quilting
Then I cut them in half to make half square triangles with some Kona Snow a la this post, decided to lay out the blocks in alternating directions, and sashed them with some more snow fabric for good measure.

black and white to see the quilting
For the quilting, I used the concentric circles pattern from Angela Walters' book. It's my new favorite quilting pattern. I'm already plotting projects to use it again.

#Fmq from the back 
The backing fabric is Kona Chartreuse. Going into the project, I knew I wanted to do the concentric circles quilting pattern, and I wanted a solid backing that would highlight the quilting, for better or worse. It's definitely not my normal color palette - it's crazy-bright and always surprises me a little bit when I see it. I always think, "Whoa, who let that color in this house?" But I like it. I'm going to keep it.

Joy string quilt! 

Stats:

  • Started: May 2012
  • Finished: September 2012
  • Machine-pieced, machine-quilted
For the first time ever, I actually managed to finish AND write up one of my modern-ish looking quilts on Monday, so I'm linking up to Sew Modern Monday at Canoe Ridge Creations.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Clutter

I'm no stranger to having lots of, let's say, loose ends hanging about in my life. I start projects, lose interest for awhile, start something else, go back and work on the previous project a little bit, get stuck, start a 3rd project to meet a "deadline," and the vicious cycle continues until one day I make a spreadsheet of unfinished quilt projects that looks like this. And let's not even talk about the non-quilt related unfinished projects around the house, okay?

Believe it or not, I feel like I've been "holding myself back" from starting too many new projects this year.

I didn't realize that things had gotten so bad in the sewing room specifically, until we started straightening up the house last night for company that's coming this weekend. I got pretty snippy with the Husbatron when he tried to vacuum in the sewing room. I was worried he'd hoover up some of my precious scraps and half-started projects that are strewn across the floor. Then, there are the towers of fabric that are stacked "just so" in their proper order around the room that are prone to falling over if you even look at them the wrong way. Just in case you don't believe me when I tell you how bad it is, here are a few pictures.

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Observations:
1) You definitely can't say that I staged the photos for this post. Nothing but raw blurry phone photo'd honesty here today, folks.

2) Don't let the large quilt tops and backings that are classily draped over boxes and chairs to avoid wrinklage fool you. (Anything to avoid ironing fabric more than once, amIrite?) There are stacks of fabric that I've pulled/purchased for future projects and more WiPs hiding underneath them.

The truth of it all is that I'm afraid that I know I only have a little bit of precious time a week right now to work on my quilting projects, but I don't want to have to decide what to work on and what to put away, so instead, I leave all the projects where they sit and start something new.

Productive way to deal with the problem, eh?

But I'm afraid that if I "put away" any of these projects, that they'll languish and won't get done for YEARS. Unless they're in my line of everyday sight (and consequently in my way and serving as tripping hazards), they're likely to be forgotten.

I know some of you out there are shaking your head at me and wondering why I'm worrying and stressing out so much about my HOBBY. I do this for fun! Why do I always have to make life so structured and routinized? I think that sometimes too. But as much as I hate to admit it, I don't have as much tolerance as I imagine for clutter in my mind or in my physical space. The temporary relief that comes from starting a new project and being free from making a decision about which existing project to work on is fleeting and unsatisfying.

So in the spirit of creating some space in my mind, I'm shelving a few of my self-made commitments to get some stuff done. For the next week, I'm only working on one thing until it's completely done, and I'm putting away everything else.

I'll be working on my Central park flower garden quilt.

The top's done, the backing's prepped, and I've pulled out a slew of batting scraps to piece together the batting for it.

I'll spend the next few days piecing the batting scraps with a zig zag stitch, basting it all together, trying out this particular quilting design on it, and figuring out what the heck to do for binding

In the meantime, I'm giving myself permission to temporarily shelve:
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the string block project from October
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the postage stamp quilt I started last month
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the jelly roll quilt I started for this month, based on this pattern
time to quilt
a couple of strippy quilts that are basted and ready to quilt
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a double-sided quilt spawned by Satan bad quilt math

Working this way might mean that I won't have a finished jelly roll project for every month of the year, that I won't have a month's worth of string blocks to show for myself in october, and that I won't finish all my WiPs this year (a pipe dream if ever there was one!). But that's alright. I'll be decluttering my mind/space one project at a time.

If there's anyone out there who finished up a jelly roll quilt in October, please do share! I'll have the party run through next Wednesday, November 7. Then I'll pick a winner who will get a Moda Scrap Bag!