Saturday, April 5, 2014

Blow me away!

It's springtime on the central coast, and that means wind!

This quilt has been finished for several weeks (Remember when I was working on it back here?), but it takes two to hold it up, plus decent weather to photograph. Now I'm tired of waiting to put this one away, and I have young adults at the house today, to serve as quilt holders.

There are three holding this quilt, and it threatened to sail them across the lawn!

 This is a true scrappy quilt, in which I tried to use up all the little scraps in my door-hanger scrap collection.
It was tame in this picture. Now it's overflowing, again!

I used up a lot of unfavorite fabrics by cutting them into little pieces and putting them in the background. I also used some very favorite fabrics. They're all jammed together, making this a very busy quilt, but it turns out I like busy quilts! I think the scrappiness invites the viewer to explore the pattern and fabrics.

 Still, because it has so much going on already, I wanted the quilting to be simple, and to blend all the blocks together. So, an all-over meander stitch. Only a couple places where my stitch line crosses itself, and yes, it did seem to take forever!

I haven't washed this quilt yet, to get the crinkly-soft texture I love, but since I don't have any quilting marks to wash out, I'm just going to put this on the bed in the guest room. I'm looking forward to some special company coming in 10 days!

Pattern: Japanese x&+ quilt. I used Amy's tutorial at Badskirt.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Central Coast Colors

Central Coast Summer

Watching the Olympics has indeed been good for finishing some hand sewing!
Big stitches in the border.
I used a stencil and a white chalk marking pencil to mark this design onto the border of my Central Coast Solstice quilt. Pamela asked me about measuring the sides of the quilt and calculating how the design would fit. That kind of perfectionism is for others, and for machines; my quilt designs are a little more organic, you might say. Start at one corner and work toward the middle, then start at the next corner and work back to the middle again. Where the two meet up, add or subtract or modify a design element to make it fit!
Add another diamond in the middle to fill the space!

I moved around the perimeter of the quilt, and the little difference in the diamond orientation means that all four sides are slightly different. If I'd done two opposite sides, then the other two opposite sides, they'd match each other... oh well! Another lesson learned! 

Doesn't it look charming on the bed?
This is my sewing room/guest room,
where I can admire it easily!

I sewed together the blocks for Easy Street

I have put a lot of time and energy and fabric into this quilt top, but I don't love it. My fault: I toned down the colors recommended for this mystery quilt, and I should have toned down the background, too, to give the design more contrast. I love the pattern, but  I don't want to work on this anymore. I made a backing for it, and took it to the charity team for my quilt guild. They'll long-arm quilt it for me, then I'll bind it and donate it to the guild for our quilt auction this summer. It's a win-win situation: the quilt gets finished and benefits someone else! Out of my UFO pile, and my conscience! 

So, what have I learned from these projects? (Maybe if I write it down I'll remember?)

1. When making a mystery, pay attention to the contrast between the colors I choose. If I choose colors different from the recommended colors, especially, try to achieve the same intensity/value as the recommended hue. (Then my Easy Street wouldn't look so mushy.)

2. Before assembling blocks from all the components I've made, stop and look online at what others are doing. Try some of the block variations others are posting to see if they suit my composition. (Turning some chevrons around in my CCS blocks would have made stars inside the blue rings, but I wasn't about to take the blocks apart and resew them!)

3. If it looks like I'm making setting triangles for an on-point setting, stop and lay out the blocks and decide if I like the blocks that way, or if I prefer a straight setting. Then I won't have to take apart those setting triangles and remake them into full blocks. (Ahem.)

Friday, February 7, 2014

First Finish - Feathers!

Feathers is my first quilt finish of 2014

I'm part of a very friendly and creative online sewing bee called Stars in Their Eyes. When I asked my hive-mates to make me two feathers using
Anna Maria Horner's pattern, they all said it was a block they'd wanted to try, and they produced some gorgeous feathers! My instructions were to use fall colors, including purple and aqua and blue, and to use any gray for the background.

I realized, when I'd received all the blocks, that I could put them in an ombre arrangement, which is quite fashionable these days. You see hair, clothing, cakes, all sorts of things with a color gradation from dark to light. I made a few more blocks to complete the rows, and sewed them all together.

When I saw it all together, I knew I wasn't going to give it away as a gift, as I'd first thought, but I was going to keep it for myself! Then I started thinking, maybe I'd make it bigger, because it would look so good covering a bed. Should I make more feathers? I didn't really want to have more feathers made by me, and I wasn't patient enough to wait for my next turn in the bee to ask for more feathers made by my hive-mates. I auditioned some borders, but they detracted from the geometry and bold colors of the feathers.
I like our feathers better than these printed feathers.

It was one of those evenings when DH was out of town, and I was reveling in being able to stay in my sewing room, and I could set up the ping pong table in the garage to spray baste, that I stitched up the quilt back and put the layers together and marked my first few lines and started quilting it! Time to "git 'er done!"
Have I mentioned how much I really like
the crinkly texture a quilt gets when it's been washed?

I quilted chevrons: big, wide zig zags, another current fashion. (Because I'm so stylish like that... ha!) I really like how the quilting plays with the angles of the feathers, and how it crosses the lines where the background grays change from one tone to the next.

I realized after I'd started quilting it that I'd forgotten to sew the "siggy" blocks into the backing of the quilt. Each of my hive-mates had made a small block with their signature on it. As you can see in the photo, I trimmed them to circles and hand appliqued them to the soft, gray flannel back.
Thank you, Lisa, Sam, Sue, Becky, and Brandy!

The binding is in a text print, in reference to the online conversations that I enjoy so much with this bee.

Here's the big reveal!

If only my photography skills were better! 

Cozy and stylish in my family room.

and with

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Here's to the new year!

Sigh. Vacation is over. Time to go back to work.

You'd think with a month-long break in the school schedule, I'd have plenty of time to write a blog post, right? Nope! I have filled my free time with family and fabric!

We enjoyed one of the most fun Christmases ever. We were in Pittsburgh, where the weather wasn't as freezing as it might have been, and there was snow! DD planned lots of fun activities, and there was time to hang out, too.

Making rubber band bracelets.

The little family!

Operation! Poppy's going for the Charley Horse,
while John is missing his girlfriend,
and showing his broken heart.

Now I can show you some cute Christmas gifts I made.

My mom and my niece, Ellie, told me they'd like a jewelry roll for taking earrings with them when they travel. I used a tutorial from Fiberosity to make these. I'd love to share a link to the tutorial, but my computer won't connect to it anymore... that probably means it's been pulled off the website to be published in a book.
Little zippered pockets to keep earrings safe.
The one in the middle is my first try.
 I tweaked the pattern for the others, and had fun quilting them.
This is what they look like rolled up.

Bonnie Hunter posts a mystery quilt on her blog, Quiltville, that starts after Thanksgiving and this year ended at New Year's Day. It's a mystery because she gives instructions for one unit of the quilt blocks at a time, and you don't know how they'll be put together until the end.  Last year I joined in and made all the blocks for Easy Street, but the blocks are sitting in a basket, waiting to be sewn together and made into a quilt. Truth be told, I wasn't happy with the fabrics I used. I think my background black-and-white fabrics are too busy, and I used shades of aqua and green and purple that get lost in the pattern. 
Don't worry, I'll finish it!

Bonnie was inspired for this year's mystery quilt by her visit to Ireland, where she loved the green hills. I immediately thought of my love for summer's golden hills here on the Central Coast of California, and decided to use fabrics in my stash to reflect the dark oaks on the hills, and the blue skies, and the ocean. 

I made triangle units

and diagonal units that got turned into chevrons

and half-square-triangles that got turned into pinwheels
and when all the blocks were done, some of my color placements weren't ideal. I wanted to make a rectangle instead of a square quilt, so I made more blocks, and scattered a few with the different color placement throughout. If you squint, you can see a few white diamonds scattered in the blue rings. That's the effect the entire quilt was meant to have, but my dark browns and yellows were reversed. 
Poor nighttime picture...

I've sewn it all together, with borders, and I've quilted it already! I used Elizabeth Hartman's dogwood pattern, and I definitely got better as I went along! I think the wobbly stitches will blend in when the quilt is washed, and the quilt puckers up around the stitching in that cozy way I like so much!
The colors are truer in this pic!

Right now the binding is on, ready to be hand-stitched on the back, and I intend to hand-stitch something in the border, too. Can I wait until the Olympics to do it, so I have something to do while watching the Games? 

Sunday, December 22, 2013 look a lot like Christmas!

There's been a lot of sewing going on, but some of it is Christmas presents, so it's secret! I can show you this, though, because Alex already got his quilt for Christmas when we spent the weekend with two of my sisters.

Alex very sweetly let me explain about the blocks
and the fabrics and the quilting, and he was genuinely appreciative. 

I can also show you this niece of mine as she concentrates on sewing squares together for a patchwork pillow. She used the rotary cutter, and chose from my stash of Christmas fabric scraps, and sewed it using my machine, while I puttered away on her little machine.

Melissa made this pillow! I think it's charming!
Melissa is charming, too!

Poppy's been having fun opening the pockets of her advent calendar. I'm having fun receiving a daily video of Poppy as she gets the day's treasure! It's very gratifying to see her carefully snipping the thread that holds the pocket closed, and smiling over whatever is found inside. A chocolate, a mood ring, a Christmas pillow, a Santa bobble head... it's all good!



I know that we are weather wimps, here where the weather is temperate. Still, it's occasionally cold enough to need a jacket, and to appreciate gloves when driving to work in the morning. I really appreciate it when Ralph starts my car in the morning, and squeegees off the windows. Last week he was scraping ice off the windshield! 
You're right, the sun is shining and there is a green tree in the background,
and the freezing temperatures only lasted a few days. I'll stop whining.
Yesterday I was in the grocery store, on the Saturday before Christmas. The store was full of people, and it was easy to sense that everyone was in a hurry. Yet everyone was trying really hard to be patient, kind, and friendly, and in every aisle you could hear people wishing each other a happy Christmas. Peace on earth, goodwill to all! 

See you in the new year!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Advent Calendar

When I was a kid, we used to get a paper advent calendar with perforations around the little doors so you had to carefully tear open the door to reveal the picture behind it. Sometimes the pictures were of various Christmas symbols, like a candle or an ornament or a star. Even more fun were the calendars with pictures or phrases that worked together as a story or scene when they were all opened. I was one of the impatient children who opened multiple windows, then tried to push the flaps shut so I wouldn't be found out. Especially when it was my sisters' calendars I opened. (I apologize, sisters!)
The detailed drawings, with glitter, were delightful!
Trader Joe's ( a popular grocery chain that was exclusive to CA, and is expanding throughout the country)  raised the bar when they started selling advent calendars with the same perforated cardboard doors to tear open, but behind the door is a piece of chocolate shaped as a Christmas symbol! And even when you remove the chocolate, there is a picture printed behind it. Of course, TJ's isn't the only store to sell them, but they were readily available, and inexpensive, which were big improvements over trying to find something in a catalog and ordering it by mail. Remember, no internet then.
I loved getting these for my kids, who actually got tired of them,
and usually didn't even open all the windows.
I guess the chocolate isn't really very good. 

Being a crafty person, I always wanted to make an advent calendar with drawers or pockets to fill with little toys or candies for each day. With four kids, though, I thought it would be overwhelming to make something big enough, and to come up with enough items to fill it. 

When one of my online-sewing-bee mates mentioned she was making an advent calendar for her newly adopted son, though, I was inspired. She was working on this adorable advent pocket quilt at SewMamaSew
Cute! But I think it needs a heading,
and the pockets are flat, so it won't hang right if they're full.

Then I saw this tutorial at Hunter's Design Studio, and I like the long, narrow shape, and the dimensional pockets. I also like that Sam made a blog post detailing the construction of the calendar, so that if someone really wanted to, they could figure out the dimensions and make one with her instructions, without purchasing the pattern. Very generous of her. I thought it was absolutely worth the money to have all the measuring and figuring done for me! I ordered the paper pattern, and two days later, it arrived in the mail. Good thing, too, because I was excited to get started on it!

Now I want to write the prequel, and tell you about the project before this advent calendar!
I attended a workshop sponsored by the quilt guild and taught by Bobbi Finley, whose specialty is needle-turn hand applique to make tile quilts, which look like puzzle pieces fitted together with grout in between. I cut apart a project I'd started a year ago and didn't like very much, and used the cute snowman panel, and snowflake fabrics from my stash. 

Someone said this looks like a snow globe,
an idea I like very much.

I added snowballs stolen from that old project, and pieced together the last bits of the snowballs' background fabric.

The stripes are an element picked up from another guest speaker who came to our quilt guild. I love how they highlight the panel. 

It all came together in this wall hanging, with ribbons on the ends where I intend to hang plastic snowflakes that are somewhere in my Christmas decorations bins. They'll make an appearance after Thanksgiving.

Now, back to our story of the advent calendar...

There were some forlorn, unused pieces left over from the project that I stole the snowman and the snowballs from. Since they represented a fair bit of work, I couldn't stand to just stuff them into my Christmas fabric bin, because then they would get in the way of other, new projects that came along. (Yes, I feel a deep responsibility in my relationship with fabrics. Kind of ridiculous, I know, but that's part of the fun!) I made a pillow with some of the leftovers:

And that's when I saw the tutorial for the advent calendar, and I knew it would be the perfect place to use the other snowman panel in my fabric stash. 
Snowflake buttons added.
I'm sorry I don't have a better picture!

The pockets are filled, and are stitched shut. 
It will just take a snip with scissors to cut the thread, and open the pocket.
No cheating! No peeking!
There are a few items that don't fit in the pockets. The pillow above is one of them, and so is this little pachyderm, also made from the leftover fabric from last year's project.

The too-big items have been wrapped and numbered, and their corresponding pockets have little tickets to be redeemed for the packages. 

Now it's all been bundled up into a cardboard box, and mailed off to the granddaughter in Pittsburgh. I hope she'll have as much fun with it as I'm having!