Saturday, October 22, 2016

quicky trick or treat tote

my 8 yr old, d4, decided she was in need of a new trick or treat bag, so we cobbled one together this afternoon. there are bag tutorials aplenty out there, but i chose to just wing it. not necessarily the smartest move, but i find when i'm making something fairly simple - a square with two straps - it can be instructive to figure out the construction myself.

we made a very basic, unlined bag for her to gather her halloween night treasures in. i'm sure some interfacing would have stiffened things up nicely, but we were going for really simple and quick. a lining would have been a bit more professional, too, but again, not absolutely necessary for our purposes.

halfway thru the making process, i remembered there was a pattern for a similar bag that s2 made for his sisters several christmases ago. its in the lovely book "sewing for children" by emma hardy (bn or amazon). that bag was lined (slightly more complicated) and used thick grosgrain ribbons for the handles (easier). if we hadn't already been half done, i would have used that pattern again.

 we started with a fat quarter and 2 jelly roll (2.5" x 42") strips of orange. d4 wanted a bag that hung to her hips, otherwise we could have used shorter strips.

 first we folded the fat quarter in half, wrong sides together, and cut a 12" x 12" square. this size was selected based on eyeballing what we wanted and adding a bit more for seam allowances. i will note that d4 did not think it would hold enough candy, but mom is sure it will hold plenty.

at this point, i remembered to press the fabrics. if we'd wanted a more durable bag, prewashing would have been essential.

 to create a clean line on the top of the bag, we hemmed it. first, mark a 1/2" along the top of the bag on the wrong side of the fabric. we used a hera marker to make a crease. a washable marker or pencil works, too.

 fold the fabric along the line and fingerpress in place.

 then iron smooth.

 fold over and fingerpress again.

 iron smooth once more.

and this is where i should have inserted the straps into the seam allowance of the hem, but forgot to. it worked out fine, but it did involve some seamripping later on.

 i had d4 sew a 1/4" seam using the seam guide foot.

 but i decided we wanted that flap of the hem closed more fully, so i had her do it again at a scant 1/2" seam, putting the stitching right on the edge of the fold. so now it's reinforced and she got some more sewing practice.

 then we folded the body of the bag in half, right sides together, pinned it in a few spots, and made a 1/2" seam along the side and bottom. because we cut the body fabric while it was folded in half, we didn't have a third seam along the other side.

when the body seams are done, turn the bag inside out and press flat.

 to make the straps, fold in half along the length, press flat, and sew with a 1/4" seam. (you can see in the photo that d4 accidentally sewed along the folded side first time around. no worries: sew the correct side and get cozy with the seam ripper.)

once the strap is sewn, turn it inside out. i used a combination of the safetypin and pencil method.

our straps were 42" long, a bit more than we needed. i simply draped them across d4"s shoulder to determine where she wanted the bag to fall, and trimmed there (with a bit more for seam allowance). i think we took off about 8".

 this is when i realized i should have done the straps at the beginning for a cleaner look. to correct my mistake, i simply seamripped a gap where i wanted to place the handles. if you're making a really quick bag you don't intend to keep or use much, and aesthetics aren't a big deal, you can simply attach the handles to the inside of the bag without inserting them into the hem.

but i seamripped where i wanted the handle placed, with a few stitches wiggle room on each side, and inserted the strap end, pinning in place.

 then i sewed over it a few times to secure, and to secure the ends of the hem where i'd seamripped. fortunately, the fabric we were using hid all the sewing pretty well. it blended right in.

then i folded the strap up, away from the bag and sewed close to the top, to help the strap lie flat against the hem, and backtracked to make it a bit more secure.

 not very pretty sewing, but at this point d4 had moved on and i was scrunched up at her little (pink) brother machine, on a very short table, trying to see well enough to backstitch. it came out rather slanted. not that i cared too much. it's her loss for abandoning me!

i attached the straps on the very outside corners of each side of the bag, and made sure to fold them in a u-shape when i sewed the second side of each strap on. this helps the straps lay nicely on the shoulder when wearing them.

if i hadn't been letting an 8 yr old do most of the sewing, and had to deal with various other interruptions, it could have easily been completed in under an hour. as it is, it took more than that. but who's counting?

despite the fact that we did this quickly without lots of the nicer finishing touches like interfacing or lining, d4 is very happy with it and declared "this looks like a bag from the store!" i supose compared to the first tote she made all by herself, with no hemming and christmas fabric, this bag did turn out a bit more professionally.

now all we need do is wait out the week until we can fill it with candy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

wip tuesday

 my quilt life is so very small right now. a few times a week i snag some time to work away at the quilting of this penny patch 2.0, and that's about it. i'm aiming to complete 3 quilts before the end of this year: penny patch 2.0, my triangle indian blanket quilt, and (always) my son's wonky blue and orange quilt. all 3 of these quilts just need to be quilted and bound. that's it. but even with a full quarter left in the year, that's going to be a tall order.

i've begun to venture into the online quilting world again, stopping in at my instagram account and visiting some blogs occasionally. it gets me antsy to create and make something new once more. but for now, i'm going to have to be content plugging away at finishes.

and endlessly burying threads when not at the machine,
which is exactly what i was doing sunday after church. i'd like to say i sat around nicely dressed, handstitching on quilts regularly, but that wouldn't be true on either account.

my poor over-forty eyes are finally feeling the macular degeneration that comes with age and i have to take my work out into the sunlight to see those threads and tiny needle eyes. the blur of this photo matches what i see pretty well!

at least i've got my hands on fabric.
and quilts will be done soon-ish.

good enough!

happy quilting friends, from the slowest quilter on the planet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

on the mend and a sewing corner by monet

 we are mending.

life as we knew it is coming back together in so many ways, with the added benefits of newfound perspectives and gratitudes. thank you all for your comments, concerns, thoughts, well wishes, and prayers. they have been noted and felt. you all have been in my heart and at the back of my mind thru all of this. after three weeks in hospital and rehab, countless dr visits and daily hours in physical therapy, and even a few healing vacations, my husband is miraculously nearly back to normal.

but that doesn't mean i'm sewing yet!

however, summer is not traditionally sewing season for me anyway. it's usually family time and travel. but i always keep my eyes open for sewing related sights, no matter where we go. this year we ventured abroad for the first time, taking our oldest daughter on her "senior trip" for two fairytale weeks in france.

ever since we studied the impressionists, my favorite artists, in a homeschool unit when my oldest children were mid-elementary age, d1 has dreamed of visiting monet's garden in giverny. i never thought this was a real possibility for us, but somehow it happened.

and while we were touring the house, i came upon the most charming surprise - a sewing nook. you'll have to excuse the photo quality since i was working in a very cramped space with poor lighting in the hallway and a constant flow of tourists. i hope you get the general idea despite all the imperfections.

 at the more domestic end of the house, upstairs from the kitchen, just off the stairwell and short hallway, was a blue door with windowpanes, which looked in on a tiny alcove.

 opposite the door was a pair of windows overlooking the gardens below. there was a small space to each side of the door and windows. just enough room for a seat and sewing machine.

 there was a pedal sewing machine to the left.

 and a blue wicker-seated chair on the right.

 some exquisite white garments, probably infant clothing, and linens were on the seat to the right.

 so much glorious daylight was flowing in thru those windows, and the view was unbeatable. it was quite a small space - no room for a stash or design wall or storage of most any kind. yet it was perfect. i could imagine sitting there for hours, stitching away by hand or machine, looking out over the gardens. what a peaceful, contented experience that would be.

A photo posted by @hydeeannsews on

in the meanwhile, my own sewing space is hiding behind its own blue (windowless) doors, waiting for my return. i've worked a bit on a project for a sick relative in need (more later) and my son's quilt is crying out for completion. but when is the question. i've been so disconnected from sewing and the community, which i've missed. there are decisions to be made about my gypsy wife project, which megan has gamely carried on without me. i have no answers, friends.

one thing i've learned thru all of this is that as entrenched as i was in the online community, as much as sewing and my sewing friends meant to me, it really could all be let go when real life called. not that the people here aren't real and really lovely. not that i didn't (don't) value the hobby and connection. but there are times when we must step away and first things, first priorities in life, become our only things. our only priorities.

we are mending. we are well.

i will see you when i see you.
happy sewing to the rest of you in the meantime!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

why i'm m.i.a.

friends, sorry i haven't been able to pop in this space for a while! my husband fell 25' off a rock climbing wall about two weeks ago, shattering his wrists and breaking his back in two places. he is mending beautifully and we feel very blessed his injuries were as minor as they were, all things considered. but i have obviously not been sewing or blogging as our family life is upside down right now. i am so sorry i can't be here to help you with the gypsy wife qal right now as planned, but megan is still posting at her blog, jaffa quilts, and can answer questions. thanks for understanding and i hope to be back with you by next month! please excuse me from answering emails and returning comments for a while. if i find a moment, i will.

Friday, April 1, 2016

gypsy wife, sections three and four

5 of the 7 blocks for april
 april combines two sections of the gypsy wife quilt, yet it's still a small-ish month of making. section three is only 5 blocks and a very few short sections of strips. section four is only 2 blocks, period! i almost wonder why it's designated a section unto its self. the only explanation i can see is because of how it fits in with the rest of the quilt. studying the final assembly diagram, i can see that no matter how cleverly we may have avoided partial seams before, there is going to be no getting around them in the end. never fear, megan has shown us how really un-intimidating and doable partial seams are! she gave me the courage to try. really, it can be done. see her thoughts for attaching these sections to the larger quilt here.

so let's talk about this month's specifics.

section three components

all measurements are cut/unfinished, not finished

5.5” sq in sq (3.5”), bordered  A9/pg 22, pg 23
4.5 sq in sq, XX/pg 22
10.5” sq in sq w/ courthouse steps A13/pg 23-24
9.5” colour wheel A/pg 5

28 – 9.5”, 8.5”
29-33 – 3.5”
34-37 – 3.5”, 1.5”

section four components

8.5” courthouse steps U/pg 20

8.5” hst block L/pg 16

the 5.5" bordered sq in sq block is very straightforward. make a 3.5" sq in sq, and add a border. you should be starting to feel familiar with the sq in sq blocks by now. section three incorporates the block in two sizes, as this bordered block starts with the 3.5", and there is also a 4.5" unbordered sq in sq. (i shared an alternate construction method and measurements for the 3.5" and 4.5" blocks already for those who don't prefer the stitch and flip method in the pattern.)

the 10.5" sq in sq has courthouse steps around the central square and a border on the outside. ms. kingwell seems to refer to the added borders on squares inside the blocks as "courthouse steps". that's the difference between the sq in sq blocks and the sq in sq with courthouse steps, in case you couldn't tell. (which i'm sure you smarty pants already could.)

 colour wheel is a fun block. it's the very first one i ever made for this quilt, so mine's been hanging around here for quite some time. that elephant in the middle and the colors i chose for this block have really guided my choices for the entire quilt as i have proceeded. megan shared her process and some snags to look out for on her post this month.

there are two courthouse step blocks this month: 8.5" for section four and 10.5" for section three (which i still haven't done). this is very similar to a log cabin block only the layers are built symmetrically in pairs around the central piece rather than singly in a winding/spiraling fashion. this block is just a lot of strip cutting and sewing. press all your seams as you go and watch that scant 1/4" seam.

section four's second block is the hst block, a simple composition of 16 - 2.5" hsts in a 4x4 grid layout. i talked a little bit about making my block here, as well as the project it inspired.

there you have it, now go get sections three and four!
happy gypsy-ing, friends.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

gypsy wife pdf block and strip charts

gypsy wife friends, if you are in need of the pdf files of the block or strip charts, i now have them available to you with only a click! the dear rachel hauser, of stitched in color, tipped me off on how to embed the pdf file link by uploading to google drive. hallelujah! now you don't have to wait for me to email and i don't have to worry that i forgot to email them to you. if i did (shame on me!) forget to email the files to you, now you can skip right past me and download them yourselves.

gypsy wife block chart

gypsy wife strips chart


Monday, March 28, 2016

gypsy wife section two link party

 march is winding up, so it's time to complete section two and link up your posts below.

no one minds that mine is still technically in 5 pieces, right? that will be dealt with shortly.

how did this month go for you? i know pershing was quite a block to tackle. still, i have seen many section two's completed on instagram. i think in general it was an easy-ish month/section. hardly any strips this time around.

the main complaint i am hearing is people are having difficulty in getting the sizing right on section pieces which leads to them not matching up well. if you are experiencing this, you are not alone! this is such a huge frustration after all the work put into individual blocks. i think the key here is in the scant 1/4" seam. i've noticed that even when my component pieces are perfectly sized i can have trouble with the block being a bit small. just the nature of working with so many intricate pieces, i suppose. so if my pieces are accurately sized, it has to be my seam wherein the problem lies, right? it's not too hard to adjust for that when a few pieces are going together, but it can make a big difference in the areas where there are lots of pieces or strips. my best advice is master that scant 1/4" seam and keep trucking. i know we all want these labor-intensive quilts to be perfect, but i'm told by the veterans that it's such a busy quilt, the little faults tend to get lost. so let's just keep going, shall we?

did you know that even those spectacular 1/4" piecing feet you buy for your machine need to be checked? if you are having sizing issues, i suggest you check your foot for accuracy. and the next step is to figure out the scant 1/4" seam, which basically means you are sewing a thread or two less than 1/4".

for some guidance on the scant 1/4" seam or how to find out if your machine foot is accurate, check out some of these tutorials:

diary of a quilter
that quarter inch!

i hope this helps!

you know what else is giving me just a bit of trouble? keeping track of my strips! goodness, they switch places quickly. currently, i have a whole section on design wall A where i am storing the strips in order. some of them are already cut into the smaller sections, so i just layer them together in their place. i've seen some ladies label their strips with the id numbers i assigned them. very smart!

so how did you do?

what do you think about this section and it's blocks?

any tips or suggestions for others who will be doing these in the future?

gyspy wife section two link party

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

love in a spin - lecien flower sugar pinwheel quilt plans

for a little over a year now, i've had these pinwheel blocks sitting quietly on the backburner, coming out to play occasionally when i needed a break from other projects. i'm in no rush on this one. it'll likely be a holiday quilt, only out on special occasions, so i'm not feeling pressured to finish it quickly. especially since it's intended holiday has already passed for the year.

i originally saw this lovely photo on instagram last year and fell in love with the simple pinwheel patchwork in sweet colors. (i know, more hsts in a basic patchwork layout. what can i say? they really appeal to me!) the fabrics reminded me of a stack i had sitting in my stash. it was a fat quarter bunch i had acquired from the quilted castle very early on in my "brand new quilter, must build a stash, frantically buy anything and everything" days. like most everything i bought at the time, it was fabric that appealed to me on some level, but didn't really fit my evolving quilting style.

it contained exactly the kind of romantic, blowsy, english floral prints i loved in high school and college, which is probably what attracted me to it. however, some of the prints are a bit too bold for my current taste, so it's been sitting on the shelf for over 5 years now. when i saw that pinwheel quilt, i figured it would be a good setting for the sugar flower fat quarter set. sure, it's loud and very sweet, but i think i can handle it as a valentine's quilt that makes an appearance for about a month every year. there's room in my life for all kinds of quilt and fabric styles.

and i do really like some of the prints.
i'm still a sap for big rose prints in pretty colors.
so a sugar-sweet valentine's quilt it will be.

when i showed a peek of the project previously, there were some commenter questions about the fabric line i was using, so i'm sharing a bit about that now.

it's a "flower sugar" collection circa 2010, from the japanese fabric company, lecien. from what i can gather, lecien produces a new "flower sugar" collection each year, maybe even seasonally. the fall 2015 collection, the most recent on the lecien site at this posting, has colors (sans yellows) close to the same as my stack, and incorporates similar florals and dots, as well as lace and gingham prints. the "flower princess" line is very similar, but in a softer, low-volume palette. an internet search of "lecien flower sugar fabric" will yield links to all sorts of pieces from past collections, too. if you add a year in there, you'll get more specific feedback. for lots of images of past collections and prints, visit kit newlin's lecien flower sugar pintrest board. if you want to buy, not just look, check out what's available on etsy.

as for my quilt, i have completed somewhere around 20 blocks. thanks to my floppy book/flat block pressing technique, they are all staying nice and flat in their pile while they wait for the rest of their block friends to come play. i have yet to decide on quilt dimensions, but i'll likely use a 7 block x 9 row layout, like i did for my "dreaming easy" quilt. this means i'll need about 40 more blocks before i'm ready to assemble the top. i'd like to add a coordinating solid or two to the mix, to tone down the happy madness.

but i've got until at least next january. so no sugar rushing here.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

starry eyes for stripes and how jen kingwell uses basics

A photo posted by @hydeeannsews on
i've got a new fabric crush. sure, meadow dot in robin's egg/mint/aqua/whatever is still my favorite. that hasn't changed. but i've found a dreamy low-volume that makes for a perfect background or supporting fabric. every batman needs it's robin, and all those lovely feature fabrics in our stashes also need something to shine against, to help them stand out.

that's where this lovely woven stripe in natural from moda's pure simple line comes in. i stumbled across it at my lqs a week or two ago and got 1/2 yard because i knew it was going to be a brilliant supporting fabric. well, i've already used it a number of times in a few projects (here and here), so i'm thinking i need to go back and get about two yards more.

this fabric is a woven, which means two colors of thread were used to produce the stripe pattern rather than it being printed on the background fabric. this means no printing on the selvage since no printing was used in it's production, just like why solids have no printed selvage. also, i don't know if different thread was used in this line or if it's just because there's no printing on it, but the hand to these wovens is so lovely and soft.

this woven stripe fits right in with a type of fabric i've been collecting lately. i call them my "jen kingwell basics." while pouring over the quilts in jen kingwell's quilt lovely, i noticed she uses basics in a very interesting way. while she has a riot of color and fabrics going on, she balances them with basic prints in neutral colors. lots of these neutrals have an antique feel to them, sort of an aged look. they are prints you'd find in a more traditional quilter's stash (maybe even a civil war quilt stash) rather than in the hottest new designer lines. at least that's the feel of them to me. the selection i show above is a low-volume version of what i'm talking about. a look at her quilts will show that many of them are deeper in intensity - browns and grays rather than just whites. i think these fabrics produce the antique feel many of her quilts have.

take a look at some of the quilts from her book and maybe you can see what i'm talking about.

 the subtle stripes that run between the pinwheels in this quilt are one low-volume example of what i'm referring to. i just love the barely-there look of them between the columns of the pinwheels.

 a look at the pinwheels themselves will also show many of these neutrals in use.

 "glitter" is chock full of these neutrals, especially for the background piece in each block.

 i was really hoping her first fabric line, gardenvale, would have lots of these supporting prints in it, but it did not. maybe her next lines will include more.

so i just visited moda's website and it looks like "just a speck" will have some. and
"behind the scenes" is all about neutrals, too. yay! that makes it easy.

the low-volume neutrals are in the background here, while the darker neutrals are in the swirly portions of the blocks themselves in this quilt.

this is the kind of stuff i pick up over time as i study pictures of quilts i like. identifying such features helps me use fabrics and colors more effectively in my own quilts. thank you, jen kingwell for the lesson in neutrals and for helping me appreciate a family of fabrics i would have passed by before.

and thank you, moda, for that delicious woven stripe!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

gypsy child of the hst block

A photo posted by @hydeeannsews on
gypsy wife calls for two 8.5" hst blocks that consist of 16 - 2.5" hst component pieces in a 4 x 4 layout. its very simple and straight forward. i'd seen blocks that used uniform fabric through out, and blocks that were completely scrappy. i was leaning toward using some sort of unifying fabric or layout concept, like placement of light and dark fabrics, a monochromatic color scheme, or one feature fabric for half the triangles, so the block would look like one cohesive block rather than just a collection of mini hsts in a segment of the quilt.


i had several hst units in the correct size that were leftover bits from earlier block making for this quilt. i decided that for at least the first hst block i would go completely scrappy within a certain color palette that all my units already happened to fall within: light yellow, pink, turquoise, pale green, candy apple red. actually, i really wanted to keep it pastel, but one of the blue flea market fancy pieces was predominantly showing the red flower in the print, so i added that red to the scheme. i'm so glad i did because i feel the red gives it some depth and balances the lighter colors nicely.

the block came together in no time, really.

the formula went like this:

  1. make 16 - 2.5"uf component hst units
  2. layout in 4 x 4 grid
  3. chain piece pairs of units together
  4. assemble rows of 4
  5. sew rows together

now, because i'm focusing on improving my precision for this project, i also did the following along the way:

  1. press each seam after sewing
  2. trim the component units to precisely 2.5"
  3. to reduce bulk, press the seams adjoining the component units open
  4. use a scant 1/4" seam
  5. pin for seam matching

again, a scant 1/4" seam was helpful. i trimmed my component units to 2.5" each with my little ruler, so i know my unit size was spot on. if my block was coming out a bit shy, it was because i wasn't sewing a consistently scant seam. i've found this to be key with all the sewing on my gypsy wife project. master that scant seam!

also, i wanted my seams to match up across the rows, so i pinned at the three seam intersections.

when doing a simple block like this, it's easy to take the time to do all the little extras i might not normally focus on in a bigger project.

so here's the fun news:
i liked the results of my first block so much that i began envisioning an entire lap quilt made of hsts in this color palette! as i admired my pretty little block, i just wanted to multiply it and expand it into something larger.

i've just been reading jeni baker's hst handbook, the half-square triangle: foolproof patterns and simple techniques, which probably further influenced my desire to work with the hst. jeni's book covers several concepts to explore with the hst but i was hankering to just do a whole entire quilt in a very basic layout. color palette was going to be the primary concept i would work from within that simple shape. no fancy layouts, just plain hsts in a pleasing range of hues.

the gypsy wife's 2.5"uf/2"f hsts were a bit too tiny for a whole quilt, but i also knew if i changed the size of them too much, i'd be altering the scale of the fabrics and their look in the full quilt. i played around with the math and decided on 3"un/2.5"f hsts instead. not much of a difference, but different enough.

and i reigned in my desire to make a large quilt. lately i find myself making patterns just a bit larger so they tend to fall more into the twin-size bed quilt range rather than a lap quilt. i always think, "well, it's almost big enough to cover a bed, why not just make it that much bigger so it can be used on a bed, too."  or i worry that a throw quilt won't be sufficient cover for snuggling on the couch, even though they always are. but since i didn't want to commit to too many hsts, i scaled back to a true throw/lap size.

this means i'm making a quilt that's:

  1.  52.5" x 67.5"  
  2.  21 hsts across by 27 rows down
  3.  567 - 3" component hst pieces 
  4.  568 - 3.5" squares 
  5.  15 sqs cut from each of 40 pulled fabrics
that's a whole lot of hsts! but i'm feeling up for the task. there is something satisfying about basic patchwork and the simplicity and rhythm of a basic patchwork quilt. it balances out the more complex designs and projects i'm working on. and i've reconciled myself to trimming each of those units. it doesn't take that long (although multiplied by 568 it's a lot) but it does make a difference. trimming is another of those tasks that used to drive me crazy and feel like a waste of time, but that i've come to accept and appreciate. so trimming it is. this will be a project i can work on in bits and pieces between others. making a batch of hsts here and there will break up my more intense projects or be something quick to do when time is limited.

like i mentioned, i'm working in a color palette as my main concept: light yellow, pink, turquoise, pale green, candy apple red. value is also playing a role in that i'll be using the lighter prints on the left side of the hst and the more intense prints on the right.

 the upper/left triangles will be mostly yellows, the softest blues and pinks, and some neutral low-volumes.

the lower/right triangles will be these brighter blues, pinks, bits of red, and a few intense yellows.

that's the plan!
my gypsy wife is having a baby. that's how i think of it, anyway, since the one block from the first project has inspired a whole new quilt. projects beget projects sometimes.