Friday, May 30, 2014

pennies for the finish

 along about the fall of last year, i became slightly obsessed with a certain quilt by rachel hauser of stitched in color fame: the vintage tangerine penny patch quilt. rachel kindly hosted a penny patch quilt along and despite the fact that i was trying to complete a quilt for each of my seven children for christmas, i was sucked right in. the whole christmas idea sort of got blown out of the water because of dear old penny patch. (well, practicality had something to do with it too.)

i hemmed and hawed over fabric choices, made a color diagram of rachel's original so as to pick it apart, and shopped, culled, replaced, slaved over this quilt, trying to figure out what made it tick. (herehere and here) around thanksgiving time, the top was done. and my obsession abated. penny patch languished in the more urgent christmas gift wip pile on the piano room floor.

 a few months ago i decided to get that top off the floor, so i made a pieced backing, which then also lay in the wip pile on the floor. eventually a sandwich was spray basted and i finally tackled dogwood fmq. i've already written a lot about all these steps along the way, so no need to rehash.

another few days of intense handbinding and penny patch is now finished. with only 24 hours to go til the finished link party for the quilt along at stitched in color closes, no less.

oh, yes, i am happy.
this quilt has turned out differently than i anticipated, but the process of making it has taught me a lot about color choices and fabric placement, about myself as a quilter. it helped me to grow. i'm even starting to like it again.

but right now i'm mostly just so pleased to have it finished.

special thanks to my dear friend jill for helping me with the photographs!

linking up with thursday threads at my quilt infatuation.

Friday, May 16, 2014

box of joy

 it's no secret in this space that i'm a bit mad about sandi henderson's designs. that portabello pixie lady is just my absolute favorite. i've searched out and hoarded meadowdot in robins egg/mint/whatever for a while now. and i have also been looking for it in blush lately, to no avail. but that's okay because i'm well stocked on my favorite.

when sandi had a sale on instagram last month, i initially resisted on the grounds of my fabric fast. but the reason she was having the sale was to clear up space and raise money for her family's sudden trip to another state because of her unborn baby's heart condition. this really pulled at my heartstrings. she was offering a fully-stuffed box of various samples, patterns, and bits and pieces from around her studio. i thought for sure the boxes would all be gone in a heartbeat anyway.

however, the next day she indicated there were a few additional boxes available even though some of the items originally meant to be included were gone. well, i just couldn't resist the chance to show her support in her time of need and to get a handpicked box of her things. i emailed sandi that it was ok about the soak being all gone and mentioned my obsession love for meadowdot, particularly in the two colorways. she emailed me back saying she'd put every bit of meadowdot she still had, including some sample pieces from colorways that were never printed, in my box.

i've been giddy to see what she sent me for a few weeks now. finally, it's arrived and i couldn't be happier! as soon as i opened the top of the box and saw that wad of my favorite meadowdot, a huge grin broke out on my face.

 and then the next layer looked like this. more meadowdot in blush!

 by the time i got everything out, i'd found pieces of meadowdot in 8 colors! i'm pretty sure the small pieces are the strike-offs she was talking about. i especially love the pink one. the green pieces have less contrast in them and hence a less meadowdot feel to me, but i'm over the moon about the warm colored bits and wondering why they never got printed. i'm on the lookout for a project that can feature all these different colors together.

 here's the rest of the fabric included. all but the three pieces on the left are sandi designs. the gingerblossom print of the large scale pink flowers is a laminate. i've never tried laminate before and it's fairly begging to be an apron. the two meadowsweet prints on the far right are corduroys. i didn't know any of the meadowsweet was made in corduroy! that'll be a new sewing experience for me, too. looking at these pieces just reminded me what a great vintage vibe her designs have. this is something i came to appreciate so much as i worked more and more with her prints. they just make me so happy!

 other treasures: the lovely nail polish colors that coordinate with her fabrics, a darling owl pincushion made in her famous henna print (i was needing another pincushion - how did she know?), and three patterns.

 i think i can adjust the ruffle pants pattern to make some cute bloomers for under skirts for my girls since i don't think they'd go for the pants. but the cupcake pincushion is perfect for me and that berry picker skirt really is pretty cute. i might just do some garment sewing some day soon.

and then there was this bag of scraps, which i haven't even opened yet because i'm so busy taking in all the rest of the package. goodness, it felt like an early birthday getting all these lovelies in one box at one time. this is sewing bliss.

now what will i make?!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

twirly and the twisty tree

 tuesday mornings my four oldest children have an art class in a nearby neighborhood. when the weather is nice, the little girls and i play in the neighborhood park while waiting for the art lesson to be completed. this affords me ninety minutes of handwork time. last week, i nearly finished off the binding on d3's quilt, "twirly." this week, i completed the remaining two feet of the binding and got to photograph the quilt in one of their favorite spots to visit during our park time. unfortunately, it was super windy, so getting photos was tres difficult!

 but first, a small anecdote of the price we mama quilters sometimes pay to get in a few moments at our craft. the girls happily romped on the play equipment for over 30 minutes. then d4 said she wanted to run around in the grassy area and go to the trees. "fine, just stay out of the muddy spots from the sprinkler," i said as i continued to stitch away. i could hear the girls laughing with each other as i contentedly bent over my work, the strong breezes ruffling my hair and the quilt. it was all quite blissful. then i looked up.

"mama! we are playing in the water!" d4 calls, gleefully.

"i told you to stay out of that!" i yell back in my most annoyed mama voice.

"but it's not muddy, it's water. it's clean!" she assures me.

i seriously doubt that. that water has been standing and is probably full of mosquito larva and who knows what other deadly ickiness. by that time, however, the baby's pants are soaked to her calves and there is no turning back. so i let them be, uttering a silent prayer there's nothing too horrible in the water, and continue stitching. really, when they're already wet and dirty, might as well let them have some more fun.

some less-clean water on the sidewalk

as d5 approached me, declaring she was wet and wanted her clothes off, i saw just how dirty she was and thought, "this is the price i pay sometimes." yes, sometimes, we let them be so we can sew and there are costs involved. as long as they didn't pick up any strange bugs in that water, this price was not too high. muddy jeans can go in the wash easily enough and it wasn't too cold for her to be a little wet.

 at this point, i was done stitching and we headed over to "the twisty tree" for some photos. the twisty tree is a mesquite tree who's trunk and major limbs have grown nearly horizontal and very close to the ground. the girls love to sit in it and eat snacks. it was a pretty good spot for hanging a quilt if only it hadn't been so darn windy. i kept having to adjust the quilt and/or wait until the wind blew the right way so it wasn't plastered to the tree.

the top on the horizontal
"twirly" is a simple quilt i started dec 2012 in a shabby seams class at ETC when i was just starting to get back into quilting. i think that makes it the sixth quilt i started although it's the fifteenth (fifth full-size) i've completed. the top came together quite quickly. it has three rows of pinwheel blocks, sashing, two large fabric panels, and side borders of small squares. i'm sort of wishing now that i picked a quieter fabric for the large panels because the paisley makes me a bit dizzy, but the daughter this quilt was made for is as loud, busy, and colorful as this quilt, so i suppose it's a good fit. if you are at all interested in reading about other parts of the process of this quilt, just click the highlighted links through out.

thank goodness the quilting, which was such a trial to me (more here), has disappeared into the top. or at least i just don't really notice it anymore. that should give my comfort in the future when things go awry.


there are plenty of things i like about this quilt, but i have evolved as a quilter since i started this and i don't feel it really fits me much. however, it tells me a lot about myself then and now. i made it during a phase where i selected easy, quick finishes with large blocks. i was new to quilting and didn't (don't) have a lot of time to devote to quilting, so getting some finishes under my belt was most appealing. and i do truly love those pinwheel blocks.

the pieced backing
now that i have more completed quilts to claim and no longer feel like i'm never going to have more than one or two done in this lifetime, i am more interested in advancing my skills and doing more intricate work. like gyspy wife! having a handful of legitimate finishes really does give me the freedom to slow down and expand my scope. i wanted to make quilts, which i did. now i want to make more interesting quilts.

love this corner where all of my favorite fabrics of the quilt are grouped together
 i think this quilt shows my progression in selecting fabrics and combining fabric lines. i even varied my values of the three main colors, which adds visual depth. the only thing i'd probably do differently now is add more neutral space somehow. maybe a ditsy print instead of the large scale paislies. i have come to learn that i really like white space in a quilt.

 another thing i really like about this quilt is the backing. i used some extra pinwheel blocks, small border squares, and large panels to piece the backing. at the time, i thought it was taking forever wheni just wanted to get the quilt sandwiched and finished. now i'm glad it took the time because i absolutely love it - especially the bottom where most of the piecing is.

part of this backing was a cover-up for a mistake i made on the front. the large fabric panels for the front were accidentally cut a few inches too short, so i just got more of the paisley fabric to redo those knowing i could use the goof-ups on the back. yes, it makes the back busy, too, but it was a practical decision; a nod to the roots of quilting where quilters lived by "waste not, want not."

there is a strip of extra border blocks joining the two large fabric panels on the back. they get rather lost in the paisley, but it's one more detail waiting to be discovered when you're cuddled up with the quilt, examining its parts.

 and down she blows! she's going to need a washing. that wind really made everything way more difficult than it needed to be. i was unable to get a picture of the top fully spread out.

 this little one was ready to go, too. she had her bag of snacks and was hitting the road.

 art class is over for the school year. i'll have to find some other regular time for handwork now because i still have several quilts to bind! i should probably make some labels, too. eventually.

Monday, May 12, 2014

quilting along

 really, i have not much to report on the sewing and quilting front since i'm still plugging away at the dogwood quilting on my penny patch quilt. that and a few bouts of handbinding whilst at the park and during movie night with my daughter is it. that's why it's been so quiet on the blog.

 however, there is one event worthy of note. on friday morning, my friend becky finally made it over for some sewing time! becky moved in our neighborhood about a year ago and ever since at least january we have been trying to get together on my regular friday morning quilt time. the list of reasons that have prevented us is exhaustive and almost hilarious: birthday breakfasts, husbands off of work last minute, vacations, illnesses, funerals, appointments, simply forgetting. one Friday several weeks ago, i was down in bed with a respiratory ailment so becky didn't come over but we did spend the morning texting all about quilting. that was fun, especially when i put the idea into her head that maybe she could get a machine upgrade for mother's day or something. but this week, at last, we got to spend a few hours sewing in person and chatting about our families.

becky, bless her, has five boys, three of them not school age, who came along for the morning. they mostly ate graham crackers and played around the house or yard. she's an incredibly patient and loving mother. any time she had to take a break to tend to one of them, it didn't phase her in the least. she just dealt with the issues and then got back to sewing. right now she's working on a simple charm square quilt, charms grouped into four patches and sashed. despite how often she stopped to help the boys or let one on her lap (they all took a turn), she got quite a bit done!

here's hoping this becomes a regular occurrence for us because i sure enjoyed it. and now that my dear friend jill is moving out of state, i need someone else who can talk fabric and quilts with me.

 when i had finished quilting the section i originally marked out with a grid, i thought i had finished at least a third, maybe even half the quilting. but when i sat down to mark more of it and counted the squares finished, i found i'd only completed 28 out of 120 squares. that was disappointing!


this is taking such a long time. good thing i enjoy it! however, it's kept me from doing anything else in between quilting sessions because i don't want to change out the foot to work on something else. then again, that's good incentive to keep at the quilting and not give up. although i may be running out of my aurofil thread soon. i hope this is the one i bought at a local store so i can replace it easily.

i'm really hoping this will be a finish by the end of this week because two weeks quilting on one quilt is enough. as i've been endlessly making petals, i've thought about the "leftover pennies" quilt i wanted to make with this pattern next time around. i think that one will be quilted using larger petals! the prospect of cutting my quilting time down to a quarter of what i'm doing now is very appealing.

linking up with gemma and the pretty bobbins i quilt thursday party.

Monday, May 5, 2014

friday night sew along

 the lovely and brilliant sarah schraw of sarah quilts thought up this wonderful idea for any sewers at home on a riday night: why not sew together by sharing over instagram? yes, it's out now. i'm on instagram. but only because of liz. she's too busy to blog or email much anymore so i have to stalk her on instagram if i want to keep up any semblance of friendship. but i don't advertise that i'm there because 1) i definitely overgram, 2) i'm certainly not worth following 3) i don't want my usage of it to get out of hand so i have been laying low. but this is off topic. pretend you didn't hear anything.

back to friday night. on sew along night, people check in and post what they're doing periodically with the hashtag #fridaynightsewalong. the first one was last month. i wasn't sure how it was going to work or if it would feel like we were really sewing together but it did! it was really a lot of fun. also, i got more done during that time than when people are here in real time and i just chat my head off.

it went so well that sarah's promoting and participating the first friday of every month now. this past weekend was the second official friday night sew along, although people do use it any friday they want to.

so what did i do during friday night sew along?
 i spray basted "penny patch"! amazing, huh? it's a sandwich now. all stuck together and ready to quilt. i've had the top and backing laid out on the floor or hanging from the balcony railing ever since thanksgiving and was tired of moving it around every time a need arose. after i gave dogwood quilting a shot last week, i've been itching to get this penny up off the floor.

firstly, i spray basted using 505 instead of sullivan's this time. it went much better. less mess, less smell (almost completely none, actually), and it just went smoothly. i can see why people like it so much now. i'm not a total convert yet, but i did want to give the much-touted 505 a go. i chose to try it on this particular quilt because of the quilting pattern i was going to use. i couldn't think of an effective way to pin out of the way of the design so i tried the spray.

i did read in a book recently (quilting with a modern flair) that there is new research which indicated spray basting may shorten the life of the quilt, but that's all the book said. no reference, no reasoning, just the statement. unsubstantiated rumor, i call it, when nothing is cited. however, it has given me pause on the spray basting front once again.

 i had to run a child somewhere during my sewing time. when i came home, there was a package on the doorstep! a big, fat box of black-and-white, aqua, lime, mint, and turquoise prints from fabric.com. i was in love with a recent quilt made in these colors by rita of red pepper quilts, so i ordered a selection of half yards. sure wish they sold quarter yards, but they don't so twist my arm - i bought the half yards since that was the only option. actually, i love the color scheme of this quilt but prefer the layout of the one she made just before it in hsts, which included a corner in this palette.

a few people have asked me how i found this pull on the fabric.com website. it was pretty easy, actually. if you look at the menu bar on the lefthand sidebar of their home page, there is a "quilting fabric" link. click on that and several filter options will appear to help you find fabrics. i used the "color" filter to specify the colors i was looking for. i still had to scroll through dozens of options, but it helped a lot.

yes, this means i broke my fast in april. i'd already broken it for some liberty fabrics from queen bee fabrics and a stop at my local shop for a new baby quilt idea. i'm one of those illogical people who think, "well, i've already messed up, might as well go for broke while i'm at it." may is a new month and a reason to recommit. seems like i'm on an every-other-month schedule. that's improvement, to a degree. although when i was at the local shop, one of the gals at the counter, who happens to read my blog occasionally, called me out on it! hi, amy. linking in my honesty with rebecca lynne's april report. my downfall was ignoring all my own good advice about avoiding temptation.

again, i digress. after i'd opened my happy mail i got back to "penny patch". i had to decide how big to make the petals. i was tempted to go the size of the medium patches, which would have been soooooo fast. but not looked very good. so i started marking the grid for the small patch size. it took so much longer than i thought it would. it was killing me because i just wanted to knock out the darn quilting. then my baby brother and his wife called and asked if i wanted to meet them at the temple for the evening, so i dropped everything and ran. quilting was done for friday.

saturday i was going to get to that dogwood quilting but my oldest daughter was feeling poorly and asked me to hang out and watch a movie with her. she wanted some mama comfort. i was a little put out, but just switched gears and bound quilts while watching some bbc dickens adaptations all afternoon. and i actually finished "taite"! d2 hasn't even noticed it's done. she's been using it ever since christmas with the binding half done, anyway. jill and i are going to celebrate our 3 yr finishes with with a proper photoshoot later this week, so i'll share the real finish photos after that.

that sums up my weekend sewing. hope y'all had a happy weekend, too!
linking up with lee's wip wednesday at freshly pieced.

Friday, May 2, 2014

sixth time's the charm

 my friend, rebecca, has 5 boys ranging in ages from 16 to 5. she's one of my heroes because she's openly honest about how difficult those wonderful boys are, but she handles it with humor and grace, and they're all still in one piece. i think she is amazing.

low and behold, last year she got pregnant one more time. and it's a girl! i can't tell you how excited i am for her. of course that baby girl absolutely needs a quilt. no matter how full my quilting plate is or how high my wip pile, this is one baby that has to be celebrated.

i was recently absolutely obsessed with this quilt by jolene of blue elephant stitches:

from blue elephant stitches - posted here
i've already collected fabrics in these colors, but with a boyish flavor, to make a quilt for a nephew. then i got the idea to do it in these mod colors for a girl:

i was in love with the idea and took some of the fabrics over to rebecca to run them by her. after all, i want her to love her baby girl quilt. she was so excited to show me the nursery because no one in her male-dominated household appreciates the d├ęcor she's slaved over or the dainties hanging in the closet. after looking around the room, i thought perhaps the pull i had selected was a bit mod for her, but she told me she was definitely in need of blankets and that she thought any of the fabrics i had selected were pretty.  she seemed pleased.


a few days later, i noticed a charm pack and some yardage of "marmalade" stashed away at the top of my camille roskelley pile. i'd picked them up on a whim to make a baby quilt at some point in time. well, something about them whispered "rebecca" and "easy-peasy" to me, so i pulled them out. last friday morning i took them over to rebecca's house to see what she thought since i'd already shown her something else. but she was at an OB appointment. i didn't even bother to ask her husband what he thought. i just went with my gut instinct and changed plans for the quilt.

that night, after i'd knocked out the top, i ran into rebecca at the pinewood derby races at church and showed her a phone photo of the top. she immediately started gushing and squealing. i knew i'd done right to switch. i'll admit this quilt doesn't do much for me creatively because there really was very little to it. i hadn't even coordinated the fabrics myself. it was all too easy. but rebecca loves it and it's done a month before baby girl is supposed to arrive. so i'll be saving that yummy pull for the hst  chevron quilt for something else. no harm done.

 i did get some kicks out of learning the dogwood fmq quilting pattern when it came time to quilt it. i rather like that the blossoms are organic and individually unique on the front, but it does look a little different from the back without the blocks for reference. on the back it looks more like strange, squashed up, interlocking circles.

 i got even happier when i came to the machine binding success. again, not perfect, but such an improvement over my first few attempts. even the corners are looking pretty! that happy cutting mistake made a huge difference for me.

those first few attempts were so awful that i thought i'd never get machine binding down. looks like i lost hope too easily. here i am a month later happy as can be with this binding. i suppose the lows make the highs that much higher.

now to wash this one up and see how she crinkles before i deliver her to rebecca for that long-awaited daughter. forget thirds - the sixth time's the charm here.

linking up with amanda jean's friday finishes at crazy mom quilts.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

machine binding secrets to success


not only did the quilting stitching go well on this quilt, i had pretty smooth sailing through the machine binding, too. since this is a baby quilt, i decided to machine bind for added durability. this is the 4th or 5th baby quilt i have machine bound in the last month or so. i'm so happy to report that it really does get better with practice. and more patience and attention to detail. here's what's helped me improve:

  1. i accidentally cut the binding at 3" instead of the standard 2.5" yes, this really did help. it was the perfect size. after a few frustrated attempts at figuring out what seam allowance to use, i found a generous 1/4" was perfect. with the extra 1/2" i thought it would need more, but it didn't.
  2. i broke down and used a tape guideline on the machine to help with the seam allowance accuracy/consistency. um, it really does help. i just stuck about an inch of scotch tape on the sewing table to help me guide it from further back. even though it was transparent, i could see it and the scotch was easily removed afterwards.
  3. i went really slow. i got over the urge to just power through the mess. it's still much faster than handbinding so i might as well take my time and do it right, right?
  4. going slow involved stopping every inch or so to position the binding strip properly. as best i can describe it, i fold over the binding strip so that it is just covers the seam that attaches it to the quilt from the other side, and line up the inner edge of my walking foot's left toe with the outer edge of the binding. that sounds confusing, so look at the photo.

you can see that the walking foot has two toes, which both are open in the middle. look inside the toe on the left: the outside edge of my binding is just barely a smidgen visible along that little opening inside the left toe. the barest line of pink is visible inside that opening. that's what i found to be the right set up for my machine and foot. since the needle falls about 1/16th" to the right of that toe's inner edge, it gives me the perfect seam allowance to catch the edge without leaving too much flap there. on the other side of the quilt, there is a seam about 1/6th" from the edge visible on the binding. this is how i like it.

 this is the second side of the quilt - the one i was just demonstrating above. (called the second side because it's the second seam i sewed on the binding to attach it to the quilt.) if i pull back the binding just a bit you can see where the original attaching seam is just under that lip.

when i flip the quilt over to the back (the side i originally attached to binding to the first time before folding over), you can see that the second seam shows up almost at the edge of the binding.

it feels so good to be improving at this machine binding! after my first dismal attempt, i was feeling as if i'd met my quilt chore match. i guess even an middle-age quilting dog like me can learn new tricks. that's good because there is a whole lot more i want to learn about quilting.

linking up to kelly's needle and thread thursday at my quilt infatuation.