Tuesday, February 9, 2016

valentine pillows

Every year after the Christmas holiday is over and all the decorations are packed away, I find myself in the same spot - no seasonally appropriate pretty pillows to replace the Christmas ones.

Last week I finally remedied that problem by whipping up these three fun pillows using home dec weight fabric purchased at WalMart...WalMart!!

I'm not a big fan of that particular retail company, but when I saw Jona Giammalva's recent Periscope about her fabric score at her local superstore, I decided to give it a try.  My local store had this great red geometric print for $3.97 per yard. What?!  And the ticking stripe was $6.97 per yard!

A couple of yards of fabric, three zippers, and two hours of cutting and sewing later, I had three great new pillows for my family room :)

Jona's recent blog post about her new heart applique pillow will give you all the tips and tricks for making your own, and she has a great tutorial on how to insert an invisible zipper into the side seam of your pillow covers.  Check it out - it's easy and foolproof! (I'm writing this post on my iPad and can't figure out how to imbed a link within the text, so here is the URL for Jona's post: http://www.jonagiammalva.com/2016/01/make-a-quick-heart-pillow-for-your-valentine-and-other-stuff-too.html)

The red pillows are 20" square, and the heart pillow is 18" square.  Seriously, this project could not have been any easier. 

Thanks for the terrific tips and tutorials, Jona!!

Friday, February 5, 2016

mystery medallion 2016

The Crystal Lake Modern Quilt Guild is sponsoring a new challenge this year - a Mystery Medallion program where we each create a quilt center block of any size to start and add a border each month for the next five months. The fun (or challenging) part is that no one knows what the requirements for each of the five borders will be; they are revealed month by month. So no planning or scheming ahead of time - just jump in and make it work each month!

My quilt center is an English Paper Pieced (EPP) star on a background of "made fabric" (a bunch of low volume scraps sewn together), and it measures 22.5" square.  The star is machine appliqued to the background with a short straight stitch around the outside edge.

The background fabrics were left over from blocks I made for a quilt shop sample in 2014; it hung there as a sample for quilt kits they were selling, and after that I'm not sure where it ended up. The "plus" blocks were made from a pattern found here.  I really did love it, so one day soon I'll have to make another and keep it for myself (adds yet another project to the much too long already project list.)

The hexagons in my quilt center were made even before 2014 when I was first learning how to EPP one spring break vacation in Florida. I was never sure what to do with them, and at one point they were sewn together in rows. Maybe I was planning to put them on some pillows? Who knows!

But sometime last year I saw a photo of a star made from hexagons so I took the rows apart, and sewed them into the large star shape composed of 73 hexagons. So the star and the background piece have been hanging around on the design wall for quite some time just waiting to be used in a project.

The whole point of a Mystery Medallion Challenge is to let go of control and practice your design and color skills each month when the new border requirements are revealed. At our meeting last weekend we learned that January's border must include snowball blocks and use the color red violet.

RED VIOLET?! Sweet - one of my favorite colors, and I happen to have lots of it in my stash.  I gathered a few fat quarters that were primarily red violet, tossed in a couple more that were primarily yellow (but still contained pink/violet), added a stack of more low volume scraps, and started cutting.

Since my center square measured 22.5" I needed to add a "spacer" border to increase the size to 24.5" in order to accommodate the 4" snowball blocks I planned.  This Peppered Cotton in Fog by Studio E has just enough contrast to set it apart from the backgrounds, but it doesn't overwhelm and grab all the attention.  It was cut at 1.5" width to finish at 1".

The 28 snowball blocks are each 4" finished, so now the quilt center measures 32.5".  I cut each center of the snowballs at 4.5" square and each corner background fabric at 1.75" square.  You can find a handy tutorial for making snowball blocks here.  Mine look more like stop signs (I probably should have made the corner pieces smaller) but whatever - I love how it's turned out!

Even if you aren't a member of CLMQG, you can follow along and make your own Mystery Medallion quilt.  Each month the new border requirements will be posted on our website, and photos of members' progress can be found on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

gift sewing - Tessa Basket

It's so much fun making gifts for others! Early in January I made this cute tote bag for a sewing friend who has made several amazing gifts for me over the years. The gift-giving bar has been set pretty high by her, but I feel like I met the standard with this bag - it turned out so great I almost didn't want to give it away. But her reaction upon opening it made me so glad I did :)

I used the "Tessa Basket" pattern by Pink Stitches available here as a PDF download and Amy Sinibaldi's (of NanaCompany) version as my inspiration.

The fabrics used in my version are an eclectic mix of Cotton & Steel prints, Hobby Lobby quilting cottons, and a charcoal grey shot cotton from Studio E's Peppered Cotton line.

The pattern doesn't provide exact cutting or finished dimensions for the bag, but I knew I wanted it to be a good sized tote that could carry a lot of sewing supplies :)  I cut a few strips from 15 different fat quarters in widths varying from 1.75" to 3" and then strip pieced them into two panels each approximately 18" wide by 13" long.  The 5.5" x 18" charcoal shot cotton was then sewn across the bottom perpendicular to the print strips making the entire panel about 18" square.

After using Spray n Bond to glue baste a layer of muslin and lightweight cotton batting to each bag panel (layered just like a quilt "sandwich"), I quilted them with random straight lines in a medium grey thread.  The panels were then trimmed to 17" wide by 18" long before using the pattern template to cut the top curves that later accommodate the straps/handles.

Bag construction was fairly typical - sewing the sides and bottom then making a boxed bottom with a diagonal seam at the corners.  The finished bag dimensions are approximately 12" wide x 13" tall (excluding straps) x 5" deep. 

I'm showing both sides of the bag so you can better view the placement and different widths of the fabrics I used.

The Tessa Basket pattern calls for cutting the 1" wide cotton webbing straps to a length of 11".  I like bag straps long enough to comfortably wear over my shoulder, so I cut the webbing for this bag at 16" per strap.

Don't you love this cotton webbing with the running stitch accent on the sides?!

The bag interior is no frills (meaning no pockets or zippers) in a fun feather print cotton available at Hobby Lobby.

When I make this pattern again I'll add some pockets to the interior and possibly use a lightweight interfacing on the lining fabric to give it more heft.  This version stands upright easily on its own; I think the lightweight batting worked well due to the density of quilting on the exterior.  If you want to do less quilting I believe you could replace the muslin with a layer of mid-weight fusible interfacing to provide the same level of stability to your finished bag.

A Google search on "tessa basket" reveals many images and links to other bloggers' reviews of this pattern.  Because you can use any combination of fabrics and cut them any size you wish to make the panels, this pattern is easily customized and can yield an infinite variety of one-of-a-kind bags.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Sunny's quilt

And now a flashback to November 2015 to show you a secret project...

You may remember that in 2014 I made a quilt for each of my five sisters-in-law on my husband's side of the family.  In 2015 I was on easy street because I only have one sister-in-law on my side!

Sunny (Allysun) is my youngest brother's wife, and her personality is just like her name - happy, smiling, cheerful, sunny.  Their living room is decorated in greys, black, and pops of gold and yellow, so of course her quilt had to be primarily yellow :)

Her Twisted Blossoms quilt was made using the Quick Curve ruler and Metro Twist pattern (both from Sew Kind of Wonderful) and their quilt along found here.  That ruler requires a firm "measure twice, measure again, then cut" mentality; I wasted a good chunk of fabric when I first started cutting.  But once I realized my error and re-read the directions it was all smooth sailing from then on.  The curves are so slight that sewing the convex and concave units together was quite easy - no pins! - and the blocks are trimmed to size after sewing so it's nearly foolproof.  IF you carefully measure before cutting ;-)

I made 12 blocks using different yellow and grey prints combined with Kona Cotton in Snow.  Petals of each blossom block are formed by four sections cut and trimmed with the Quick Curve ruler and four modified half square triangle blocks.  The center squares are all unique grey prints combined with the Kona Snow to form a square-within-a-square.

Then it's a basic nine-patch construction for each block finishing at 16" square.

I switched up the final assembly of the quilt adding 2" finished sashing and grey cornerstones between each block and around the outer edge - it just needed a little something more than the blocks right next to each other could provide.  So with the added sashing the quilt finished at 56" x 74" - a generous lap size.

The quilting was done by Carol Linder in Hampshire, IL using the pattern "Random Clams" by Jessica Schick in a silver grey thread.  The binding is a white dot on charcoal grey from Jen Kingwell's recent Moda line "Gardenvale".

Sunny seemed thrilled with her new quilt when I presented it to her at Thanksgiving, and she later sent me a photo if it in their living room.  Great color matching if I do say so myself!

I have so many works-in-progress right now that it's a bit embarrassing.  But I still managed to start two new projects last week!  One of them is being quilted right now, and I hope to bring you photos of it completely finished next week.  Maybe one day soon I'll count all the UFOs again and publicly confess the number...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

major milestone

I have finished English paper piecing (EPP) and sewing all of the main components of my Grandmother's Flower Garden hexagon quilt!  There are 32 flower clusters, 6 star points, and 19 groups of background hexagons.  The empty spaces between sections will be filled with additional background hexagons as I sew the segments together.

The final seven flower clusters were completed earlier in January.

And last weekend I decided on a final layout which was transferred to a new coloring diagram.  Now all the flowers and background segments are numbered to make it clear which pieces go where as I sew them together into larger sections.

It's a bit tricky handling these larger pieces as I sew them together, so I've divided the diagram into six sections which I'll piece together before joining them all into one large quilt center.  Not exactly a portable project for much longer!  I've selected and purchased a border fabric, but I haven't yet decided on what the border design will be - maybe more hexagons!  For now I'm concentrating on keeping my momentum so this does not become another UFO ;)

More hexagon stats:

  • Center Star hexagons complete; 151/151
  • Flower hexagons complete: 608/608
  • Background hexagons complete: 532/532
  • Total hexagons complete: 1,291/1,291
  • Weeks since starting this project: 71 (wow!)
Anyone else out there working on a long-term hand sewing project?  A big challenge right now is where to store all of these pieces while they're being sewn together - ziploc bags aren't cutting it any longer!

Friday, November 20, 2015

slow sewing steady progress

25 done, 7 to go...

The flower garden blocks are nearly all complete! All of the fabrics have been chosen and cut, so now it's just a matter of sticking with it. I usually sneak in a bit of hexie sewing time on my Monday morning coffee talks with Thing 2 :)

My quilt guild has been hosting a couple of evening meet ups each month for hand sewers (again at Starbucks) so that provides another opportunity for progress.

The background hexies aren't nearly as exciting as the flowers, but I've got about 40% of those sewn together. I'm using a coloring chart to keep track of the sections; this should make it easier to put the whole thing together when all the components are finished!

I don't have a count of how many background hexies are basted and ready to go, but there is a bag full.  And on a recent evening in a fit of paper-punching madness I punched out 622 foundation paper hexagons. Carpal tunnel, here I come!!

Some of these counts are "best-guess"...

  • Center Star Colored Hexagons completed: 151/151 (100%)
  • Flower Colored Hexagons completed: 475/608 (78%)
  • Grey Background Hexagons completed (guessing): 218/532 (40%)
  • Total Hexagons completed: 874/1291 (67.6%)

You can read more about the method I use to English Paper Piece (EPP) these hexagons and see the project pattern in this post.  Previous progress updates can be viewed here.

I'm a little shocked at how diligently I've managed to stick with this project.  I hope my persistence continues!!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

my signature color

Whoa - I finished a quilt almost three months ago and forgot to tell you about it!  This is my Triple Star quilt with lots of fuchsia/magenta/pink so I'm calling it "My Signature Color".

During 2014 I was a member of an online bee group - Modern Instabee Hive 15 - that used quilt patterns from the book Modern Bee: 13 Quilts to Make with Friends by Lindsay Conner.  November was my month for the 11 other members to make blocks for me, and I asked them to use a variety of low volume fabrics for the background and loads of darker pinks for the 16" Triple Star block.  Using these fabrics from my stash (minus the turquoise prints) I made a couple of example/inspiration blocks.

During the months November 2015 - February 2015 Triple Star blocks from all over the continental US and Canada arrived!

The book pattern called for finishing the quilt with plain 2" sashing between the blocks and a couple of borders around the 3x4 block grid, but I changed it to include 4" sashing with additional stars as the cornerstones and no borders. Because I'm contrary like that. And because you can never have too many stars.  A sprinkling of turquoise cornerstone stars breaks up all of the pink.

The quilting was done by Carol Linder in Hampshire, and I chose the "Cracker Jacks" pattern with fuchsia thread - naturally!  The leftover black and white floral backing from this quilt made a fun (and free!) binding.

For the backing I used Wide Back Text in white from Windham Fabrics.

ALL the color names on the back of this quilt!

Many, many thanks to the members of Modern Instabee Hive 15! This is one of my all time favorite quilts, and what a great experience it was to work with all of you!

** I've been busy with some secret Santa sewing the past few weeks that I won't be able to share until January. But Carol currently has my Red Hot Dreamy Hexagons quilt top in her queue, and I've been diligently working on my Flower Garden Quilt. So there are still projects for me to share with you in the few remaining weeks of 2015 :) **


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