Saturday, December 31, 2011

gifts in the mail

My one and only hand-made gift this holiday season: placemats for my brother and SIL :)

The super-easy pattern from Elizabeth Hartman of Oh, Fransson! is found here. There are four separate posts with instructions, so make sure you download all if you want to make these yourself! I did not make the matching cloth napkins as indicated in the pattern, so I only needed 1/4 yard each of the four patchwork fabrics, 1/3 yard of the neutral solid, 1 yard for backing, and 5/8 yard for binding. You can see many more variations of these fun placemats in the flickr group here.

The same five fabrics are used on the front of each placemat, but the placement of each changes slightly according to the pattern directions.  Elizabeth Hartman calls for a solid backing to match the binding, but I used the dishes print you can see here in this next photo, because I had plenty of it, and it's just more fun that way :)

The bindings are entirely machine sewn for durability, and the quilting is simple, straight lines in a random pattern.

I spied these fabrics locally early in the year and considered them for my own kitchen, but since I already had so many projects in the queue, I passed on buying them. After my brother and family visited for Christmas, and I learned their new kitchen color was warm peach with burgundy accents, I immediately thought of these fabrics again!  They are called "Lizzy Dish" by Lizzy House for Andover Fabrics. Not sure when they were released, but lucky me, they were in the sale area at an LQS in late November. 

I had such high hopes for giving lots of hand-made gifts this year, but it just didn't work out that way. Next year I'll have to start earlier... much earlier.

Which brings up a related topic: my project goals list for 2011. I stuck to it much more than I thought was possible for me, and I've already got another on paper for 2012 :)

HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Remember that tree skirt I was working on in late November and wasn't sure I'd finish before Christmas? I can happily report that it WAS finished. Completely finished. With the binding and everything. Two weeks before Christmas!

Awkward pause... I hear a "but" coming...

But... I chose not to cut a slit from the center all the way to the edge so it could easily wrap around the tree. No-sir-ee, I only cut a hole in the center so if I'm ever tired of it as a tree skirt, I can use it on a table with something pretty and/or functional covering the hole.

Here's where the half-dressed part comes in...

The tree was up and decorated before the skirt was finished. I know, you're shocked ;) After a very comical attempt by my family to lift the tree from the base straight into the air while slipping the skirt under the center pole (it's a 9 foot tree, keep this in mind), we gave up and just folded the skirt in half and laid it under the front half of the tree. Make it work!

Here you can see the whole thing finished...

Quilting close-up...

Border swirls quilting...

And the fun striped bias binding...

I did wash it before putting it to use. That crinkly texture makes it look more cozy and home-y to me. Next year I hope we can remember to put it under the tree before assembly and decorating!!

Happy Holidays!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

well that only took 21 months!

If you've been with me from the beginning of this blogging adventure (or if you've paged back through old posts to numbers 2 and 3) you might remember this quilt.

Finally after 19 months of stopping and starting, the Italian Tiles quilt is hanging in my foyer!

I finished quilting all but the outer border in September of this year, and then I was just stumped on how to quilt that last bit. I settled on a simple diamond pattern that was easily marked by dividing the border into 3" segments. Then it was just a matter of zig-zagging from point to point, once starting at an inside point and another go-around starting at an outside point.

The binding's been ready for months, and I machine finished it on the back (rather than hand-stitching - too time consuming) so that was a pretty speedy step.

And just in time for the end of fall decorations, we were able to replace the fall-themed quilt that was hanging there for not one, not two, but three fall seasons (and everyday in between), with this new lovely that is much more holiday neutral :)

I'm not really hung up on this "completion thing" when it comes to quilting (obviously), but it does feel oh so good to have this one finished and hanging where we can all see it each day!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

ahhh, now that's better

Wow - what a lot of advice and encouragement I received from you all concerning my "ugly" quilt! I wanted to stick with the center focus fabric and try to tone the whole thing down a bit, so I nixed the orange...

and replaced it with a softer light turquoise (Moda Grunge - not sure exactly which color), and made the outer rim of color one consistent shade of darker turquoise - one fabric is an older Kona Bay marbled print and the other a batik. Much better!!

This is the baby size (42" square) of Jaybird Quilts "Taffy" pattern, which uses the Lazy Angle ruler. Love that ruler!

Thanks for all the kind words and advice! As my friend Vicki always says, "quilting is a team sport."

Friday, December 2, 2011

can this quilt be saved?

I made an ugly quilt. A really ugly quilt. I'm not kidding. Just look at this disaster:

I'm in the process of fixing it. Not sure why I thought that orange was a good idea. When the fabrics were all piled together like this I thought they were lovely:

Tell me about your ugliest quilt. Maybe we should start a flickr group to share all our ugly quilt glory?

Or maybe I'm the only one?

I sure hope not. What a confidence-crusher that would be...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

waiting for spring

Unless you're a family member or close friend of mine you probably don't know this about me... I HATE winter. I can count on one hand the things about winter I enjoy:

1) Christmas Day
2) Turtleneck sweaters - but it doesn't technically have to be winter to wear them. I mean look at Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give", right?
3) Hot chocolate with marshmallows - again, winter not required.
4) One single, solitary, minimal snowfall of 2" or less on a day when my entire family is home with no requirements to leave the house. Said snow must have disappeared by the very next day for this to count as an "enjoyed" item.
5)at this point I can't even come up with a #5

Everything else about winter - I've got absolutely no use for it. I often joke that I need one of those "SAD" lights, but maybe I need to stop joking and buy one - anybody out there use one?

Back to the point - this week I have an addition to my yard that has me longing for spring even more than usual: two new raised vegetable garden beds! Don't they look like they belong in a magazine?

A local genius handyman, Nick, built them for me this week on top of a platform we already had in the yard that used to be the base of a playhouse/potting shed/storage area.

Each bed is 8 feet by 5 feet with a 2 foot walkway separating the beds, and all cedar so it is rot-resistant, and we won't be poisoning ourselves with pressure treated lumber chemicals.

A one foot fence surrounds both beds to keep the rabbits out, and there are four lift-out gate sections - one at each short end of each bed.

Four cubic yards of rich garden mix soil covering a layer of chicken wire (to keep any burrowing varmints out), and I am ready for some planting!

I just have to get through this dreadful winter... sigh.

Friday, November 18, 2011

more tree skirt progress

My seven stars are pieced and ready to go, and I've cut my outside setting triangles (Moda Essential Dot in Lipstick). Today I'm placing all the half-hexagons on the design wall and sewing them into rows:

In the book (Living Large 2 by Heather Mulder Peterson), this "Starlit Evening" pattern is rated as Intermediate. If you define "Intermediate" as utilizing very careful cutting, piecing, and lots of Best Press, then I wholeheartedly agree. It wasn't an impossible task getting these sashing pieces to line up properly, but it did require lots of measuring twice, cutting once, and pins. But WOW, don't you just love it when it all works out according to plan!

Each vertical row is pieced first, then two rows pieced together...

...and finally the center is all put together and ready for borders!

Next time - one border or two?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

10 days till d-day

Christmas decorating-day, that is. Early in the year I made a goal for myself to complete a new Christmas door banner and tree skirt by the end of December. Well, I've got the door banner top finished and ready to quilt (see this post to view), and now I'm getting down to business making my tree skirt.

I'm using a pattern from Heather Mulder Peterson's book Living Large 2 called "Starlit Evening" (see all the quilt photos from the book here). You'll need:

7 coordinating fat quarters
3/4 yard sashing fabric that forms the stars
1/3 yard setting triangles for the outside edges
and some border fabric to go all the way around (more about that later)

Initially you create strip-pieced units using the fat quarters and sashing, which are then cut at a 60-degree angle to form parallelograms. Another piece of sashing is added in the center of two parallelograms to form a diamond (you'll make 3 of these from each fat quarter), seen here:

You then cut each diamond in half:

...forming 6 equilateral 60-degree triangles, which are then pieced as half-hexagons:

Each half-hexagon will eventually be sewn together forming a full hexagon with a star embedded in it. Pretty cool, huh?  But don't sew the hexagons together just yet!  Yes, I learned this the hard way, and feel compelled to warn you not to make my same mistake ;-)

More progress to report tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

going directly from Halloween to Christmas

Just like the retail world around us, I have shifted overnight from Halloween to Christmas mode. Right after I finished my Halloween Confetti table runner I started working on this Christmas door banner. It's a Nancy Halvorsen pattern that I've been wanting to make since I saw the sample in a trunk show of hers last year. So sorry for the poor photo quality - very dreary days do not make for great photos :(

The main pattern is from her book Tidings, and is actually featured on the cover. I wasn't crazy about the capital block letters on the original, so I used the letter patterns from another book by Terry Atkinson, Fat Quarter Fonts. I had to fidget with the scale of those charm-size letters, increasing them 130-140% until they fit just right. I fused them to the background using Heat N Bond Lite, and then used a machine blanket stitch around all the raw edges.

Now I just need to quilt, bind, and add some fun red buttons to it before November 27 - the day I'm scheduling for Christmas-ifying the house. I'm going to hang it from a door in my foyer hallway so we'll get to see it everyday!

Just curious - does the sudden retail switch to full Christmas mode bother you? I don't really mind it, as long as I'm not assaulted with all Christmas, all the time music in the stores until after Thanksgiving. What about you?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Confetti

Happy Halloween!! I finished my Halloween table runner just in time last Friday, so it will actually be used for a grand total of four days before it's packed away for next year ;-) Oh well, that's generally how I roll when it comes to holiday decorations - haha!

The pattern I used is "Confetti" by Lazy Girl Designs. I highly recommend the Lazy Angle ruler/template for this project - it made the cutting go soooo much faster. (See this post if you'd like more details about the ruler/pattern/construction.) I used 40 Halloween-themed charm squares cut from my stash and 1.33 yards of Moda Grunge in black for the table runner front.

I free-motion quilted an all-over large meander in King Tut variegated thread #925 Obsidian, and finished the binding by machine. I like machine-finished binding for things that will get lots of washing - like table runners, placemats, and baby quilts. The finished size is 16" x 80".

And since I just realized this morning that I managed to buy every kind of chocolate Halloween candy BUT fun-size M&M's, I'm off on a treasure hunt to find what I'm certain are the only three remaining bags for sale in my area. M&M's really are the best fun-size candy... in my opinion!

I hope all your little ghosts and goblins have a fun and safe Halloween!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rugby Stripes for Ben

I can finally show you all the quilt I made for my nephew's son, Ben, and I'm thrilled to report that Ben's dad thinks it's "awesome"!!

100% of my inspiration for Ben's quilt came from this quilt by Carol/mamacjt. At the time I decided on this design I knew she had a pattern in the works, but I couldn't find it available to purchase. So I took out my trusty graph paper and colored pencils, guessed at the ratios and dimensions, and made up a pattern for myself. But lucky you! The pattern is now available to purchase from mamacjt!! Contact her here if you are interested in purchasing one.

Her original quilt had the bars arranged in rainbow order, but I thought for a baby boy the "mixing up" of the colors was more fun. The solids are a mix of Kona cottons, Moda Bella cottons, and some others from who-knows-where. Each appliqued circle is a completely nephew appropriate car print (Ben's dad loves cars)from Michael Miller - Honk Honk in Brown. It's really a very deep, dark, chocolate-y brown with retro cars in green, orange, and yellow against a cityscape backdrop in blue.

I really struggled with a quilting design for those colors bars. Something about an all-over pattern didn't feel right, and I eventually came across this meandering waterfall-type design in some notes from a free-motion quilting class I took a couple of years ago. It was quite easy to do, very forgiving, and is well suited for quilting at slow speeds - the speed at which I have the most success!

The back is almost as much fun as the front with it's random width stripes of leftover solids and the car print. The pieced binding is also made from the same solids. It was my first attempt at a pieced binding and here's the very scientific approach (insert sarcastic air quotes here) I used to figure out how much of each color to cut to have it come out evenly: quilt circumference divided by number of colors plus a couple inches added for error. Result = Total dumb luck that it came out (mostly) even with all the colors!

Each individual color, however, was chosen using a very reliable and nearly foolproof method - paint chips. His parents mailed me the paint chips they were planning to use to create a checkerboard-like pattern of giant squares on one wall of the nursery, and it really was quite easy to find the perfect solids to match!

The quilt doesn't really have a name, I just called it "Rugby Stripes" in the title because Ben's dad likes to wear rugby stripe shirts :)  It measures 38.5" x 51.75".  It's definitely one of my favorite quilts that I've made!  Thanks Carol for the inspiration!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

it's in the mail

Yesterday I put Ben's quilt in the mail, and it should arrive on Friday or Saturday. I don't want to ruin the surprise for his parents, but I really feel the need to give a little peek, so here is the main section of the quilt back...

I am so excited about this baby quilt! Here's hoping his parents are too :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Halloween fun

While I've been sewing the binding on Baby Ben's quilt during TV time at night, I'm playing with a new gadget by day - the Lazy Angle Ruler from Creative Grids. There are so many new patterns available that utilize this versatile tool, so I decided to try out one of the patterns for charm squares - "Confetti" from Lazy Girl Designs.

My kitchen needs a Halloween themed table runner, so I'm using 1 1/3 yards of Moda's Grunge in black for the background, and I cut 40 charm squares (5") from my stash of Halloween fabrics.

The pattern as directed will make a 32" by 40" baby quilt, but I'm arranging it to finish at 16" x 80" for my table. The top two rows have been sewn together, and I'm pretty pleased with how the points are matching up! Here's a close up of the unfinished blocks...

The pattern is very well-written and easy to follow - all the blocks seem to be coming together as they should. Basically the ruler is designed to cut an A and B section for each block from strips cut anywhere from 1.5" to 6.5". My background strips were cut at 4.5", so my blocks will finish at 4". There are a multitude of blocks you can create from this ruler; I've ordered the book "Lazy and Lovin' It" (also from Lazy Girl Designs), and Julie at Jaybird Quilts has published lots of patterns for this tool as well.

My next quilt using this ruler is going to be "Taffy" from Jaybird Quilts. I'm making the lap size for a class sample at my LQS, so I'll show you my cute stack of fabrics for that quilt next time.

Anybody else out there using this ruler? Any tips you've found out about for it? So far it seems pretty straight-forward to me, but a girl can always use tips!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

sneak peek for baby Ben

I'm busy this week working on another baby boy quilt. This time for my nephew's new son, Ben. I can't show much because I want it to be a surprise, but couldn't resist giving you a tiny bit of a reveal.

It's coming together very quickly, and I'm hoping to have it completely finished next week!

High school homecoming weekend here for Thing 1 and Thing 2 - lots of activities planned for that :)

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

under construction

Woo-hoo!  The new header is loaded and looks great!  Thanks a million, Lynn :)

I still want to do some tweaking of text color and fonts, but I'm a little weary of techno-fussing tonight. The plan is to get it all finalized this weekend.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

FiestaWare pillow for Lynn

My good friend Lynn has been hard at work designing a new logo for my blog. All the tweaking I've asked her to do, combined with my very limited technical knowledge, have amounted to a greater task than she probably expected. She's just fine-tuning the size now in order to get the header loaded. Very exciting!

When we initially talked about this project, I asked what I could pay her in return, and she immediately came back with, "I'd love an Elsie's Girl original pillow." Well, I can certainly do that!! So here it is....

Lynn loves FiestaWare colors - particularly peacock blue, grass green, red, and sunshine yellow. And flowers. Lots of flowers. She has the ding-dong cutest cottage house full of the perfect combination of antiques and modern touches, and she recently revamped her in-home office area to accommodate her two computers. They now sit on a long, skinny toboggan mounted upside down to the wall. How clever is that??

I debated long and hard about the perfect pillow to make for her, and finally landed on this Dresden flower made from Heather Bailey Pop Garden and Bijoux fabrics. The background and other solids are Kaffe Fassett shot cottons in Indigo, Lime, Scarlett, Lemon, and Jade.

I added some embroidery to the center flower to punch it up a bit - the added texture just really makes that fussy-cut flower stand out. Initially I had machine-quilted around the center flower petals, but I didn't like that look combined with the embroidery. I ripped out that quilting and hand-quilted in the same space with DMC floss. The needle holes from the machine quilting made the perfect markings for spacing my hand-quilting stitches!

There is a zippered backing for easy removal to wash the pillow cover. The shot cotton felt a little flimsy for a zipper, so I added some lightweight fusible interfacing to the entire pillow backing to make it more durable.

The pillow looks pretty great in her cozy, sunny, family room area. I'm sooo happy that she loves it, and I'm even happier about the fabulous new logo she's made for me! I can't wait to show it to you :)

Monday, September 19, 2011


The quilt I made for baby Levi is featured today at Modern Day Quilts!

Modern Day Quilts

I was correct when I told you Levi has a bright future ahead of him; he is famous already!!

To get your recommended daily dose of modern quilting inspiration and ideas, become a follower of Modern Day Quilts!

Thanks Heather, for an exciting start to my week :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

fat quarter drawstring skirt

My friend Stephanie over at Venus de Hilo makes the most fun fat quarter skirts that I have long coveted, and now she has put together a great tutorial for making her easy drawstring skirt from six fat quarters. Recently my friend Andrea and I had a sewing day to make these skirts for ourselves.

Stephanie's instructions are well written and the diagrams very helpful, especially when it comes to making the pattern. She provides a formula that allows you to tailor the pattern based on your hip measurement. We each created a pattern on freezer paper - this was the most time consuming part - but the pattern can be re-used every time we want to make another skirt.

Here is the front view of my skirt. I used six fat quarters from Prints Charming that I bought a couple of years ago with the intention of making a bag. They look so much cuter as a skirt! My husband liked it, saying that it was "cute, fun, well-fitted, and just on the verge of Laugh In, but in a good way." I think he means my fabric choice :)

And this is the skirt back view. You can really only distinguish five different fabrics because the sixth is used for the drawstring and drawstring casing.

I have a bit of an odd shape with regard to my waist/hip ratio. In other words, my hips are larger than they should be to correspond proportionally with my waist. So when my skirt was finished, I had quite a bit of fabric that was gathered in by the drawstring, which is not a very flattering look for me. So I cut the waist in much farther on my pattern, using a fitted skirt from my closet to gauge a better waist measurement. I had to rip out most of the seams to cut the waist down to a better size for me, but now the whole thing is reassembled and ready to wear. Assembly time from pattern making to ready to wear was about 4 hours. My re-do of the pattern and skirt waist took me an additional 90 minutes, but now I've got a custom pattern that I can use again and again to make multiple skirts from all those teetering stacks of fat quarters in my fabric closet! I even managed to wear my new skirt a couple of times before the fall chill hit the air here in the Midwest, and I received many compliments :)

If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have started out with muslin, or used fat quarters that I had no intention of ever wearing, to test out my pattern. Then I would have avoided the unsewing steps, and I probably could have had another set of fat quarters assembled into a skirt from the revised pattern in the same 90 minutes it took me to re-work the original.

Thanks, Stephanie, for a thorough and well-planned tutorial! I do love a great skirt!

You can see all of Stephanie's skirts (and my new one too) over here at her flickr group.  If you're inspired to make a skirt (or three or four) from her tutorial, please let both of us know and share your photos!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Italian Tiles and French dessert

Today I finally started quilting my Italian Tiles batik quilt that's been in progress since February, 2010. It has another couple of borders added to what you see here, but you get the basic idea.

It's taken quite a bit of trial and error to discover the best way to mark the quilting lines. Let's just say that Pounce chalk is not all it's cracked up to be. I had the entire thing marked 2-3 times (with hairspray to set the lines and without) only to have the chalk lines rub out once I got the quilt over to the machine to start stitching. Arrgghhh! The solution appears to be tracing the quilting motifs on Sulky Solvy and pinning it to the quilt top to follow the marked lines with the stitching. Thank you, Vicki, for this solution!

After you have stitched all around the motif, you can simply tear away the Solvy leaving no residue but lovely quilting :) Or you can wait and dunk the entire quilt in water after quilting - the Solvy just dissolves. But don't get it wet on the counter when tracing your pattern! (Ask me how I know this.)

Our first session of baking along with Martha Stewart was a huge success! Thing 2 and I made Pate Sucree for the first time, and it was so easy with exceptional results!

The custard filling was so smooth, rich and creamy that we really didn't even need to dress it up with a tart shell and berries, but we did! For your viewing and salivating pleasure, here are our four custom-topped Summer Fruit Tarts...

This one with the avalanche of confectioner's sugar is mine. All mine.

And lastly, this little fruit tart "Chihuahua" was staring up at me as I decided if stuffing myself with the last bit of tart was a good idea. I did. And it was.

We only made a half-batch of pastry dough, which made 6 tart shells. No sharing this round. Your chances are probably better next time, friends, with the Tiramisu Cupcakes.


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