Thursday, April 28, 2011

my favorite quilting tools

Some people doodle. I graph.

Graph paper is a beautiful thing. So symmetrical, so orderly, so organized.

I ♥ graph paper.

I draft most of my pillow ideas on graph paper. I know my finished dimension - say 20" square - so I can just put my trusty pencil to paper, count out 20 little squares to the right, then down, then back left, and up to the starting point. And there's my empty pillow canvas just waiting to be filled with squares, triangles, or whatever geometric goodies I desire!

I get a weird kick out of doing math in my head, and the graph paper provides a visual representation of all my quilting math. But what's a graphed quilt design without some color? Color combinations do not come easily to me, so my trusty colored pencils let me try out options before cutting into my fabrics.

Once I've got a layout and color combo that I'm happy with, I add cutting instructions and other notes.

Here's what I've been graphing and coloring this week.

I want to make a "Tree of Life" quilt using Sarah Fielke's new line "From Little Things", but the free pattern with the fabric line involved lots of templates and not very clear directions. So I decided to use the pattern in Edyta Sitar's book Friendship Triangles but wanted the blocks to be larger than 14" to show bigger pieces of her large prints.

No problem for my trusty graph paper! Using her diagrams in the book, I broke down the block into a 7 x 7 grid, made each grid section 2.5", and ta-da... a 17.5" finished block. Yay! I've got most of the three leaf sections sewn, so only the trunk and backgrounds remain. Those look to be the most difficult parts, but the graph paper has helped me break it down into manageable pieces and document all the things I've cut and assembled correctly, and to fix the parts where I've made mistakes. Yes - the graph paper limits my mistakes, but doesn't eliminate them ;-)

If you don't have any graph paper handy, you can print some directly from Moda's website under "Fun Stuff" and "Downloads" here. Let me know what tools you use when drafting projects.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

why do I keep making baby girl quilts?

You'd think I'm expecting a sudden deluge of baby girls, when in fact the opposite is true. Well, not exactly a "deluge", but two baby boys this summer! Yet all the baby quilts I have been churning out are most definitely "girly".

Last week I posted about this super-quick pattern here, and yesterday I got the binding on and some photos snapped before the latest round of April showers...

The backing is pieced with all of the leftover charms and a Moda Marble Dot in Lemon. The straight line quilting I did really shows up in this photo. Easy and quick is the theme of this pattern, and straight line quilting fits that description.

But I couldn't resist putting some flowers in the cornerstones. I machine-stitched the binding down in the back since it is for a baby and will likely see lots of time in the wash.

I'm still not thrilled with that wide yellow first border :( I reworked the pattern last week to include a much narrower first border, while still maintaining a good size piece in the center to show off a focus fabric. The new pattern also yields a slightly smaller quilt - around 40" square. Perfect size for a baby quilt, but I'll only need one width of backing fabric - even quicker and easier!!

Check in next week and I'll (hopefully) show you the revised pattern and give you all the details.

Only three more days till the big wedding! Who is getting up early to watch? We are already up very early at my house, so I'll only be setting my alarm about 30 minutes earlier than normal. And yes, I am being a complete geek about this, but I remember watching Charles and Lady Di get married when I was a teenager. Seems only fitting to watch this one too. Will you be watching?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

cupcakes, anyone?

Last weekend my youngest daughter was confirmed, and we had 22 family members here for dinner on Saturday night! Lots of laughs, great food, and marvelous cupcakes baked by the confirmand.

My daughter is a dessert-baking, pink-loving, girly-girl, so when I saw three new (good quality) cupcake fabrics at JoAnn's, I had to make a table mat for her planned cupcake centerpiece. The pink dot is Moda's Essential Dot in Bubble Gum.

The pattern I used is Terry Atkinson's "Happy Holidays", and like all her patterns it is well-written and easy to follow. There are three size options, and this is the smallest at 23" diameter. Other sizes are 35" and 47" (tree skirt size). The only advice I could add to her directions is to make sure and trim all your triangle units with a 60-degree ruler before piecing the top. Those bias edges and pressing caused several of my triangle units to stretch beyond 60 degrees, but I made sure to trim them all so the mat would lie flat without rippling.

In these two photos you can see how the free-motion quilting resembles a Joseph's Coat pattern. Completely unintentional, but I love that it turned out that way :)

Up close you can see the backing fabric has a dessert for every day of the week. Exactly how life should be!!

Pre-party cupcake assembly with sprinkles assistance from sous-chef Grandma...

Piping on the homemade buttercream frosting. Now I ask you, is there anything better than homemade buttercream frosting?? I think not.

A tower of spring cupcakes for dessert!

We've got three small leftover tubs of pink, green, and lilac buttercream frostings in our freezer now, so all we need are a couple dozen more cupcakes to frost and eat!

Monday, April 18, 2011

quilting meets Laugh In

So I'm really showing my age here, but doesn't this make you think of Rowan and Martin, Lily Tomlin, and Goldie Hawn??

This is a block for Lynne at Lily's Quilts. March was her month (yes, it is very late) in the Fresh Modern Bee. She asked for a block with NO straight seams. Only curves and wavy lines. Yeah, not so much fun for the left brained crowd.

I've had an apple core block template stashed in the drawer for a while, so I thought I'd pull it out and give it a shot. I knew that I wanted to put the bright orange and red on the block as appliqued flowers, so I cut out apple cores from the blues, greens, grey, and brown Kona solids Lynne provided. The print is a gorgeous one from Prints Charming - didn't she pick great fabrics?

Turns out that piecing this block on the machine was nearly impossible for me. So with complete [completely unfounded] confidence, I pulled out my trusty hand-sewing kit.

Slowest. Block. I. Have. Ever. Made.

Hence the missed deadline.

I hope you like it Lynne. It's a one-of-a-kind. My first, and last, apple core block... probably... But then again, it really kind of grew on me after those crazy flowers were added.

Anybody out there ever made a quilt of apple core blocks?  Any tips for me?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

sweet dreams, baby girl

This weekend I put together a quick and pretty baby quilt top in about four hours using Moda's Dream On collection by Urban Chicks. I wanted to test out something easy for the shop to use as a free pattern that could be easily kitted.

These fabrics are so sweet and breezy... perfect for a summer baby girl :)

Supplies needed for this 45" finished quilt:
  • one FQ of a focus fabric for the center cut to 16.5" square
  • 5/8 yard first border fabric cut into (3) 6" strips (sometimes 1/2 yard just isn't enough after squaring up)
  • 32 charm (5") squares divided as follows:
               6 charms each for the 2nd side borders
               8 charms each for the 2nd top and bottom borders
               4 charms for the cornerstones in the final border
  • 2/3 yard final border fabric cut into (4) 5" strips*
  • 1/8 yard flange fabric cut into (4) 1" strips (optional)
  • 3/8 yard binding
  • pieced backing to make 50" square
*I purchased slightly more fabric for this version so I could fussy cut and center the roses.

Things I like about this pattern:
  1. So easy!  Not a lot of cutting necessary if you use pre-cut charm squares.
  2. It would be a great go-to pattern for when you need a quick gift.
  3. Wide variety of readily available charm packs suitable for baby quilts. 
  4. I love a flange, but it is completely optional, making it even quicker.

Things I'd do differently next time:
  1.  Choose a softer yellow for the first border.  It's very sunny and happy, but it feels a tad overpowering against the other softer tones.
  2.  Change the pattern so that the end result only needs one width of backing fabric - maximum width of 40" finished is just so easy for backing. I'm thinking it could be more rectangular...
I'm planning some simple straight-line quilting on the diagonal to keep with the quick and easy theme. Binding will be the same Moda green dot as the flange.

Stay tuned this week to see the finished product.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

neighborhood quilting

"All Around the Neighborhood" is quilted!

I used a large meandering stitch all over the quilt center. It just fades into the background so the main focus is the blocks. King Tut is my favorite quilting thread - this is number 960 "Morning Sky", a variegated thread with very pale blues and white - and I'm really happy with both the color and the stitching.

In the 4" borders I free-motion quilted a sun (or is it a sunflower?). My original grandiose plan was to quilt a row of suns in the top border, a row of tulips on the bottom, and on the sides stitch the words "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" and "Please won't you be my neighbor". But then I couldn't figure out how to get the whole right end of the quilt crammed under the machine arm to write/stitch from left to right, nor could I manage to write/stitch legibly sideways down each side! So on to Plan B (less grandiose but hopefully still fun :)

I found the sun pattern in Follow-the-Lines Quilting Designs Volume 4. I had hoped to trace the pattern on to Golden Threads paper and just stitch over it, but the pattern size was for a 5 1/2" border. Drat! So I took out my notebook and just drew it over and over again to practice. I did measure and mark each border into 5" segments to provide even spacing of the motif and a target for each sun's center point.

The first one didn't turn out that great...

but I got much better by the second border... Free-motion quilting really is my least favorite part of the process; I always dread it and it gives me such stress. I guess it's because it's so difficult to pick it out, as well as the fact that it can make or break (IMHO) a quilt. So it's always such a relief when it's finished, and such a joy when it turns out well :)

The backing is Moda Wildflowers IV Mini-Floral in light blue.

I'll post another photo of the entire quilt when the binding is finished :) Right now I think my shoulders need a massage...

Monday, April 4, 2011

it's all about the dress

I've been feeling utterly obsessed with dresses here for the past week. It all started with this post at Material Obsession. In the very last photo Kathy D. is wearing a sleeveless dress made from a gorgeous Kaffe fabric. Since viewing that photo I've been on a quest to find a pattern to make that dress. It's called a "Wendy" dress and Kathy's was apparently made by Anna from Polly Pratt at I checked that website and found lots of photos of those dresses...

I've got a question in to her about the pattern/design/purchase information.  In the meantime I checked all the major pattern catalogs (Butterick, Simplicity, McCalls, Vogue) at my local Jo-Ann store and didn't find what I was looking for.  I'm not kidding when I say "obsessed" here.  If you have any ideas or suggestions for me about finding a similar dress pattern, even one with a v-neck, please let me know :)  Inspired by Venus de Hilo and her 2010 Summer of No Pants, I've decided that 2011 will be my summer of new dresses and skirts (advance warning that future posts may contain lots of apparel-related sewing).

Then I happened upon this book while browsing at
The Secret Lives of Dresses

and started reading this weekend.  The basic plot is that a young woman without any clear life plan steps in and takes over the management of her grandmother's vintage dress shop in North Carolina.  How fun!! I also discovered that the author has a blog where she features a vintage dress pattern (nearly) every day, and provides a witty narrative about the drawings on the pattern cover.  (This one's my favorite ;)

And most importantly, my eldest announced that she wanted to go prom dress shopping.  With me.  Just me.  One shop, eight dresses, and she found THE ONE...

She still has to find the shoes, find the bag, choose a hairstyle, decide on makeup...

But really, once you've found the perfect dress, it's all downhill from there, right?


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