Tuesday, October 11, 2016

are you listening?

When I was a kid my parents (and nearly every other adult in my life) listened to a lot of talk radio. It was primarily news or sports, and I vividly remember rolling my eyes and thinking, "why would anyone waste their time listening to anything other than music?!"

Fast-forward a few decades and here I am spending a lot of time listening to the 21st century version of talk radio - podcasts.  Have you jumped on the podcast bandwagon yet? If not, what are you waiting for?  There is an unbelievable amount of free listening content on any and every topic you can imagine available to access with your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

I am an iPhone/iPad/iTunes user (so I don't know a lot about Android or other devices) but I believe there are podcast listening apps on most every current technology platform.  If you are an iPhone or iPad user they both already have podcast apps loaded and ready to go.  You can "subscribe" to your favorite podcasts and never have to search for new posts from those channels - they'll automatically update in your podcast app and be waiting for you when you are ready!

Today I'm sharing my favorite sewing, creative, and other podcasts and telling you a little bit about why I like each one.  Maybe some of these will become your favorites!

My top two sewing-related podcasts are Crafty Planner and While She Naps.

The Crafty Planner podcast is hosted by Sandi Hazlewood - "a former city planner who loves all things crafty" living in San Diego, California.  Sandi interviews makers from every sewing and crafting field - quilters, apparel sewers, fabric designers, knitters, and other fiber artists starting each podcast by asking the guest to describe their creative journey.  She produces a high quality program by asking insightful questions and loves to laugh with her guests.

Abby Glassenberg hosts the While She Naps podcast.  Abby is a sewing pattern designer, craft book author, writer, and teacher.  She is also co-founder of the Craft Industry Alliance (CIA), a trade association for craft industry professionals.  Abby interviews all manner of craft and fiber industry people - makers, designers, book publishers, and bloggers as well as executives in the fabric manufacturing industry.  Her interviews are very well researched and have a somewhat journalistic feel (but there is still a lot of laughter!) with a focus on what it takes to build a creative business.  She recently conducted a live podcast interview with Mickey Krueger, president of Windham Fabrics, at the SewPro convention in Chicago.

Some other creative content podcasts that I frequently listen in on:

Seamwork Radio: Sarai Mitnick from Colette Patterns and Seamwork magazine talks to artists, designers, and everyday creators about what sewing brings to their lives and how to take part in the current growing movement to revive the art of sewing.

Good Life Project: a podcast by GLP founder Jonathan Fields who describes GLP as "a global community of people from all walks of life. From artists to entrepreneurs, full-time parents to C-suite execs, students to savants and everything in-between" who are "on a quest to help each other live more meaningful, connected and vital lives".  Recent interviews include Mary Fons and Elizabeth Gilbert.

Because I am an absolute nerd who loves learning about lots of things (not just sewing and quilting!), the following podcasts are also on my list of favorites:

Fresh Air: This podcast from NPR (National Public Radio) features conversations about current events with politicians, journalists, authors, celebrities, and others in the news.  New episodes are published almost daily and provide more in depth content than most TV and print news.  This is my go-to podcast for current events information.

TED Radio Hour: Another NPR podcast, episodes here focus on a single topic and pull content from several previously published TED (Technology, Education, Design) talks.  If you haven't heard of TED talks (where have you been?) leave this post right now and head over to the TED website to learn more about these short powerful talks from TED conferences that cover almost every science, business, and global issue topic.  Some of my recent favorite episodes are " The Case for Optimism" and "Failure is an Option".

HerMoney with Jean Chatzky: Financial expert Jean Chatzky has written for SmartMoney magazine, been the financial editor for the NBC Today show, and authored several books about personal finance.  This podcast is her latest effort to educate people about the difficult subject of money and personal finances in an easy to understand, conversational way.  Her podcast specifically focuses on women and money, but the topics presented apply to everyone.

Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me: A funny weekly news quiz podcast taped in Chicago that features three panelists (usually comedians and humor writers), call-in quiz participants, as well as a celebrity or person in the news.  It's a fun way to review what's happened in our world in the past week.  Sometimes you've just got to laugh about the news, right?!

So that's what I'm listening to most of the time.  This list is truly only a small snippet of what's available out there.  I've sampled many other podcasts, but these are the ones I return to again and again because I find the content valuable and the presenters hold my attention without being annoying or patronizing.  

If you try any of these podcasts please share your thoughts. And I'd love to hear your podcast recommendations - I'm always on the lookout for new ones!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

DIY yardstick table top

A couple of years ago I came up with an idea to make an accent table using reclaimed yardsticks as the top and a cast iron Singer treadle sewing machine base as the bottom. I had been searching for a complete Singer treadle table (with wooden top and those coveted drawers), but couldn't locate one in decent shape at a price I was willing to pay.  About the same time I noticed some interesting projects on Pinterest using yardsticks... And so the idea came about to meld the two into one project!

Singer sewing table bases are not too difficult to find - a recent search on eBay yielded 149 listings - it just depends on what you are willing to pay. The yardsticks, however, proved a bit more difficult to source.  Lucky for me (!) I have an uncle who enjoys frequenting the large weekly auction near his home to search for all types of treasures, so I gave him the task of finding a mess of vintage wooden yardsticks for me - all sizes and colors were fair game.  It took about a year, but he was able to find several bundles :)

yardsticks - check
table base - check
willing and helpful husband - check!
My project idea gave him the perfect excuse to bust out his new compound mitre saw.  Thank heavens he's always up for helping me make my crazy project ideas a reality!

The first step was to cut a 5/8" thick plywood base for the yardsticks - mine measures 18" x 31".  We added a couple of one-by-fours on the bottom of the plywood base to securely hold the treadle base with longer screws.  (I had spray painted the boards and the plywood base bottom a dark brown before this step to give the underside a more finished look than just raw wood.)

Then I sorted through my yardsticks to find the stain colors and words that I preferred.  You definitely want all the yardsticks for this project to have the same thickness in order to create the smoothest tabletop possible.  I arranged them in a rough layout (shown below) and we began cutting one at a time starting with the front edge.

And here is the fabulous new saw in action cutting those yardsticks to size :)

Each cut-to-size stick was held in place on the plywood with wood glue, tiny finishing nails, and clamps. (We started the process at the front edge to be sure it was straight.  You can fudge the back edge a bit if necessary, but not the front!!)

The yardstick along the back edge is a 1" cube (and it's actually straight and level - not sloping up to the right as it appears in the photo).  It provides a small lip at the back to prevent anything from falling off the back of the tabletop and does a nice job hiding the 3/16" of exposed table base on the back left that somehow remained when we finished (oops).  Finally we added yardsticks to the front and both sides of the table top to hide the plywood base.

Two coats of clear polyurethane were used to deepen the wood tones and ink colors.

And there it is - finished and ready to assume residence in our living room!

I'm still on the hunt for the perfect table lamp(s) and other pretty things to showcase on it, but the table is now located where I can see it every day.  It turned out EXACTLY as I had pictured and planned - I LOVE when that happens :)  Most of the yardsticks I used are from businesses in the area where I grew up, so that gives the whole project special meaning.  Maybe some of them were even used by Elsie - I remember that she had several wooden yardsticks in her basement sewing area.  There is one new yardstick in the bunch - it's from a lovely fabric store (Bolt & Spool) in Cleveland where Thing 2 attends college.

I still have quite a bundle of vintage yardsticks that I can use in other projects.  Any suggestions??

Friday, May 6, 2016

a "For Keeps" quilt for Sarah

Sharing beautiful and useful things with the people we love is the main reason most of us sew, isn't it?  At least that's how I feel about most of the sewing that I do.  I made this simple but lovely quilt for my dear niece Sarah in April.

Sarah is a lovely person inside and out; she's a wife and mom to two beautiful sons, and probably the most kind and genuine person I know. She recently had a bit of a health scare. I wanted to sew a tangible and beautiful reminder of how much she is loved - something she could see and use every day.

The quilt was delivered to her last weekend, and then yesterday I listened to a podcast interview with Amy Gibson of Stitchery Dickery Dock and learned about her "For Keeps" pledge.  It so perfectly sums up how I feel about sewing and making things for my loved ones, and this post seems the perfect place to share it.  Don't worry - I'm also including all the details on the making of the quilt a little further down in the post :)

The For Keeps pledge states:

"I love to sew because it brings me joy, and I love to share that joy with those around me 
by making things that are used and enjoyed every day.

I don't sew because it's trendy.
I don't sew because it might make others like me more.
I don't sew because I have to.

I am taking this pledge to refocus my heart and to remind myself of why I sew, and who I sew for.

I pledge to make things I love
For the people I love
To use every day.

I will sew for keeps."

Perfect, right?!

And now back to the quilt details... Sarah's Pinterest boards gave me great insight into her home decor preferred colors, and I know that she loves simple classic designs.  I immediately thought of the "Small Change" quilt in the "Quilts Made Modern" book by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr.

Twenty different shot cottons by Kaffe Fassett and Pepper Cory make up the palette for this quilt.  I used a half yard of the bottom grey and quarter yards of all the others cutting two (four from the grey) 3.5" x 42" strips from each.  The strips were then randomly sewn into 3 strip sets which were cross-cut into 3.5" x 9.5" sections shown below.  I advise pre-washing shot cottons especially the Pepper Cory shot cottons - the shrinkage rate of these beautiful fabrics is greater than other quilting cottons which could result in a very puckered finished quilt when it is washed and dried for the first time.

These three-square sections were arranged in an 18 x 24 square grid to determine color placement. I also used the monotone (black and white) setting on my phone's camera to check that the light and dark values were spread across the quilt.

A new quilter in the area - Isis in Huntley - quilted this all over classic fans design in a mauve thread.  She did a fantastic job!

The backing and binding is a solid from Lotta Jansdotter's line Glimma for Windham Fabrics. The color is chameleon-like; it's a dusty grey/mauve/lavender that changes depending on the lighting and what colors are next to it. Very versatile, and I really love the way the quilting texture is highlighted on this solid backing.

I've been keeping a record of most of my projects in this swatch journal. Orderly rows of fabric squares and neat handwriting push all my buttons :) And how fun to have a tactile record of the items I've made for my loved ones!

Let me know your thoughts on the For Keeps pledge. There is a free printable available for your sewing area and a blog button too on Amy's Take the Pledge webpage. I've added the button to my sidebar :)

You can get more information about the podcast interview with Amy here. Sandi Hazlewood does a fantastic job with her Crafty Planner podcasts; you'll want to subscribe and listen to all the episodes!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

modern building blocks 2, 3, and an outsider

Continuing my earlier post documenting my Modern Building Blocks quilt, I've got three more large quilt blocks to show you.  The published pattern includes only one 30" block, but my king-sized layout requires two, so I enlarged a block from Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine Issue #21 designed by Susan Standen at Canadian Abroad.

Originally published as a 14.5" block to use on a quilt block folder project, I chose this one to enlarge to 30" because of the 5x5 grid construction.  5 blocks x 6" each = 30".  Yay!  

After drafting the larger size and including my color scheme, I figured the component sizes I'd need.  This is one of my most favorite parts of the quilting process - the quilt math!  Does anyone know if this block pattern has a name?  I didn't find one in the magazine's instructions.

The other two blocks I have to show you are from the original published Modern Building Blocks Pattern.  They both have super interesting names - here's Block 2 finishing at 36" square...

And Block 3 finishing at 30" square...

4 blocks down, 48 to go!

If you're planing to make this quilt I'm including some cutting and construction modifications I've used that seem to make the blocks more accurate and easier to cut and sew.

** Please note that I am not providing all the instructions here for making these blocks; you'll need your own copy of the pattern for a complete set of instructions to sew along.  I'm only providing information about how I modified the cutting and construction steps to make the blocks easier to sew and more accurate :)

Block 2 pattern cutting modifications
  1. A fabric: cut (7) 7.5" squares
  2. B fabric: cut (7) 7.5" squares
  3. C fabric: cut (10) 7.5" squares
  4. D fabric: cut (1) 20.5" squares
Block 2 construction modifications
  1. Make (10) A/C and (10) C/B HST units trimming all to 6 7/8'.  Combine these to make (10) C/B/A/C flying geese units pressing the center seam open.
  2. Make (4) B/A triangle units pressing the center seam open.
Block 3 pattern cutting modifications - 93 pieces!!
  1. Cut fabrics A, B, H, and I as directed
  2. C fabric: cut (10) 3.5" squares
  3. D fabric: cut (6) 3.5" squares
  4. E fabric: cut (2) 6.5" squares
  5. F fabric: cut (12) 6" squares
  6. G fabric: cut (8) 6" squares
Block 3 construction modifications
  1. Make (4) flying geese units with B and C.  Trim to 3" x 5.5"
  2. Make (16) F/G HST units.  Press (12) to F and (4) to G.  Trim to 5.5" square.
  3. Make (4) HST using D and C.  Press to D and trim to 3".
  4. Center 9-patch should measure 10.5" square unfinished.
  5. Corner H/I units should measure 10.5" square unfinished.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

the biggest quilt block ever

Almost one year ago I started a Block of the Month program at a local quilt shop using the Moda Modern Building Blocks pattern.  The 84" x 96" quilt in the published pattern is made of 48 different blocks ranging in size from 6" to 36" using 21 unique Moda solid fabrics.

I chose a color palette of red, white/cream, grey, and icy blue that qualifies as Christmas-y, but can still be used in all the winter months December through February.  But I need mine to be king sized.  Because who doesn't want a special holiday quilt for their bed?

Block #1 is the largest (36" finished) and that's where the BOM program started - go big right outta the gate!  My center red and white section on point finishes at 12" square; adding the blue triangles brings the block center to 18" square.  The four outer squares are 9" and the flying geese sections are 9" x 18".  I'm quite sure this is the biggest quilt block I've ever made!  (If you're making this quilt too and would like some helpful cutting info, make sure you read all the way to the bottom of this post.)

The background here is a long-hoarded Paris street map print from the "Passport" line by 3 Sisters for Moda.  I'm planning to make this a very scrappy quilt with many different prints in my four main colors, but I'll use this Paris map print in lots of blocks because I love it so much :)  

My planning for a king sized quilt started with graph paper and scale cut cardstock pieces.  I used a 12:1 scale for cutting the cardstock, so the 36" block above is represented by a 3" square of cardstock.

Fortunately all of the block sizes in this quilt pattern are divisible by 3, so I assigned each square on my graph paper chart to be equivalent to 3" in real life.  By slightly upsizing a standard king sized quilt measurement to 96" x 108", both the height and width dimensions of my planned quilt are divisible by 3.  Whew - first step of quilt math done!

With the 96" x 108" grid marked on my graph paper, I started filling it with cardstock pieces to determine a layout.  After several iterations (and advice from a design-savvy friend) I arrived at this final layout.

My king-sized version of the Modern Building Blocks quilt will contain:
  • (2) 36" blocks
  • (2) 30" blocks
  • (2) 24" blocks
  • (5) 18" blocks
  • (16) 12" blocks
  • (25) 6" blocks
That's a total of 52 blocks!  I've been plugging away at this little by little over the past 12 months, but if I have any hope of draping this quilt over my bed in the Christmas/Winter season of 2016-17 I need to buckle down and finish the top soon.  I've got 23 blocks sewn so far, which I'll show you in posts to come.  While most of my blocks are from the published pattern, there are also a few designs that I pulled from other sources.

The following modifications and tips helped me get the correct sized block the first time.  I hope you'll follow along with my progress :)

Pattern cutting modifications for Block 1 - These changes allow you to trim sections to size as you sew which leads to better accuracy.
  1. B fabric: cut (8) 4" squares
  2. D fabric: cut (2) 4" squares
  3. E fabric: cut (2) 10.5" squares
  4. F fabric: cut (4) 10" squares
Block section trimming instructions - trim individual sections as you go to make sure you end up with a 36.5" unfinished block.
  1. Center square A/B trim to 6.5"
  2. B/D HST units trim to 3.5"
  3. C/D flying geese units trim to 3.5" x 6.5"
  4. A/B/C/D unit trim to 12.5"
  5. A/B/C/D/E unit trim to 18.5"
  6. F/G flying geese units trim to 9.5" x 18.5"

Friday, February 26, 2016

pixelated heart quilt

In the middle of January I became obsessed with making a pixelated heart quilt after seeing a photo of this one made by Amanda at Westwood Acres Fabric Shop.  Though I already have plenty of works-in-progress to keep me occupied, I couldn't seem to let go of the idea.  So...

Just like her quilt, I used 5" cut squares, and I'm happy to report that ALL the fabrics for the quilt top came from my stash.  Lots and lots of Anna Maria Horner prints in this pile - I just grabbed every pink or purple fabric I had and got busy cutting.  The quilt needs 70 colored squares, but I cut 100+ so I could be choosy about where I placed them in the center of the quilt layout to form the heart.

Low volume fabrics make up the background; 215 background squares plus 70 colored squares yield a 67" x 85" (twin sized) finished quilt arranged in a 15 x 19 block grid.

I took all the cut squares to my quilt guild's January sewing day to get the layout set and get most of it sewn together.  I arranged the heart center and sewed it into rows before positioning the background squares.  (Why do all banks have such hideous carpet in their community/meeting rooms?)

I didn't press any seams at the sew-in; I just kept sewing all day to get each row assembled.  Then the following week at home I pressed the seams for each row in alternating directions so they could be nested and all the corners would line up as I completed the quilt top.

Here's a shot of my favorite section of the quilt - the top center of the heart.  I finally cut into and used this french macaron fabric that I've been saving for a few years :)

The print on the right is my backing - Caravan's Light in Sunrise from the Bijoux collection by Bari J for Art Gallery fabrics.

"Dahlia Dance" is the long-arm quilting pattern I selected; it was quilted by my fellow guild member Isis.  The lilac polyester thread (brand name Glide) has a bit of sheen to it, and I love the results!

Pellon Nature's Touch all cotton batting is in the center.  I hadn't used this batting before, but I may be using it exclusively from now on.  It is lightweight with an excellent drape, and after washing the quilt's texture is so soft and crinkly. 

Perfectly sized for a twin bed!

We had a bit of snow here on February 14 - the day I finished binding the quilt - so I had my husband bundle up and hold it for an outside photo.  Great guy, huh?

I started cutting fabrics for this quilt on January 19 and finished the last stitch of binding on February 14.  26 days start to finish - that's a record for me.  Of course the super speedy quilting job by Isis made that possible!

I'd like to make another one of these quilts in the future using smaller squares to yield a lap sized quilt.  Squares cut at 4" would yield a 52" x 66" quilt - perfect for couch snuggling and movie watching :)

I'll let Thing 1 and Thing 2 hash it out over who gets which size ;-)

Many thanks to Amanda at Westwood Acres for her blog post about her beautiful quilt!

Monday, February 22, 2016

selvage spools made easier

The Crystal Lake Modern Quilt Guild is hosting three block lotteries this year, and the first one takes place in April. We chose the Selvage Spools block from this Riley Blake 2013 Block of the Month program.  You can download and print the Riley Blake block directions here, but you'll probably want to keep reading to discover an easier way to make this block.

The block is composed of four 6" spools to finish at 12" square (12.5" unfinished).

The original pattern uses a template and partial seams - no thank you.  When Lorrie and I met earlier this week to sew the sample blocks for our Sunday guild meeting I made some quick pattern modifications to make it easier.  Easier = Better, am I right?!  Here is my pattern tester block - spot on at 6.5" unfinished :)

I created this tutorial a little differently by adding text to each photo of the steps.  I hope you'll find this easier to follow :)

The materials you'll need for one block:

Using a pencil lightly mark a diagonal line on the wrong side of each 2" square.
Choose selvages with fun words and lots of color dots!

The sewing instructions begin here:

You'll want to center the wording/color dots on the background square.

I sewed this piece about 1/8" from the bottom of the background square so the words wouldn't be cut off later in a seam allowance.

You can choose to cover the printed fabric area of the first selvage or not.

We used 6-7 selvages per spool.

Press these seams toward the background fabric.

Make sure you carefully place the marked diagonal lines as shown.

Press away from the center.
Your spool block should measure 6.5" square now. 

These final seams are all pressed toward the spool end - not the background fabric.

And there you have it - a 12" square finished selvage spool block!

Thanks to Riley Blake for the original pattern and inspiration for this fun quilt block!


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