Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Photo evidence...

This totally happened! In my house! Sitting still - and sewing! The both of them! Oh, happy day!

Jonah (the big guy in the green) is embroidering a picture of Super Mario he drew, and I transferred with fabric marker to burlap.  Nate (the slightly less big guy in the red) is making a circle pillow project out of the Sewing School book using monkey fabric (he's in the Monkey Class in pre-K).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Beer and Babies!

 An unlikely combination, but today's finished objects are all about beer...

Beer themed table runner for my beer brewing brother (say that five times fast!)
and babies!!!

Quilt done for baby Luci, my cousin's brand - new daughter!
I love how the wood-grained look fabric makes a great background block for the disappearing nine patch block. I used 'wood' for blocks 1,3,7 and 9, and beer patches for 2, 4, 6 and 8, and Kona Brown for the middle block (5).

 A couple slices down the middle and across , and a bit of rotating, and sewing, and it all came together in an afternoon in between tending to a stomach-buggy six year old. (after which I could have probably used a pint of beer...)

 Here's the full view of Luci's quilt! So ziggy! and zaggy! I combined loopy free motion quilting on the white zigs and walking feet straight lines on the purple zags.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

WIP Wednesday

Sewing here has been mostly plowing through small projects to complete Christmas presents.  I've been especially fond of making journal covers.  They make great teacher gifts, and being a teacher myself, I have lots of those to give out! I used this All People Quilt tutorial for the bottom two journals (country chic to mom, the other one to Jonah's first grade teacher).  I was browsing through Stitched in Color and found this tutorial based on the All People Quilt one, with some modifications. I made the top three using that tutorial, with some additions - it's very easy to improvise on these journals, it's so much fun!

This one is for Miss Jill, our sons' amazing baby sitter.  She's been a part of our family since Jonah (my oldest) has been 4 months old.  She was an undergraduate then, and now after getting her MEd in Early Childhood, she's has gone back to grad school for social work! Almost done! I wanted to use fabrics that evoke playfulness, and the kids throwing paper airplanes did the trick.  I used Wonder Under to secure the heart and the 'J', and then stitched in place all around.
Can you tell how much Nate loves her? The boys argue about who gets to marry her when they get to be grownups.

 Talula is the art teacher where I work and she is also a working artist - check out her etsy shop! I wanted to do something fun and funky for her! I strip-pieced a few fun fabrics to a much larger size than the journal requires s) and then sliced at gentle angles, resewed and trimmed it down to the right size for the journal (final cut is at 29.5 x 12 inches).  Next time, I'll do two sets of strip pieces and stack and shuffle, so I get the same effect without as much fabric waste.  But I can always play with scraps, right?

Jonah's first grade teacher is pretty stylish, so I wanted to do something fun, but not too loud, so she can use it anywhere. Plus, I don't know her very well, so I wanted to play it safe with the fabric choices.

This one is for Mom, also a teacher, who loves lists and can always use a notebook, and loves country chic style!
 This one posed a bit of a problem. I teach science and other fun things at an after-school program, and the director is a gymnastics expert.  The fabric was a great fit, but I miscalculated the placement of the applique star and T.  

 I needed to balance things out, so I dragged out trim that I thought would match. I had ricrac, ribbon and leftover binding strips.

 I went with the binding strips, created a tube and top-stitched it down - and it saved the day, and added a nice sporty stripe! She is very sporty, so happy accident!

 Here's the WIP (work in progress) section of this post - I have a brother who loves to brew his own beer, so I got this fabric with beery goodness...cut it into charm squares (5 inches) and then...pfft...no inspiration! What do I do for him? Thank you to Freshly Pieced for hosting these WIP Wednesdays! This work is only beginning its progress...so it needs a kick in the pants!

Monday, December 16, 2013


 Here's a practical and fun sewing idea that plows through scraps in minutes! So fast! Mousepads! 

Very different mousepads!
I used the tutorial from Gen-X Quilters, which is clear and encouraging. I did a country-chic version for my mom, whose computer room is decorated in peaches, pinks and sage green.  My brother, Dan is an IT guy and could use a funkier mousepad.

I had a few blocks left over from a wonky nine patch quilt I made last year.

 So much fun to stack and slice! I used instructions from Quilty on QNN TV, only I stacked 9 blocks and sliced and shuffled.  I arranged the blocks in a lattice arrangement, inspired by Elizabeth Hartman of Oh, Fransson!

Here are the men enjoying the quilt at story time.

Just fold a piece of fabric into a square, or whatever shape you'd like to use - a circle might be nice, too!

Here they are, side by side on my ironing board!

Use paper-backed fusible web to attach it to a roll of thin cork with an iron (no steam!), and simply cut rounded corners and topstitched around the whole project (yes, your sewing machine can make it through cork, at least mine did!)  My only worry about this project is that the patchwork mousepad might make for bumpy mouse movement...in that case, it may just be a trivet! The cork should protect his table from, say a hot pot of chili.  Hope everyone's Christmas gift making is going smoothly!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Must be those fabric fumes...

Went to Fabric Corner to get this....
For binding a baby quilt...
And then, somehow, I ended up with this:

Ultra cute sushi fabric to make Jonah a happy end-of-this-semester first grade notebook cover.  We watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi together, and he has had a sushi obsession since. 

Fat quarters buy two get one free? Yes, please!

Yardage of Wren by Valori Wells, and Lark Button Flowers  by Amy Butler - Have no idea what they are going to be, but I just couldn't pass them up - I have a thing for navy. And birds.

Those fabric fumes will get you every time! It was all a blur! However, I was very grateful for a Living Social voucher I purchased a few months back, so it felt like I was on a spree! Guilt free! Whee!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cheerio! Pip-pip! Toodle-oo! Goodbye!

Did you ever have an old dryer on its last leg?  You know the one that sort of jiggled across the basement floor, just to let you know that it was still working? While singing to you in a loud mechanical voice, just so you know it's still down there? That was my Elna 2005.

I received it as a very generous college graduation gift from my mother back in 2001. We went to the local sewing specialty store, and on the advice of the salesperson, chose that model.  After reading this post from Threadcarefully, I realized that when that particular model was made, the brand was languishing, and the machines were essentially Frankenstein monsters cobbled together from parts by different manufacturers.  Since then, Elna has been acquired by Janome, and the machines are much better!  So, when you buy a machine from this particular store, you get a 'beginner's workshop' type class where you get to know your machine, thread it, etc.  Needless to say, the instructor was less than warm and fuzzy, and I left with more questions than I had come in with, but was too intimidated to ask!  I switched teams to knitting (still love to knit!) and started the Master Knitter Program (I'm currently procrastinating on level 2!) even was a knitting instructor for several years while my boys were babies, teaching knitting at Laura's Sewing School, where she graciously set me straight about sewing! So knitting got me back to sewing! Since then, I actually have taught sewing classes to kids (loving every minute!) and always keeping that first workshop experience in the back of my head so I would never make any new sewer feel unwelcome at the machine. 

Even little ones love to sew (with supervision, of course!) Here's some post-bathtime fun at our house.

But, I digress..I had spent many sewing years thinking I had done something wrong with this machine, even though every other machine I have tried has been fine! I thought the tension was wrong, there was too much lint in the machine, needs more oil, etc. Finally in the middle of a free-motion quilting Luci's quilt it died! Right before a marathon of Christmas quilting/sewing/gift-making! One panicked phone call to Mom, and she and my brother decided that I'd be getting a new machine for Christmas. Phew! So, I'm going to get the machine, finish the Christmas sewing, box it up, wrap it, and act 'oh so surprised' on Christmas morning! Thank you time-traveling Santa! I tested out this new machine last night (Brother CS6000i), and OH, the difference! Like butta it is! After testing out every fancy stitch with my enthusiastic 4 year old on some leftover binding strips, I got half of the free motion quilting done in record time for the quilt for our new baby cousin!
Just right for me!!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Tale of the Ornery Binding

So, let's start with the good stuff: a beauty shot of the finished queen sized quilt! It's Chevron and on from Quilty Magazine, one of my favs!

It came back from Quilts Everlasting, all swirly, lovely, trimmed, and ready to bind! Home stretch, I say! Woo hoo! I was about 2/3 done attaching the binding, using Mary Fons' three part binding tutorial, and DRAMA! I was almost out of blue thread! Quelle horreur! Could I possibly finish before the thread totally ran out?
And then..kaput. The boys were at Sunday school, and I had just 2 hours to finish before the kids came home expecting to snuggle test this new quilt - I must not disappoint.  Off to dig in the closet...
And I found this broken bobbin, but it had the advantage of storing a wee bit of that thread.

I rewound broken bobbin to non-broken bobbin, crossing my fingers that I could sew from a bobbin in place of a spool of thread.
And, phew! It worked...until...I got to the very end, I'm talking about 10 inches left to zig zag stitch. 10 piddly inches! The bobbin underneath ran out of thread! Bobbin up top, subbing in for regular spool, totally fine, underneath, empty! I'm proud to say, I didn't curse...much.

I was feeling mighty punchy by this point, so I pulled out the brightest bobbin in the bunch.  I feel like every quilt has a story to tell, and this quilt's is "The Tale of the Ornery Binding". If you flip over this quilt, and look at the binding, there's a few zigzags stitches in bright red. 

When I was teaching knitting and sewing classes over at Laura's Sewing School, I would always mention an ancient Persian tradition to my students when they got a tad frustrated.  The ancient Persians believed that only God was perfect, so when they knotted those beautiful, intricate, wool rugs they would always make one intentional mistake.  So, even though my mistake wasn't premeditated, I'm sure the Ancients Persians would approve!
But, on the bright side, this quilt passed the snuggle test with flying colors, and has happily taken up residence on our bed.  

Last post, I was struggling with the photos for this blog.  I have since discovered Aviary through Flickr, and it's a great photo editor.  I don't have a lot of experience with photo editors, but this program took my somewhat blah point and click photos and allowed me to sharpen, add color saturation and all other kinds of enhancements. In fact, this quilt was a nine-patch before I started editing the photos! (just kidding)

I've been slowly digesting Rachel at Stitched in Color's fantastic blog.  She made the journey from new sewist to blogging/designing/teaching professional in a few years and it has been very interesting reading about her growth as an artist and sewist, and her family. At any rate, she has a great quick and dirty photo tutorial (scroll down, there are two posts midway) which helped me get my house in order photo-wise. I only wish I could have taken some outdoor shots with this quilt, but it started sleeting today in New England, so the outdoors will have to wait! Brrr!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Luci's Zig-Zag Quilt Top

 Here is Luci's baby quilt top, ready to be sandwiched...
 I was playing with my camera, to try to capture accurate colors.  I thought the photo above looked too cool- the rich red tones of the purple weren't coming through.  Here's a pic with the 'beach' setting - it's slightly warmer, but the whites look slightly dingy...

 Here's a closeup of the zig-zag...

 This one was fun to put together, and set me slightly outside my color wheelhouse.  I don't usually reach for the purples, but now I have some great purple leftovers that will make their way into future quilts!

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Monkey's Natural Habitat...

 Allow me to introduce a special member of our extended family: Marble the Monkey.  Marble is not pictured here, because he lives at our son's preschool and each weekend he goes on vacation with a different Monkey Pre-K Class friend.  We had the pleasure of hosting Marble the Monkey a few weeks ago.  He was a very well-behaved guest, and we had many adventures (only one of which involved banana cream pie).  My 4 year old decided that Marble must get something very special for Hanukkah, and since Marble does travel quite extensively, we settled on a sleeping bag for Marble:

Since Marble is such a well-traveled monkey, we decided that the sleeping bag for him would have to be very portable, and the elastic bands do nicely to hold the bag and attached pillow together:

Of course, the bag needed to be tested for quality control by Marble's friend George:

It also converts to a backpack! George might end up asking for one for himself....

I used It's Always Autumn's post on U Create to make this project- her instructions are very clear, and I was able to complete the project in about an hour!

As for quilting news, I got a crazy cold over the weekend, and I learned the hard way that marathon piecing sessions while on cold medicine can be a recipe for disaster!  Baby Luci was just cleared to come home, so there will be a mad dash to the quilt finish line quite soon!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Finish- it-up Friday Panicked Preview and Welcome to Luci!

Hannukah! Thanksgiving! New Babies! New babies, you say? Well, in addition to our action packed week getting ready to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime event that is Thanksgivukkah, (Turkey and latkes and pie, oh my!) We've also had the joy of welcoming the smallest member of our extended family a few weeks early.  She is rosy and healthy, and at 8 lbs, I'm sure her mom was thankful she chose to enter the world before her family-record breaking dad's birth weight of 11 lbs!

I'm now going to have to step up production on her baby quilt, since Miss Luci was scheduled to grace us with her presence right after Christmas! (Modern family - we celebrate EVERYTHING! Long story for another post, heck, maybe another blog!) Friday there will be pictures, and hopefully a finished quilt, ready to be wrapped around a casserole for the family! If my cousins are ready to share Luci with the world, I share her with you, as well!

I wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving and/or Hanukkah! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Trying a new half square triangle technique

 My cousin and his wife are expecting their second baby this winter, and I am very excited for all the usual reasons, but also because I have two little boys, and this project is allowing me to indulge my girly-girl side, and get some feminine fabrics.  They are decorating their nursery in purples and greys, so I stopped by Fabric Corner, our local fabric store here in Arlington.

Purple, lilac and grey!
 My hands down favorite fabric of the bunch had to be Swallow Skies by Tula Pink in Gypsy.
The swallow just seems to fly organically through the swirls
I'm really fond of this low volume print by Free Spirit Flora.

 Here they are, all cut up and ready for action:

 I wanted to try a new way to make half-square triangles, hoping for more accuracy, and I found a Quilty tutorial that shows you 3 ways to do it! Here, I took my quarter inch seam marker, drew a line on each side...
 Stacked the two fabrics that will make up the finished block, right sides facing, of course! Pinned the two triangles-to-be...
 Here's a stack of 8 waiting for the sewing machine! I sewed down the two lines I had marked with the quarter-inch seam marker.
 Then, you hold your breath and slice in between the two rows of sewing! Whoosh!
 Press to the dark, and you have lovely blocks (I have to snip my dog ears, though!)
 Here are the finished blocks laid out on my design wall, so you can see how they are going to be positioned in the quilt.
Pretty slick, eh? I love how you don't have to worry about the bias and the triangles getting distorted - squares tend to be easier to handle!