October 31, 2012

Stitch Up

Happy Halloween!

If you're reading from the east coast of the US, I hope you and yours are safe and sound.

As I've said in the last few posts, it's getting cold out there.  A benefit of hand-quilting is that my legs stay toasty while I'm working.

But let's get to the photos.  (Apologies for quality, I'm using a different camera and we are still negotiating our relationship.)

It took hours to mark up the big swaths of colour.  Lots of measuring.  Ugh.  I didn't use anything fancy for the marking, just a ruler and pencil.  The marks may turn out to be permanent but let's hope not.

Once the marking was done, it was time to half-sandwich.  I mentioned last week that the back and front are getting different treatments.  There may be a better way to achieve this effect but I am doing it by only creating one side of the sandwich at a time.

As I didn't start with a final measurement for this quilt, it turned out to be an abnormal size, so I had to order too much wadding and cut it down.

I attempted to fold the wadding in half and make it nice and fluffy, but there just wasn't enough.  So one layer it is.  Our new house is twice the size of our flat former flat but I still had to roll up the carpet.  Some things never change.

Pinning took ages.  After reading a quilting memoir, I made sure to order a gross of pins.  I used half.

Nothing left to do but start stitching 

I had purchased an embroidery hoop long ago for just this purpose.  I didn't use it.  I found it just got in the way.

I'm using embroidery floss here and just a regular needle with a larger eye.  I broke too threaders in the course of three hours of quilting. I kept using them but they are just little twisted bits of wire at this point.  To be honest  threading the needle took longer than stitching a row.

It's just a basic running stitch, nothing fancy.

It definitely creates more interest on the back panel.  I'm not having any great epiphanies, but it's satisfying.

It feels like stitching a sweatshirt and it can get a bit clunky trying to stitch near the center, a lot of fabric to gather up in one hand.  An embroidery hoop probably would help there but I seem to be doing okay without it and I think constantly readjusting the hoop would get old, fast.

October 29, 2012

Pinwheels for Market

Hello again!  Here in D.C. we're awaiting hurricane (tropical storm?  Thunderstorm?) Sandy, which is either really over-hyped or scarily end-of-days.  I guess we'll see!  Either way, I'm stacking up some handwork to have in case we lose power.  As I told Nicholas, I want something to do that won't make me want to blow my brains out.  (Such a dainty lady, I am.  I just like modern conveniences!)

Anyway, I can finally show you the final project I made for Cloud9 Fabrics!  To display their upcoming line "In the Forest," Michelle and Gina asked me to make a simple 30"x40" quilt for the booth.  Michelle designed it with half-square triangles creating pinwheels.  I've had my eye on this line since they announced it, and I loved working with it!

Here are some pictures.  I hope to see it in some of the coverage of Market this weekend!

Helping me pin

Ready to sandwich

I finally got to put those new basting pins to good use.  I used a ton of them because I'm definitely not even an intermediate quilter.  Unfortunately, because the fabric was strike-offs, it wasn't self-healing like most quilting cottons.  I was worried about the pin marks!

Cloud9 asked for simple quilting, so I quilted a line 1/4" away from either side of each line, creating intersections at corners.  I still don't have a walking foot--I've priced them, but they're still a little out of reach--so the pins really helped keep everything straight!

Squaring up...with Puddin'
 Okay, so here's where you get bored.  There was really good light the morning I shipped it out, so I took a lot of pictures.  The funny thing is, at first glance of the fabrics, I thought, what sunny, summery colors!  Now that they've been on the ground with leaves, I'm thinking this line works well with fall too!

I really loved helping out Cloud9 this fall.  I hope they keep me in mind for spring!

In other news, I took a short trip this week, so my sewing time was cut short.  However, I did piece a mini quilt as a present for my mom.  I plan on hand-quilting this--Ariel, are you ready?

Again, I used the Modern Maples pattern from Pretty in Patchwork Holidays.  I can't recommend that book enough.  I chose some fall colors from my stash, but I'm undecided on how to back it.  Any ideas?

Close-ups of the fabrics:

Anna Maria Horner, "Fine Feathered" in Pomegranate, from Field Study

Denyse Schmidt, "Voltage Dot" in Black, from Chicopee

Denyse Schmidt, "Posie" in Gray, from Flea Market Fancy

Lizzy House, "Pearl Bracelet" in Chocolate, from Guising

What were you sewing this weekend?  Should I be more afraid of this storm?  At least it isn't hot this time around, so heat-induced mania will not be a problem if the power goes out.  Don't tell me you don't get cranky when it's hot!

October 26, 2012

Friday Round-up

Each Friday, one of us does a little round-up of stuff that has stuck in the brain this week.  Kind of like an ear-wig, but with stuff.  Ear-wigs are okay, too.  It's not always sewing related.

When I lived in the US, this was my favourite time of year.  It's not quite the same over here.  The seasons still change, but it is a lot darker and wetter.  Halloween isn't a big deal here.  I have yet to find a proper pumpkin patch and the amount of trick-or-treaters knocking on my door in the last six years doesn't hold a candle to the first half hour of trick-or-treat night back home.  It goes without saying that Thanksgiving is a non-entity.

This Friday I'm concentrating on Halloween...

Pumpkin whoopie pie

Let's start with some treats.  The Hummingbird Bakery is an American bakery in London.  I have their cookbook Cake Days and it's filled with everyday treats as well as seasonal specialties 
Last year I made the pumpkin cheesecake for our Halloween cocktail party.  There were no leftovers.

photo found here
With the current blogger trend of taking feet photos, I thought this particular quilt pattern appropriate.  It's also available as elf feet for Christmas.

photo by 42 quilts
I kind of love this block.  The 'flying geese' pattern is quite a popular and striking visual.  This is the first time I have seen it purposefully made wonky.  I love it.  The geese aren't always perfect so why should the block.  The tutorial is here.  The colours are autumnal and the geese are in the sky, the perfect block for the season.

Have a great weekend.

October 24, 2012

By Hand

Soundtrack/Inspiration: The Waltons 

It's been awhile since I had some inspiration and guidance on this quilt.  I have to admit once I started on the back it became very mechanical and lost some of its magic.  However, I needed that kind of experience as well.  It can't always be all nostalgia and life lessons.

Since we moved I have struggled with getting into a new routine in this house.  Cooking, cleaning, writing, sewing, etc. got a bit jumbled up and I have to admit I haven't done much of any.  But I did happen upon repeats of The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie.  And now I'm hooked.  The other day they were quilting on The Waltons.  It was a 'quilting' which turns out to be the mountain version of a sweet sixteen.  All the ladies of the mountain contributed squares to Mary Ellen's quilt and they all gathered to bring it together and tell stories of their own quiltings.  Of course Mary Ellen was against the whole thing.  Part of the significance of the quilt was that she was now 'marriageable' and she was having none of that.  She was going to be a nurse (have a career) and never get married.  I can understand that feeling.  In fact I'm sure I had that same feeling at least a few times myself.

But the sentiment that won out was the passing of tradition through generations and doing with it what you will when it comes to your turn. I think I always had it in my head that I would hand-quilt this piece.  My first (and only) memory of quilting with my Gramma Rosa is hand quilting with her on her PVC quilting frame in front of the TV.  She was probably in the middle of her annual Godfather marathon, but she had a soft spot for The Waltons so there's a good chance it was going in the background at some point. Hand quilting seems appropriate for this particular quilt, and, unlike Emily, machine quilting scares me and I don't think I am up to it just yet.

As I'm not crazy about the colours and block sizes of the back I decided to create a little visual interest back there before attaching it to the front.  I'm hand quilting a few sections of the back and then I'll sandwich it all together and try to tie a few yarn bows through the front.  Just to make it a little harder on myself, I am attempting to make each side independent, so the quilting of the back isn't visible from the front and the ties aren't visible from the back.

First things first, the quilting of the back.  Unlike the rest of the quilt, I had to do a bit f pre-planning at this stage.  I wanted the quilting to be graphic to compliment the block pattern already in place (I use pattern lightly).  To start, I made a sketch of the back blocks and drew in patterns where I wanted quilting...

my very *detailed and to scale* sketch
(ignore the spot, camera is on its way to the cleaners)

As you can see (sort of), I'm not quilting the entire back, just the big swaths of colour.

a reminder of the actual blocking, in case the sketch is too abstract

At this point I have the quilting patterns marked out on the big blocks (which took days and required me to do basic arithmetic and measuring. YUCK!) and am ready to attach the batting so I can get started with the actual hand quilting.

Am I crazy?

October 22, 2012

Progress and Planning

Hi!  Can you believe it--the second week in a row I don't have a finished quilt top to show!  I've been kind of slacking on my personal projects because I've had other projects in my queue, and they've been top priority.  If that sounds super vague, it's because it is, and I can't really show off anything until next week.

After running errands today, I finished sewing the strips for my picnic quilt, which, by the way, is going to be way bigger than I expected!  I should have a new rule that, if it doesn't fit on the dining room floor, I can't make it.  (That would never stop me.)

Once all the strips were sewn and pressed (which is boring but necessary) I laid them out to get a feel for how the quilt should be pieced.  I didn't want too much repetition and I wanted a good representation of all prints and colors in each corner of the quilt--no clumping!  Even if this quilt won't be top banana I don't want it looking like I didn't care.

Here are some progress shots:

I left spaces between strips where I thought I needed more variety.

Oy--this is everything once it was said and done!  Also once the cats had run through it a few times.  Because there wasn't enough room, I stacked the strips when I had decided where they should be placed.  When everything was finalized, I made one large stack and rolled everything up together.

It's almost the end of the year, and I'm starting to contemplate how I'd like my final projects to go.  Of course everything could change--we're really hoping to move, but even if we don't, traveling for the holidays could take huge chunks out of my sewing time--but at this time, here's a quick list of my goals:

  • Quilt Modern Maples quilt and this picnic quilt
  • Make a gingham quilt based on all the ones floating around the internet
  • Design/complete a triangle quilt (using solids?)
  • Hand quilt something small
Did you see that last one?  Yeah.  Scary.  I've been intrigued with hand quilting lately and would love to do it on my Modern Maples, outlining the leaves in pearl cotton.  But I don't want to commit to something that large when I really don't know how to do it.  Of course, that hasn't stopped me in the past, but hand quilting seems so big and scary, much more so than piecing a quilt or machine quilting it.  I've thought about making a Modern Maples mini quilt (maybe for my mom as a gift) and practicing my hand quilting on that.  What do you think?

Here are some hand-quilting examples that kill me:
Aaaand there are about a million others but the one picture I want to show is unattainable.  Seriously, how did this disappear?  If I can find it, I'll update!

What'd you make over the weekend?

October 19, 2012

Friday Round-Up

This week took forever.  Don't you agree?

Well, Puddin' does.  He's pooped!

Here's what I distracted myself with this week:

  • Elizabeth Hartman is such an inspiration!  This week she shared her tutorial for a barn bats quilt.  Her fall colors make me want to make one immediately!
  • Hello, dream sewing room.  When do we get to meet?
  • Someone tweeted about the Ink Nest and now I'm obsessed.  Hand-drawn clip art in a variety of themes--of course I love it!
  • I'm dying over this QuiltCon bundle from Fat Quarter Shop.  Why did I put myself on a fabric diet?!
  • Speaking of fabric diets, I want to try out some Moda mini charms for this date night quilt.  Such a lovely design--I'm already pairing fabrics in my head!
What's been on your mind lately?  Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

October 18, 2012

Two halves make a whole...

Apologies for the delay.  I was in bed sick for the last two days courtesy of the nasty London Underground cold going around.  Ah, the joys of public transport.

Fall is well and truly underway here in London so it seems a fitting time to add the stuffing to my quilt.  After the distress of last week, I bit the bullet and ordered some wadding online.  I was tempted to head into an actual shop and have a little feel of all my options, squeeze the cotton, maybe wrap myself in a bolt of polyester to check snuggability, etc. but then the fear set in.  My complete and utter lack of knowledge on the subject in a shop full of women nattering on about loft, drape, and scrim was a recipe for my walking out with way too much or none at all or ending my quilting adventure forever because I lost the will to care.

So I went for the gloriously anonymous online quilt shop with no questions asked.  Of course there were a million options there as well so I used my father's method and sorted by price.  This brought me to the man-made section, which normally I would avoid, but this section included 'recycled' wadding.  Sticking with the spirit of re-purposing materials, I went with wadding made out of 13 plastic bottles.  My guilt over not recycling that evening's dinner's plastic waste assuaged, I waited patiently for my parcel to arrive on my doorstep.

The next step is figuring out how I actually want to quilt this bad boy.  I have mixed feelings on the actual quilting, as I mentioned before, because the piece is two sided.  Apparently this is not a common practice, or at least not to the extent to which I made this two sides different.  My complete lack of research strikes again.  Or maybe it's my knee-jerk tendency to go against the grain.  Whatever the reason, it leaves me with a quandary.  How to quilt this sucker?

In case you need a reminder, here are the two sides...

You'll notice that while both are divided into three sections, there is no correspondence between the sections.  The two sides stand fairly independently of each other.  I'm not crazy about the colour combination of the back piece or it's vast stretches of jersey.

I had a thought of tying the two sides together.  Inserting little yarn knots or bows at corresponding junctures.  However, the painstaking time this will take to try and figure out if there are any corresponding junctions and where they might be is too much to contemplate and I'm not sure it would end of as aesthetically pleasing as I hope.

Then there is the possibility of stippling which is apparently quite common with tshirt quilts and makes a kind of squiggly pattern over the entire thing regardless of shirt design or junctures.  This treatment is a little too freewheeling for me so I don't think I will be going there either.

So where am I going?  I think I have hit upon something in-between the two ideas.  I'm not really sure it is going to work but like the rest of the quilt, I'm going to give it a go and see what happens.

Tune in next week for an update.  I'll either be immensely proud of my idea or cursing my improvisational tendency.

Where would you go next?

October 15, 2012

Simple Patchwork Progress

Hi!  How was your weekend?  I didn't even have a spare minute to sew, between running errands, baking, and traveling around the region.  It's really too bad, because I feel like my weekends are set-aside for projects, but oh well!

Friday evening I started a simple patchwork quilt.  I bought half-yard cuts of Madrona Road by Violet Craft when it was released, not really knowing what I'd do with it.  I made an Open-Wide bag from Noodlehead out of a couple prints, but besides that, they've been sitting there.  Lately I've noticed I have way too much fabric (but never the print I need...) and decided to work through it.  I grabbed Madrona Road, as well as some solids and a couple random prints and sliced them into 5" squares.

Originally I wanted to make a Plus quilt, but I decided that was too much for these prints: the values aren't drastically different, so it'd probably give you a headache before you figured out the plus signs.  I decided 5" squares sewn into 15 rows of 16 would be simple enough, yet I could still fussycut some of the prints and not have the detail lost in the size of the square.

I only have three of the rows sewn, and they aren't pressed yet, which explains why they look the way they do.  You can see Madrona Road, Flea Market Fancy, Chicopee, Half Moon Modern, Washi, Bella, Quilt Blocks--whatever I had laying around!

This is going to sound ridiculous, but I'm actually wanting this to be a picnic quilt: something we can throw in the car and not worry about it getting dirty.  I'll probably end up quilting it with poly batting for this reason, because I won't need it for warmth--most likely.

This has been a great way to use up some of my scraps, because they were starting to take over!  Five-inch squares are a good size and use up a decent amount of fabric.  I'm also piecing these semi-randomly: I'm trying not to repeat the same print in a row, but besides that, I'm not following a pattern.  Once the rows are sewn I'll be a little more rigid in how I layout the rows, because I don't want the quilt to have patches of the same print.

I don't know when I'll get to work on this next, as I have another Cloud9 project (woohoo!) to work on this week, but hopefully soon!  I like simple projects sometimes, which allow me to sit at my sewing machine with some music and just go and go for hours without a whole lot of thought.  Some people unwind with exercise or alcohol, but I choose this!

Oh, I also wanted to show off a mini-quilt I sent my aunt with Chicopee scraps from my Pow Wow quilt.  She was expecting real scraps but I sewed them up first!  I also made one for us, which is sitting on the table we have in the front hall.

I'm so glad she liked it!!

What have you been working on?  Anything new?

October 12, 2012

Friday Round-up

Each Friday, one of us does a little round-up of stuff that has stuck in the brain this week.  Kind of like an ear-wig, but with stuff.  Ear-wigs are okay, too.  It's not always sewing related.

I have kind of avoided the internet for awhile so I have no great links for you today.   However, I have been thinking about the memories attached to things.  A by-product of recently handling most of our things as they were packed onto a truck and unpacked into our new home, but also the point of my particular quilt.

Not every quilt I make will come with pre-packaged memories.  In fact I am looking forward to creating something from memory-free materials and seeing what stories appear, however, the stories held by material objects is a bit of an obsession of mine.

Today I bring you three books which play with this idea of story-infused things.

This is now a movie which focuses on the tempestuous mother/daughter relationship.  However, for me, this book centers on a ratty old album full of the detritus of life.  This album holds the Divine Secrets of a particular life and how it entwines with her dearest friends.  Some bits are self-explanatory, some bits are familiar yet not clear and some will forever be secrets.

Leading on from a novel about a scrapbook, this novel is written as a scrap book, or in this case, an auction brochure.  It's a story of a relationship that didn't work told exclusively through items belonging to each partner.  The story of their courtship, relationship and unwinding is told through photographs and descriptions of each item.  Fascinating.

Finally, as this is a quilting blog, a book about the secrets and stories sewn into a particular quilt.  This novel is also now a movie, but I recommend sticking with the book.  This is written as half tutorial and half memoir.  It's a very moving piece about the different kinds of love existing in the world and the very different ways women love.

So there is your fall reading list.  Snuggle up and enjoy.

October 10, 2012

My sewing story

It's Wednesday again.  Funny how it keeps coming around...

I haven't made progress on the quilt.  Emily puts me to shame with all her projects.  She's amazing.  And she has an actual job as well.  I mean, really, there is no excuse for me to be so behind, but the quilting fervor I had before moving disappeared.  I was using quilting as a way to procrastinate packing.  Funny how that pattern keeps coming around...

Put now the two sides of the quilt are done and the next step is giving me anxiety.  I tried doing a bit of online research about batting (or wadding as they call it here) and I got all worked up about how I did my quilt wrong.

Before I continue, I should say that I don't think there is just one way to piece fabric together correctly, but thousands of women (and some men) have gone before me and figured out the kinks and I just plunged headlong into sewing pieces together without much thought about what came next.  This could bite me in the butt.

Let's forget that I have no idea if I want cotton, polyester or wool batting (as I have no idea how the quilt will be used and apparently this is the deciding factor in this multiple choice hell), but it turns out I went about my sizing of the back all wrong.

I was working under the assumption that the front and back should be of the same size.  You make a sandwich with the batting as the meat and then stitch it all together and slap on some binding around the edges.  However, every bit of 'batting sizing' advice I could find told me this...

"The batting should be cut larger than the front of the quilt, but smaller than the back."

It took me awhile to understand this statement.  I fancy I have decent spatial awareness, something to do with the Geography training perhaps, but I could not wrap my head around how this arrangement was physically possible when the front and back of the quilts are the same size.

...unless the back is supposed to be bigger than the front.  Are you freaking kidding me??!!!

Is this some secret of quilting that everyone knows but no one says?  Because it is a given that any fool with a sewing machine knows?

image from here

This is not the first time my ignorance is blinding obvious.  A few months ago, Emily and I were having a twitter discussion about t-shirt quilts and she casually asked me, "are you using a ballpoint needle or stabilizer for your shirts?"


I had to respond that I had no idea what either of those two things were, so no, I wasn't using them.  I was using the foot and needle that came with the machine and any thread I could find and any bobbin that was wound and a 'shitload' of straight pins (that's a technical term). I had no advice on thread tension or stitch.

The truth is out now.  I'm a hack.

I went into this project relying on the sewing knowledge and skill passed on to me from my mother, grandmother and the women of the circus.  I was following my gut and instincts.  It was an experiment of sorts.

Could I create a passable quilt out of memories and scraps?
Could the essence of this traditional craft be simple and instinctual?
Could the very simple instructions of good side in, sew together, open be universal enough?

Well, the quilt isn't done yet.  But I think I am going back to winging it.  I started this journey with the idea of harnessing past memories and skills handed down.  That's not to say that the many tutorials out there are not cut of the same cloth, but they are cold to me at the moment.  I don't know the women behind them and they don't know me.  The advice is useful but impersonal.  I'm not looking for an instruction manual, I'm looking for a story.

For now, my story is one of imperfect improvisation.  An honoured tradition to all the women that taught me to sew.  Funny how it keeps coming around.

What's yours?

October 9, 2012

Halloween Quilt for Cloud9

Ahh, late post!  Sorry everyone.  Yesterday was a holiday here in the States, so I figured I'd write my post as soon as I got up.  My broken keyboard had other ideas.  So here I am today, with sniffles and tights, because apparently it's winter already.  As a southerner, I'm truly not a fan.

About a month ago, I tweeted that I wanted to make a fall quilt.  We all know that turned into the Modern Maples quilt, which didn't take a whole lot of convincing to get me to sew.  But Michelle from Cloud9 Fabrics sent me an email, asking if I'd like to make a quilt for their Quilt Market booth from a new line, Happy Drawing, Too!, which is currently in stores.  I worked with Michelle for spring Quilt Market and Cloud9 is a great company to work with, not to mention their fabrics are amazing.  I jumped at the chance.

Michelle chose the fabrics and pattern; I pieced the quilt; and my mom backed, quilted, and bound it, along with adding a pole pocket to the back so they can hang it at Market.  This was my first time sewing curves in a quilt, which a lot of people freak out about.  I was a little nervous, but honestly, it wasn't too different from sewing curves in garments, and if you've done one, you can do the other.  Promise!

Michelle has been posting some pictures of it on Cloud9's Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr pages, but I wanted to share some of my own that I took before sending it up.  If anyone is interested in the pattern or fabric used, let me know and I'll get you the information.

Nick held this up for me outside.  What a good sport.


My mom quilted it simply, but I loved it, and thought it was perfect!  Also the fabric looks gray, but it was backed in black Kona.
What are you planning for fall sewing?  Do you make Halloween costumes?  Tell me about it!