March 29, 2013

Monthly Round-up

A collection of the links we highlighted throughout the month with a few extras thrown in for good measure.

It was a slow month for links.  We hunkered down and got to work on some outstanding projects and didn't spend much time on the interwebs.  Or so it would seem.

This month we continued our occasional Wordless Wednesday.

We also gave a little love to our local sewing shops; the Quilted Thimble Cottage in Belmont, NC and Sewing Time in Blackheath, London.  Related posts here, here, and here.

Emily finally decided between the Swoon and Fireworks patterns for her mom here.

Ariel gave in and visited Liberty in London for a peek at their fabric selection.  (And came home with three samples and some ribbon).

Some extra link love goes out to this tutorial from City Stitches on half square triangles (or HSTs to those in the know).  Emily loves her some HSTs and this is her preferred tutorial for making a bunch in one go.

It's the Easter Bank Holiday over on this side of the pond and I'm whipping up some homemade Hot Cross Buns* (or HCBs for those in the know).  The recipe is one I pulled from a magazine a few years ago, but this blogger seems to appreciate it's value as well (although slightly more enthusiastically than I).  I substitute craisins for sultanas and if I'm feeling really rebellious, I throw in a few chocolate chips.  

last year's result

Have a fantastic weekend!

*This was also my Gramma Rosa's nickname for me.  Hot Cross Buns.  I ask you.

March 28, 2013


Or better yet, procrastination.

Pruin's quilt isn't bound, yet.  I haven't found the right fabric.  The bit I bought from the local shop isn't speaking to me.  It's just not quite right.

But, this quilt has to be done.  We are only a few weeks away now and I need to have something ready for the baby.  This weekend is a big push to clean and prepare the house for our new arrival.  This quilt is meant to be a wall-hanging in our bedroom to help mark out Pruin's corner for the next few months.  I need to get cracking.

To that end, I'm off to Liberty today.  I'm a bit intimidated by the grand shop. I just want some simple fabric for a quilt binding (and maybe some storage bins), but rumour has it they have a lovely tea room.  To take the edge off I'm meeting another pregnant friend for tea and cake.

As I see it, this outing could go one of two ways; I either fall in love and buy way to many fabrics and my role as the 'recycler' on this blog becomes rocky or I run screaming from the place overwhelmed by floral prints and vow to never return.

Stay tuned.

**photo of Liberty shamelessly pulled from here

March 25, 2013

A Fireworks Birthday

Before I start, let me say:


I've been working on this quilt for what seems like forever.  I'm so happy I can finally share it!

Okay, let me back up.

My mom has a big birthday this year, and I wanted to make her something really special.  I originally thought about making her a Swoon quilt, but she found out (through this very blog) and I didn't want her to not be surprised because of it.  Back to the drawing board!

My mom loves Bonnie & Camille, the Moda designers, and their quilts.  They're very classic without being stuffy, and their fabrics are very fresh and fun: bright colors and lots of florals.  I knew I wanted to make her something with these fabrics, especially because my local quilt shop has three of their lines currently in stock.  I also wanted the quilt to be something intricate, something that would be worth the time spent.  I decided on the Fireworks quilt pattern, also by Thimble Blossoms, because it was similar enough to Swoon that I could still enjoy the classic design, but it would still be a surprise when my mom opened it.  It also looked like a nice challenge.

It was certainly that!

I bought all the fabrics in late January, so I'd have plenty of time to work on this.  I was still down to the wire, but all's good now.  Sixteen fat quarters grouped in pairs make up these blocks--I tried to not duplicate any pairings, so even though each print shows up twice, they're all used with different coordinates.  My favorite blocks ended up being the orange and blue pairings, for some reason.  I love green, red, and yellow, but the blue and orange just stuck out as the best use.  Next great color couple?  Don't tell Nick, he's still stuck on brown and blue.

These blocks were quite involved: it took two days to cut all the fabrics, and over sixteen hours to complete the blocks.  Depending on the roll I was on, I could complete a block in anywhere from 60-90 minutes.  In fact, I went through two seasons of Parks and Recreation while sewing these.  I'd come home from work, make dinner, and then try to complete a block before doing whatever else I needed to do.  On the weekends I'd be able to make two or three in a row before moving on to something else.  

I was working up until the last minute on this.  I wanted to get it professionally quilted, and knew I'd be working on someone else's timeline at that point, so I had to drop it off at least two weeks in advance.  I was still in my pajamas at noon on the day I dropped it off--I had been up since 7:00, piecing and sewing the blocks together, trying to get it done before it was too late.  Everything turned out fine, and I couldn't be happier with the quilting.  I want all my quilts professionally done now, even though that's not really financially feasible!

My mom received this last week, and wanted to wait until her birthday (March 27) to open it.  I don't think so!  I was too excited to wait on her.  Thankfully, she loved it, and even told me her cat Reggie slept on it that night, so it must be an okay quilt.

Mom sent me this from their dock
If you'd like to read a bit more, my longarmer featured my quilt on their blog a few days ago.  

I hope everyone had a great weekend--what'd you sew?

Happy birthday Mom!  I love you!  

March 21, 2013

Taking my time

The machine is still held hostage, although no longer by a bathtub.  Shower doors are now standing between me and finishing Pruin's quilt.

The one thing I have been able to do is hand-quilt.  As I sit here, secluded away in the living room waiting for the next builder's question about tiling or toilet placement, I quilt.  I quilt wonky lines that don't meet up with seams and think about when I might be able to go to the toilet without having to ask permission.

Quilting was slow to start.  I attempted to do three stitches at a time.  Rocking the needle between the layers ever so carefully for the needle to get stuck as I tried to pull it through.  Pruin wasn't helping either.

The bigger I get, the harder it is to get a good look at what I'm doing.  Most of the time I am quilting from a distance, which may account for some of the wonky lines.

Eventually, after roughing up my fingers a bit too much and causing a lot of unwanted puckering, I let myself quilt one stitch at a time.  And suddenly I was moving faster and then, just as suddenly, done.

As I finished, I wondered if maybe I should have gone with an argyle pattern instead of trying to follow the triangles that already didn't meet up.  I kicked myself for still not learning my ironing lesson from months ago. Although, to be fair to myself on that one, the ironing board is currently covered with a fine layer of brick dust and there really isn't anywhere to set it up right now.

Regardless, it is done and ready to be squared up and binded.  This little piece has gone much faster than I am comfortable with for some reason.  I could have had it done in a few days, really, but I've been drawing it out.  Still not sure why.

But again, it will sit for a bit until I figure out what to do about the binding.  I broke my rule and bought some fabric from the local sewing shop with the idea of having the owner give me a bit of a tutorial on binding.  I figure the passing on of skill equalizes out the purchase of new material.  Who knows, maybe I will have something to offer her as well.

March 18, 2013

Wonder Clips to the Rescue!

I've been up to my eyeballs in quilt sandwiches lately!  The fun part of quilting, for me, is always the piecing: I really enjoy planning the quilt, finding fabrics, and putting it together.  But I have this bad habit of piecing quilt tops and then sticking them in a storage container in my closet.  They aren't doing any good in there, and I've already made it a goal of mine to finish all quilt tops this year--back, quilt, and bind everything!

Because I love garment sewing so much as well, it's easy for me to finish a quilt top and then jump into making a dress or top.  However, I'm trying to practice more self-control, and also better awareness of time: the quilts I've made this year have all been gifts, and it'd be nice to get everything to the recipients well before they expect, so I'm not sending belated birthday cards or baby gifts on a first birthday.  This past weekend, I made it my mission to bind any quilt sandwiches in my sewing room!

I'm young--too young for arthritis--but binding kills my hands and arms, mostly because I never use pins and just grip the binding extra hard to keep it in place while hand-sewing it down.  I didn't think that was going to get me through my goals, so I bought a 50-pack of Wonder Clips on Amazon.  Have you ever used these?  They definitely   live up to their name!

The fifty-pack was the best choice for me; it takes fewer than 50 to bind a baby quilt!  After I sewed binding onto the front, I flipped it around to the back and clipped every couple of inches.  The clips stayed in place without any shifting or worry the binding would move.  Best of all, because I wasn't white-knuckling the binding, my hands didn't hurt as much by the end of the night.  I still stabbed myself with my needle (a lot), but that was going to happen with or without Wonder Clips.

I've heard of people using Wonder Clips for their other sewing projects too, such as the Amy Butler Weekender bag, which is on my 2013 to-do list.  If I can ever decide on fabric for it.

I'm pretty sure this was the best $11.32 ever spent--I wish my local Joann's carried them, because I would've started using them a long time ago.  I'm really happy with how they hold the binding in place, and even though this isn't my favorite part of quilting, it made it much more bearable.

Have you tried any new tools lately?  Do you have a tried-and-true favorite?  I'd love to know!

I was not compensated for this blog post.  I bought Wonder Clips with my own money from Amazon and wanted to tell the masses of their tremendous job!  

March 14, 2013

The next step

Quilting is at a minimum currently as my dining room is covered in construction dust and a free-standing bath is currently blocking the cabinet holding the machine.  So it's a good move that I decided to hand-quilt this baby.  I initially decided to hand-quilt because I'm still not comfortable quilting by machine.  I broke at least one needle and bent another the last time I attempted it and that was just a runner.

In preparation I ordered some supplies.  Cotton thread, quilting needles, a leather thimble and I was ready to roll.  I almost bought a hand-quilting frame, but I thought that might be a step too far.
My materials arrived and I realized I got the wrong needles. Oops.

I needed to get out of my house, anyway.  The sound and presence of builders was driving me to distraction.  I went to explore my local sewing shop.  Turns out it is run by a lovely mother and daughter team.  They had no needles to sell (a delivery was due at any minute) so they just gave me one and made me promise I would come back and buy a pack next week.

Turns out there is a patchwork club held on Wednesdays where local ladies come in and use the big tables and machines, etc. and have a chat.  The owner offered to teach me how to make my own binding and do the corners.  Very sweet.  The ladies in the back (presumably in the middle of that day's Patchwork Club) gave me a bit of a stink eye over their half moon bifocals, but I think I can win them over.  What's more charming to a retired Brit than a young sarcastic and pregnant American?

My confidence isn't without precedent.  Pete and I went on a cruise a few years ago and made best friends with a lovely 70-year-young couple.  Seriously.  Pete gave them his creamer on the plane and we were best buds for the next two weeks.  We still speak fondly of Ray and Shirley.  They are the benchmark for our golden years.

I was a bit late for the Patchwork Club that day and of course didn't have my quilt with me at the time.  I headed home and got to work sandwiching and basting on my living room floor.  I don't recommend this course of action.  I also don't recommend hand-quilting without proper tension.  My vision of this finished is not holding up to its current state.  I'm trying to save it by re-basting after each row of hand-quilting in order to maintain some tension, but it may be a lost cause.  Or I may have to buy an embroidery hoop (as mine is trapped in the same cabinet as the machine) and move it every few stitches.  Hmmmm...

The other battle (as you can see from the photo above) is getting the lines straight.  As my triangles don't actually meet up, I'm going a bit off-grid with my quilting lines. Blindly pushing forward in the hope it all turns out OK in the end.


I guess this quilt is turning out to have some meaning in the making after all.

March 11, 2013

Sewing Alone or Socially?

The reason Ariel and I joined together for Squaring Up was to create a community.  We were both contemplating our very first quilting projects and wanted somewhere to turn for advice, camaraderie, and inspiration.  We didn’t want it to be as vast and overwhelming as Pinterest or a message board, but we needed to be able to organize our thoughts effectively and still have some way to interact with the rest of the world.  As completely newbies to quilting, we didn’t want to go it alone, and the resources for face-to-face interaction didn’t exist.

At the risk of sounding like a freak, I was glad the face-to-face interaction wasn’t an option.  I’m not shy, and have no problem leading or speaking to strangers, but when it comes to hobbies, I’m a loner.  The virtual community we create, both inside and out of Squaring Up, gives me all the social interaction I need.

I’ve always been the type to be by myself (usually reading a magazine with a cat on my lap) and sewing has made me question this.  On one hand, I want people to read my blog(s) and I want to start a conversation.  It helps me validate what I’m doing as well as gives me a reason to keep creating.  On the other hand, I don’t want it to turn into giveaways and sponsored posts.  That creates a community of “what’s in it for me?”  I don’t enter a lot of giveaways and sponsored posts lose me as soon as I open the RSS window, because the author’s personality is normally completely lost within the reviews and contest rules.  I understand sometimes you need to just make a living, but I’d rather not see how the sausage is made.

I also struggle with my independence when I’m faced with a social activity.  I joined a chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild (MQG) when I lived in Maryland, and again when I moved here to Charlotte.  In Maryland it was exciting because I actually made a friend from it, and it was completely new--I attended the first meeting and helped make the decisions.  But we moved, such is life, and I’d heard great things about the Charlotte chapter.  I attended one meeting and decided it wasn’t for me.  The women were extremely nice--so welcoming and ready to help you out, which was amazing--but I was bored.  I was so bored throughout the meeting, I couldn’t justify paying the dues and dedicated a handful of precious hours each months so I could sit in a library room and be bored.  So I never returned.  I think it has something to do with being engrossed in the fabric and sewing world; I don’t want to idly chat about someone’s personal projects.  I want to go on and on about favorite lines and stores and “have you tried this?” and “I saw this method on...”  If I want to just view finished projects, I’ll go on Flickr.  That’s really mean but I have to be honest with myself.  That kind of group just isn’t for me right now.

I also sold my ticket to Sew South, a sewing retreat here in Charlotte.  I had purchased it in October, before we knew we were moving (actually, the day before my interview for my job here) and was looking forward to it until the class list and discussion board started coming together.  At that point, I realized this wasn’t going to be an excuse to sew for four days; these women were looking to make friends, to swap gifts, to come away with phone numbers and email addresses and friendship bracelets made from quilting cotton.  I didn’t want any of those things.  I just wanted a reason to take off a couple days of work and sew some dresses I’d had in the queue.  It wasn’t going to happen.  I became incredibly irritated anytime I saw anything related to the retreat, and decided it was time to give it up.  Someone who really wanted to go bought my ticket and I’m sure she’ll have a much better time than I ever could.

I’m not sure where this anti-social side of me stems from, because I really would love to have friends who sew, so we could get together and support each other.  But when it comes time to put these plans into action, anything that requires more facetime than a Flickr group or blog roll is too much for me.  I get overwhelmed and angry at people enjoying the event, and distance myself from groups so I can do a project on my own.  To be honest, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than in my sewing room, by myself, listening to music or a movie while everyone leaves me the hell alone.

I’d like to eventually get over this and go to Sewing Summit or QuiltCon or whatever.  I’d like to have more than just my mom and a couple girlfriends to exchange gifts with.  But I know myself and my priorities, and that just isn’t in the cards at this point.  Community is important to me, but I feel like this online community--bloggers, creators who are keeping sewing alive in 2013 and the age of Target and Forever 21--is enough for me right now.  As long as I keep putting myself and my projects out there, I should be okay.

Do you sew with a group or have friends who sew?  How do you balance personal time and group time?

March 7, 2013

...and just like that

the top was done.

We've had builders in the house all week tearing apart my bathroom.  Between them turning off the power and water at unannounced intervals and sending demolition dust throughout the house, I found time to iron and stitch the six rows of Pruin's quilt.

Ironing is a funny thing.  It is such a necessity in quilting.  It changes the shape and size of even the cleanest seam.  I thought of this while ironing out the seams of each row.  They matched up great before ironing, not so well after.

I thought of the over-privileged city-boy tailor that made Pete's wedding suit almost three years ago.  At our first fitting, the suit looked ridiculously big and clownish and I was not happy seeing as we were putting more money into this suit than my dress (justifiably, as Pete has gone on to wear that suit at least five more times and my dress is still sitting in a box under the guest bed in my parents' house).  The young cocky tailor assured me it was the right fit, it just needed to be ironed and pressed.  He claimed these hot air and steam actions would 'shrink' the suit at least half a size and give it that 'tailored' look.  It did, to an extent.  It also had to be taken in because it was just too big.

With Pruin's quilt, the opposite happened.  Each row got a little longer and a little more out of sync.  As I pieced the rows together I realized my triangles weren't going all 'pointy' but keeping their blunt corners as I was a bit too stingy with my initial seams.

I could have ripped it all out and started again.

I didn't.

It's good enough.  Another parenting lesson hidden in the stitches:  letting go of perfection.

March 4, 2013

Out of Quilts

Well, I've done it.  I've finished my quilt queue.  I'm all caught up.

(But, I guess if you look in my sewing room closet and see the handful of quilt tops without sandwiching, I guess you could say different.  Stay out of there.)

For the past six months, I've been cranking out quilts nonstop.  I've made quilts for friends, for charity, for family, for myself.  I've tried all kinds of techniques and designed a few myself, without a pattern.  I went from never seeing a walking foot to buying a sewing machine labeled the "Quilters' Edition"--times have changed!

I am, and always will be a garment sewist, first and foremost.  It's what started me down this rabbit hole and it's still what drives me when I buy fabric or plan projects.  But quilting crept in and stayed, and even after I messed up a few times (my mother is reading this and I'm sure she's thinking, cut your selvedges!), I kept at it.  I tend to have a persistent personality, and I like to try all sorts of things, whether or not I like them.  I thought quilting would be a fad, and in fact, I wanted to do it to make a t-shirt quilt for my brother.  Those shirts are stacked in my sewing room closet.  (Not next to the aforementioned quilt tops.  They're in a bin.)  I got too distracted by fabric lines, layer cakes, charm packs, and basting pins to ever even start his quilt, much less give it to him for Christmas or his birthday.  Maybe this year?  Hopefully?  I wandered into quilting and ended up running away with it.  But now that "must-do-everything-right-now" attitude I've had feels like it needs to take a couple breaths and take a look at its life.

While I did just finish a huge quilting project that I'll detail in a few weeks, and I have my do.Good stitches bee coming up, I don't have other quilting plans on my horizon.  I like the thought of getting back to dresses, skirts, and blouses.  I've bought a ton of fabric for these projects over the past few months and just haven't been able to get to them because of quilting: since Christmas, I've made four baby quilts (three have been backed, bound, and presented, the fourth is waiting for me to learn how to use my free-motion foot) and a full-size quilt, as well as bee blocks.  It's only March!  I love the thought of just sewing for me again.  I love to sew for others and really enjoy it, but it's far less pressure just focusing on me.  Besides, I buy all this fabric, just to give it away?  I don't think so.

So what can you expect from me in the coming months?  Well, I have a few projects to show before summer, and I need to design a quilt for my bee in April.  I'd also like to explore my introverted side and talk about guilds.  And I have so many books!  These books need reviews!  I also may have a few guests popping up, if all goes well.  I won't be silent!  I'll just be less patchwork-focused and my wardrobe will look great.  That's worth it, right?

In keeping with this theme, I completed something from Liberty Love: the Michelle My Belle dress!  It sewed up wonderfully.  I love that book!

I hope everyone had a great weekend!  What did you work on?  I'd love to know!

March 1, 2013

Monthly Round up

A collection of the links we highlighted throughout the month with a few extras thrown in for good measure.*

We were quite bookish this month.

Quilting Pieces of the Past Emily's review can be found here.
Liberty Love by Alexia Abegg.  Review found here.
Quilts 1700-2010, Hidden Histories, Untold Stories edited by Sue Prichard. Ariel mentions it here with an accompanying page at the V&A in London.

Emily is quilting charitably.

First, for the Red Cross with the Handmade for Newtown project.  Read the post here.

And now, with the do.Good Stitches group on flickr.  Read about the progress here.

Emily mentioned she's attending the Sew South Retreat.  I'm sure we'll hear more about that next month.

Ariel semi-quoted a great interview with Danielle Henderson on Design*Sponge, or at least drew a little inspiration from the interview here.

Our first Wordless Wednesday featured images of Arielle Alasko's work (photographed by the artist) and Maura Grace Ambrose of Folk Fibers (photographed by Buff Strickland).

And for a little extra inspiration this month...

I'm getting a little obsessed with Log Cabin patterns and the myth & meanings behind colour combinations and layouts.  Maybe it's my way of nesting, but I think I found my next project.

*This monthly round-up encompasses Christmas to present to ensure we haven't missed anything since Friday Round-up went MIA.