Monday, October 21, 2013

Fabric Hoarding

So, I can't be the only one reluctant to cut into my favorite fabrics, can I? I've been hoarding some of my most treasured collections, afraid to either do something with the fabric and then regret it or to use it up and not have it left. Take my Heather Ross/Munki Munki collection:

I do occasionally cut into these fabrics for my baby quilts—the poplin Munki Munki is just so soft and the images so amazingly cute. But I most definitely hoard it. However, I've recently been so inspired by Susan at Canadian Abroad, who just showcased her gorgeous Heather Ross quilt. I love what she's done, and it's made me consider cutting into and using my HR prints a bit less stingily (is that a word?).

My most prized HR is this fabulous wahini/surfer girls print that's just impossible to find. But what good is fabric if you never use it, and instead just visit it occasionally and stroke it lovingly?!

I did, once upon a time, actually surf (badly), so I particularly love these adorable surfer girls. While I have given away a lot of the things I've sewn, I'm not sure I could give away whatever item contains this. But the more I think about Susan's great quilt, I think this would look fabulous in a quilt mixed with other HR fabrics.

Just picture it, this surfing fabric, alongside HR's Mendocino collection, with its mermaids and sea horses!

A while back, I scored a great deal on a whole luscious yard of HR's pink with VW vans—definitely the right transportation for my surfer girls!

In addition to my Heather Ross, I've also been been hoarding, er, holding onto my Melody Miller Viewfinder fabric. I think I bought the last two yards off of Etsy about 9 months ago, and I've been reluctant to cut into it.

I think it's time, however. I think I'm going to make a shopping tote, using this great grey textured fabric from Architextures. I typically follow Bijou Lovely's tutorial for making the bag. More on this as I get going on it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Free Motion Quilting Practice

So I have a love-hate relationship with FMQ'ing—I want to be able to do it and I love those (rare) moments when I seem to be challenging an actual, real-life quilter and it works, but I find the learning curve to be slower than I'd like. Let's face it, as adults, who likes to have to learn to be competent at something? But since I've had to do that for sewing and quilting, I guess it makes sense that I have to be patient and keep working on my free motion quilting!

My friend April recommended a Craftsy class by Angela Walters, who is a quilting superstar. For those not familiar with Craftsy, it's a great site for craft-sters, complete with patterns, projects, and online classes. While a lot of the classes and patterns are for sale, there are also some for free. April had recommended the "dot to dot" class that Angela teaches, so I signed up. One of the benefits of these online classes is that once you buy it, you can keep going back to it and replaying the parts you need.

My FMQ efforts to date have been mostly my attempts to replicate what I see out there on other people's amazing quilts. The difficult aspect of that, however, is that it means I'm trying to get mine to look like the others without necessarily knowing how to get there. Also, I started by practicing circles and stippling. While my stippling is coming along, circles are hard for me overall. What I really like about Angela's class is that she's easy to understand and provides great tips for improving my skill. The first lessons are on straight lines—which, despite some waviness here and there, seems to be more forgiving than the circles are.

Here's what I worked on today for practice:

They're the same essential shape—triangles—but used in different ways achieve a different effect. Angela's class provides the pattern for a quilt to use as a test quilting surface, but I didn't want to go to that effort of making a quilt I like only to put quilting on it that I don't like, so I just made a quilt sandwich from leftover batting and some old fabric that's faded and I won't otherwise use. Clearly, I still need to work on straightening my lines, but it's getting better! I also feel fairly proud of being able to do all of this with my left foot on the pedal, since my right foot will be out of commission until December! My left quad is so tired! Funny the muscles you don't realize you use until you change feet!

Angela had a great tip that has really helped me: don't stare at the needle when I'm quilting; instead, focus on where I want the needle to go. She gives the analogy of driving: when you drive, you don't stare at the hood of the car (at least you shouldn't!); instead you should look 2 car lengths ahead.

Check out Angela's blog, Quilting is My Therapy, for some great patterns and tutorials, including some video clips!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Perils of Sewing

Don't worry! This is not a post where I show you gory photos of rotary cut or sewing machine needle injuries! I decided to go big on my sewing-related injury:

Yup, that's right, I took out my ankle while simply walking across the hall from the bathroom to the sewing room. I sprained my ankle, and ended up rupturing a tendon. Big woops!

When I went to the doctor I was expecting to get an ace bandage, not a monster boot that I'd be stuck with for 3 months!

I appreciate April's suggestion that I go as a storm trooper from Star Wars for Halloween:

For those that might actually want to talk about sewing and not the state of my health, check out what I think will be my next project. It's a fabulous Hummingbird quilt pattern from the always great Red Pepper Quilts. Check out her site: she's offering a free pattern and a giveaway for EQ7!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

X+ Quilt Top Finished!

I finished this a little while ago, but haven't shown the finished top. After countless hours and hours of putting together these blocks . . .

I have finally sewn all 99 of them together into this . . . .

I began this one way back in February at Emily Herrick's great Cabin Fever retreat, and only finished up the last 99th block in July.

Now you might (reasonably) ask me why I have 99 blocks in a quilt—the answer is that I started the blocks before I decided to make a queen-sized quilt, and the pattern I was following used 10" squares. Oops! Given that I wanted a range of fabrics used together, it meant that I had to look long and hard for enough fabrics to provide good variation. Although I love the kind of wild X+ quilts that use a wide variety of colors, I wanted something less busy, so I decided to focus mine by using grey, aqua, green, and orange. I then used Architexture's Grey Crosshatch fabric to pull together all the blocks.

(by the way, please excuse my bad photo—In the chaos of my move across country I've misplaced the cord that connects my camera to the computer, so I'm relying on my trusty iPhone for photos. Not quite as good!)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Heading North . . .

I'm so impressed by Quilt Smart! I've spent the past hour working on my mini mariner's compass, and I'm 1/4 the way through:

It was so so easy! A little tedious in terms of cutting out the fabric in preparation for the sewing, and a bit of a walkabout—sew, go to ironing board in one room to press the seam, go to cutting board in another room to trim the fabric, repeat. I know, I know, it would make more sense to have all those things in the same room, but I haven't yet figured out a way to make that all happen! The sewing room is still in progress and it sadly won't fit my large cutting board (which is currently dominating the dining room table).

Six more pie slices and I'll have a full compass!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mariner's Compass

So, almost a year ago, Hurricane Sandy came whomping up the east coast and flooded or completely destroyed countless homes. I have some friends whose homes (and the sand beneath them) are now totally gone. Others suffered severe flooding and mold damage. My mother is quite a ways inland in northern NJ, but the wind was so bad that it knocked out transformers that took almost 3 weeks to be repaired (meaning that she was without heat or power into November).

My aunt and uncle's home was one of those damaged, but fortunately, because they happen to be at a wider part of the barrier island where their home is located, and because of the capricious nature of storms, the damage was relatively minor. Newer construction on this (and many) barrier islands/beaches require that homes be built on pilings, so that the living space is on the second (and third) floor, while the first floor is just an entrance and storage. They got quite a lot of flooding and resulting mold, but thankfully their home is still standing.

I felt helpless back in Utah, neither able to lend a hand with the clean-up at my uncle and aunt's home, nor able to help out my mother who was without power for so long. So I did the one thing I could do (after sending my mother a care package with batteries, flashlight, and the ever critical coffee!): I began to sew.

My dear friend Sue gave me a wonderful fat quarter bundle from Emily Herrick's Going Coastal collection, and it seeded an idea. What if I made a quilt for my aunt and uncle's home, using coastal-themed fabric? I added some of Emily's Shore Thing fabric to the Going Coastal fabric, and I began to quilt. You may remember my talking about this quilt last year—although I don't think I gave the background on why I was making it.

Here's a picture of the pattern I used (although this one uses different fabric):

I finished this pictured quilt last November using my scraps. I used the same pattern for my aunt and uncle's quilt, but with Emily's great Going Coastal and Shore Thing fabric. The pattern is from Red Pepper Quilts' tutorial. It's her pieced scrap border quilt. I thought I had a photo of the beach quilt, but apparently not yet! I'll take a photo and include it tomorrow.

It's an involved quilt, even with strip piecing, so I was pretty pleased with myself just for finishing the top. I was all set to put a matching back on, quilt and bind it, and send it on its way . . . and then Robyn came along! She had just finished a fabulous mini mariner's compass, using Quilt Smart, and she had an extra kit, which she so thoughtfully gave to me!!

I was overwhelmed by her generosity (and the thought of figuring out how to tackle what seemed like a tricky project), but I knew in that moment that I wanted to make the mini mariner's compass the center of the quilt back.

And then I began the horrible process of packing up my house and moving across country, and the project came to a standstill. Now that I'm (sort of) settled into my new house and my sewing room is (sort of) organized, I thought it was time to get back to this project.

Essentially, the kit comes with a fusible interfacing, with the pattern printed on it. It has 8 "pies," with corresponding bits and bobs that, when put together, makes a beautiful mariner's compass. Here's what the pie piece looks like:

I spent the LONGEST time trying to figure out which fabrics to put in the compass. I knew I wanted to use Emily's fabric for the back as well, but wasn't sure how to put them together. Here's what I've decided to do. I'm using these fabrics for the top triangles:

I'm going to use the madras (total beachy summer, right?? It certainly is here on the east coast!) for the downward facing triangles (kinda like the stalactites), and I'm going to use the blue and green kelp for the stalagmites (the upward facing triangles). 

I'm then going to use these fabrics for the pizza wedge that's at the bottom of the triangles (this actually is in two parts, which is why I've chosen two fabrics): 

For the compass points (north, south, east, west), I'm planning on using these fabrics:

I love love love the starfish, but I'm not sure I have enough of it. I'm within inches of having enough, but I can't find any more on Etsy. Oh noes! Anyone have any out there I could buy from?

I wanted to make sure that I fully understood the pattern, and I was lucky enough to find a great tutorial on Youtube (where else?!) that walked me right through it. It seems pretty straightforward. Here's the link to the tutorial:

Mini mariner's compass tutorial

I've cut out a lot of the fabric, and am ready to start sewing, so more pictures coming soon!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Don't read this post Marion or Emily!

Now I'm hoping that Marion and Emily have greater restraint than I would with such a post title. For me, that's an invitation to keep reading! But then again, I was the child who would do some "research" once the Christmas presents started appearing beneath the tree!

I'm following Mischelle's great advice to just warn off Marion and Emily in the title so that I can actually show y'all what I'm working on. Especially since that's the only sewing I've done in ages!

First, you remember Emily and Marion's great medallion centers with the gorgeous work done by the other ladies in our round robin? Marion's is the one on top with the adorable Matryoshka dolls all in a circle and Emily's is the gorgeous star in reds and blues. 

Here's what I did with Marion's:

Given all that was going on with this quilt so far, I thought I might just add a quiet border that pulls from what others have already done. So I added this cute material from the Sew Mama Sew collection:

This is the material that Marion used in the very center of the quilt (at the feet of the nesting dolls). It's also what is in some of the lighter colored squares in the great purple and black checkerboard border. 

I love the center and I love Jeanette's phenomenal appliqué, so I wanted to do something that would highlight them by not distracting from them. I figured something too busy might not be good right next to the birds. 

I added a 3 inch border (not including seam allowance). That's the minimum border we're supposed to add in each round. 

And here's what I did with Emily's quilt:

Excuse the lack of pressing! I added the red and blue borders. Jeanette again did her magic with her appliqué on either side of the square. I decided to square it up by adding an imbalanced red border (which mirrors the fabric used in the center of the star), and then added blue to frame it all and to mirror the blue checkerboard border surrounding Emily's medallion. Emily said that she wanted to emphasize blues and reds, so hopefully this is what she was thinking!

For those interested in the house progress, we've finished stripping wallpaper and ripping up carpeting, and we've repainted the stairwell, upstairs hall, and den Coastal Vista blue:

We were still finishing touching up the upper part of the stairwell, so that's why the handrail is blue (tape) and the banister is covered with a plastic bag. 

And for those who have requested puppy photos, I will leave you with a picture of Sophie in her and Zoey's favorite spot in the house (on an ottoman in the den). Isn't she cute with her chin resting on the window sill?!

My stripping days are over!

At last! We've finished stripping the wallpaper off the walls. Yay!

We've now washed down the plaster walls with sponges to get the residual wallpaper paste off, so now we need to spackle the dings in the plaster walls . . .  and then we get to PAINT!

This is the color we've chosen for the upstairs hallway, stairwell, and our downstairs den. It's Behr's Coastal Vista:

Isn't it yummy? We thought it'd go really well both with our upstairs paint (Behr's Manhattan Mist)

. . . and with the downstairs color (Behr's Wheat Bread):

By a strange turn of events, the Wheat Bread is the exact same color as the color my mom chose for her kitchen cabinets (although she's using Martha Stewart paint, and she calls it Sharkey Gray). We saw the color and thought it'd be the perfect neutral yet rich tone for our downstairs.

This will be such a nice switch from the salmon orange that is currently in the kitchen!