Friday, June 29, 2012


I meant to mention this in my ramble this morning but forgot.  Lately I have been very inspired by this website (Astronomy Picture of the Day).  So wonderful and awe-inspiring.

Here's one from a few days ago. 
 Simeis 188 in Stars, Dust and Gas 

Image Credit & Copyright: Dieter Willasch (Astro-Cabinet)

One Year Blogiversary!

I can't believe it, I just looked at my archives and realized my one-year blogiversary was earlier this month.  Hard to imagine I've been sharing projects in this space for a whole year.  I know I haven't posted anything this week, but I've been collaging away on Seymour, so hopefully soon I'll have progress to share about him.  I was planning to do a celebratory giveaway, but things have been so hectic I haven't had a chance to organize anything.  Maybe a little bit later in the fall.

I'm not sure whether I've mentioned it here, but I'm traveling a ton this summer.  It seems to be one of those years where I'm blessed to have many wonderful celebrations to attend: Anna Ruth's baptism, two weddings, one of which is being officiated by Anna's namesake, a family reunion in honor of my grandfather's 85th birthday, among others.  I'm also traveling to Germany for two weeks in July (for work, but I'm super excited), and then to Wyoming with Mike to see his family.  All of this means that I've had (and will continue to have) limited time to quilt and blog this summer.

I'm often torn; when I'm finally at home resting and not quilting, I feel like I'm wasting time that I should use to "be productive", but I hate feeling like sewing is a chore.  In a similar vein, when I have time to be creative, if I use it to sew, I seldom also have time to blog.  I feel bad for not being in this space as regularly as I would like; all the blog advice reminds us that regular posting is important.  I have to remind myself repeatedly of what I sometimes lose track of; that I sew and craft because I like it, not to generate blog content.  I know that so many of you struggle with the same things that it sounds almost cliche to talk about them.  In any case, I love blogging and interacting with the wonderful crafty community, and getting feedback/sharing inspiration.  I'm not going anywhere, I just hope soon I'll have something to show!

I've also been thinking a lot about the kind of projects I want to do.  I've been working really hard lately on Seymour, and trying to stay focused on him.  Finishing him is going to be a long, long process.  I often have the desire to start some small can-be-finished-just-now project, and to be honest, I may make some re-usable lunch bags next week when I get back, but otherwise I'm trying to stay focused on Seymour.  The deadline for the show I'm making him for is September 15, which is looming very close given how much work there is left and how much I'm going to be gone.

In addition to Seymour and the other projects I already have going (the dog portraits and the Christmas quilt are the two big ones still going, with many other small things in progress), I'd like to do a little more bag making, and I'd also like to make some charity quilts.  I really enjoyed making the charm pack baby quilt for Samantha, and small patchwork quilts give me the opportunity to use fun fabrics I love but that don't fit into my bigger projects.  I feel like I should be giving more than I am, and some charity quilts would be a good way to do that I think.

I'm headed to Denver tomorrow for one of the weddings, I hope you guys have a great weekend!

I'll leave you with an iPhone picture I took before it got hot.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Baby Baby Baby: Part 63

It isn't really part 63 of course, but there have been a bunch of baby items lately.  Having made several things for the wonderful Anna, I decided it was time to make some things for another baby of my acquaintance.  Michael is almost the same age as Anna (a couple of months now), and is the grandson of my Mike's brother's wife.  The baby is living with Mike's brother and his wife, and I think the situation has been pretty challenging, particularly since baby Michael has had some health problems.  In any case, the baby is just adorable.

I decided to make him a minky blanket using green and blue minky and a super fun woodland animal print.  As before, I FMQed his name and the date on it so he'd know it was made especially for him.  

After making the minky blanket I remembered the self-binding receiving blanket tutorial from Sew Much Ado, and decided I'd try making one of those too.  I mean, all babies need lots of blankets right?  For this one, I used two contrasting colors of fun dog flannel.  

Finally, Becky mentioned to me that she'd made up a couple more simple fabric panel books for Anna and some other babies she knows.  I decided I'd make one of those for Michael too.  I had a hard time finding any that weren't licensed characters, but I finally found this cute one with opposites.  It was way easier to assemble than the disastrous one we made before, mostly because the pages had numbers and instructions.  

I hope he enjoys them!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Twirly patchwork skirt

So I actually made this skirt before the blouse I showed Friday and realized after I wrote up the blog post on the shirt that I actually have been doing a lot (for me) of clothes sewing in the last couple of months.  First the Easter dress, then the top, and now this skirt in addition to the baptism gown for Anna.  Pretty weird.  I think I'm done for a while though, I'm going to go back to focusing on my quilts.

Anyway, my mom got a skirt pattern at a quilt show a while back and we planned to make it together.  I tried to find an online reference for the pattern but came up empty.  The envelope says Park Slope Pattern Company, Woodstock, Pattern #20.  If anyone has any information on it, let me know.

The body of the skirt is pieced in a patchwork/strip sort of style, and called for a bunch of different fabrics.  We went with light weight rayon prints since they drape so nicely.  We purchased most of the fabrics on a family vacation to Hawaii in 2010.  They're not really Hawaiian fabrics in any way, but we've found a couple of large fabric stores there and so always seem to fabric shop.  I've only been to Hawaii twice, but the first time I bought fabric for my curtains and a bunch of Hawaiian prints for my Eye on the Ocean quilt and the second time I went we bought the fabrics for this skirt.  Weird thing to do on vacation, but not for us I guess!

I have to say that the majority of the work on this skirt was done by my mom.  She spent days lining up and cutting out ALL the billions of pieces, no small feat given that the pieces were large and they were all cut out of slippery rayon.  She finished her skirt (sewn on the serger) and then I think she was feeling pretty done with the whole project.  She brought me my bag of skirt pieces and the serger and a couple of weeks ago I sewed it all together.  It assembled pretty easily since all the pieces were cut out already (thanks mom!).  I'm really grateful to have had the serger which did wonders for preventing raveling.

It's designed to be a sort of one-size-fits-all kind of pattern.  Since it's a wrap skirt it overlaps on itself and the instructions say (more or less) to make yourself a waistband that fits and then gather (or not) the skirt to fit in the waistband.  I'd tried on my mom's finished one and was kind of worried that I wouldn't have enough "skirt" to get all the way around me as I'm quite a bit larger than she is.  The pattern has a spot where you can add on more fabric if you need it.  Although I thought I would need to add on, I figured I'd wait until I got the rest put together before deciding.  I'm so glad I did!  I guess my mom must have gathered hers quite a bit to fit into her small waistband, because I had a ton (!) of skirt.  Given how much fabric this took, I guess that's not surprising.

Anyway, here's the finished skirt from the front.

I like that it's very flowy, and I love the colors we picked and the look of the patchwork, but there were a few things about it that bugged me. It's designed to be longer in back than in front, which is ok in theory, but in the back it was really too long.  I almost tripped over it when I tried it on.  Even more bothersome than that was that it felt like the volume of fabric was not evenly distributed around my person.  I'm not sure how to describe it, but there were areas, for example right in the back, where it felt like there was a bunch of fabric while in other areas there was less.  I know it's designed to be assymmetrical, but I wasn't too crazy about how it felt.  I wasn't sure how to solve the problem, but I decided to go ahead and cut a bunch of length off the back.  That helped quite a bit, and now I don't notice the volume issue.

It's really comfortable and twirly!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dahlia Top

I'm not sure what it is with me lately, but I seem really drawn to dahlia fabric.  Anyway,  I've been wanting to make myself a new summery top (in common with lots of the lovely ladies in the blogosphere), and fell in love (and snapped up) some more dahlia fabric at my sister's big Joann's a month or so ago.

I searched quite a while for a pattern.  I wanted something more fitted than a tank top or t-shirt, but not too fitted (so it would be comfortable enough to wear often).  I looked at various blouse patterns but the thought of all those buttons and buttonholes was enough to dissuade me.  I can do buttons and buttonholes without difficulty, but can never seem to get them lined up properly.  Many of the fitted patterns I found were really designed for knit fabrics (which mine wasn't) and lots of the tops I found were sleeveless.  I can do sleeveless tops at work but usually have to wear a cardigan over them to avoid freezing.

Anyway,  I found this pattern (McCalls M6399) in Hancocks and went back to snag it when they were having an all-patterns-99-cents sale over Memorial weekend.  I actually bought a bunch of clothes patterns for Anna in the same sale and then accidentally sent them all home with Becky so had to go back and pick up a second copy of the shirt pattern, but I figured for 99 cents I could handle it.

I liked a bunch of things about the pattern including the pleating detail at the waist and bust which gives a little more interest than darts, the raglan sleeves (easier to sew than set in sleeves), the scoop neck (better for me than a high neck), and the interesting collar line.   The main thing I didn't like were the pointy shoulders.  The pattern said shoulder pads optional, and as I am definitely not a shoulder pads type of girl, I figured I'd have to re-work the sleeves a bit.   In addition to my dahlia fabric (which is more pink and less orange than it reads in the pictures), I picked up a fun white textured cotton to use for the sleeves and collar to give some contrast.

The shirt was really easy to sew and assemble, I followed the instructions pretty exactly until the sleeve part.  I initially made the cap sleeves exactly like the pattern said, but as I expected, they were altogether the wrong shape.  They poked out terribly (it looked like I had corners instead of shoulders, almost like epaulets) and were all together too big.  At first I tried just taking in the shoulder seam, but the poke/puff remained (sorry I have no pictures of this, but you can probably imagine what it would look like).  In the end I wound up doing 3 things: 1) sewing the sleeve pleats all the way across the pattern piece (so the pleats didn't puff out in front of my shoulders), 2) taking in the shoulder seam from the front piece only, and 3) re-shaping the back sleeve piece.  I'm sure there's a correct way to do this, I know the fabulous LiEr would know how, but I just fiddled with it until I thought it looked tolerable.

I'm excited to wear it soon and am pleased with how it worked out. It fits really well, fitted but not tight.  I haven't sewn a lot of clothes in the last few years (aside from skirts) so it felt good to make something that turned out nice enough to wear.

Any of you guys been sewing clothes for yourself lately?  Take advantage of any good sales over Memorial day?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Not-so-red Poppy Purses

I mentioned last Friday that Becky and Anna came to visit over Memorial day weekend.  While she was here, we made poppy purses using the great tutorial over on Sew Sweetness.  I'm not really historically a bag maker, but I've made a few recently (with some success), and really like exploring the different shapes and looks.  Anyway,  Purse Palooza is going on right now over at Sew Sweetness, so there's lots of yummy stuff about making purses etc.  Definitely check it out if you're interested.

So Becky and I took turns playing with Anna and sewing and we were pretty successful in making our whole purse in one long day.  I'd assembled the ruffles before hand which helped, but the construction part went relatively smoothly.  Aside from switching out a few interfacing suggestions to use some interfacing I had on hand, we followed the tutorial exactly.  It was easy to understand and follow, and wasn't a particularly hard bag to make.

The only thing I'd do differently is make my lining a little smaller, even with increased seam allowance on the inside (compared to the outside) my lining is a bit too big.

Becky made hers with a purple ruffle on yellow/purple print.  I used the rest of my favorite grellow stripes (previously seen here) combined with a fun Amy Butler Soul Blossoms print for the body/lining of the bag.  I was so excited to use some of these bold prints which I don't use too often in my quilts.

I didn't get final pictures of Becky's bag, but you can see her outer ruffly part in the pic above.

I love the way this turned out!  What a fun bag for summer.  It's pretty spacious, Mike says it's "lovely" but says it in the tone of voice that suggests otherwise.  He keeps calling it my pillow.  As in, "don't forget your pillow honey..."  If I weren't afraid of damaging the bag, I'd whack him with it. I'm not sure what's in all of your purses, but mine is pretty heavy.  I think a good strong whack would make him think twice about saying unkind things about my fun bright bag!

One final note,  I couldn't find a local source for the hardware, particularly the bag slider piece (you can see it in the second and third pictures).  The tutorial recommended LoraLee's etsy shop so I went there to buy my hardware.  I'd definitely recommend her shop.  She has a bunch of different hardware and she shipped my order like half an hour after I placed it on Thursday (even though it was already afternoon), and it arrived  in my mailbox by lunchtime on Saturday (awesome since that was when Becky and I were making the purses).

You guys been doing any bag sewing lately?  Suffering from the comments of your partners/housemates?

Friday, June 8, 2012

MQS Classes: The Awesome Part 2

Today I wanted to tell you a little bit about Dusty Farrell's class at MQS. He and his wife own a quilt store and longarming business, so they also had a booth in the vendor area in addition to his classes.  It was a lot of fun (I know I sound like a broken record, but the whole conference was really great).  This was his quilt in the current show, a really cool thread painted dragon.  It had a bunch of features similar in style to my dogs, specifically heavy threadpainting in the center and regular (albeit high density) quilting around it.  You guys will not believe how straight and flat this quilt was.

"Koi Dragon" by Dusty Farrell

I asked him a bunch of questions since my thread painted dogs were all puckered and he was very helpful.  Of course all his work is done directly on the longarm (as opposed to piecing or applique first then quilting), with all three layers (or more) at the same time.

He was really a fun, laid back teacher and I'd definitely recommend his classes.  He kept going around saying peppy things like "isn't art class fun!".  He's pretty young and handsome so it was kind of fun to watch all of the ladies in the class interacting with him.

In the class he taught us his longarm reverse applique, long-arm regular applique, and long-arm threadpainting techniques.  It was (as in the Cathy Franks class), so much fun to just be able to play and quilt on the longarm without having to worry about making anything "good".  It was also really fun to do the thread painting on the longarm, it made me think about longarming in a way I hadn't before; more like coloring than anything else.  He taught us about shading and shaping with the thread (although I wasn't really very good at that) and how he creates structure and dimension.  Almost like hand guided machine embroidery.  His class samples were so much better than what we all managed to come up with, but that just means we need more practice!

Here's my quilt sandwich from the class, the rose is longarm reverse applique, the leaves are longarm applique, and the second rose is threadpainted.  It felt just like doodling, although I had some problems on that left leaf. I made my class sample into a pillow afterwards so I could have it out.  The long arm reverse applique and regular applique leaves loose edges, which give a soft frayed look.

I promise this is my final MQS post for this year, thanks for following along!  Have you guys been trying out any new techniques lately?  Experimenting with non-traditional things on the longarm?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Woof Woof

I haven't posted in a couple of Wednesdays so this is more my progress over the last ~3 weeks rather than the last week.

The project I wanted to share today is one I have just become re-interested in after becoming frustrated and setting it aside.  Long-time readers may remember I mentioned it in my UFO list way back at the beginning of last summer (ouch) and I haven't made too much progress on it since then.  I decided to do some thread painted portraits of my dogs, so I found pictures I'd taken of each of them, scanned them into photoshop, and then played around with the colors and backgrounds until I got combinations I liked.  It's actually really sad, but since I started this project we had to put down my precious Pumpkin dog, and have acquired the wonderful Bentley dog.  I thought about doing a Bentley portrait as well, but decided that not all the dogs would be in every project anyway, so I'd just stick with three.

I was going to show the original pictures and my photoshopped versions, but at the moment I can't find any of them.  Somewhere on some computer (sigh).  This is what happens when I delay on projects.  Just believe me when I say the dogs aren't blue/purple/yellow.

After photoshopping, I printed the pictures out on 4 pieces of fabric prepared for inkjet printing, and sewed them together.  I didn't really know anything about thread painting, but I did know I needed some sort of base, so on the first one (the Bullett dog), I used some kind of fusible interfacing I had in my stash.  It worked ok, but as I didn't know anything about thread painting, I didn't really stabilize around the dog part first and I thread painted really densely all over the dog without putting anything in the background, so the whole thing drew up and puckered terribly.  After finishing the dog part on Bullett, I went on to Pumpkin and used a layer of interfacing and a layer of muslin-type fabric, but it still pulled up and puckered (again, I missed out on things like stabilizing the background).  After that I got so frustrated with how they were all puckered that I put them away until just last week.

My re-interest in the project was sparked by two things.  First, I decided I wanted to have a "quilting" project going at the same time as a piecing project since my singer is up and running now, and the threadpainting seemed like a good thing to work on (rather than starting something new).  The more important thing though, was that I took a class at MQS from Dusty Farrell (more on that on Friday).  He does lovely thread painted quilts with high density thread painting in the center and regular (albeit dense) quilting in the background.  His quilt at the show hung perfectly straight.  When I asked him in the class how he managed that, he told me mostly he just stretches and stretches and blocks and blocks and blocks.  Of course, he also showed us in the class how he stabilizes the area around his thread painting and applique too, which probably would have helped me immensely from the get go.  In addition, he does all his thread painting on the longarm (through all three layers), so there's already a bit more tension on his "canvas" than mine.  Anyway,  I was inspired to pull back out my dogs.  My first task was to soak them all and stretch them as much as I could and block them out. I didn't do the Missy dog (since she hadn't been started yet), but I did the other two.  I couldn't do them on the design wall since I couldn't pull hard enough against pins to get them as stretched as necessary, so I staple gunned them to a piece of plywood covered in canvas.

So here they are!  My next step is to finish the thread painting on the Pumpkin dog since she's mostly finished already and then quilt the background of the Pumpkin and Bullett dogs (i.e. with batting/backing).

Pumpkin dog

Bullett dog

Missy Dog

This is as stretched as I could get them.  You can see they're definitely still a little puckery and not square, but so much better than they were.  I think I can work it out with them like this.   I promise to have a better picture of the Missy portrait when I start sewing on her.  Incidentally,  I'd done some really terrible quilting in the background of the Bullett dog and needed to rip it out.  Sadly I forgot to do that until after I'd soaked him for stretching.  I can tell you, the only thing worse than ripping out tiny knotted quilting stitches is ripping them out when your fabric is wet.  Don't.  Just Don't.

Finished Projects:
Poppy Purses
Twirly Skirt
Summer Blouse
MQS Pillow

Actively Ongoing Projects:
Dog portraits
Crochet flower blocks

Projects Currently on Hold:
Nativity Quilt
Star English Paper Piecing (waiting to see if I like the new thread better)
Yellow Whole Cloth Quilt

Linking up as usual with Lee and Sew Much Ado.

Monday, June 4, 2012

MQS Classes: The Awesome Part 1

I know we're now getting a bit removed from MQS, but I wanted to do a couple of posts about two of the wonderful classes I took there.  Specifically, the hands-on long-arm classes.  Today I want to share a few things from Cathy Franks class, and then later in the week I'll share some things from Dusty Farrell's class.

Both classes were sponsored by handi-quilter, so we had handi-quilter longarms in the classrooms.  Usually there are two students per longarm, but I lucked out and got my own longarm in both classes.  It was really- really-unexplainably wonderful to have time on a longarm without having to be worrying about quilting something important (or using up my time when I should be quilting something important).  That feeling of timecrunch and stress and irritation (which led to the meltdown I mentioned here) had just about made me give up on longarming all together.  The classes at MQS however, really went a long way toward alleviating that bad taste in my mouth.

The class from Cathy Franks was on her cut-glass plate quilting designs.  She was super fun, enthusiastic and upbeat teacher and I was so excited that her quilt won first place in the theme category this year.  I'd definitely recommend a class with her if you can.  Anyway, she's been experimenting with using a variety of fillers to create custom cut-glass-plate looks in her quilt backgrounds.  In the class she taught us her process and styles and then set us loose to try them all out.  If you're not sure what I mean by a cut-glass plate, they look like this.   My biggest takeaways from her class were truly in how she divides up her space.  I love learning new background fillers (can't stipple forever) and she had great ideas for those, but I never really can tell how to divide up my space to use them to the best advantage.

Here's one of her quilts called Max where she used this quilting technique in the background.

"Max" by Cathy Franks

In the class she had prepared practice quilt sandwiches already marked with interlocking circles in sharpie, and here's all the fun quilting I did during the class.  The last picture is of the back, obviously if you were marking a real quilt you wouldn't use sharpie, so the lines could be erased.  The tension on the back isn't great, but at least you can get an idea of the effect of the patterns.

The class was so much fun, and one of the best things about it (aside from reinvigorating my interest in longarms) is that everything she taught could be translated to quilting on the home machine.  Since most of my quilting int he forseeable future will be on the home machine, that's a very good thing!  I'm actually looking forward to implementing her approach in my dog portraits.

Just last week I finally got the Singer 201 set up for FMQ and did some practice on my quilt sandwich from the class.  I was so excited to translate a few things and do some of my very own quilting at home.  The yellow thread in this picture is the quilting I did at home.  I'm still trying to get the tension properly adjusted on the singer, but I'll get it eventually!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Pie Crusts

I made a lemon meringue pie  (mmm yummy) last night for Mike since its his favorite.  I used to make mostly apple and cherry pies which take both crusts (a top and a bottom) but with the lemon, only the bottom is needed.  Becky said she freezes her left over ball of pie crust, and now every time I make pie crust there's enough to freeze half.  In the process of rolling out my pie crust last night I noticed something I'd observed previously.  Namely, that when my ball of pie crust has been frozen (and then thawed) it seems much more elastic and easy to roll out than when I've made it fresh.

Any of you guys notice this phenomenon with your frozen pie crust?