Monday, October 5, 2015

A Productive Weekend

Man, did I get a lot done this past weekend. I made a serious dent in my Midnight Mystery Quilt and have 80% of my square in a square blocks done. Since I'm make a queen size quilt, I need 48 of these. These were supposed to be done in September so I'm a bit behind but I know I'll be able to catch up.

I've also made some progress on this month's Stash Bee block. This block is a great leaders and ender project so I've been piecing it between my other blocks. I've got a few more 9 patches to go and then I can put the entire block together.

Lastly I've gathered some fabrics for my classroom quilt project. Thank you so much to Yvonne from Quilting Jetgirl who sent me some! Now I need to start pressing them and cutting out some squares. Lots and lots of squares!

Unfortunately, my little one is home sick with strep throat so I'm not sure how much sewing I'll get done this week. Maybe that's why I pushed myself to get so much done over the weekend.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pocketful of Posies

I'm excited that I finally have a finish. I'm not as fast as most quilters but that's because I have to put other priorities ahead of sewing, and I'm okay with that. I decided earlier this year that I'd like to make a quilt for each of my nieces and nephews. It's really not that many - only 4 total. I wanted to start with the oldest kids first and work my way down to the youngest, but trying to get a response from my 21 year old nephew about what he'd like is like pulling teeth. I decided to come back to him and find out what my 15 year old niece would like. She told me she'd like something to coordinate with her room, which was pink.  Earlier this year I purchased a layer cake of Dear Stella's Flirt so I texted her photo of the prints and she said it was perfect. I decided to add a few other prints and Kona Graphite to round out the palate and made the pattern up as I went along. I used every last scrap.

When it came to quilting, I didn't want to go too dense so that the quilt would have a nice drape and be super soft. So I opted for feathered tulips (not sure if that's what it is, but that's what I call it) in all of the gray triangles in the center, a row of pearls in the chevron pattern, half feathers in the gray border, and simple leaves in the outer border.

I think it has the perfect amount of drape and was very pleased with how it turned out. I also love the overall look of the back of the quilt.

I already told you about my quilt label mishap, but here it is, firmly affixed on the quilt... again. And this time to stay. Unfortunately, since the label with through the wash separately it got a little distorted shape-wise.

Now all I have to do is figure out when to give it to her. She lives in the midwest and I'm in Florida. I'd love to give it to her in person, but I'm not sure when I'll see her next so I'm considering mailing it to her so she can use it this winter.

It's not overly big, coming in at 48.5" x 57.5" -- just big enough to snuggle with while reading a book in a comfy chair. I hope she likes it as much as I enjoyed making it for her.

Linking up to any of these parties.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

An Unexpected Lesson

So I have a story to tell you. When I decided that I wanted to learn how to quilt a few years ago, my aunt was generous enough to give me some supplies to get started. She had dabbled in hand quilting but didn't stick with it so she gave me a rotary cutter, a few quilting rulers and an on-the-go quilting case meant to store quilt blocks and various notions while traveling. Since she sewed all of her quilt blocks by hand, inside the case was a lot of quilting needles, some thimbles, needle threaders, a few fabric pencils and one lone spool of thread.
Having just finished my niece's quilt the day before, I was waiting to wash it until I put a proper quilt label on it. While looking through my sewing room yesterday I happened to open up that black quilting case and took a closer look at that spool of thread. It was white and seemed a bit heavier weight that what I had. Thinking it was specifically for hand quilting, since that was what my aunt did, I decided to use it to sew my quilt label onto my quilt before washing it. 
Now I'm slow at hand sewing -- I mean painfully slow. Every time I need to sew on a quilt label I need to refer to a youtube video on how to do a blind stitch. I also referred to Stephanie's tutorial on how to tie a quilter's knot over at Late Night Quilter. It took me almost an entire episode of Castle to sew on this little 3x5 quilt label. But I did it, it looked perfect, and it was very secure. I then put my quilt into the washing machine. Imagine my surprise when I pulled my quilt out of the washer and I see that there is NO LABEL ON MY QUILT. What??!!! I pull out the remaining few items in the washer and find the sad little label all wrinkled and not a single thread anywhere. How can this be? My husband thinks I'm crazy because I kept mumbling to myself "No... it can't be... they can't possibly make such a thing as dissolving thread...." He thinks I'm even crazier when I I bring a piece of the thread into the kitchen and run it under water for a few seconds AND IT DISSOLVES!!!

Quilt label out of the wash, with the offending thread
I google dissolving thread and sure enough, there is such a thing. Water Soluble Basting Thread... that I used to permanently affix my quilt label with... or so I thought... I guess I'll be putting the label on that quilt again.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Sky's the Limit: A Call For Scraps!

Remember my last post about volunteering at my son's school in the art classroom? Well, one thing led to another, or in this case, an apron led to a quilt. I love how enthusiastic the teacher is and her passion for teaching really shows. We got to talking and first she asked me if I'd be willing to be a guest speaker at their annual "teach-in." It's kind of like a show and tell that members of the community do to teach the students about different careers, hobbies, skills, etc. Of course, I thought it was a great idea to bring in some quilts, some fabric, and maybe even do a demo of some free motion quilting.

That's where we got sidetracked. I guess it's a tradition for the exiting 5th graders to give the school a legacy gift of some sort.  Since this is a brand new school, this group of 5th graders will be the very first to graduate to middle school. And what better gift than a large wall hanging for the school that has their motto and school colors on it:

We'll have the rest of the year to make this quilt. I still need to figure out the basic lesson plans but we'll start with sewing the charm squares together in the center. There are 5 fifth grade classes, a total of 103 students, so there will be a lot of hands to help. I'll be letting the art teacher keep my old singer machine in the classroom for the year and I'll be coming in on a regular basis to teach the kids. Once it's all put together, I think I'm going to have the kids sign their names in each of the white squares.

Want to help? Have any red and blue fabric scraps you have no use for or would like to donate? I'd love to use them for this project. The center of the quilt is made up of 5" charm squares and the 4 patches around the outside will be about 2.5"-3" squares, depending upon the middle border.

I wish I'd been given an opportunity like this when I was a kid to spark my love of quilting. I can't wait to get started!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

An Exercise in Improv

Last week I volunteered at my son's school to help the art teacher with some of her classes. She teaches art to the entire school. I noticed immediately that she was wearing an apron made from various quilting fabrics that I recognized. What I didn't know until she started talking to the kids is that it was a new apron to match the style of art that they were going to focus on - abstract art, made up of lines, shapes and color. They were starting with Wassily Kandinsky's concentric circles.

After the class, she told me that she had been searching Etsy to find an apron for the next major artist that she was going to focus on, Piet Mondrian. Well it was her lucky day that I volunteered in her classroom. I told her that I was a quilter and could easily make her an apron.

She sent me more info on the artist, along with this video as inspiration.

Of course, taking on this project really pushed me as an quilter since it was all improvisational with lines and colors. I was surprise that it got much easier as it went along and I wasn't overthinking the pocket panel. The main part of the apron is heavy weight decor fabric (actually leftovers from when I hemmed my bedroom curtains). Since it was going to be for art, I wanted it to be a bit heavier duty.

There are things that I think I might do differently if I were to make it again, like thinner black lines, but overall I'm very pleased with it. And it make a cute looking skirt too! I should have worn pants instead of shorts for the photos.

Tonight was the elementary school's open house for parents to come with their children to see their classrooms, what they're working on, and give them a tour around the school. I took that opportunity to give it to his art teacher. Happy to say, she absolutely loved it.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

My Favorite Basket

In updating my 2015 finishes, I realized that I never showed you a few other baskets that I'd made over the summer. I tell you, I just love this basket pattern. I made several of them as gifts for my son's teachers last year but I also couldn't resist making a few more.

Here is one that I made for a dear friend of mine. She loves owls so I thought this was perfect.

And this is one that I made as a baby shower gift. This came out so cute and is perfect for diapers and wipes. I definitely plan on making this my go-to shower gift in the future.

I think these would look adorable in holiday prints so making more might be in my near future for Christmas gift-giving.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Table Basting Tutorial

In our previous home, I had enough tiled flooring that I could baste my quilts on the floor but oh, how my back and knees would hurt for days afterwards. In our current house, the only space big enough for me to baste a quilt on the floor is our bedroom, but it's a beautiful hardwood and I don't want to mar the floor with pin scrapes. Plus, I'd still have to move the bed a bit depending upon the size of the quilt.

That's why I figured out a different way to baste my quilts - one that doesn't hurt my back and knees. I use my kitchen table. Of course, this table has some wear and tear so if it gets a few minor pin scratches, they're not that visible and I don't care. I would NOT recommend doing this on your good dining table unless you have some sort of pad underneath. Here's how I do it.

1. I find the center of the table and use toothpicks and painter's tape to make an X in the center:

This allows me to feel where the center is when I have fabrics and batting on top of the table. You could also use small sized double pointed knitting needles, or even bamboo cooking skewers.

2. I press my backing fabric and my top and then fold them both in fourths to find the exact center of each piece, even taking my iron to that little corner so that when I open it up I have a nice visible X in the center of the each piece of fabric. I lay the backing fabric right side down on the table, centering it feeling for the toothpicks underneath and then use large plastic clamps to secure it to the table. I purchased my clamps in 2 different sizes very cheaply from Harbor Freight and Tool.

3. I then place my batting on top of the backing fabric. It's harder to see the center crease in the batting so I use a safety pin to indicate the center. I smooth it over the backing fabric and remove each clamp and replace in onto both layers. Once both layers are securely clamped in place, I remove that safety pin. You can still feel the toothpicks underneath both layers.

4. Lastly, I lay the quilt top on the table, finding the center toothpicks. I smooth it all out and again remove each clamp one at at time, and re-clamp it including the top. I do opposite sides to keep everything as straight as possible.

Before I start pinning, I go around the edge to make sure that there is extra batting and backing fabric all the way around. There's nothing worse than getting everything pinned and realizing that one of the layers wasn't centered and there is one corner that doesn't have backing fabric. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.

5. Start pinning away! I work my way from the center to the outside edges of the table. Then I unclamp everything, and gently slide the quilt in one direction. I smooth it, and re-clamp it, and pin one end. Then I do the same to the other 3 sides. Then I have this:

6. The last thing I do is I  start at one end and feel underneath the quilt to make sure that each pin went through all 3 layers (which they did, hooray)!  This took me about 2 hours total, including the pressing and cutting of the backing and batting.

Now comes the fun part - the quilting!


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