Saturday, August 31, 2013

Feathery Ambitions

I've been holding off quilting these placemats I made in July since I didn't know what to do with them. I plan on binding them in a pretty yellow but was stumped on how to quilt it. I could have done a meandering stipple or swirls but the main reason I've been making placemats and smaller projects is to improve my free motion quilting skills. I somehow got it into my head yesterday that I wanted to do feathered wreaths in the center of each one. Nothing like being ambitious. One would expect that I'm already skilled at quilting feather. Ha! Of course not.

I did a little bit of practicing this afternoon but I can't seem to get into a good groove and struggle to make the feathers on one side of the stem. Still, I decided to make an initial wreath to see how far I've got to go before it's good enough for the finished product.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Blog of the Week

I was so thrilled when my good friend Shannon asked to feature me on her website Waits and Measurements as part of her Blog of the Week series. Shannon and I met back in 2000 - I hired her as my Assistant Stage Manager when I was still working in theatre as a professional stage manager. The moment I met her I knew she was the perfect person to work with, full of energy and a smile that was so incredibly infectious! Stage managing is a very stressful profession and Shannon always had a way of getting people to not take things so seriously and to just have fun. One of my biggest memories of her was that she was ALWAYS dancing... during rehearsals, backstage, everywhere! That's why it was no surprised that she started a blog about fitness and health and how to balance it with some good old fashioned family fun. She has inspired me to get outside with my little one and include him in my exercise endeavors instead of just keeping him on the sidelines. Definitely take the time to check out Shannon's blog Waits and Measurements. You won't regret it!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

More Half Square Triangles

I finished lesson #9 and it's made up of more half square triangles. If I didn't have the awesome June Tailor ruler I'm sure that I would dread making them but it's my favorite tool right now. This 3-block grouping is also the first one that I've used Aurifil 50 weight thread and I LOVE IT! I used Mettler cotton thread on all of my previous blocks but it was leaving so much lint in my sewing machine so I was on the hunt for some better thread. Yes, Aurifil can be a bit pricey but it is so worth it. It's so thin and I feel like that alone has improved my accuracy. And it leaves very little lint which makes me very happy. Just like this lesson.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Quick Little Back-to-School Project

My friend Anne mentioned that she really liked the mug rug I made last week and I couldn't think of a better little addition to brighten up a school teacher's day than a mug rug for her desk! I'd seen some cute back to school fabrics the other day so I ran back to the store and snagged a small remnant perfect for this project. I decided to fussy-cut a few of the graphics that I liked and pieced them together with the rich red Kona fabric I got for my cat quilt.

Such a quick, fun little project for such a nice person! Sorry Anne, you'll need to supply your own cookies and milk!

Monday, August 26, 2013

A $10 DIY Design Wall

I've been wanting to make an inexpensive design wall that would not leave marks on the wall in the house we are renting. The other evening I had a 2am brainstorm - buttonholes! If I were to put buttonholes on the design wall I could hang it using removable command strip hooks so as not to damage the wall! Here's how I did it:

Materials Needed:
  • Large piece of felt or fleece
  • Pine lattice cut-to-size 
  • Command Hooks
  • Sewing machine (to hem material and make buttonholes)
I went to Jo-Ann's and got a yard and a half of their 72" wide craft felt in white. At $4.99/yard it came to $7.49 - after using one of their 40% off coupons it came to $4.50! Once I got the felt home I needed to decide how big I wanted my design wall. I cut mine to 53" x 54." I hemmed the top edge down an inch and a half and then sewed buttonholes evenly spaced across the top. Given the longer width, I opted for 4 buttonholes.

I wanted it to lay nice and flat against the wall so I went to my local Home Depot store and purchased some pine lattice. It can be found with all the various crown mouldings. It's sold by the foot for 67 cents and you cut it yourself. I cut off 52" so it came to about $2.90. (Something to note: they don't carry the cut-it-yourself mouldings at Lowes. They make you buy it in 8-10 foot lengths. I found that out the hard way).

Next I made a pocket for the lattice to slide into. Be sure to make the pocket big enough.

I placed the command hooks into the buttonholes, held it up to the wall and using a pencil I lightly marked where each hook needs to go. I already had some hooks on hand but you can get these for a great price at Jo-Ann's when you use one of their coupons (about $3 per pack).

I put up the hooks according to the manufacturer's instructions and voila! I have a design wall that cost me less than $10 and it's already being put to good use!

Linking up to: Fluster Busters

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pool Noodle Door Stop - revisited

When I had first started blogging (only occasionally) on my very first blog I had made this post about using a pool noodle as a doorstop to prevent toddlers from closing a door. It's been my most popular pin on Pinterest and since it was recently featured on the I'm A Lazy Mom website I decided I should probably repost it on my current blog so people don't go to a dead website. So, there you have it - my ingenious, creative idea using a pool noodle.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Colorful Cats

What to do with these colorful cats... I have 20 blocks total and I think I want to try and make a twin sized quilt with them using a bright red background. I also have a small amount of coordinating fabrics with which to make some filler blocks. I guess I need to take pen to paper to see what I can come up with. What do you think, any ideas?

A Mug Rug Finish

I had some leftover fabrics that I'd already quilted when I was making the Miranda Bag so I decided to make a little mug rug out of them. I've seen so many cute mug rugs online and it's high time that I make a few for myself.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Evolving Sewing Studio

I made an earlier post about my initial sewing studio setup and wanting a few items to make it a more functional space. The big thing on the list was a cutting table. I'd checked at a few thrift shops, some garage sales, and lots of browsing on craigslist. I'd found a few tables that I'd really liked but either they sold too quickly or would not fit into our Prius V (our "big" car). I guess the saying that good things come to those who wait is true. I found a gem of a table for only $30 on craigslist this past weekend and picked it up Monday evening.

It's 5 feet long so I really have a bit of room to spread out. I also love the small spindle detail around all the sides. I strung all of my cords through it and have a power strip attached to the one side so everything is neat and tidy. The little side table has my pressing board on it and keeps all of my thread, fabric scraps and sewing machine accessories close at hand.

Here is the clever tip that I picked up from Karen at Sew Many Ways - I used an old belt hanger that was in my closet to hang up my quilt rulers! It hangs perfectly on the side of my new table!

I now have the smaller desk over against the wall and can use it as a general work table. The plastic storage drawers beneath it house individual projects and their corresponding fabrics all together.

Lastly is the bookcase opposite my sewing desk. I'm using it to store what little fabric stash I have. The top shelf is for fat quarters, the second shelf is for larger yardage, and the middle shelf has my sewing basket and quilt kits. The bottom two shelves (one isn't shown) are storing my yarn and knitting supplies.

I'm really pleased with how things are coming together and I look forward to sewing in my new space!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Kindness of Quilters

With so many of my quilting connections being through the internet I've never actually met many of the people that I converse with on a daily basis. In fact, I only have 2 friends who are quilters. One lives in Seattle and the other in Ohio, where we recently moved from. I have several quilters that I stalk keep up with through their blogs and others that are on facebook as part of the online quilt along. They are a great group of people to bounce ideas off of, share projects with, and share a cup of tea with (even if it's only one-sided while I'm catching up on the computer in the morning). I look forward to reading what they've been up to and I'm always happy when they comment on my blog or when they reply to comments I've made on their blogs. Finding virtual friendships has been a surprising aspect of blogging and the overall kindness of people I've never met has surprised me.

Here is just one example of the kindness of quilters that I wanted to share. Below is a mock-up of my quilt that I'm making. I didn't have the right software on my Mac to insert my quilt blocks into the template so I had decided to just put together a collage of my blocks to share in our QAL facebook community. Imagine my surprise when one of the other quilters, Helen from Queensland Australia, took my images and put them into the template for me! She's offered to do it for me throughout the entire QAL. How amazing is that?! It just reinforces my belief that quilters everywhere are a special lot! You should definitely check out Helen's blog - she has some great projects and she's even making 2 different accuracy quilts in the QAL, both of which are stunning.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

More pieces = harder to achieve accuracy

I finished block #8 yesterday and this is the first block that I've had to use my seam ripper more than once to realign fabrics in order to get the seams to line up correctly. There were a lot fabric pieces to cut, 28 total and 16 of those were 2 inch blocks that were each pieced individually.

Had I looked at the instructions and the way the block was constructed more closely I think I would have opted to sew some of the fabrics into 2 inch strips and then cut them down to size. I think it would have been easier and quicker in the end. All of the larger blocks on the quilt have been completed so what remains are all the small, intricate filler blocks. It's going to get interesting, that's for sure!

My little helper

This is Oliver and he decided to be my morning helper. I don't think I'll be getting much done with him sitting right there but that's okay. I love that he wants to keep me company.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Vintage Find

Nothing like a great vintage bargain to start off my Friday! For months now I've wanted a divided dish for serving vegetables. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but growing up my mom always had at least 2 veggie options at every dinner and they were always served in an oval milk-glass pyrex divided dish. Now that I have a family of my own I also like to have at least 2 veggie options (not that my son will eat any that are offered). I'd done some online browsing and found 2 that I liked but thought they were overpriced - one was from Rachel Ray and the other was from Chefs. I'd also checked eBay to see what was offered but I knew I could find something local at a thrift shop or something.

We don't have a lot of space on our kitchen table for serving dishes and I don't like the though of dirtying a ton of dishes so up until now I've always just left everything on the stove and dinner was served on plates before going to the table. But not anymore! My neighbor across the street was having a garage sale bright and early at 7:30am this morning. As I was taking out the garbage I decided to take a quick look at what she was offering. I was so excited to find a vintage milk-glass pyrex serving dish with a lid for only $3! Woo-hoo! After I got it home I looked online and found the same one on eBay for $19.99 and Amazon for $44! I'm so excited! It doesn't exactly match the rest of our dishes but it will make me smile and remind me of my mom every time I use it. Okay, what's for dinner...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lessons Learned

I've really been learning a lot throughout this Aiming for Accuracy Quilt Along. Not only the various techniques and tricks for block construction, but more about myself as a quilter. Here are some personal quilting revelations:

  • I like making half square triangles 
  • I'm not so keen on making quarter square triangles. 
  • I don't really like cutting out fabric. My back tends to ache by the time I'm finished and it takes up more time than it does for me to piece the blocks together! I really don't know how people cut fabric accurately without rotary cutters!
  • One of my favorite tools now is the June Tailor ruler for half & quarter square triangles. 
  • I don't know what Best Press is, but I don't think I can live without it ever again.
  • I'm feeling a bit more confident with combining fabrics, but that is something that will continue to hopefully get easier as I get more experienced.

Here is the block for lesson #7. Lucky #7, I'm all caught up. Whew!

Making up for lost time!

I'm happy to say that I'm starting to feel like my old self again and got a good amount of sewing done in the last 24 hours. I finished up the block in lesson 5 yesterday afternoon and finished the block for lesson 7 this morning. That means I'm all caught up! Now I can continue to do the lessons as they come (there's a new one every Thursday) AND try to work on a few other projects. Here's block 5. I still have to take pictures of block 7 so I'll save that for another post.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lost my groove

Just when I was getting caught up with my sewing I got sidelined by a flare-up of BPPV, a form of vertigo caused by calcium crystals lodging in the wrong part of the inner ear. While the active episode seems to have passed (thank goodness) I'm still not 100% better and I get nauseous doing simple tasks like reading, being on the computer for longer than a few minutes, knitting, and sewing.

I'm no stranger to vertigo - I've had problems with it for about 10 years but there have been times when I would go more than a year without a single episode. It wasn't until 2008 when I went to a neurologist specializing in vertigo that we figured out what I had. He also discovered that I get vestibular migraines (migraines that manifest themselves through dizziness, often without headache) that can be triggered by BPPV episodes. Nothing like a double whammy! If you're really curious about how my doctor treated me you can read through a few blog posts that my husband made here and here. My neurologist was like the real life version of House MD!

Here's the partial block that I made for lesson 5 of the Aiming for Accuracy Quilt Along before my attack. I'm hoping I can get my groove back soon and finish it up and start lesson number 7.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Nutty for handmade soaps

Coconut-y that is! I love, love, love handmade soaps - they're less drying, don't leave any residue on my skin, and they always smell fantastic! Usually I gravitate to the honey oatmeal, vanilla, or almond scents but when we took a trip to the Orlando farmer's market a few weeks ago I came across this delicious looking soap:

COCONUT! I love anything to do with coconut. My favorite tea is a black coconut (first discovered it on my honeymoon in Hawaii) and I love this coconut yogurt. I couldn't help but laugh after taking a closer look at the brand name and the saying on the back. I can't wait to try this once I finish up my current bar of soap. If you're feeling bold, check out their website - they have some very suggestive (yet funny) soap names.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Block # 4, hot off the iron!

So I'm working backwards a bit but it just made more sense for me to get block 6 done before block 4. It was smaller and easier. This block is another big one, measuring at what should be 20.5 inches square. Mine is a little off and it's made me a bit nervous. I hope I don't have to redo it when it comes time to putting the quilt together. I still need to put 1.5 inch sashing on the top and bottom so I'm going to take a closer look at how off my measurements are and maybe add an 1/8 inch to the sashing so the block comes out to the correct size.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Block #6: one of my favorites

I'm trying to catch up on the quilt along that I'm participating in and I finished up block 6 the other evening. I really like how this one turned out and it's one of my favorites so far.

In addition to improving my piecing accuracy (It IS called the Aiming for Accuracy QAL after all) I think this project is also helping to improve my color and fabric selections. The other night it took me about an hour to figure out the 5 different fabrics for block #4 but I think I did okay. I'll be posting that one next!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Settling In

Things are really starting to feel like home now. Most of the boxes that are staying packed are tucked out of sight, the essentials are all in their proper places, and we've even got the garage straightened up enough to get one car inside. My sewing studio is also coming together. In this house it's actually the dining room but I'm enjoying being able to sew close by to the rest of the activity in the house. In the house we're building I had intended to have the upstairs open loft area be my sewing studio but I'm starting to rethink that. With 3 cats and a toddler in the house, I like the idea of being able to close the door and keep them out when needed. Here's what my studio looks like right now.

A few things that are on my wish list are a cutting table and a design wall. Right now if I need to cut anything larger than a scrap I have to use our kitchen table so I'm going to keep my eye open at garage sales and craigslist to see if I can find an inexpensive solution. I also really need a design wall to help in fabric selection and planning of the accuracy quilt I'm working on. My plan for now is to use a flannel sheet or large piece of felt and put it up using the command strips like I did with my small wall hanging (see tutorial here). Even without these things, I'm happy that we're getting settled and that I'm sewing again!

Thursday, August 01, 2013


I'm so happy to be able to work on my quilt again! I already had 1 set of split quarter square triangles done so over the last 2 days I made the blue set, put the pinwheels together, and attached them all together with sashing to make a whopping 21.5 inch square block!

I'm not sure what's going on with the sashing on the right side. It's not puckered but I can't get it to iron out. I might have to open up the seam and re-sew it to see if it will smooth out. Now it's time to take a look at lessons 4, 5, and 6 to see if I can catch up!