Monday, December 28, 2015

2016 - The Year of Change

I feel like this year has just flown by and when I look back at my finished projects, I honestly don't have that many. I've never been one to focus on the end result, but I've put a lot of time and effort into little sewing projects this past year rather than quilts. I definitely want to make some changes for 2016 and a lot of that has to do with my approach and attitude. Here are some of the things (quilting and personal) that I want to change or focus on in 2016:

1. More selfish sewing - I want to set aside some time each week to work on sewing just for me. I already have some ideas and plan on participating in Carla's Bee, Myself, and I project over at Granny Maud's Girl.

2. Wardrobe Makeover - it's not so much of a makeover as it is buying clothes that fit. I lost 17 pounds in the past year and none of my clothes fit. I hate the idea of clothes shopping but it has to be done. I'm tired of feeling frumpy.

3. Declutter and organize my everyday life. I've started listening to this book online - "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie Kondo. Some of it seems a bit corny to me, like thanking your clothes before discarding them, but maybe it's a cultural difference (the author is Japanese).  Despite that, it has a lot of great ideas. I think this can help me with organizing my wardrobe (what I have left after I get rid of everything that doesn't fit), my house, and even my sewing room.

4. Become a mentor. I'll be spending the next few months working intensively with my 5th graders to finish the school wallhanging. Because of the school's confidentiality policy and consent for photo releases, I've not been able share any of their progress thus far but I love seeing how excited the students get when I walk into their classroom. I've really enjoyed passing on my knowledge and skills to others and would like to continue it in some capacity.

6. Finish my 3 big WIPs - my 2015 Stash Bee quilt, my Midnight Mystery quilt, and my Pinwheel quilt. That Pinwheel quilt was started in October 2013 and the bulk of the top has been pieced together since January 2015. It's just been waiting for me to add the outer border and then it's ready to quilt.

7. Continue making our house our home oasis. More and more, my husband and I realize that what we love about the various model homes that we tour, is that they have a cohesive decor. We built our house so it's been a clean slate since day one. I've made some progress with some handmade curtains but I really hope to get the rest of the house painted, make a few more curtains, put more things on the wall and add those finishing touches that pull it all together.

8. Cut into some of my layer cakes. Over the last few years I've collected at least 7 layer cakes and have yet to do anything with them. They're pretty and all just sitting on my shelf, but I'll bet they'd look cuter in a quilt.

9. Create and stick to a routine that works for me to achieve a better balance of work, home, and leisure time. I got the Quilter's Planner to help me organize and manage things. I'm a list maker and love the act of crossing items off once they've been completed, but I've never used a physical planner. I've always kept my schedule on my online calendar. I'll still be doing that but I'm hoping to make use of this planner to keep track of the little things and details.

10. Blog more regularly - my hope for 2016 is to use my planner to set aside time to write out blog posts and schedule them so that I blog on a more regular basis. That being said, knowing that my family will always come first, I won't beat myself up if that doesn't happen. A bonus would be for me to make a few cosmetic changes to my blog.

So there it is. Some of the things I hope I can accomplish this coming year. I think most of these goals are achievable. Nothing exciting, really but it works for me.  I'm joining the 2016 Planning Linky Party hosted by Yvonne at Quilting Jetgirl.

2016 Planning Party

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday Stash - Black Friday Edition

When I was younger, my Dad and I used to go out shopping on Black Friday. We'd do a bit of shopping and then have lunch together. It was a relaxing father-daughter outing. It was also 20 years ago before it was this over-commercialized frenzy of shoppers half crazed to get a good deal. Now, I avoid Black Friday shopping like the plague unless it's from the comfort of my living room.

I don't recall buying anything at all last year, but this year I just couldn't resist some good quilty bargains. My big purchase were these Bella and Kona solids: Bella Celery, Kona Tarragon, Kona Gold, Bella Pond, Kona Chestnut, Kona Teal Blue, and Bella Snow.

These are going to be for a cathedral window bed runner that I'm making for my parents.  Here is the inspiration photo that my step-mom gave to me. I used the Palette Builder from Playcrafts to help me pick my fabric colors.

The fabrics above are actually much closer to the colors in the photo but when I would try to  color correct the blues in my photo it made the gold look very orange and the chestnut much darker than it really is. I think they're going to look great together.

I also couldn't resist picking up this 3-pack of aurifil thread for $10. I threw in a half yard of this vintage linen postscript fabric to make it worth the cost of shipping.

Last but not least, I picked up a half yard of Angela Walter's Drawn fabric in the sorbet colorway for no other reason than it's so pretty. The other 2 fabrics I plan to use for bindings. The dark teal and black one will be for my Stash Bee quilt once I get it quilted. I don't have a specific quilt in mind for the chevron one yet but I love the look of chevron bindings.

I've seen others put themselves on a fabric diet and while I don't think I need to go that far, I'm definitely set with fabric purchases for quite some time.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Final Holiday Projects

I'm just about done with my holiday gift projects. I still need to make something for my son's teacher and I'll be completely done. Earlier this week I made my nephew a travel crayon caddy.

Remember my earlier conundrum on what to do about the open pockets? Well, I decided to add a button flap to keep everything in place.

I'd considered making them zippered pockets but this was just quicker and easier. And with the holidays in full swing, quicker is better. Now to get these last gifts in the mail.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Retreat Projects Roundup

I'm not surprised that the holidays are now upon us, but I didn't expect to be so busy. Other than working with my 5th graders, I've not sewn a single stitch since my retreat almost 2 weeks ago. Luckily, most of my holiday sewing is done.

As promised in my previous post, I wanted to share some of the projects that I made or finished while on retreat. The biggest one is my Stash Bee quilt top.

I've been hoping to take a better photo of it but every time I try it's either been too windy, too dark, or too rainy so this photo from my phone when I was on the retreat will have to do. Once I start quilting it, I'm sure I'll be taking plenty!

The other projects I made include my Stash Bee November blocks --

-- and a cute little cathedral window pincushion.

I also made another basket that will be a holiday gift for my parents.

I don't anticipate getting any sewing done next week which is okay. Time spent with my extended family is few and far between and I plan to make the most of it. I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday too!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Retreat Weekend Recap

This past weekend was my local quilt guild's retreat and man did I have a blast! I really didn't know anyone in my guild yet, I'd only been a member for a few weeks and attended my first meeting last Wednesday. This was the perfect opportunity to meet other quilters, get lots of work done on various projects, and really immerse myself in creativity.

The retreat was held in Central Florida in a small little town called Sebring. We stayed at the Kenilworth Lodge. It was built in 1916 and you could tell it was quite the resort back in the day. It's not exactly what I'd call a 5-star hotel now, but it was clean, had lots of old world charm and 2 amazing ballrooms.

The plaque on the outside of the hotel and a few of the antiques in the grand lobby.

There were 27 of us and I couldn't get over how much space we had. Each quilter was given an 8-foot table so we could really spread out. A local quilt shop provided several pressing stations with irons and even set up a small satellite store in a room just off of the ballroom so we could shop whenever we needed. The owner even left it open in case we needed something in the middle of the night - she just left a note pad on the cutting table so we could keep a running tally of anything we purchased and could settle up at the end of the retreat.

The ballroom, early Sunday morning. The round table in the foreground was the snack table. The table in the back where people were congregated was the extra large cutting and demo area.

I think what impressed me most about the space, was how well the staff took care of us and how well maintained the facility was. I honestly expected us to blow a few electrical fuses throughout the weekend but we never did. Think about it - 27 sewing machines, around 20 irons, personal lamps and extra lights supplied by the hotel - that's a lot of amps!

The retreat itself was very informative and fun. We had one of the guild members show us how she likes to mark her quilts for free motion quilting and her techniques on spray basting. We also had lots of great sponsors who provided us with lots of swag, including Aurifil, Art Gallergy Fabrics, Patchwork Threads, May Chappell, Soak Wash, Connecting Threads, and Robert Kaufman.

I did lots of sewing, of which I'll show in upcoming posts, and I also won this pretty half bundle of fat quarters from Connecting Threads. It's the Good Neighbors fabric line designed by Amanda Jean Nyberg from Crazy Mom Quilts.

All in all, a super fun weekend and I can't wait to do it again next year!

Monday, November 02, 2015

Raspberry Kisses

I was finally able to connect with and join my local modern quilt guild in October. This made me very happy since the only other quilters I know are part of the blogging/online community. Of course, on the day of their October monthly meeting my little guy was home sick with strep throat so I couldn't attend but I was able to sign up for an upcoming retreat that is scheduled for this coming weekend. SQUEAL!!!!.

An interesting thing that they do at each meeting is have a block lottery. A specific block is selected each month and for each block you make, you get your name put into a drawing. If your name is randomly selected, you win all of the blocks made. For the November lottery, the Raspberry Kiss block was chosen so I made 2 of them.

Now let's hope I can attend November's meeting!

Friday, October 30, 2015

It's Peter Pan!

Every October I can't imagine topping last year's halloween costume but somehow I manage to pull it off. This year is no different.  You can check out all of the various halloween costumes I've made here (this link will also include this post, just FYI).

This year's costume is  -- PETER PAN!

All summer long, my son was obsessed with watching the movie and reading the story every night. It seemed only fitting that he dress up as Pan for Halloween. Of course, my first step was to troll around on Pinterest to see what I could find. I loosely followed this tutorial for the shirt and hat and I made the pants using this tutorial from Made by Marzipan and the Fat Quarter Shop. Both pieces hardly took any time at all. What took the longest was knitting the rope belt from some silky cording yarn I had in my stash.

What surprises me most is how little it can cost to make a great costume, one that is much better than something with a plastic mask, which is what I had growing up. Here's the cost breakdown for this costume:

  • Men's medium t-shirt:  $2.39
  • Knit fabric for pants & bag of red feathers for hat: $6.11
  • Waistband elastic for pants & felt for hat: $3.97
  • Silk cording for belt: $0 (came from stash)
GRAND TOTAL:  $12.47

You can't beat that! I have extra felt that I can use to make some boot-style toppers but since my son already has some brown shoes, I think we're just going to let him wear those. Bring it on, Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Stash Bee 2016 Sign Ups

I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed participating in this year's Stash Bee (my first) and can't wait for next season. If you've ever wanted to join an online bee and have been reluctant in the past - take a chance! You won't regret it. I've learned so much about myself as a quilter, have tried new techniques, and just had so much fun!

Sign ups for Stash Bee 2016 opened up today and I hope you'll join me next year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Crayon Caddy Conundrum

I'm so glad we've finally had a change in the weather here in Central Florida. My husband fondly refers to it as "Fallspring" since the temps are now in the upper 70s/low 80s during the day and 50s at night. It's GLORIOUS!

The change in the weather is my indicator that it's time to get crackin' on some holiday sewing. For my younger niece and nephew I decided to make them a portable art caddy. After seeing some different styles online I decided to use this tutorial that uses velcro instead of ties (ties can sometimes be tricky for little fingers). Here is how it turned out.

At first glance it looks very functional. It has individual pockets for crayons that are nicely snug, and 2 different pockets to hold paper and stickers.

But here's the issue. Those pockets work out nicely when the case is open but once you close it and hold it by the handles, things in those open pockets come sliding out. It's definitely a design flaw for what I intended to put in it, like a small notebook, a pencil sharpener, and possibly some craft scissors. Don't get me wrong, I think this is adorable, but I need to go back to the drawing board and just design one that is more of what I want complete with a larger zippered pocket.

My favorite aspect of this little caddy is where I was able to put my little label. It just makes it look so much more polished. 

And don't think that this is a total loss. I filled it with some goodies and it's being gifted to a friend's daughter when they come to visit. It might help her to pass the time on the plane ride home.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Classroom Prep

This past week I started teaching the 5th graders at our local elementary school how to quilt so that we can make their school wallhanging. So last weekend, I was working on lesson plans and gathering together all of the supplies we'll need in the classroom. For any teachers out there, I was introduced to a neat online teaching tool called Blendspace which allows you to house any media resources like youtube videos, powerpoint presentations, and graphics all within a lesson plan that you create.

I'd gotten 90% of the fabric cut out and placed into individual baggies. Thank you so much to Yvonne, Lisa, Cindy, and Darlene for sending me fabric. It truly was appreciated and is being put to good use.

In gathering up all of the various sewing notions that we might use, I realized that I needed some more pincushions. The students sit at 7 tables so I wanted a pincushion for each table but I only had 3.

I was able to whip up 2 on Sunday afternoon using this tutorial. Despite the wonkiness of the photo, they really are square.  I'm hoping I can make a few more when I get a spare moment.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The New Quilter's Planner

Today is an exciting day. Stephanie Palmer, aka the Late Night Quilter, has been working on an amazing planner designed specifically for quilters. It has a lot of great features to help quilters keep track of their projects as well as their everyday lives.

It also includes quilt patterns by some great designers and quilt blocks designed by various quilters throughout the blogging community, including me!

You can read more about it on Stephanie's blog. And if you think this is something you'd like to have, consider supporting this campaign and learning more about the planner here.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Nifty Little Glue Basting Trick

I've been fascinated about glue basting for quite a while but have never tried it until now. The thing that was holding me back was that micro-tip that all of the tutorials said you needed. None of my local quilt shops carried them and call me cheap, but I didn't like the idea of spending $10 (plus shipping) on a tiny 1 oz. bottle of glue with a special tip. Not when I know you can use regular washable Elmer's glue and get 4 oz. for $1.29.

Well, I found a super inexpensive solution in the form of a hair color applicator bottle that I kept in my laundry room. It can be found at your local Sally Beauty Supply store for less than $2.

I've started teaching my son how to do laundry and I have it filled with white vinegar (I use that instead of fabric softener and also make my own laundry detergent). The other day I took a closer look at that tip and thought it was narrow enough that it might work with glue.

I was planning on filling up the color applicator bottle with the glue but check this out! It's a perfect fit!

AND it dispenses glue in a very thin line too! (Don't let the photo fool you, it came out in a perfectly thin line but it started to bead up from me walking around with it and trying to find better lighting to photograph it.)

The important thing to remember with this applicator tip is that you need to put something in it when it's not in use so the glue doesn't dry out. I tried a few different size pins but the best thing that seemed to work was a large paper clip.

UPDATE: So I've had the paper clip in for a week and it is NOT a good option. The metal oxidizes and then your glue comes out brown. So I've switched it to a toothpick but a toothpick is a bit too fat for the small hole. I think it will do for now but I'll probably take some sand paper to it to slim it down even further so it fits nicer in the tip.

And there you have it. An inexpensive and easy solution if you want to glue baste!

Friday, October 16, 2015

October Stash Bee Block

While working on my midnight mystery quilt, I was able to get my October block done for Stash Bee.

I usually struggle with getting small pieces to line up well but I had no problems this time and the block turned out perfectly without needing to be squared up. I guess my piecing skills have gotten better.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Happy Little Rainbow Bundle

After a few days of not feeling well, I got this pretty little rainbow bundle in the mail that perked me right up.

I actually won it from Kat's Out o' the Bag on facebook and it's 2 yards of Kona solids. I'm starting to build up a nice little stash of solids and have the perfect pattern for them.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Girl and Her Quilt

I was so excited when I finished up my Pocketful of Posies quilt for my niece, but not nearly as excited when I got the photos of her opening her gift and snuggling with her new quilt.

I can't begin to tell you how happy my heart is today.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Low Volume Swap

I'm participating in the Tone It Down low volume charm swap that Chelsea and Michelle are again hosting. I still have all of my charms from the last swap and once I get this batch I'll have enough for a good sized project. I even have one in mind.

Here is what I've sent off.  It's One in a Minion fabric from Quilting Treasures. First off, let me say that I had a really hard time photographing this fabric but if you look closely you can see the minions. When you step back a bit, it's not very obvious.

I hope the others in the swap like it and don't think it's corny.

Monday, October 05, 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.