Friday, August 26, 2016

recycled Hearts

I only made one quilt for Eleni.  Though I never did finish it.

making Hearts

Just weeks before she was born, I started making these uber girly hearts to be appliqued onto a candy colored baby girl's quilt.  I appliqued them by hand, relishing the process, and even saved a few for the birth itself.  I was planning another home birth then.  Maybe, in my dream birth scenario, some handwork would be a fun way to channel my excitement during the early stages of labor.

Recycled Hearts

Of course, Eleni's birth was nothing like that.  Afterwards, in my shock, I did finish appliqueing the hearts.  I took many to the NICU for something to do by her bedside as she was always, always sleeping and couldn't tolerate being held for too long.  When they were finished I joined the blocks together and then put the quilt top away.  I hated reminders of life before the tragedy, especially reminders of how I thought things would be.  I couldn't finish the quilt, didn't want it for Eleni, and yet couldn't see myself finishing it to sell either.

Recycled Hearts

I feel that this pregnancy is my last chance to grieve for Eleni with my whole heart.  I know that our new baby will shift my focus and put a new light in our family, which is a good thing.  Of course I'll never forget Eleni, but maybe she'll never feel quite this near.  Of course she won't.  That's the thing about death, it puts real distance between you and your loved ones.  Later when life slows down again, so much will have changed.  I'll be less likely then to think of what could have been and more likely to be thankful for what came to be.  At least, I trust so.

Part of my grieving is to deal with Eleni's heart quilt.  It doesn't belong in a drawer testifying to what wasn't and never-will-be.  I want to give it a life, and not one that is for this new baby I'm having, but rather one that is for Eleni still.  Somehow, still for Eleni.

Recycled Hearts

So, I've decided to tear it apart.  I'm separating out the hearts and making quilts to donate to the NICU that kept Eleni.  When she was there the nurses would wrap a quilt around her mattress, instead of a sheet, to make her bed slightly more homey.  I'm sure they could use a few fresh ones.  And probably some of the moms will appreciate a slightly more modern flare. 

Recycled Hearts

The way the nurses use them as substitute sheets, 32 x 44" is a good size.  These are likely to be used for full term babies not in an isolate, so these are not the kind that cover the isolate to make it darker/quieter.  In my series of little quilts, I'm thinking to use anywhere from 1 to 6 hearts per quilt, to yield a good number of them. 

I made my first today.  It's so simple.  Maybe too simple?  But then again, it's the baby who'll lay upon it that needs all the attention.  I imagine the hearts near her head and her feet serving as bookends to her sweetness.

Eleni is already giving many things to her younger sister - clothes, blankets, toys and bottles.  These hearts she'll give to other babies experiencing a harder start to life than they deserve.  Babies that may not ever be "all right."  I think she'd be pleased.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

how to Assemble + Finish Quilt-as-You-Go blocks

There are many clever tutorials on how to assemble and finish quilt-as-you-go blocks.  This is not one of them.  This is the simple, no-fuss approach to quilt-as-you-go that may have less finesse, but is super quick and so very user-friendly.

I like to recommend the quilt-as-you-go approach to new quilt makers, who often want to make a quilt for a queen or king sized bed.  Large bed quilts are so much less challenging to complete on your standard sewing machine if made quilt-as-you-go.  This is the finishing technique that matches that concept.  Let's make it easy, secure and pretty.  Not clever.  It's also the finishing technique I prefer, even as a more experienced maker.

Assemble + Finish Quilt-as-You-Go

Step 1:  Quilt Blocks

You can transform any quilt block into quilt-as-you-go by simply quilting the finished block to a matching square of batting.  Do not attach backing at this time.  Simply quilt to one layer of batting - that's it!

An individual quilt block is easy to navigate underneath your standard sewing machine.  You can experiment with dense quilting patterns that may be otherwise intimidating.  In my demo quilt, I've even used a variety of straight-line patterns on my 13" quilt blocks to add more textures to the finished quilt.

Trim all of your quilt blocks to a consistent size after quilting.

Step 2:  Join Blocks

This is the "duh" part.  Simply join your blocks with right sides together, creating seam allowances that consist of both quilt top and batting.  Remember, no backing is involved yet.

Quilt-as-you-go Finishing tutorial

"What?  There's batting in my seam allowances!?!?!" you protest.  Why, yes, there is.  No worries.  Just press those seam allowances open to evenly distribute the slight bulk.  And it is slight, I promise! I've had a bed quilt finished this way on my master bed for years.  Never during use do I notice the extra bulk at seam allowances.  Once on a bed and hidden between quilt top/back layers, only a very keen observer would discover the bulk at all.  Sure, you will know it's there, but does it matter?  I guess the answer is up to you.  My answer is "Nope!"

I suggest you join blocks with a wider-than-normal seam allowance.  I use 3/8".  This wider allowance is easier to keep straight and accurate when dealing with thicker seams.  Also, sometimes your blocks will shrink slightly and unevenly in the quilting process.  I trim quilted blocks to the original, intended block size (13" in my case) even if that means that a bit of the block edge is only batting with the raw edge of the quilt block say 1/8" from the trimmed edge of the block.  A 3/8" seam allowance ensures that I still have a full 1/4" of quilt top fabric in those seam allowances.

Quilt-as-you-go Finishing tutorial

And, guess what?  A wider seam allowance, plus batting in your seam allowances add up to a more durable quilt!

Step 3:  Baste to Backing

Once you've joined all blocks, you have an already-quilted quilt top with batting attached, but no backing.  Make or purchase a backing as usual.  Tape it to your floor with wrong side up.  Then, lay your quilted quilt top on the batting, right side up.

Quilt-as-you-go Finishing tutorial

Baste the two layers together with basting spray or pins.  I usually use basting spray for my quilts, but with quilt-as-you-go, pins may be better.  The quilted top is heavy and doesn't seem to spray baste as securely as a typical quilt sandwich.   If using pins, only pin along the block seams, as you will only be quilting or tying along the block seams (not within the already-quilted blocks).

Step 4:  Quilt or Tie

The entire goal of this step is to securely attach the quilted top to your backing.  It doesn't take much!  Just quilt along the seams that joined the blocks to each other OR consider tying the quilt for a machine-free finish.

On a typical quilt (not quilt-as-you-go) the goal of quilting is to reinforce the patchwork, evenly attach batting to the patchwork and attach the three layers.  When you quilted your blocks, you already reinforced the patchwork and evenly attached the batting to prevent shifting or bunching over years of use.  As I said, the only goal of this step is to attach that backing.

Ziggy Zaggy

On my Bottled Rainbows quilt I machine sewed a zigzag stitch over block seams to attach the quilted top to the back.  A zigzag stitch is very forgiving (hard to make it look crooked!) and it will flatten the slight bulk of the pressed open batting seams, practically removing all trace of the batting-in-seams approach.

Quilt-as-you-go Finishing tutorial

For my current project, I've opted to tie to attach the backing.  I'm tying at each corner of each block with rusty orange thread for a fun contrast.  When tying be sure to use a heavy duty, durable thread.  Consider a triple square knot for a secure tie.

Step 5:  Bind to Finish

After attaching the backing to your quilt, either with minimal machine quilting or tying, trim the excess backing around the edges and bind to finish your work!  You can opt for any binding method you prefer.  If you're looking for another easy, user-friendly approach, consider my Zigzag Binding tutorial below.

Helpful Links:

{Tutorial} Quilt-as-You-Go Log Cabins

(Tutorial} Zigzag Quilt Binding

{Quilt Along} Bottled Rainbows, a quilt-as-you-go scrap quilt

I should have my current project finished and ready to share next week.  Until then, let me know if you have any questions about this process!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wide Backing giveaway!

blocks, blocks, blocks

Today I am ready to assemble the quilt-as-you-go blocks that are my current work in progress.  After some no-fuss machine sewing, I'll baste the twin-sized quilt top to a large, one-piece backing from Connecting Threads.  (You know... the one I forgot to use last time!)

beginning Blue

I'll be documenting the finishing process today and tomorrow so I can share it as a tutorial for you.  I think that'll be ready to go live tomorrow!  Meanwhile, I wonder if you have a quilt top (or two or three) in need of a backing?  How about an extra-wide backing that requires not a single bit of sewing or cutting?

Yeah, I thought you'd be interested!

I love using "wide backings" for bed quilts especially.  Not only are bed quilts somewhat unwieldy, their backings tend to be unappreciated.  Why go to work piecing a fun backing if it's destined to be hidden on a bed?  After sewing all the many, many blocks needed for a full, twin, queen or king quilt, I'm all about a quicker finish.  So, wide backings it is!

Check out Connecting Threads' large selection of affordable wide yardage here.  Our winner will receive 2.5 yards of her choice in continuous wide yardage!  This prize ships everywhere that Connecting Threads currently ships:  United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia.

To enter, add your comment to this post now through noon (eastern time) on Friday, August 26th.  Tell us in your comment which extra-wide fabric you'd choose.  Be sure to include your email so I can contact you if you win!

Good luck!

******************Comments Closed*********************

Congrats to Suzanne, who wrote comment #5. Mr. Random has chosen you! I'll be in touch via email to arrange your prize. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Scrap Sewing

Care for a little scrap sewing?  My summertime students at Patchwork from Scrap are just finishing up the premiere version of my latest class, and registration for the fall version will open next Monday (the 29th).  I'm tweaking a few things based on their feedback, including adding an extra week for students to work on their quilts before presenting the crumb scraps projects.

Patchwork from scrap

Based on their comments, it seems to have been a helpful experience for many:
Thank you for a fun and useful class! My scraps were a hot mess and I always had trouble deciding on what I should keep. I think I still keep more than I will probably use, but I am keeping less overall and that makes me feel good. :) I also have a good place to put them...while I don't have the space to really separate by color, I can at least separate the scrap by type and that is a huge help! I also had the time to make a couple of projects from the class, which I almost never do...I think favorite project was the Sprout Mini.  - Jeanne
I'm thinking of all these great projects as Christmas gifts this year. I'm on a self-imposed tight budget and handmade gifts is way more fun than buying stuff anyway. Besides, I have all the scraps already! - Steph
Sprout mini quilt {project}
Thank you for this terrific class, Rachel! The biggest surprise to me came from seeing my scraps anew when I sorted according to type (and by warm or cool) instead of by color. And to think I almost skipped this step because I thought the color sorting I'd previously done was pretty nice already! Taking the first two weeks to think about, sort, and organize scraps was a great way to start this class, even though I, like many others, I'd guess, was itching to start sewing. Thank you for laying a strong foundation before we headed into the fun projects. The projects themselves are excellent, and I again appreciated your attention to detail in the instructions... I made a pixel pillow and a ticker tape bag, and I have in progress.... I hope to once again join you in some future class!  - Anne
That was great to read through and also to watch the video.  Last week's info did motivate me to fold and organize my fabric... It feels great to be on the road to organization, and I must admit just going into my sewing area now has a different feel! So much better! - Stephanie
Separating by shape has made sorting my scraps DOABLE to my mind for the first time ever. I knocked it out in about an hour last weekend and now tackling these projects feels like something I can do! - MaryAnn
 Framed project

Today I've sent all students their permanent reference of Patchwork from Scrap, in the form of a 100+ page pdf document with linked table of contents.  Links throughout make it easy to navigate and help students access class videos too.  I always turn my classes into pdf digital books that include the complete class - all lessons and projects - for their personal sewing library.  It's my goal as a teacher to combine the motivation of a real-time class with the convenience of permanent access to information and projects, so students can always go back to make anything they didn't have time for during the live class.

Potholder project

If you are planning to join us this fall in the encore of Patchwork from Scrap, please tune in next week to register!  For the first week of registration, the fee is $55.00; afterwards, it is $65.00.  Class will run September 12th through October 20th.  You can take a peak at the detailed class description here.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Favorites from #30DaysofQuiltDesign

Are you stretching your creative muscles with the 30 Days of Quilt Design challenge?  Over the past weeks, I've logged 9 designs and will probably sketch #10 later today.  We have about 2.5 months left - that's so many days! - before the challenge deadline on October 31st, so there's nothing stopping you from joining in now!  Get all the details here.

30 Days Quilt Design challenge

I'm keeping it very low-pressure.  Some of my designs I end up feeling "meh" about, but I share them anyways.  It's more about the process:  sitting down with paper, pencil and eraser and seeing what happens.  Try it!  You might be surprised what comes out!  Others are using digital design programs and color.  The possibilities are wide open!

With over 350 entries in just two weeks, I have not been able to even look at all of the designs being posted.  Still, I want to share with you a few that especially caught my imagination.  All shared with permission:

A photo posted by Village Bound Modern Quilts (@villageboundny) on

A photo posted by Now what Puppilalla (@puppilalla) on

Even if you're not in Instagram, you can view all the designs via this link, #30DaysofQuiltDesign, right from your browser.

Gotham Quilts is sponsoring our challenge by handing out a $25 gift certificate to a random participant every two weeks.   Based on hashtag usage, I've drawn our randomn winner using Tint...


Congrats, Muriel!   We'll be in touch!  Thanks to Gotham Quilts for sharing the fabric and thanks to all of you for bravely sharing your designs.  It's been inspiring and just plain fun.  Hope to keep seeing you there!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

beginning Blue

Know what I did in a royal "pregnancy brain" moment?  I requested a backing for Twirly Top quilt from a sponsor, and while it was processing created a backing from my stash.  By the time I got the shipping confirmation email for the backing, I had already finished quilting!  It all happened within a few days.  Yep, there are no excuses for that...

Sometimes sponsors gift me fabric I request for very specific projects.  When they know I will be using the fabric promptly and linking to their website, it's a mutually beneficial trade. 

Unless I don't use the fabric? 

Yeah, that hasn't happened before.  No matter.  I can do better than apologize.  I'll start a new quilt!  And this time I'll use the backing Connecting Threads sent my way.  Pinky promise.

beginning Blue

My backing is "provincial blue" and could readily coordinate with lots of fabrics, but I've decided to work again with true blues:  bold cobalt, stormy skies, baby blue and cornflower.  I'm steering clear of aqua blues and fabrics with much in the way of other colors.  I've pulled solids and all my squares and chunk scraps that suit.

beginning Blue

Maybe because the palette is so classic, I landed on this traditional design.  My big 13" solid squares are cut in various shades of solid blue.  The checkerboard patchwork squares are cut 3". This quickly devovured all my true blue scraps and has started eating into my yardage... because I'm going big!  The backing is 104" wide and there's plenty for a twin or full sized quilt.  With the backing already ready, it just seems a bed quilt is in order.

beginning Blue

Not too far along I found myself yawning.  Traditional can be charming, but not terribly exciting.  To spice things up I've decided to make this one quilt-as-you-go.  I'm quilting the solid squares in different straight line textures, simple quilting through the block and one layer of batting (no backing yet).  Working on these small little canvases makes quilting a breeze!

beginning Blue

When I've finished piecing and quilting all the many, many blocks I need for this large quilt, I'll do a tutorial on how to finish a quilt-as-you-go number.  I frequently receive questions about that, so this is a perfect opportunity to clear the air.

Alright, there's more blue awaiting me.  Back soon!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Peach Perfect

My heart holds a tumble of emotions when it comes to our baby to be. I'm so pleased, so, so pleased for this second chance at growing our family.  And the girly part is a welcome twist of fate.  But also detachment (is there a real baby inside?), doubt (will we truly get to have her?), responsibility (to keep her safe), fear (about the flavor of our first few weeks) and jealousy (for Eleni's memory).  Everything that is sweet, is bittersweet.

How do you nurture a joyful anticipation under these circumstances?  To choose a name is to refuse detachment.  To create a nursery is to imagine a world in which baby comes home to discover her space.  A space where she enjoys the sensation of being rocked, smiles at the sight of a bunny lamp and makes use of the rug's padding when learning how to sit and crawl.  There is no reason I should deny these acts of faith.  I am trying.

Today I share my inspiration board for this little girl's nursery.  I adored Eleni's nursery, but want to make this one entirely different.  Because everything should be different.  This time we have non-neutral medium-peach walls, rich dusty teal velvet curtains and a southwestern-inspired rug.   I'll try to bring in whites and pastels through the accent items to keep things overall soft and peaceful.  But I'm not very good at peaceful!  I'm so easily captured by all the colors, patterns and pretties.

Peach Perfect nursery

No. 1  Sanela curtains  (Ikea)

No. 2  Bloom wall art (Land of Nod)

No. 3  Olunda butterfly picture (Ikea)

No. 4  Mint Wall Clock (Society6)

No. 5  Abracadabra bunny lamp (Land of Nod)

No. 6  Elkton end table (Target)

No. 7  Miniments in raw, All Paths in clear and Bed of Daisies all from Bobbie Lou's Fabric Factory for crib sheets

No. 8  Baxton Studio rocking chair (Wayfair)

No. 9  Sniglar crib (Ikea)

no. 10 Skinny laMinx Flower Bed, Cali Mod Ziggy and Tapestry Destination Aerial all from Fabricworm for changing covers

no. 11 Tiger Stripes canvas (Lark Cottons) and Les Fleurs Rosa Peach (The Loopy Ewe) for floor poufs

no. 12  Hemnes Dresser (Ikea)

no. 13 Mohave area rug (Target)

The crib and dresser are from our last nursery, and I've already stashed away the rug, curtains and rocking chair.  Although it will be months before there's an actual room available to put anything in, I think I should start making things now for the sake of my heart (and time constraints!).  First up are crib sheets.  My fabrics just arrived from Bobbie Lou's!
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