Friday, October 31, 2014

do. Good News + Jack-a-lanterns

Breaking news... Are you a quilter for do. Good Stitches?  Please push to finish up those quilt tops and post pictures to our Flickr group.  Heather Grant is selecting finalists for the do. Good Stitches special exhibit at QuiltCon, and she's going to make her last selections on November 15th.  If your quilt is a finalist, I'll contact you to ask you to hold onto it for awhile.  Soon we'll vote to select quilts, from among the finalists, to represent us at QuiltCon.   Even a photo of  quilt top, not yet quilted, can be enough for finalist selection.  So, post those photos!

Also, we'll be Celebrating do. Good soon.  You'll want to have your quilts finished anyways for our year-end celebration!

Jackalanterns, jackalanterns

Boo!  Aria and Liam carve a mighty fine jack-a-lantern.  The more the merrier!   

Have a Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Party Pyramids

Thanks for your thoughtful responses on yesterday's post.  You brought up some pertinent new thoughts in the comments!  I so enjoy our conversations.  My husband is not nearly so interested in talking about fabric shopping ethics, haha!  Here's to the bright future of the sewing community!

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My online Angled class is wrapping up this week.  Tomorrow I'm posting directions at Angled for our last liberated quilt block, so it's not too much of a teaser to share the project itself today, in this public space.  I really, really enjoyed the fabric play of this quilt, so I had to share!

Pyramids project

My pyramids project was born from a desire to use this long sort of triangle.  It's actually a half equilateral triangle.  They dominate my triangle scraps, probably because the half square triangle kind are easier to use.

4

When I first mocked out the quilt, I almost went with with a warm Kona brown for my background.  But it bothered me just enough that I kept looking.  I'm so glad I had a pile of Everyday Party sitting around (I had won it in a giveaway from Fabricworm), because I'm sure I would never have thought to pull these playful novelty prints out for a background if it wasn't staring me in the face!

18

I arranged the blocks as I went, keeping on eye on color and value balance using my batting-covered design wall.  This thing is such a great tool!  However, as it just leans against my bookshelf (there's no wall space to attach it to), ever so often someone comes along and accidentally knocks it over.  And the fabrics scatter all over the floor.  Which is sad... or by turns quite maddening.  I guess I'm going to need a new method here soon with the baby coming.  Can you imagine?  Oh, the glee of making mama's fabrics rain to the floor!

Party Pyramids baby quilt

Party Pyramids baby quilt

I finished this baby quilt with a double border, both Everyday Party fabrics.  I'm still not sure that the borders were the best idea ever, but it works ok.

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Party Pyramids baby quilt

What I do love is this backing!  The adorable artwork combined with meandering loopy quilting gives this quilt such a happy, baby personality.  Kind of a vintage feel too, right?  Makes me smile.

Party Pyramids baby quilt

Party Pyramids is now washed, dried and rolled up, tucked away in my quilt cabinet until it finds a forever home.  I've listed it on Etsy today, should you know a baby who could use some pampering!

You can find Everyday Party by Emily Isabella at Fabricworm now.  It's an organic fabric collection produced by Birch and just perfect for little ones.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Online is Ethical too

I consider myself a part of the modern quilting industry... even though I don't attend market or write printed books or aspire to design fabric.  I make my own kind of small contribution as a teacher and blogger.  It's one that permits me to stay home, creating on my own terms and darn well enjoying it.  So, when several reputable online fabric shops decided to exit the fabric scene this fall,  I noticed.  And I wondered.

At the same time I often hear from readers and friends who are making plans to open new online fabric shops.  And indeed, there are so many, many shops to choose from already.  Perhaps the market is overcrowded?  Maybe it's cost-competing itself out of sustainability?  Or it could be that this much change is a normal, healthy status?

Kona love!

I don't know.  What I do know, from personal experience, is that retail is a hard, hard beast to tackle.  In any retail market there are lots of competitors, particularly when you're selling something that's not "your own" product, so anyone can carry it.  In lots of ways, the internet has made retail harder.  And, in the fabric world, I think we exasperate the challenge by implying it's better to shop a local fabric shop over one online.

There are definitely good reasons to shop locally.  I'm not saying there's not.  But I also think that online fabric shops bring important benefits.

no. 1  Selection  Because the overhead costs for an online shop are significantly lower than a physical one, these shops are able to stock larger ranges of fabric.  For example, not many physical shops can stock all the Kona colors.   Online shops are giving us access to the huge breath of art being printed on quilting cotton these days.  I'm thankful.

no. 2 Style  To survive, a physical shop must cater to the tastes of its local market.  If you have a very modern style, but live in a conservative area, your local shops probably offer little that excites or inspires you.  That's my situation.  If it weren't for online shops, I don't even think I'd be sewing.  Literally.  Online proprietors are much more free to buy fabrics that reflect their personal style, without equivocation.   There are shops online that match your style, my style... any style.  Online shops provide an environment that feels like home.  I'm inspired. 

no. 3  Convenience  There is definitely a convenience to visiting a physical shop, selecting fabric in person and going home with it.  Again, I'm not pretending that local shops aren't great in their own way.  But, there's a different type of convenience with online shops.  How else can I search out the right fabric during the in-between moments of my day, while baby is napping or I'm up at 3 am?  How else can I indulge in chocolate, pajamas and fabric all at the same time, at the end of a hard day?  I quite like not dragging the kids into a store, waiting on someone to cut my fabric and waiting again at the cash register.  I'd rather wait on a package in the mail while I go about living my  life.  That's just me.

no. 4  Collaboration  Have you benefited greatly from tutorials, inspiration and camaraderie that social media has brought to your crafty life?  Again, I might not be sewing and certainly wouldn't be quilting if it wasn't for this bloggy world.  Online fabric shops have been supporting our fun all along the way.  How many free online giveaways or fun mosaic challenges or friendly sewing competitions are sponsored by online stores?  Or, how many of your favorite bloggers are supported by those stores?  Yes, they are involved to drive traffic, but they're also involved to promote sewing.  Period.  They give again and again creating possibilities, and in so doing they collaborate with your creativity.  I believe we're all on the same team.

no. 5 Values  Many of us in the handmade movement value small business.  We love to support women hoping to make a creative living doing something they love.  We'd rather shop with a person than a scaled out corporation.  Folks, that's online stores.  They are almost always smaller than you think.  Most of my sponsors are one-woman shows.  Lots of them cut and ship fabric from their homes.   Even big stores like Pink Chalk or Sew Mama Sew (when it had fabric) have just 5-7 employees.   When you shop online, you're often supporting a woman, a mother, someone who originally was "just" sewing and decided to try to make her passion her job.  Shopping online is definitely not selling out.

If we value this set of benefits, we oughtn't feel shy about shopping online, and we oughtn't pressure others to shop local, if shopping local doesn't fit their lifestyle or their actual options.  Let's be loyal supporters of all independent quilt shops, whether brick-and-mortar physical shops or home-basement online stores.  Let's all be on the same quilty team.

the fabric warehouse at Pink Chalk Fabrics, photo by Kathy Mack from A New Direction blog post

Thanks, online shops, for all you bring to our community!

p.s. To hear more about the challenge of running an online fabric store, listen to this interview of Kathy Mack and Kristin Link at While She Naps.  That interview inspired me to share these ideas.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

farewell October

October is my busiest month.  Truly, every year.  Perhaps it's the ramp-up from the summer, with August, September and October each building on the last until we reach full, holiday speed.  I love October - the hints of fall and our anticipation of family traditions.  But, oh, how it gets me each time!

bee blocks for do. Good Stitches

Today I made October bee blocks for the Love circle of do. Good Stitches.  Thank goodness, Jacey asked for really simple stitch and flip triangles.  I sorted out my blue, green, orange and yellow triangle scraps from all the others,

bee blocks for do. Good Stitches

sewed them to opposite corners and finished the blocks up with a good trim.  So easy!  If there's anything I like as much as being a part of this do. Good team, it's using up some scraps each month.  And, if there's anything I like more than using up scraps, it's using up triangle scraps.  Wee!

bee blocks for do. Good Stitches
 
So that's one more thing crossed off my list!  I'm relieved it got done in October.

Only four months left now till baby is due.  Doesn't that seem like such little time?  I asked Brandon last night and he said it still feels like a good bit of time. 

That silly man.

Monday, October 27, 2014

fa la la!

Fair warning - I had a ton of fun with this project and there will be lots of pictures!

happy, happy quilted Stockings!

Ta da!  Happiest quilted stockings ever.

These were so easy and so fun and so quick, compared to all quilts I have been making.  I really had so much fun making them that I could just keep going.

happy, happy quilted Stockings!

If you're interested in making some like these, use the free pdf template from Sew Scrumptious.   Cut mirrored pieces for the front and the back of each stocking outer and the same for each stocking lining.  A small rotary cutter is nice for navigating those curves.

 happy, happy quilted Stockings!

I quilted both sides of my stockings, to make them strong and cozy.  It was a great chance to use batting scraps!  Mostly I followed patterns on the prints themselves, but I did free motion quilt the flowery stocking with a chrysanthemum pattern.

happy, happy quilted Stockings!

For variety, a couple of the stockings are patchworked before being cut out with the template.  This zigzag one is made up of half square triangles, each finishing 2" square.  It's my favorite (shhh, don't let on to the others)!  I also made one with 1.5" finished patchwork squares.  I was going to make a third patched stocking with diagonal stripes, but then this Cotton & Steel print one me over instead.

happy, happy quilted Stockings!

Once your outer stocking pieces and inner stocking pieces are prepared, sew each pair together right sides together.  Use a slightly more generous seam allowance with the lining pair, to make it easier to fit inside the finished stocking.  Cut one 8" x 12.75" cuff fabric for each stocking and follow Cluck, Cluck Sew's tutorial to attach.  My hanging loops were cut 2" x 8".

happy, happy quilted Stockings!

If you're lucky, you have reason to make lots!  Fabrics are Flea Market Fancy floral print with Clown Stripe cuff, misc. prints for the zigzag with Kona Melon cuff and Cotton & Steel Jean Jacket Dottie with Denyse Schmidt Hadley cuff

happy, happy quilted Stockings!

The back of each patchwork stocking is a solid print, both to save time and to make them reversible, should my friend prefer a simpler look.   The squares patchwork stocking is backed with Denyse Schmidt Hadley and cuffed with a great Botanics low-volume print.  The zigzag stocking is backed with a favorite Field Study print from Anna Maria Horner.

happy, happy quilted Stockings!

But Liam's favorite is this wintry one made in Cotton & Steel Netorious Cloud with a Birch Farm owls cuff.   The sparkly Cotton & Steel print is probably the most perfect thing in my stash for a Christmas stocking.  Even lent itself to pretty grid quilting!

happy, happy quilted Stockings!

So this is love, stocking love.  Is it Christmas time yet?  I just might start singing...


Friday, October 24, 2014

Dreaming Green with gumption

Do you ever get really, really frustrated when your sewing skills just don't measure up to the project at hand?  Grrr.  Yesterday was such a day.

quilting with Dream Green

But let's back up.  First off, one of my Angled Campers recommended a new kind of batting to me.  Although I'm perfectly happy with my go-to Warm & Natural batting, I opted to try Dream Green because it's made from recycled water bottles.   I'm using a throw sized package (60" x 60" piece) that saves 7 plastic bottles from the landfill.  That doesn't sound like a whole lot to me, but it's certainly better than nothing.  The batting was sent free, in exchange for my review, from Quilter's Dream company.

When I basted my Love in Starbright Stars quilt, I noticed that Dream Green feels just slightly thicker than Warm & Natural.  It's not flimsy and stretchy (like some low end battings), but felt pleasantly substantial under my hands.  Dream Green will probably be warmer than Warm & Natural since it's 100% polyester.  Generally I prefer cotton or other natural fibers for batting, because natural fibers are breathable and thus less sweaty.  But, again, I'm excited that this product recycles!  If you went all-in with a queen-size roll (94" x 30 yards), you'd save a whopping 200 bottles from the landfill.

Before I made my review, I wanted to do some free motion quilting on Dream Green batting.  Those starbright stars would look so pretty with echo star quilting, right?  Right.

This is where I get grouchy.

I've tried to free motion quilt straight lines before... and quickly abandoned ship in lieu of an easier plan.  When free motion quilting, you drop the feed dogs and guide the quilt under the needle by hand.  This allows for easy changes of direction without rotating a quilt, which is a must for a small-scale star echo pattern, like this one. 

 quilting with Dream Green

But gosh-golly-gee, I can't keep my lines straight!  I can't keep them straight, evenly spaced from the seam lines and I can't keep them straight even on their "own" true path.  Wobbles. Grumbles.  Grr.

After battling that first star, I decided to go back to all over straight lines with the feed dogs engaged.   I could just leave the lone quilted star, which would look cool "behind" the straight lines anyways.  And move on.

Only, it hit me that I'll never get better that way.  For me, it takes committing to a Real Quilt to improve my free motion quilting skills.  I'm just not going to spend hours on a practice piece.  I'm not!  This is a charity quilt, a beautiful charity quilt, with gorgeous fabrics and colors and interesting piecing.  So... if the quilting is a little wobbly, how many children would even notice?

quilting with Dream Green

Straight line free motion quilting is possible (or so I've heard).  I'll improve only if I try and try again.  Wish me luck!  And patience.  Here goes!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

62 days until....

Christmas.

And although I have done absolutely no gift shopping or making or even gift planning, for some reason that doesn't worry me one bit.  Maybe it should?  I'll think about that later.

Meanwhile, I am sneaking in a totally unnecessary project this week, but one that's been on my mind for almost a year.  I'm making Christmas stockings for a friend!  Just because.  And it's been so. much. fun.  Sometimes there's nothing better than making a project that's NOT on the list.  Even better when it'll make someone else smile too!

After browsing about, I've set out to make stockings that look like this or this.  It's a classic style with a cuff.  Since I don't have a similar stocking around to trace, I used the free stocking shape template from Sew Scrumptious; but otherwise I didn't particularly follow her pattern. 

quilted Christmas Stockings

My friend has an eclectic vintage thrifted look that I admire, but don't necessarily channel. So, with the help of some other friends, we commiserated on this collection of fabric. I'm going to use more fabrics than this, as some stockings are going to be pieced, but this sets a the general direction for my project.  Not surprisingly there's some Flea Market Fancy in there and several other Denyse Schmidt prints.  Look no farther than Denyse when you want something retro!

 quilted Christmas Stockings

Out comes my bucket of Warm & Natural batting scraps and away we go!

 quilted Christmas Stockings

I'm quilting both exteriors of the stocking. For the stocking linings, I'm using Essex linen/cotton blends.  My cuffs (which are cut 8" x 12.75" to fit this stocking template) are attached via Cluck, Cluck's tutorial.

quilted Christmas Stockings

The first one came together so quickly earlier this week, that I'm eager to make more.  Happy piles of fabric beckon!

quilted Christmas Stockings

Today I'm working on finishing my first patchworked version. 

quilted Christmas Stockings

Hopefully, this is going in the right direction!
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