Saturday, July 31, 2010

Stockings all in a Row

Here they are folks, all in a row. So fun to make. So much about COLOR!
All in a row

I think I saved making Brandon's for last because there were... well, rules. No flower prints, no extravagant "froo-froo" embroidery, only manly shades of green to be permitted. I did sneak in a few sparkly silver snowflakes, because the forest scene was just toooooo simple. Actually, I embroidered those while we watched a show together. He kept glancing back at my stitches with a funny look on his fact, so I stopped myself at three!
Last one... all done.

I was so relieved when the little loopy thing came together on the first try again. Apparently, I am learning folks! Oh, and I think my embroidery in the Dauphin script improved as time went by. Sometime I'm going to have to show you my first attempt at embroidering this script. I-yi-yi!
Embroidery in "Dauphin"

So that's it. Our patchwork Christmas stockings are done and packed away now for a few months, which gives me some time to figure out how I'm going to hang them over our mantle.

Color play.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New & New

I'm so glad to have a new handwork project.  This pretty gray skirt was stained this summer  when I geniusly wore it on our camping trip.  I'm using the Alabama Chanin reverse applique technique to give it a whole new look.  Just started...


In other shades of "new", I'm working on expanding do. Good Stitches to include all the many that would like to participate, as well as some new charities.  Today, I found Piecing Hope, which sends quilts to a Christian orphanage in Africa.  If you're interested in becoming a host of one of our charity circles, please let me know!  Charity suggestions welcome - especially from members and members-to-be!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stitch Your Life: How to Care for your Fabric

One happy day... your new fabric arrives!  Love, love, love!!!  You admire it in stacks, unfolded, then folded again.  Oh, are you putting it away now?  Already?  WAIT!

Prewash First.
If you don't prewash now, how will you ever remember which fabrics in your fabric stash are washed, and which aren't?

I used to prewash before each project. Oh, how annoying! I'd be all jived about starting something new, only to find myself in prewash slow-motion. And then there were those times I forgot to prewash. Problems! I also used to rationalize that some projects don't require prewashing, which is true. If you'll only handwash your project, a machine wash and dry is not necessary. But, then the scraps from that project won't be prewashed. If you use them along with other scraps, project #2 is going to shrink very oddly. So, save yourself the brain power and prewash before ever putting your new fabric away!

(P.S. prewashing removes yucky chemicals from the manufacturing process, so it's always doing some good, regardless).

How I Prewash
First I prep my fabrics by unfolding them and placing them in separate delicate bags. The bags prevent the fabrics from tangling with each other when the edges start to unravel in the wash. If you just throw 5 cuts of fabric in the machine together with no prep, you'll spend quite a while cutting all the threads and then longer mourning the loss of so much fabric edge. Sometimes I have to double up, placing 2 cuts in 1 delicate bag. Doubling up is OK, but anymore than that causes madness.


By the way, I tried preventing the unraveling edge tangle by clipping the corners of each fabric cut. That didn't do squat for me. I've also heard of cutting each edge with pinking shears. I think this would work very well, but it'd be time-consuming for sure. I don't even have a nice pair of pinking shears...

Next, I wash my fabrics on "light" with a little detergent. The detergent will help lift the manufacturing chemicals. I wash on cold, because I'm determined to never wash something I've made on hot. If you know you'll be washing projects on hot, you need to prewash in hot water. Hot water is more likely to cause color bleeding, so use a color catcher to protect your fabric purchase.

Then, machine dry until almost dry.  Nope, you can't hang dry because it's the machine drying that will cause shrinkage.  You want to make the fabric shrink now, not later.  I like to remove my fabrics from the delicate bag and put them back in the drier for 15 more minutes. This releases creases that are otherwise quite hard to iron out.  Iron your fabric asap and while it's still just slightly damp so that those creases don't get heat set in the dryer!

Clipping & savings

Confession - I save my unravelled threads.  They're so soft and spongy and pretty!  My daughter occasionally wants stuffing for her sewing projects.  This'll be perfect.  Besides, I feel better not throwing it away.

Fold & Store
Folding - so obvious. But, what I want to suggest here is that you choose a particular folding style and stick to it. Every fabric store seems to fold and ship fabric differently. If you want your fabric to store nicely in the cabinet (which you so totally do, right?) you need to be consistent. Some people use a quilting ruler to fold with, as a template. I simply eyeball it, knowing the shape I aim to achieve.

Do you think he's helping?

Store your fabric somewhere out of the light and protected from dust. A cabinet or drawer is ideal. Make sure you peak in at it often to check that it's happy ;0). Arrange and rearrange to achieve optimal viewing pleasure.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hand Quilting & Sunshine

Oh my, how I've enjoyed hand quilting Aria's Fairytale Patchwork quilt!  The entire process has been so relaxing and satisfying, especially experimenting with different quilting patterns.  Here are a few new ones.

Quilted Diamonds

This pattern, quilted diamonds, ended up being my favorite style for quilting on the Princess and the Pea blocks.  It looks especially nice on this Diamond Mine (from Anna Maria Horner's Little Folks collection) block, which actually inspired the quilting pattern.

Quilted Star

Here's another fun one.  I only used this star pattern on a few unicorn blocks, as I came to the idea a bit late in the game.  I like how it works with the layout of the print!

Quilted Frame

And, a simple pattern.  It creates a clean-lined, understated effect that works on almost any block.

I've been asked how long the hand quilting takes.  Let me start by saying that 95% of the time, I was stitching while watching a show with my husband.  So, given frequent breaks to watch the screen and an overall level of comfortable distraction, each block took me about 45 minutes to complete.  I would begin a block by marking my stitch lines with a chaco pen, and then carefully centering the block in my quilting frame.   On the few occasions that I stitched sans TV, the work came along much faster.

I have now completed all 26 blocks.   The overall effect is fairly random, since I varied the quilting patterns enough so that no 2 touching blocks share the same pattern.  So, now, at last the quilt is finished.  And, for some reason that makes me sad.  I think I'll just so miss the hand quilting!  How can I watch Alias empty-handed?  It just won't be the same.  I definitely need a new handwork project.

Although this quilt is a gift from my  mother and I for Aria's November birthday, we've agreed to give it to her now.  She'll be so excited!  I'm dreaming of making a pillowcase from extra fabric scraps for a  birthday surprise.  Shhhhh!


Today at home.

Today at home



And, a new book to read, thanks to my sweet mother in law.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Nailed it.

Last night I finished another patchwork Christmas stocking.  Here's the little gingerbread boy.

Liam's stocking

And, drumroll please...., when I sewed the little hangy loopy thing, I got it right the FIRST time.  Oh, yes, it's the little things :).

stockings threeOne more to do and we'll be complete.

But, tonight I don't feel like sewing.  I feel like reading.  I browsed at the library for at least 30 minutes today trying to find the right book.  Nothing.  Now, after doing some looking online, I have 2 good ones on request.

So, I guess it's the couch for me tonight.  I'll be posting an update on the hand quilting soon!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

For do. Good Stiches - Round 1

I am so glad that our first round of charity quilt-making with do. Good Stitches is finally here!  I started the Flickr group in June, and was thrilled to see so many kindred spirits join up to do some good.  Because of summer travel plans, we decided to wait out July and make our first quilt this August.  I've been chomping at the bit to start!

{If you find yourself wishing you had joined in time, don't hesitate to contact me!  I'm making a list for do. Good Stitches Too, a second group I expect to launch this fall.}
Piecing in Aqua & Red

So, without further ado, let me tell you what we'll be making!  This first month, I am quilting.  I settled on a Red & Aqua Sampler Quilt.  The concept is simple:  each bee member will make 2 blocks in aqua and red.  But not just any 2 blocks!  The blocks must be made in the same block style (log cabin, square in square, flying geese, etc) and the block style must be a straight, non-wonky design.  So, block styles with rectangles, triangles and squares are perfect.  Blocks incorporating curves and irregular (ie wonky) cuts are out.  I imagine that this sampler style will allow the completed quilt to feel harmonious, even though each member is sewing with her own fabrics, which will obviously vary quite a lot!
do. Good Stitches - Round 1

Completed 12" blocks are to be mailed to the quilter (that's me) by August 31st.  But I hope folks send them in early, because I can't wait to start putting this together!  I'm committed to finish the quilt by the end of September, when I'll mail it to Wrap Them in Love.  From there the quilt will make it’s way to a child in need of warmth and love!

Here are my finished blocks for round 1.
Red & Aqua Sampler Quilt blocks

The cycle begins anew in September, when our next quilter will launch a new quilt.  Yah!  By the way, there are two levels of bee membership, which you can read about here.   If you want to help by making blocks, but aren't prepared to finish a quilt, you can sign on as a "stitcher" only when we launch the next charity bee!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gingerbread Boy

Mama (that's me):  "Look, Liam, I'm sewing this gingerbread man for your Christmas stocking."

Gingerbread boy

{Happy Pause...  I start to round the first leg}

Liam:  "Mama, is that a boy or a girl?"

Mama:  "It's a boy."

Liam (concerned):  "You're sewing through his private parts?"

Mama: "......?"

Liam (laughing):  "Mommy, you're sewing his private parts!!!"

Mama:  "I don't think gingerbread boys have private parts."

Liam and Aria in unison:  "Yes, they DO!"

Really, what do you say?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Oh, I so wish you could have been here last night!  A group of 8 super fun ladies met at my house for a crafty social of sorts.  Cookies + Crafts + Friends = a Perfect Night! 

Sewing Bits & Pieces

So, what did we do?  Fabric gift tags - an easy, instant-gratification project from Sandi Henderson's Sewing Bits and Pieces.

Fabric Gift Tags

Following Sandi's instructions, we layered cardstock, then plastic wrap, then fabric and used a dry iron set on high to melt them together.  Once fused, simply cut into desired tag shapes, add decorative stitches and finish with a scrapbooking brad (also called an eyelet).  To use, write any message on the cardstock side of the tag.  The eyelet is for tying the tag to your gift.

Although we used 2 different types of plastic wrap, we couldn't seem to make a permanent fuse.  So, it turns out that the decorative stitching was more necessary than optional.  That's ok, it got some of our no-sew ladies a bit more friendly with the sewing machine!  Hand stitching with embroidery floss was a very nice option too.  If I were to do this project again, I'd buy a product designed to fuse, rather than using the plastic wrap.

some of my gift tags

Here are a few of mine.  I was going mostly for Christmas tags, since that seems to be a theme with me lately.  This fabric is one I received in a Holiday Scrap Pack from Sew Love Fabrics.  With all the fun graphics, it was perfect for tag-making, don't you think?

a little Anna Maria Horner love

Check out these tags made by my friend Hannah!  She blew us away with her creativity and productivity.  I think she made like 20 tags!  And more than half of them were from my scraps of Anna Maria Horner's Good Folks collection.  Kindred spirits, Hannah and I.  Anyhoo, as the night wound down she broke out the colored thread and used every one of my machine's fun stitches to finish her tags with lots of personality.  I wish you could see them all.

Aaaah, good times!  Now I've got to keep my eye out for another easy project for crafty social take 2 sometime this fall.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

*Inspiration* Value Quilts

Today I discovered a common thread.  I've been loving quilts with a certain look... lots of color, contrast and an emerging design.  Turns out I love value quilts.

A value quilt is a design that plays on value - the lightness or darkness of a fabric, regardless of color.  Here's one of my favorite examples.  It's by Naptime Quilter:
values quilt top

Her quilt reminds me of my Colorbrick Quilt.  So much color and happiness!  But unlike Colorbrick, where I agonized about color placement for ages, a multi-colored value quilt usually goes together with little regard for color.  Basically, you separate your pieces into light and dark values and them piece them spontaneously, trusting the values to make the quilt shine.  Here are some more of my favorite value quilts in a smorgesboard of color.

I've also seen some beautiful value quilts that use color and value.  This one is stunning.  See how each block is one color in many shades (or two complimentary colors) with values from light to dark?  Amazing, right?!?

Streifenblöcke - Blocks of stripes

And here's a simple squares quilt, using half square triangles.  Jeni of In Color Order created her squares with mostly dark value warm colors set against mostly light value cool colors to create a lovely effect.  I think I'd like to see this done with all dark value warm colors vs. all light value cool colors.  Would it be more fabulous or less so because of the predictability?  Hmm....

DQS9 Top Finished!

Here are a few more value quilts where color is central to the design.

If you're feeling the value quilt love, you should check out the Sew Katie Did tutorial.  It looks like she inspired a whole run of value quilts!  Now, I just need an excuse to make one?  Or do I?

Yes, I do.  Well, Liam's birthday is in February....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Patchwork Christmas Stockings

Did you think I forgot about those Christmas stockings?  It's true I've spent more time hand quilting the Fairytale Patchwork quilt than doing any other sewing, but I have made progress on the stockings, here and there.  When last you saw, my first stocking looked like this:
Christmas Stocking in Progress

The next step was to embroider "Rachel" up top.  Making use of a light table, I traced a print out of my name in "Dauphin", one of my favorite fonts.  To embroider this font, which has irregular thickness, I switched between a back stitch and chain stitch as I followed each letter.
on July 4th

Such a portable project!  I worked on it on July 4th while waiting for dark.  But, um, I had to take out all those stitches because I'd done them in full strand embroidery floss.  Oops, gotta remember to separate those strands!  Anyways, here's the finished embroidery.
Stitching Up close

And, voila, my first finished patchwork Christmas Stocking!
First Finished Stocking

Now that I had done one, the next came more easily.    Here's Aria's done in lots of Tufted Tweets and a little Heather Ross, Far Far Away.
Finished #2!

Aria's been grumpy about my choice of fabrics for her stocking.  She doesn't understand why I'd use fabric with pictures of chairs and birds.  You should hear her go on about the birds so disparagingly.  Why not princesses and unicorns, mom?  Sheesh.  But, I won her heart with the embroidery.  Her eyes lit up just imagining presents with sparkly silver bows!
Sparkly Presents for girlie

When I was finished, she smiled and admired her stocking, but did point out that the purple wildflower fabric (a scrap from her Far Far Away quilt) is her favorite.

All in all these patchwork Christmas Stockings are a super-fun and relatively quick project.  After the embroidery work is done, I can put together the stocking in one evening.  I've used a piece of muslin as a base for the patchwork, which I sew on in horizontal strips after doing any piecing required.  Each stocking is backed in a solid color and finished with a little linen loop for hanging.
2 Down, 2 to go

But, darn those loops - they're the hardest part!  It took me 5 tries to get the first one sewn on and 4 tries on the second one.  It's amazing how many ways there are to mess up the orientation of that loop!  Several times I'd leave a little bit of the edge exposed on the right side of the seam.  I even sewed the loop inside the stocking the first time I tried!  On Aria's stocking, I sewed the loop on the wrong side of the stocking.  These are the moments when I wonder how I ever did so well in school.  But, now I have conquered two loops.  Hahahaha (evil chuckle). Wish me luck on the next two.

Two Quick Things

#1  If you've clicked over here from Rosie Girl Dreams, you can find my interview with her at my business blog,  Jeanine was way fun to chat with!

#2  I just noticed that today is the last day of Sew Love Fabrics' summer sale - Buy 3, get 1 Free on all sale items (there's over 100).  If you were planning on getting some goods, better hop to it!

I'll be back soon with a sewing update...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stitch Your Life: How to Buy Fabric

So, you have a sewing machine, a little help and some ideas... you're next step is to buy fabric!  Buying fabric is the most expensive part of sewing, so take it slow. Here are some ideas for new shoppers.

Concept First.
Before you shop, work to pin down some sort of concept.  Shopping freestyle is often wasteful.  Figure out a color concept - vivid jewel tones, soft vintagey pastels, lots of contrast or maybe two complimentary colors (blue/green or red/purple).  Imagine how you'd like the finished project to fit in your home.  Is it to be a stand-out piece or part of a cohesive whole?  Are you going for classic, nature-inspired, bold, artsy, ultra-feminine, what?  Unless you like the idea of investing in fabric that you may not use for years, don't buy without a concept in mind.

Watch for Scope & Color.
I'll admit that there's a place for buying fabric "just because."  But it can be tough to know which fabrics will be useful somehow and which will linger in your stash untouched.

My first fabric purchase was about a year ago.  Here are a few yards from that initial order that I've still not used.  Some of those prints are really large.   I didn't realize that large prints can be quite limiting.  Othertimes my cuts were too small for projects I eventually dreamed up.  Also I found that prints with a wide range of colors were less useful than more monochromatic prints.  For example, I've used Filigree in sooooo many projects, but this Alexander Henry Birdsong print has yet to find a home.

Smart Cuts.
How much should you buy?  Of course, the answer depends.  Assuming you do not know yardage requirements for your project, here are some general ideas.  A yard is a 36" cut along the length of the fabric bolt.  Most bolts are 44 or 45" wide.  So a yard is typically 36 x 44".  A half yard is 18 x 44" and a fat quarter is 18 x 22".  Fat quarters are awful tempting, but I don't really recommend them unless you need very small amounts (like scraps, really).  Remember, your fabric will shrink when you prewash and you could make a mistake when cutting or sewing.  When I buy prints, I generally like them enough to warrant a 1/2 yard, rather than messing with fat quarters.  Solids I buy in 1/2 to 1 yard increments and linen (my favorite neutral) I buy in 3-5 yard cuts.  Here are some examples as guidelines:

Fat Quarters:  patches on projects like this rug or my Christmas stockings; mini quilts; coasters, potholders.

1/2 Yards:  a child's top or skirt (just barely), backing for a pillow or apron, a purse, 5-6 half yards together will make a nice sized quilt top.

1 Yard:  a child's dress, a sleeveless women's top, a large purse.

2-3 Yards:  short curtains or valances, adult pajama pants, backing for a baby quilt or kitchen rug.

4-5 Yards:  backing for a nice sized quilt, floor length curtains.

When in doubt, buy a bigger cut and know that you can make good use of any extra!

Monday, July 12, 2010

On Point Apron Tutorial {and Giveaway}

Weeks ago I made this little apron tutorial for a friend's virtual baby shower.  She's due real soon, so my tutorial is posting today at Progressive Pioneer to give Amy some time to nest.  Woohoo!  I am so glad to get to share it with you at last!
By the barn

Do you like it?  I had sooooo much fun with this!  It was not long after I completed the square in square charity block for Rainbow Around the Block.  I just adore the multiple square in square style.  The way the squares form diamonds when set on point made them ideal for.... apron pockets.  Yes, of course!  This apron is designed with one large front pocket.  If you line dry your laundry, you'll LOVE this for clothespins.  So much nicer to have them on the body than anywhere else.  Bending, moving, everything - it's way more convenient!  And, hey, you'll look good too ;).
Apron in fig tree

You can find the tutorial at Progressive Pioneer, or download a pdf version from my Tutorials page.  This project is simple enough for a beginner, though things will go a lot quicker with a rotary cutter and mat.
Clothespin Apron Cutting

To enter the giveaway, just comment here.  New and current subscribers make a second comment for an extra chance to win.   You can subscribe by email or in a reader.  I'll pick a winner on Friday, July 16th!

P.S.  Fabrics used:  a stripe from Red Letter Day by Lizzie House, Cathedral and Fortune from Good Folks by Anna Maria Horner and Frog Prince from Far Far Away by Heather Ross.


And the winner is Rachel of LuSa Organics.  She said,  "So lovely! I would enjoy hanging out our clothes so much with this treasure."  I'm so glad.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

a Good Try

I've had this babydoll floral-print top for about 3 years now.  It's been a favorite, and I often get compliments when I wear it.  I put the top on earlier this week and took it off again.  Truthfully, I'm not loving the babydoll style anymore.  When I noticed a stain midway down the front, I gained the courage to toss it.  But, then I hesitated...  What if I could refashion it?


A few weeks ago I landed at Ruffles And Stuff, a beautiful, feminine blog full of fashion tutorials with a style akin to Anne Taylor Loft or Anthropologie.  Disney's work made up my mind that I would try sewing clothing again, but this time for ME!  Afterall, I know I'll appreciate all the work that goes into a project (remember that top that Aria couldn't like?).  Disney does many a refashion on Ruffles And Stuff.  My idea for this top is not actually from her blog, but I still feel that seeing her work gave me the freedom I needed to start thinking outside the box.

So, I grabbed a black racerback tank that doesn't get any wear (not bra friendly) and layered it under the floral print bodice.  After snipping off the babydoll body just under the empire line, I pinned it over the black tank like so.  Looks promising, right?


Sewing these knits took a bit of patience.  I found that lightening my presser foot pressure eliminated a wavy seam, which I've struggled with before with knits.  All in all, it was a very quick project (and one I actually did during the day!).  On trying the finished top on the first time, I realized that the tie backs had to go.  With the two-tone style the floral ties looked very odd - trust me.

Unfortunately, that's where this refashion went from "success" to "good try."  Take a look at these pics.  The one of the left (which I took myself, so please excuse the blur), shows how the bodice is supposed to fit.  The one on the right shows how it actually fits.  As I wear it the bodice creeps up, so that the empire line and ruffle hits at the fullest part of my cup.  Not the most attractive.  Apparently, those empire ties were holding the top down in the front, under my bust.  Oops.


So, now this top is destined for Goodwill.  I hope that it will fit someone else better!

A good try.  You live, you learn, right?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hand Quilting on Fairytale Patchwork

Has it really only been 4 days since I started hand quilting?  

Hand quilting - Princess Strips

My daughter's Fairytale Patchwork quilt has turned out to be an ideal First in hand quilting.  I'm using Anna Maria Horner's tutorial, "The Stitch" and her Q & A post "Anna Answers".   Turns out that one of the hardest things about hand-quilting is getting your stitches to look as nice on the back as they do on the front.  Since Aria's quilt is designed for her bed, the back of it will only be seen when hung on the line to dry!    I'm not giving myself much pressure to make the back look good.  I am paying attention to those stitches, but mostly as a way of working on my technique, you know?

Hand quilting - Diamond Mine

I've really enjoyed trying out different quilting patterns on different blocks.  Such freedom!  My first and possibly favorite block was this Diamond Mine block (Little Folks Voile by Anna Maria Horner).  I stitched a simple white running line in a diamond shape.

Hand quilting - Princess & the Frog

For this Princess & the Pea/Frog Prince block (Far Far Away by Heather Ross), I had dreamed up this criss-cross pattern along the seam lines. I didn't realize that hand quilting this design would be so difficult and time-consuming. It looks rather wonky from the back, with the x's bigger than they are on the front. Do you think it was worth it? I'm trying to decide if I should do another Princess block in this design. Would love to hear your ideas for alternative quilting designs on this style block!

Hand quilting - around the flowers

This block is Small Gathering from Anna Maria Horner's Good Folks collection (LOVE!).  I stitched some white lines around some of the yellow flowers, but it didn't "pop" as much as I had hoped for. I'm thinking of adding some pink stitching around a few more flowers. What do you think? One disadvantage of this pattern for hand quilting is all the starting and stopping of threads. It's stronger and faster to quilt a continuous line.

Hand quilting - along the stem

So, that's what I tried here, on a different Small Gathering block. I stitched along the stem line, which was quite fun. Do you think this is prettier than the flowers, or should I do it in addition to the flower outlines? Hmm....

Hand quilting - Dobby Dots

Here's my latest block. Oooh, I like how this one turned out. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best, right? I adore Anna Maria Horner's dobby dot line! The texture, the colors... swoon! This is the only shade I've had the pleasure of owning. And, sadly, they're getting scarce.

So, hand quilting = fun!  I'm glad to be serenely stitching on the couch while watching Alias with Hubby, rather than wrestling with this quilt at the sewing machine (and picking out countless stitches, no doubt). 

Looking forward to your ideas on these quilting patterns...
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