Monday, June 29, 2015

{Tutorial} simple Plus Blocks

simple Plus tutorial

I came back home after a busy therapy weekend to find these colorful plus blocks on my design wall.  When I am away and so preoccupied with Eleni I totally forget about normal home things.  Returning to this project is like receiving a gift!  I'm so enjoying the vivid Kona colors and also how quickly and simple this block goes together.  These little bites of color and scrap play nicely into the corners of my day.  Let me show you how to make your own...

simple Plus Blocks {tutorial}

Step 1:  Cutting

from background fabric cut
  • (4) 3.5" squares
  • (1) 1.5" x 5" strip
  • (2) 1.5" x 2.5" strips
from plus fabric cut (1) 2.5 strip.  Segment as 2.5" x 5" and 2.5" x 6.5".  


You can use directional prints for the plus fabric without any special modifications.  Just cut both plus fabric pieces from one 2.5" strip.  This is a great way to use up long, thin scraps!

Step 2:  Sew + Cut

In this tutorial we'll save time and energy by making one additional cut after sewing some pieces together.  Although this might seem counterintuitive, it actually increases accuracy and ensures that your directional fabrics will line up in the end!  Here goes...

First sew the 1.5" x 2.5" background pieces to either end of the 6.5" long plus piece.

Also sew the 1.5" x 5" background piece to the 5" long plus piece.


Next, cut the 5" wide segment in half, creating (2) 2.5" wide segments.  When you cut, match a horizontal ruler line to the already-sewn seam to ensure a perpendicular cut.


After cutting you'll have two pieces like this:


Step 3:  Assemble

Lay out your pieces in the plus block formation.


Sew 3.5" background squares to either side of each short plus segment.  Now your block is organized as 3 rows.


Join rows to complete your block!  It should measure 8.5" unfinished, for an 8" finished block.


And then, just press repeat.  Unlike interlocking plus quilts, this simple plus style takes no advance planning.  Make as many as you like!


And just see what comes to be...

Friday, June 26, 2015

books, books, books at Connecting Threads!

I've always loved books, so it's no surprise that I also love books about sewing.  I find myself studying them, trying new things  and returning to favorites again and again.  This week I noticed some features in Connecting Threads' book section that are super helpful when book shopping.  I asked them if we could do a little giveaway, and they agreed!  Here goes...

First of all, Connecting Thread stocks a massive selection - over 300 quilting and sewing books. Wowzers!  Really that would be too many if they didn't have some clever ways of simplifying the browsing experience.  Sure you can sort by New or by Best Sellers or even Most Searched Authors, but honestly those aren't going to get me to what I like any faster than searching on Amazon.  What I appreciate is the option to sort by Subject, so I can hone in on books about free motion quilting or find a good beginners book to gift to a friend.  Kudos to Connecting Threads for breaking down their selection into a bunch of very specific subjects!

favorite books at Connecting Threads {giveaway}
Stitch Love, Savor Each Stitch, Improvising Tradition, Modern Rainbow, Handmade Style, Cabin Fever

It took me just few moments to collect some books I like.  I'm sure you could do the same.  And then you'd wonder... is it really one I need to own?

For me buying or passing by a book comes down to how many of the projects I'd actually want to make.  Connecting Threads gets that and has a simple solution!  Click "view more images" at each book's item page to preview many of the projects.  It's way better than looking over the first few pages of the book on Amazon, at least for me, because you get to see a bunch of projects, not directions for how to make one.  I love this feature!  It's so much more like paging through the book in person.

Now before we do our giveaway I want to draw your attention especially to Modern Rainbow by Rebecca Bryan.  I received a complimentary copy of this book just prior to Eleni's birth and have been meaning to tell you about it ever since.  For someone who loves a vibrant, modern use of color, this book is absolute eye candy.  The cover quilt is my very most favorite, but several other projects have definitely caught my imagination.

Modern Rainbow 2

Modern Rainbow 3

My overriding thought as I've paged through Modern Rainbow over the past few months is that this is the book I would write, if I were to write a quilting book.  And now I don't have to; Rebecca did it beautifully!  She and I seem to make a lot of the same fabric and style choices.  Plus her way of explaining things makes total sense to me.  Basically, if you like my blog, I think you'll really like this book!


To celebrate their book-y excellence, Connecting Threads is giving away the book of your choice to one lucky reader.  Unfortunately they can only ship to the U.S. or Canada.  If you live internationally and choose to enter, you could always have your prize sent to a friend in U.S. or Canada, just because you're incredibly nice?  Sorry we couldn't do better.

To enter this giveaway, tell us which book you'd choose from Connecting Threads vast selection OR which quilting/sewing book you've been enjoying most lately.  Enter now through noon, eastern time, on Monday the 29th.  Don't forget to include your email if necessary.  Good luck, friends!

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

And our winner is #89, Kathie, who selected All Points Patchwork by Diane Gilleland!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sticks + Stones

Sticks + Stones for do. Good

Now aren't those cute?  These "sticks and stones" blocks are my contribution to the Love Circle's June bee quilt.

The Love circle is a group of 10 quilters which is part of a much bigger movement called do. Good Stitches.  All do. Good circles make collaborative quilts for good, benefiting a large variety of charities for women, children and those who are ill.  Last time I mentioned our need for new members, you certainly responded!  Our wait list is now filled up again.  I'll be contacting folks bit by bit as openings come up!

Anyhoo, the blocks.  This month one of our fab new members is leading her first do. Good quilt.  She called for a variation of the pick up sticks block, with a small square added in to the mix.  The squares were to be aqua, the background low volume and the "sticks" nice and bright.  These blocks are refreshingly low-pressure.  Here's a quick overview of how I put them together:

Sticks + Stones for do. Good

First sew an aqua "stone" into background fabric.  These stones were rescued from my fabric crumb bins.  Yay!

Sticks + Stones for do. Good

Choose two fabric strips or "sticks" to insert into the block.  Then, just cut a diagonal slash somewhere.  Yep, willy nilly - cut!  Sew in your fabric strip and press seams.  Then do it again, this time making your diagonal cut over the top of the first one.  When you sew in the second fabric strip, try to keep the first "stick" aligned as much as possible.

Sticks + Stones for do. Good

After using this slice and insert technique to insert both fabric strips, trim the block to size.  It's really nice to have a square ruler in the size you want and trim right around it.

Sticks + Stones for do. Good

Thanks, Kirianth, for a fun, scrap-friendly little project.  This block is a bit of visual tease.  It definitely looks harder than it is!  I'm sure it's going to make a fun, kid-friendly quilt!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Vignette Garden {a lattice quilt}

Vignette Garden {a lattice quilt}

Bright, joyous flowers and aqua over a tranquil lattice design - everything about this quilt turned out quite.... uplifting.  It's almost over-the-top happy; but then again, you can never be too happy.

Vignette Garden {a lattice quilt}

I started making this quilt for one person, but along the way I realized it's entirely perfect for another.  Laura Gunn's Vignette fabrics are just as vibrant and optimistic as this friend.   I can't wait to surprise her!  Quilts are such a wonderful way to show your gratitude.  I'm so lucky to have the chance to make them as part of my job!

Vignette Garden {a lattice quilt}

I know some wonder how I keep up with my sewing given... things.  Sometimes I wonder too and even wonder if I should be spending time here.  But, there are at least three reasons that keep me engaged.  1. It's my job and it pays some bills.  I'm so incredibly lucky to have a job that I actually enjoy and can do from home.  That's not something to drop when times are tough if at all possible.  2.  It keeps me creating.  Making time to nurture my soul with color and design seems wise.  3.  Why would I walk away from your friendship?  I want to keep giving, to keep being a part of our community.

Vignette Garden {a lattice quilt}

I do wonder how my work might mature and evolve as I learn to live with these new challenges.  I feel I've been floundering a bit when transitioning to new projects.  On the other hand, I've recognized a new loyalty to adding unexpected or broken elements to my work, like the simple aqua squares in this quilt that break up the lattice pattern.  I have always liked variations like that in other's quilts.  Now I think I'm remembering and reaching more often to add them in my own.

Vignette Garden {a lattice quilt}

Vignette Garden is free motion quilted with a lily pattern that runs in rows across the quilt.  It's bound in some Vignette scraps.  To make your own lattice-style quilt, see my tutorial.  This is a great pattern for a new quilter!  Don't be afraid to give it a go!

Happy quilting, friends.

Friday, June 19, 2015

gifts + goats

a Vignette quilt back

As tantalizing as my new plus quilt has proved to be, I still want to finish up the Vignette Lattice quilt so I don't get myself mired in a muck of works-in-progress.  You see, I already have two quilt tops sitting around...  Best not to add to it!

a Vignette quilt back

Since I'm not likely to mix the Vignette fabrics into my stash, I decided to make the quilt back out of my leftovers.  It'll be such an irresistibly cheerful quilt, front and back.  Certainly irresistible to these baby goats.  They're such curious creatures!  Nibble, nibble.

a Vignette quilt back

I've often thought about making a nice, symmetrical quilt back like this when I have leftover yardage.  Why did it take me this long?  Shows off the prints beautifully!

Posy Goat agrees.


Would you like to play with Laura Gunn's Vignette collection?

and some to share!

I have a thick pile of scraps I'd like to gift to you.  It's definitely enough to make a pillow, table runner or small quilt.  Maybe even a throw quilt if you have some other fabrics to contribute, like solids or batiks.  But do what you like!  Add your comment to this post to be entered to win, including your email address if it's not available through your Google profile.  I'll draw a random winner on Monday.  Good luck!


Comments closed!  I'm a little late, but I've chosen a winner this Tuesday morning.  It's #74, Annabelle.  I'll be in touch!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

plus, plus

Thanks for sharing links to your favorite dresden quilts in the comments of my last post.  It was fun to see what catches your eye!  But when it came down to it, I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't proceed confidently in any one direction with dresdens so I've opted to do something complete different.  I think you should always feel 100% "in" at the start of any quilt!

plus, plus

For an entire year this stack of "new" 2014 Kona Cotton colors has been lounging about, inviting some play.  They're approximately 1/3 yard cuts of mostly bright, summery shades.  I decided to combine that happy palette with scraps in the makings of a simple plus quilt.

plus, plus

Not interlocking pluses, just plain old plus blocks.   8" finished, 2" wide plus shapes.

plus, plus

Haaaaaahhhhhhh, I needed something this simple anyways.  Eleni's just home from a week long hospital stay, her second post-NICU hospitalization for respiratory issues.  Turns out she has obstructive apnea and some aspiration that combine to land us in the hospital.  I'm zonked, brain and bones. 

Here's to the healing properties of color, color.

Monday, June 15, 2015

*Inspiration* Dresdens

Let me start by saying that dresdens had to grow on me.  At first this classic quilt block was so. not. my. thing.  But, after I got more open-minded, I discovered that it's all about proportions.  Especially when used offset on a pillow, pouch or wall-hanging, as with this example by Nana Company, dresdens can absolutely steal my heart.

Lately I've been thinking about making a dresden plate quilt.  But exactly what do I want to make?  Today I set out to find inspiration on Flickr, Pinterest and some of my favorite blogs.

vintage quilts on aqua and on white

Some of my favorite dresden plate quilts are honest-to-goodness vintage quilts like these two above.  I'm rather surprised to be drawn to these, actually, since they're so soft and gentle.  Not exactly my go-to saturated style!  I like all the negative space in the aqua version and how both quilts used the same fabric for centers as for backgrounds, so that the dresden plates seem to float.  Both are scrappy too!

Vintage Dresden Quilt

Here's another genuine vintage quilt, owned and photographed by Jeni Baker of In Color Order.  Again I'm drawn to the scrappy look and also the larger centers.  This one used a bold color for all centers... something I could definitely get behind.

Today's modern quilters are also making dresdens, sometimes with a vintage flair, sometimes with more of a modern twist.  Here are three of my favorites.  The pillow by Gemma at Pretty Bobbins has great proportions.  I definitely prefer large centers on dresden blocks.  I could see a whole scrappy quilt unified by black centers...

The quilt at upper right is by Natalie at Greenleaf Goods.  I love that she created a pieced, low volume background for her dresdens.  She also used value as a statement in her fabric choices. 

And at bottom right is a quilt from Malka Dubrawsky's book Fresh Quilting.  Quite a departure from traditional dresden plates, these blocks are made with y-seams, entirely machine pieced and based on hexagons.  I actually have the book and have often lingered over this version...

For tutorials on how to make traditional dresden plate blocks, which are appliqued, see here and here

Where does this leave me?  I'm not sure.  Maybe a scrappy dresden block quilt made with large, dark centers on a pieced, colored background?  Maybe a gray background or a red one?  Or blue?  Best to wait until I hit on just the right vision!  I bet I'll know when that moment arrives.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

tending the trellis

Vignette Lattice quilt top

I know you feel it too - that drive to create and the exhilarating vitality that comes with a fresh start, a new solution, a completed project.  Life's difficulties can put a damper on those feelings, but still it does help, it really does help, to make time for fresh air, friends and creativity.

Vignette Lattice quilt top

Vignette Lattice quilt top

Last night I stayed awake an extra hour to quiet my mind by my sewing machine.  Today I am rewarded with a finished quilt top, a pretty garden trellis of flowers.  To make your own trellis quilt, check out my tutorial.  Be sure to take care to match and pin those seams when joining blocks.  It really is a nice pattern for new quilters!

Vignette Lattice quilt top

I started with a selection of Vignette fabrics by Laura Gunn for Michael Miller on a base of Kona Aqua.  Along the way I added some low volume prints to create lighter spots in the composition and a few dark olive pieces too, for contrast.  Since the original fabrics (Vignette) were mostly medium value, bright colors, adding in these light and dark values creates the kind of movement that I enjoy.

I'm pleased with how it turned out!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Flowers for Eleni

It arrived on Friday, a big squishy package from my dear friend, Jodi.  I knew what I'd find inside, and I got exactly this far, then stopped.

Flowers for Eleni from YOU ALL!

Over the weekend I waited for the right moment to open it.  To tell you the truth, I was scared.  I know these Flowers for Eleni are full of So Much Love, but they also bring me back to the initial, staggering loss.  I was afraid that having the quilt here would somehow hurt more.

Flowers for Eleni from YOU ALL!

On Sunday I went to church without Brandon and Eleni.  We've decided to start taking turns going to church with our big kids, because when we all go we find ourselves sitting in the back with the other parents with young babies.  It is too heartbreaking to see these other healthy babies the same age as Eleni right now.  And then Eleni misses her nap, and we're both distracted anyways.  
Anyways, I bring up the service because I learned something yesterday.  I am called not just to hope for Eleni's healing, but also to have faith that we can be happy even if she remains low functioning/severely affected.

Flowers for Eleni from YOU ALL!

Deep breath.

I really, really, really don't like that option, and I don't see how it's possible for me to be happy that way (let alone for her to be happy, for Brandon to be happy, for Aria and Liam to be happy...), but that's not the point.  It's like when Jesus called Peter out on the water, out of the boat in the midst of the storm.  Peter didn't know how to walk on water.  The boat was his only safety.  In the same way, I'm called to accept and hope for happiness even if my baby's not healed, even though I can't fathom how.  Although I can work like the dickens for her healing, if I'm to have freedom in my heart I need to be able to step out of the "boat" of her being well someday and start walking on water.

Flowers for Eleni from YOU ALL!

At church I was inspired and yielding to that idea.  Then I came home and saw her again and felt so much resistance - I so desperately want her to be well!  I know it's OK to want her to be well.  It's opening my heart to being OK if she isn't, that's so much harder.

Flowers for Eleni from YOU ALL!

On Sunday afternoon I gathered myself and slowly opened the quilt.  And I think it was just the right moment.  I realized that your quilt reminds me of how I must accept this painful part of my life.  I must look for the beauty in it, for the flowers, for the love that comes round the world and ultimately from the Father.  

Flowers for Eleni from YOU ALL!

It's beautifully done, front and back.  I am just starting to discover the special bits of quilting too.  My gratitude to each of you who sent flowers to Jodi in Australia.  I hear there is another flowers quilt - even bigger! - that might grace Eleni's bed someday.  One day, when she's older and I tell her from which these flowers grew, she'll understand why I sang this hymn to her so often in the NICU:

For the Beauty of the earth,
For the Glory of the skies,
For the Love that From Our Birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of Grateful Praise.

Thank you for surrounding us with love!

Flowers for Eleni from YOU ALL!

Friday, June 5, 2015

baby steps

Do you like to buckle down for a few hours to push through a project or to piece it together bit-by-bit in baby steps?

Me, I'm the buckle down type, preferring to have just one or two projects going at once.  Even so, lately I've been working in baby steps as things have been especially complicated with travel and appointments. I keep reminding myself that baby steps can move things along too!

a baby Kimono

I received this selection of Birch Organic knits about a week ago, along with the Modern Baby Set pattern by Green Bee, all from Fabricworm.  Yep, I was motivated by that Knit Challenge event!  The colors I chose are, from left:  sun, mid blue, shell, coral and grass.  The sun is duller than I would have expected and the grass brighter.  My favorite colors are the three in the middle, especially coral.

a baby Kimono

For my first project I am making the kimono top in coral with sun facings.  I cut all my pieces with a pinking blade used in my rotary cutter.   Since knits don't fray, this is my way of finishing the edges!  I'm using my trusty Kenmore to sew a "stretch" stitch with a ballpoint needle.  Worked a charm!  The seams are stretchy and didn't become a bit puckered or wavy.  Goes to show you don't need anything fancy to sew knits.

I found the Green Bee pattern instruction booklet pretty easy to follow.  Not quite as easy as Oliver & S or pdf patterns (with their extra pictures), but definitely doable.

sleepy model

I have to admit I'm concerned that the top is turning out too big.  I'd find out, but my model is totally sleeping in the job...  The pattern only provides one size, 0-3 months, but there is a lot of variations.  You could make an entire, all-season baby wardrobe with this pattern set!

a baby Kimono

All that's left is the very last step - topstitching the sun facings for a clean finish.  I've decided to hand stitch the facings down with pearl cotton size 8 thread.  I think the top could us some extra interest.

a baby Kimono

The facing go all the way around the neck, front openings and shirt hem.  Hmm... maybe a couple of rows of stitching would be just the thing! 

More baby steps...

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