Tuesday, April 30, 2013

and then there were three

My daughter turned 7 yesterday. I can hardly believe it! Since this was the year of the HUGE pillow at our house, I just had to make one for her, too. These things take longer to make than you would think (about a week!) but they are totally worth it.
My girl just LOVES purple. (Figures, doesn't it? It sure isn't my favorite.) Thankfully, I had this stack of Kona sitting around waiting for the perfect project. It wasn't too hard to cut into it because I knew it was just right for her pillow. I must confess, I felt like such a good mama picking her favorites rather than skewing things to my taste. Although working with solids isn't much of a stretch for me. :)
I cut the fat quarters into 4 1/2" squares and basically made 2 36" quilts (without binding). Then I added a zipper to the bottom of the panels and I turned it into a pillow. I made a huge 36" pillow form to stuff inside, so the stuffing wouldn't get caught in the zipper.
It was SO GREAT to see her blankey next to it this morning. I LOVE it that she loves it so much. (I do, too!) Yes, it takes up half her bed! Good thing she's still little. :)
For the quilting I stippled it, just to make each pillow a little more unique. That's more important to the kiddos than to me. Trust me, we've had many conversations about it!
And for scale...a photo of all three of the pillows on the couch. My kids just love them! And I sure love that they do!

Friday, April 26, 2013

tote bag

Welcome to finish it up Friday!
This is a VERY new finish...less than an hour since I sewed the final stitch. My LQS is holding a tote bag challenge and I was happy to join in. I'm excited to have a cute new (BIG) bag for all the quilt toting I do on a weekly basis. The fabric is Odds and Ends by Julie Comstock. I used a layer cake for the front and back panels, which yielded a lot of leftovers for the scrap bins! I used a few pieces from my stash for the handles and sides. I lined it with canvas to add stability and body to the bag. The weight turned out JUST right. I love it when that happens! It measures 20" square, approximately and it's about 6" deep. It's large enough to fit a few lap quilts inside. I'm excited to use it! It feels so good to have a finish to share today!

A bit of exciting news! It's been pretty quiet here on the blog, but that's because we are busy finalizing our moving plans. We have an offer on our house AND we found a house to buy in our new community! We are so thankful to God for answering our many prayers! He is so faithful! The transition is going to be fast and furious, but we are looking forward to finally moving and getting settled into a new place. So, my new project will holding down the fort during our final days here. It's going to be lots of fun! Lots to do, but lots to look forward to, too. I'm reminding myself to breathe. :)

Now it's your turn! Please link up your finishes for the week. And thank you so much for joining me for finish it up Friday! Have a good one!

Friday, April 19, 2013

bohemian garden quilt top

Welcome to finish it up Friday! Last week I had a great finishing week. This one has been quite the opposite! Not a finish in sight...just a whole lot of messes. I guess that's the way it goes. :)

I finished my bohemian garden quilt top last week, but never got around to sharing it yet. Many thanks to my friend Pam for naming this one. And many thanks to my friend Brianne for being my quilt holder and for pulling the fabric. The pieces are cut 4 1/2" x 12 1/2". I thought it was a nice size to showcase some of the larger prints.
I was intending to make a rail fence quilt, but when I was working on the lay out I just wasn't feeling it. When I placed them in columns, I liked it much better! So....columns it is. It's not uncommon for my quilts to change direction mid-stream. That's what keeps quilting interesting!

Hopefully you've had a better finishing week than I had. :) Please link up your finishes and thanks for joining me for finish it up Friday!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

sewing machine rundown

My main machine is my Juki TL-98Q. If you've read my blog for awhile, you probably already know this, but I LOVE MY JUKI! I'd become a spokesperson for them in a heartbeat if I had the chance. I've sewn on this machine for 6 1/2 years and it's like my right arm. There is so much to like about it. I like to sew fast and this machine does just that! At top speed it sews 1500 stitches per minute. The machine is mostly metal, so it's sturdy and a true work horse. Actually, it's kind of like the Energizer bunny. It keeps going and going and going. It weighs about 23 pounds, so it's not the most portable, but it's still manageable. I've flown with it and put it in an overhead compartment of an aircraft (several times). It took some upper body strength to wrestle it up and down, but I managed to do it without harming myself or any small children. (ha!) It's a straight stitch only-there is no zig zag. That's the one drawback, but definitely not a deal breaker. The auto cut feature is something that I turned up my nose at when I bought it, but now it's one of my favorite features. I MAY be a little spoiled by it. :) The first time I sat down to my machine I did some free motion quilting and it held the tension on both sides right out of the gate...no adjusting needed. Seriously impressive! I've free motion quilted MANY a quilt, and I rarely have tension issues. I can quilt FAST without the machine feeling like it's going to rattle off the table or rattle apart. It's not picky about the kind of thread I use, which is a huge plus, and it's got adapters for cone holders. All around, it's a simple, dependable machine.

In the past few years I have found it to be less dependable at straight line quilting. Layers shift more than they used to when doing straight line quilting. I haven't been able to get down to the bottom of WHY this happens...nor has my repair man. It's subtle at times and more pronounced at others. It bugs me! I have replaced my walking foot and it hasn't helped the problem. Maybe the machine is just tired? I don't blame it one bit. :) All that being said, I still use this machine with my walking foot to attach all my bindings to my quilts and it works well then. ????? I don't know what to think of all of that.

The TL-98Q model has been discontinued but has been replaced by a similar machine, which is the TL-2000QI.
Last November I bought a Janome Horizon Memory Craft 7700 QCP. It was kind of an extravagant purchase...but I broke down and bought it anyway. It's huge and a little bit flashy and I must confess that I love that red panel. This thing has more features than I could ever hope to use. It has a zig zag stitch, so I can piece batting to my heart's content. (My husband made a comment about how much batting I could buy at the price of this machine, but that's not really fair now, is it?) To be honest with you, I have just started to learn the ins and outs of this one. One of my favorite features so far is the built in even feed foot. This thing straight line quilts like a dream. (One instance aside.) I have used it to do a lot of honeycomb quilting, too, which is a nice alternative to straight line quilting or stippling. I'm planning to sew more clothes for my daughter (and hopefully me, too) so the zig zag and over lock stitches will come in handy for finishing seams when that time comes.

A few weekends ago I tried to free motion quilt on this machine and it didn't hold the tension on the back very well at all (think ladder stitches) so rather than mess with the settings, I just jumped on over to my Juki. Someday I plan to devote some time to figure out that piece.

I've found that I am using both machines for different purposes, but both with enough regularity that I "need" them both set up at the same time. And I think that's a good thing! Also, my husband was in full support of me buying my Janome, but he did reserve the right to give me a hard time about it. Typical!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

thread catcher winners and some stitch ripping

Thanks SO MUCH to everyone who entered my little giveaway and thank you so much to those of you who ordered the pattern. I can't wait to see what you guys make! The five winners are:
Please email me so I can send you a copy of the pattern!

Ironically enough, I've needed a thread catcher at my side today.....for not one, but two projects. Yes, two. Today.
After piecing this patchwork panel, I just slapped it on some batting and started quilting away. I SHOULD have known better. I jumped in with no basting and more importantly, no marking! I usually know better than to attempt to quilt a straight line on a 4" square by eyeballing it. A 2" square...maybe. It wasn't great. I hate ruining pretty fabric, so I ripped! Thankfully it's not a big piece.
I took a break from ripping the project above and started quilting this one. Somehow the combination of the batting (Hobbs 80/20) and the straight line stitching did NOT work out so well. I hate to ruin a quilt with crappy quilting, so I will rip. Then, rebaste. I can't decide which is worse....ripping or re-basting. I think it's a toss up. Don't you?

Here's to a better day of quilting tomorrow!

Monday, April 15, 2013

thread catcher pattern

Today I am super pleased to announce that my thread catcher PDF pattern is up for sale! It only took me since LAST January to work up the pattern. I'm speedy! :)
I designed this pattern out of necessity. I needed a cute little bag to catch all my snips and threads while working on my EPP stars. It's much better than what I was using....a folded over zip loc baggie. (For shame!) These thread catchers are definitely a few steps up from the baggie. They are designed to be soft, flexible, portable and collapsible.

Of course I couldn't just stop with a standard thread catcher...I had to play with options.
 I added interfacing to this version...
 and experimented with ticking, which worked very well....
I also made some with linen and patchwork...a no fail combination!
Oh! I almost forgot the patchwork version! It was made with a mini charm pack...also known as candy. It's hard to see in the photo, but this one is quilted, too!

I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite. I love them all. The pattern just happens to include instructions for all these options. :)

My friend Pam, who pattern tested for me made these cute ones....
she added ric rac....
she added a cute button....
and she substituted a fussy cut strip of fabric instead of the strip of patchwork. SO many fun ideas!

They finish at about 4"W x 3.25"D x 4.5"H. The pattern is available for purchase here, but seriously, no pressure! :)

Important details:
The pattern is a PDF file only-no paper patterns are available at this time. Orders are usually sent to you within 24 hours, often much sooner. The PDF file will be sent to your pay pal email address. (Please make sure that it is current.) If you have not received the file, be sure to check your spam/bulk mail folder.

Terms of use:
Please use this pattern for personal use only. Feel free to make as many as you wish for yourself or your quilty friends. They also happen to make great little gift baskets. I would suggest using them for chocolate holders for your non-quilty friends. :)

I thought it would be fun to celebrate the pattern release by giving away 5 copies of the pattern. If you would like to have your name thrown into the hat, please leave me a comment. I'd love to hear what you are working on today. I'll pick a winner sometime tomorrow.

Happy Monday to you! And happy tax day (ha!) to those of you in the US!

Friday, April 12, 2013

many finishes

Welcome to finish it up Friday! This has been a great finish week for me! And...I don't think I started a single new project either. I've had a banner week!

Last Saturday I spent most of my free time quilting. I was able to get two charity quilts finished-in one day! That felt great.
This quilt top was done and the back was already pieced, so it came together pretty quickly. The top is made from 5" (cut) squares. 
I stippled the entire thing with pink thread and machine bound it using a bright pink polka dot. (It's hard to go wrong with either of those choices, if you ask me!) These fabrics are SO sweet! It's been too long since I made a baby girl quilt and I really enjoyed working on it.
 The backing is pieced flannel. I love this side, too! It finishes at about 40.5" x 49.5".
Heather had stippled this one and then passed it along to me so I could bind it. Machine binding made quick work of it....and I have to say, tag team quilting is a BEAUTIFUL thing.
This one has a pieced back as well. For this one we used my Easy As Pie tutorial. It's a great stash buster! Plus, it's SO quick and versatile. It finishes at 58" x 70".

And...one more finish for the week.
Yes, I realize it IS April, but I finished knitting this scarf yesterday. It's still cold and snowy here, so I even had the chance to wear it already. I used 2 skeins of worsted weight Spud and Chloe yarn. (LOVE that yarn!) The pattern is called the mistake stitch scarf. I used size 10 needles and cast on 31 stitches. I LOVE this scarf and I'm sure I will wear it a ton. Can I just say?....Hurray for AQUA!!! :)
Now it's your turn to share your finishes. THANK YOU for joining me for finish it up Friday! It's always a pleasure to have you join the party. Happy Friday to you!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

studio follow up

Thanks so much for all the kind comments on my studio! It was fun to read through them. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and thanks for being gentle.

I thought I'd cover a few questions that came up....
Someone asked to see the pillow that was on the wall. Here it is in all it's scrappiness! This project came about when a friend that was visiting me asked about my Go! baby. I pulled out the little machine (which I don't use very often at all) and we played with it for a bit. Before I knew it, I had a new WIP. That seems to happen a lot in my house! Ha! The silver lining is that I used a bag of scraps from my washtub. That felt great!
I finished the pillow with an envelope closure using this lovely floral fabric. It's so crisp and pretty and springy!!!
I think I am becoming a pillow-er. (I believe Tara coined that phrase and I love it!) It's fun to play with patchwork on a small scale, it's nice to have a quick finish, and it's super nice to have a new pillow to brighten up my couch! The patchwork squares are 2" finished. BIG shock there, I know! The pillow finishes at about 20" square.

I had a few questions on fabric folding. I've been using this method off and on (mostly on) for years. I love it because it's easy, tidy and no special gear is required.
Take a 6" x 24" ruler and fold the fabric around the ruler. In this photo the selvages are at the top and the fold of the fabric is at the bottom. Gently slide the ruler out of the fabric. (Make sure that the raw edges end up somewhere in the middle of the piece, not on an edge, so they will become fully enclosed in the next step.)
 Fold each end toward the middle.
Fold in half again. All the raw edges are tucked inside so the pile will be super neat and tidy. Isn't that slick? Fat quarters can be folded in the same manner. So can smaller pieces, but if the fabric doesn't wrap all the way around the ruler, I throw it in the scrap bin. That's the rule.

Just a few more things on the studio space...yes, I will miss the space when we move. How could I not? It's been a wonderful, albeit temporary, location to sew in. I am so very thankful for a dedicated sewing space. I know that I am very blessed! And of course it's not always that clean. Sewing is messy work! We all know that. :)

Glad to hear that there is interest in the sewing machine post. I'll try to write up the pros and cons of my machines. Soon.

One more thing! I am planning on updating my FAQ page. It is so out of date. If you would like to ask a question, I'll try to work it in, so ask away! It will help me out. Thanks!

Monday, April 08, 2013

my studio

Today I'm going to give you a little tour of my studio....also known as my basement. We have been having lots of house showings, so we have to keep things pretty clean. It's not fun, but we are ALL getting good at cleaning. My kids included!
My craft area is not exempt from the constant cleaning. I took these photos today without tidying! It has never been cleaner...or larger, for that matter. My husband may or may not be giving me grief for the sprawl that is happening... :)  Oh! I should mention the tile floor. It's where I baste all my quilts. It's handy to have a built-in grid on the floor. It allows me to line up quilt fronts and pieced backs easily. Almost effortlessly!
Over spring break I spent some time folding my stash neatly. It was a great time to take stock of what I had and organize it. The colored bins on the top shelf are full of scraps. (The pattern for the boxes can be found in Sunday Morning Quilts.) There is plenty of depth on the shelves for books AND fabric. Sweet! I love dual function.
It was no surprise that pink and aqua are nearly tied for the tallest stacks. I have a lot of pink and aqua in my world, and my fabric stash is no exception! Look at that pitiful stack in the middle...I'm not sure if you can tell-it's purple and brown combined.
Lots of light fabrics...I could make another low volume quilt or two. The red is under control only because I use it ALL. the. Time. Not much orange, either, because I keep using it faster than I can stash it.
These stacks aren't allowed to mingle. I've got Sherbet Pips, and Ruby on the right. Chicopee and Flea Market Fancy in the middle. Batiks and a few solids on the left. (Yes! I have batiks!)
These are fabric pulls that I've done in the past and just can't break up. SOMEday I will have time to get to these.
I've been sewing on a 6' banquet table. It's not the prettiest, but it is so nice to have both machines set up all the time. I've been using both machines with regularity. Someday I'll have to do a run down on the strengths of each machine. I think that could be an entire post.
Here's my little computer station, complete with a pillow on the wall. (What? You don't store pillows on the wall at your house???)
Here's my cutting station, ironing stuff (which travels all over the room, as needed) and then my buffet. I've NEVER had the top cleaned off. It's hard to not pile crap on there. I'm still loving my thread storage! I bought the shelf at a thrift store a few years ago. It's quite handy and quite full! I love having every color of thread on hand. And notice the quilt overflow under the table. I don't quite know where else to stash quilts anymore. (The problems I have...I know....)

Here's where it gets embarrassing....
.....my closet. Ugh. I think I need to take a closet cleaning course. I can get organized to a point and this is the rest of the story. It makes me cringe. But then again, it's a closet, right? There is a lot of fabric stashed in there...pre-cuts, flat folds, stacks for charity quilts, and other misc stacks. Batting scraps, walnut shells, interfacing, vintage fabric, WIP's...what have you!

And my one last dirty little secret....
....my washtub. I've been considering blogging about this for a year or more. Maybe if I "out" myself, I can get working on it? :) I've completely filled it with zip loc bags full of scraps, each one representing a project. Last count I had 28 bags of goodies in there. I'm afraid I may have hit the point of no return in my scrap hoarding. Or else I can look at it as unlimited potential? Yeah, I think I'll go with the potential thing......

I hope you enjoyed the tour of my studio in it's current state. I'd love to hear what you think. (Please be gentle.) :)

I've dug back in my archives to show you what it used to look like.... Nov 2007. Jan 2008. July 2009. August 2011. Sept 2011. Jan 2012April 2012. Here's how it looked when I first moved downstairs last fall. It's good to see progress!

Happy Monday to you!

Saturday, April 06, 2013

good granola

I find it funny that almost every time someone blogs about granola, they claim that it is THE BEST granola ever. I'm not going to make that claim, but I will say that this IS a pretty dandy recipe. My husband says that it's a keeper, and I'd agree. It's adapted from the NY Times Olive Oil Granola recipe.
Here's my version:
4 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 cup chopped pistachios
1 cup shelled pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas)
3/4 cup dried fruit of your choice
1 egg white

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except egg white. Mix well. In a small bowl, beat egg white and pour over the granola mixture. Mix ingredients until evenly coated. Pour onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 45-50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until granola is golden brown. Let granola cool completely and then transfer to an air tight container.
I've been making a batch or two of this granola every few weeks for the last couple of months. My family loves it! It tastes great plain or in milk. Personally, I think it's best when you eat it out of a cute bowl on a handmade place mat. (Of course!)
You can substitute any kind of chopped nuts for the pistachios and pumpkin seeds. I've used cashews, almonds, and walnuts with great success. For the dried fruit I've used  raisins or chopped cherries. Basically whatever combination I have in my cupboard on that day. And it's all good. :)

If you try this recipe, I'd love to hear what you think!


The winner of S is for Stitch is Teresa! Thanks to all of you who entered to win. :)

Friday, April 05, 2013

it's all just fabric

Welcome to finish it up Friday! 
I made this wall hanging because I constantly need the reminder!!!
I usually have such a hard time cutting into fabric-especially making that first cut. I think that's why I am so enamored with scraps. I'd rather use something up than to start with something new. I'm working on it, though, because there is no shortage of fabric in this house. Ha ha ha ha!!!

I finished the binding on this piece just this morning. I love how it turned out!!! The letters are free pieced. Then, to make it more "me", I added the scrappy borders around the words. The aqua was a natural choice for the background. :) I machine quilted it with a 1" diagonal grid. (I LOVE crosshatch quilting!!! My Janome makes it super easy!) I finished it off with a scrappy binding. Why not, right?

I am looking forward to the day (whenever that may be) that I get to hang it in my new studio. What a happy day that will be!

It measures 36" x 42".

Now it's your turn! Do you have a finish to share? If so, please link up. Thanks for joining me for finish it up Friday!

Monday, April 01, 2013

sunshine quilt top

I finished another quilt top today!
Inspiration: a quilt top my sister made.
Fabrics: Soho Solids by Timeless Treasures-purchased at my LQS.
Size: 60" x 84
Finished block size: 6".
Number of quilts in the quilting queue: 7 (Yikes!)

Happy April! And a very happy Monday to you, too!