Tuesday, June 30, 2015

a personalized pillow

My daughter has a friend that celebrated her birthday last week. I wanted to make her friend a pillow (I've had it in mind for months!) and even though I didn't feel like I had the time to make it, I whipped it up anyway. It's amazing how much one can get done with a little bit of focus and a deadline.
A lot of these cute scraps came from my friend Mary. (Thanks Mary!!!) My daughter had picked them out and squirreled them away as her favorites. I couldn't think of a better project to use them for! I used a regular sized bed pillow for the form and added an envelope backing (similar to this) so the pillow cover is washable. An absolute must!
With a name like Mandara, I knew that personalized items are hard to come by, so I wanted to be sure to include her name somewhere on the project. I used my rustic embroidery skills (heh) to add her name to one patch. I like that it's included in the mix, but that it's not necessarily the focal point. When I was stressing over the lack of perfection, my husband reminded me that the recipient is 9, and not to worry about it. It's always good to have a voice of reason!
I'm happy to say that Mandara loved it! She and my daughter had fun looking at all the different fabrics and finding cute things to squeal over. It was delightful! It felt pretty good to be able to cross something off my list, too.

Monday, June 29, 2015

you inspire me to quilt winner

The winner of the hard copy of Cheryl's new book "you inspire me to quilt" is The Joyful Quilter.
The winner of the digital copy is Lisa from Canada. Congrats to both of you!
Many thanks to all of you who left such nice comments about my date stamp quilt. I appreciate each and every one!

Happy Monday to you!

Friday, June 26, 2015

deluxe pin cushion

Welcome to finish it up Friday!
This morning I made a deluxe pin cushion and I LOVE it so very much! The pattern is in the book Sew Organized for the Busy Girl by Heidi Staples. I have a feeling I will make at least 20 more of these pin cushions. For real!
For this version, I dug into my most precious scraps of Flea Market Fancy and Katie Jump Rope fabric. The sweet floral that I used for the body of the pin cushion is my absolute favorite fabric at the moment...I only had a fat quarter of it, but I used it anyway. I just love it!!!
Before I stuffed the pin cushion, I showed it to my daughter and we thought it would make a good sleeping bag for a small stuffed toy. She pulled out my little My Melody doll and we tried it out. Oh, my goodness!!! We squealed at the cuteness for a good long time. My boys were a little dubious, but they were also half smiling. (I love that!)

I mean, c'mon! The cuteness! I think I might be 9 years old inside. :) Also, I think I will be sewing up another one for a sleeping bag this afternoon!

Now it's your turn! Please link up your finishes for the week. Thanks for joining me for finish it up Friday! Have a fantastic weekend! xo

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

scrap vortex QAL week 4

Welcome to week 4 of the scrap vortex quilt along! I didn't touch this project all week, sadly. I got my blocks out this morning to take some photos for today's post. I had fun playing around with what I have done so far and I think I might put the "to-do" list aside for an hour or two today to PLAY! The vortex quilt has a way of sucking you in! (Hahahaha!)
This week is more of the same...take two pieces of the same size and sew them together. The top piece is about 11 3/4" x 16 3/4" and the bottom piece is about 14 1/2" x 16 3/4". (The only reason I mention the size is so you can visualize the scale. Your block sizes will be different that mine, no doubt. Don't get hung up on measurements at this point!) Since the patchwork pieces are the same width, and since they look good together, I will sew them up. Once again, notice the staggered seams. This is important so you lose the grid of the patchwork in the larger piece.
I like these two blocks together, but the one on the left is too short, so I will add a pieced strip to the top of the left block. I could add a single string to the top, but it would be too big compared to the rest of the pieces. A pieced string will look better. Whenever you are pairing two blocks together, you have to option of adding to the shorter block or trimming the taller block. I prefer to add pieces as much as possible, trimming only when there is 1/2" difference or less. (That's a general rule, not a hard and fast rule.)
Here I have several larger pieces completed. They range from 21" to 12" on each side. I would encourage you to spend some time playing with the pieces as if you were putting a puzzle together. Arrange and re-arrange until you get a few pieces that you like together, then sew them up. Fill in the gaps with patchwork as needed. This is such a fun and freeing way to work....at least I think so! I hope you have discovered it to be, as well!

If you would like to look back, I've linked to the previous posts below for easy reference:
scrap vortex QAL week 1
scrap vortex QAL week 2
scrap vortex QAL week 3

If you have any questions, please let me know. I'd love to hear how your quilt is progressing! Thank you for quilting along with me!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

date stamp quilt

My friend Cheryl has a beautiful new book out called "You Inspire Me To Quilt". It's a collaborative book all about using someone else's idea for a quilt design rather than your own. It's a brilliant concept and I love that it's so much more than a book of quilt patterns. It's also about the process of getting to that final design. (It's so true to Cheryl's approach to quilting!) I love that it tells the story behind each and every quilt!
I designed a quilt for the book called Date Stamp. This quilt, however, was my husband's idea. He NEVER has a shortage of ideas...quilt or otherwise. In fact, I may wince a little bit when he starts off a sentence with "you know what would be cool....." I really do love that he has so many ideas-I just wish I had more time! :) ANYway, he thought it would be neat to make a quilt that looked like a clock radio, but instead of the time, use someone's birth date. He had this idea years ago, but I never caught the vision. It's so hard to make a quilt based on an outside idea rather than an internal one. In fact, I find it nearly impossible to start a quilt unless I have the vision for it. One day, when we were watching the movie Groundhog Day, about the 3rd or 4th time they showed an alarm clock scene, the birth date/clock radio quilt idea finally clicked in my head. (Finally!) It was so cool to have a vision for the quilt that my husband had mentioned so many years before! Never mind that I was already working on a different quilt design for Cheryl's book. I emailed her and I switched gears almost immediately.

This quilt isn't girly AT ALL, and I found that to be quite challenging. The colors are not my normal "go-to" colors, either. It was out of my comfort zone on so many levels. But, a few different times while I was working on it, my boys would come downstairs and exclaim how cool it was and that encouragement really helped! It definitely has some "guy" appeal, which was/is reassuring.
The instructions for this quilt include assembly for all the numbers, so you can use any date that you wish, not just my husband's birthday. Handy, I know! Also, I feel like I should mention that this quilt is big! It finishes at 98" x 72", but based on the numbers you choose, the size will vary. I love that the pattern is so customizable.

The best part of this quilt story is when the quilt came back home. The physical quilt traveled from to my house to Canada, then to California, back to Canada and then back to my house. It was gone almost a year in all. It arrived here the day after my husband's birthday...the same day that he returned from a pretty stressful work trip. The timing was perfect! I used the quilt to wrap up/disguise his new Taylor guitar that I bought him for his birthday. He was quite surprised by all of it, which was delightful for me and my kids. I couldn't have planned it better if I had tried. I do love a happy ending!

I have an extra copy of the book that I would love to give away. If you would like a chance to win it, please leave me a comment on this post. Please be sure to include your location (country is fine) because I will pick one winner from the US, who will win a hard copy, and one winner from outside the US, who will win a digital copy of the book. Please, only one comment per person. Thanks for reading! And happy Tuesday! :)

Friday, June 19, 2015

chenille shams

Welcome to finish it up Friday!

My dear friend Tara and her family have been here visiting this week and it's been wonderful! They just left this morning and it was soooo hard to see them go. We squeezed in a little sewing time during the visit, which was delightful. We definitely had to squeeze it in, since we had 5 kids running (and crawling) around. A good time was had by all!
Tara gave me (and more importantly taught me how to use) an invisible zipper foot for my Juki. So, a project that spent a lot of time on the "someday" list got finished this week. Sweet!!! I made simple pillow shams from a chenille bedspread that I got at a garage sale for a dollar. (Or maybe it was free?) I love them so much!!! They are a nice, fresh, summer look for my bed.

edited to add: the quilt on the bed is one I called window panes, which I blogged about here. The tutorial is here, thanks to Ashley. :)

Thanks for all of you who weighed in on the conversation last week about finish it up Friday. The comments helped me! I've decided I will keep things going throughout the summer. I will keep it as FINISH it up Friday, not a work in progress party. (Lee has a WIP Wednesday link up, if you would like to share your in progress photos there.) I will also not expect myself to finish something each week, because that IS just crazy! I'll try to cut myself a little slack. :)

Now it's your turn! Please link up your finishes for the week! Thanks for joining me for finish it up Friday!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

scrap vortex QAL week 3

We are on week 3 of the quilt along already! I hope you are having fun with it! I know I am!
This week is more of the same...sewing two pieces of patchwork that are about the same size together. See how the blocks are getting larger and larger? That's what you want. Don't worry about a specific block size at this point. I know that goes against the grain of what you may be used to, but it will all work out in the end! Trust me!

I'll give a specific example of block construction again this week, because I think seeing it step by step is helpful. At least I hope so!
Select two pieces of patchwork that look good together. See the piece on the left? It is shorter than the one on the right, so I decided to add an orange string to the bottom of the left hand side.
After adding and pressing the orange strip, the left side is still a little shorter. I could add another strip to the bottom to the same side, but the additional strip would be pretty skinny.
Instead, I sew the pieces together, but rather than aligning the top edges, I align the bottom edges. Why? Because the patchwork pieces on the top right hand side are taller and better for trimming in this case. If I trimmed off the bottom of the right hand piece, that cute little teal crosshatch fabric (on the bottom right) would have been just a sliver after trimming. Can't have that!!! :) Also, if you look along the center seam, you will notice that the seams are nicely staggered with this alignment. That's what you are after!
Trim up the block so it's a square or rectangle. I'm not super fussy about the sides being at a PRECISE 90 degree angle, but close is good! Isn't it amazing how much better the block looks after it's trimmed up? That never gets old!

There was a question last week about trimming. At this point in the block construction, I do trim the block after each addition with my rotary cutter and ruler. I try to keep the pieces relatively square or rectangular, because it makes the fitting the larger pieces together so much easier.
This week I felt like I was lacking variety (or getting sick of my scraps), so I scrounged (hahaha!) in my craft room to find some new things to add to the scrap basket. I had a bunch of bags of scraps that I had separated out for "someday" projects, (Heather Ross, Echino, Kaffe Fasset, some Anna Maria Horner and even a few of my own new fabrics) but liberating the scraps and adding them to my others will breath new life into the quilt. Plus, I have 3-5 fewer bags floating around the craft room. So, it's a win-WIN!

You may find that you have to go back to square one and start making new pairs for your quilt. I know I will need to!

That's all I have for today. I hope you have FUN sewing! Let me know if you have any questions!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Liberty Giveaway winner

The winner of the Liberty fat eighth bundle is Lorinda! Thanks to all of you who played along! It was fun to read your comments. :)

Happy Monday to you!

Friday, June 12, 2015

finish it up Friday, 6/12/15

Welcome to finish it up Friday!

No finish for me today. Not even a pin cushion! But I'm slowly plugging away on my hand quilting. I'm getting so close to finishing the stars, then just borders and binding. This will be one happy finish when I get there!

I've been teaching at the MN quilt show in Duluth this week and it has been so lovely! The views are gorgeous, the weather has been idyllic and my students have been delightful! I have photos I wanted to share, but due to technical difficulties (ugh) I can't load the photos like I had hoped. (Oh, well!)

Summer is in full swing! I've been trying to figure out what to do with finish it up Friday. I certainly can't post a finish every week (even though I try my hardest!) and I feel weird posting a non-finish on Friday. There is a good chance I just need to get over my issues (ha!) and keep on going. Or we could break for the summer and start back up in the fall. Any thoughts? I'd love to hear what you think! 

Well, it's your turn! Please link up your finishes. Thanks for joining me for finish it up Friday! 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

scrap vortex QAL, week 2

Welcome to week 2 of the scrap vortex QAL! I'm very happy that so many of you are quilting along with me! Today I will be showing the directions for this week, and at the bottom of the post, I have a Q & A to address a few comments from last week. There is a lot of info in this post! (Please take the time to read it! :) )
This week's assignment is very similar to last week, except this time you just sew pairs of pairs together. Sew some pairs side by side, sew some pairs end to end. You can sew 3 little pieces in a row, then add a string to one side....any way works. Make some of each!
Let me walk you through a few examples. I chose to pair these two pieces together because they are about the same length. I could sew them together as is, but the red is right next to the dark blue and green. That would work, but....
flipping the piece on the right places the yellow next to the dark blue green. It looks much better the second way, so I sew it up! Now, don't overthink each step. If you do, this quilt will drive you crazy, because there are about a million decisions in a scrap vortex quilt. BUT, auditioning your options is a good thing! It's a fine line some days. Ha!
At this point, I will trim the top and bottom edges just a sliver, because the piece is getting a little bit unruly. That's it! Make several pairs of pairs. Or make sections of 5, 6, 7 or 8. (You will need hundreds of blocks!)

Here are just a few photos to show different scrap configurations...

Here is an example of building with slightly larger blocks. When I was pairing smaller blocks up, I noticed that these two blocks were sitting next to each other. They were in progress from a previous sewing session. They are roughly the same length and the colors work well together, so I sewed them together.
Notice how the seams don't line up in the middle? That is actually preferred, believe it or not. The offset/staggered seams add visual interest to the block and it helps blur the lines in each individual block that you are building. That's what you want! Random is good! :)
The edges of this block are pretty tidy, so I won't trim this block at this point. I'll just add it to the temporarily done pile.
Here is what I accomplished this week. Not a ton, but it is progress! It is kind of slow going at the beginning, but once you start adding blocks together, you will gain momentum! I like to place my blocks on the design wall as I complete them. It's encouraging to see progress!

Now, to answer some questions...
Q: My scraps don't all "go together", so how much should I edit?

A: My advice to you would be to edit based on the tone of the fabric more than anything else. If you have a lot of scraps that are in more traditional colors vs. the candy colors (what I tend to use) I would separate them into two different categories. Also, don't take out all the darks out of the equation (that would be my tendency), because the quilt needs the variety of values. The darks add interest to the quilt. At the end of the day, YOU need to decide what your comfort level is in editing your scraps...after all, it's your quilt!

Q: Will there be a linky party for the quilt along?

A: I don't think so, but if you want to share your progress, you can use the hashtag #scrapvortexqal, if you are on Instagram.

Q: How big is the largest scrap in your quilt?
A: I had to go check, but I found one (the green strip shown above) that is about 2 1/8" x 7 1/4 long. That's pretty big for me, but you can use any sized scraps you want!

Q: How do I sign up for the QAL?

A: This quilt along is very informal. In order to join, all you need to do is leave a comment (or not) and sew right along with me following the directions that I post. Easy and fun! If you have a blog, post about your progress! Or use the #scrapvortexqal hashtag on Instagram.

Q: How long will this QAL run?

A: Probably through the month of June, maybe into early July. We will see how things go!

Ok, that's all I have for this week. If you are quilting along, please let me know how your quilt is progressing! If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them in the comments (or in the next post).

Monday, June 08, 2015

Liberty Giveaway 2

It's Monday! Doesn't it seem like a good day for a giveaway? How about a Liberty giveaway? That's even better!
My lovely friend, Anna, who carries Liberty in her on-line shop, is giving away one bundle of Liberty Tana Lawn fat eighths to one of my readers. This is a 10 piece bundle, each piece measures 9" x 13". If you would like your name thrown into the hat, please leave me a comment in this post. In your comment, I would love to hear what your favorite kind of pop/soda is. (I had my 12 year old son come up with the question this time. Can you tell? :) ) If you had any idea of what you would sew with this fine fabric if you win, I'd love to hear about that as well.

Please, only one comment per person! The giveaway is open to US and international readers!

Happy Monday to you!

Friday, June 05, 2015

bright baggy pouch

Welcome to finish it up Friday!

I was hoping to have a quilt finished today, but that certainly didn't happen! So, this morning I finished up a little baggy pouch that I had in progress. Once again, I am thankful for the accountability that this linky party brings. I certainly needed the push to finish something. Also, there is one less pile on my craft room floor. YAY!
This is a small sized baggy pouch, which is a pattern by Aneela Hooey. It's my third one from the pattern, and probably not the last! I used a mini charm pack and scraps for the patchwork.
The inside is polka dots, of course! I added tabs to the end of my zipper to make things a bit tidier. My oldest son made a smart aleck comment about me branching out by making a zipper pouch. It made me laugh. And hey, I did branch out from my streak of pin cushion finishes...but I'll get back to those shortly! :)

One other big finish for the week. School has ended and summer vacation has begun. You can probably imagine all the fun we are having around here. Ha! I'm sure we will find our groove eventually...

Now, it's your turn! Please link up your finishes for the week. Thank you for joining me for finish it up Friday!

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

scrap vortex QAL--week one

Today I'd like to kick off the scrap vortex quilt along! It's going to be very informal and hopefully a lot of fun. If you are looking to make a dent in some of your scrap bins, this quilt along is for YOU!
The quilt along will be based on my scrap vortex quilt. You can read all about and see lots (!) more photos here. If you would like to join in the quilt along, collect your scraps--the more the better--and get ready to sew!

My favorite thing about this method of scrap sewing is that you don't need to cut out a bunch of stuff before you begin....you get to start sewing right away! And that's a good thing!

A few tools that I find helpful are: a pair of sharp fabric scissors, a pair of thread snips, a hot iron, a bottle of spray starch and a spray bottle of water. (A steam iron could work in lieu of the spray starch and water bottle.) You will also need a cutting mat, ruler, rotary cutter and a sewing machine.
I find it easiest to set up my work station in an L shape, with my ironing board close to my sewing machine on one side and my cutting station close on the other side. A lot of times I stand and sew.
As you can see, I have a lot of scrap piles to choose from...some on my ironing board, some on the floor, some on the desk. LOTS of options! It's not necessarily a tidy process.

This week's assignment is SUPER easy! Take two scraps that are approximately same length*, press them and sew them together. Chain piecing is a great idea. Make a bunch of pairs and press the seams to the side, preferably toward the darker fabric. Be sure to use a short stitch length (I use a 2) on your sewing machine, so the pieces won't start to come apart when you handle them.

*When you pick two scraps that are about the same length, you are able to use the entire piece of scrap fabric, rather than cutting, trimming and making even more scraps. This method produces very few scrap by-products, except for the few threads when you trim up the piece. (I MAY be obsessive in my scrap usage. :) Aren't you surprised???)
Here is a sampling of the pairs that I sewed together. Notice how the size and shapes of the scraps vary. Some scraps are long and skinny. Some are more chunky. Some are sewn end to end. Some are sewn side to side. Make a bunch of pairs. Variety in shape, color, size and configuration is good.
I would recommend that you find a basket to hold the sewn pairs after you press them. Otherwise, the unsewn scraps can overtake the whole lot!

One other thing...as I sew, I have a "donate" bag to collect the scraps that I simply don't want to use. Don't feel like you HAVE to use every scrap that comes through your hands. You can pass the ones that you don't care for along to someone else. I don't know about you, but sometimes I think that it's nice to have permission to do that.

Most importantly, have FUN with it!

If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them in the comments. If you are planning on sewing along with me, I'd love to know!

Monday, June 01, 2015

paper piecing tips from a frugal girl

Happy June! It is my month to choose a block for the Sew Sisters Quilting Bee. It's always SO HARD to choose a block for a bee, so I asked my friend Tara what I should do. She suggested a kaleidoscope block, which I thought was a great idea! (Thank you, Tara!) Rather than use an existing template, I made my own---of course! I really like that it is a paper pieced block, so even though 10 different ladies will be sewing up blocks, the accuracy will still be there!
I love paper piecing for accuracy sake (it's the only reason to paper piece in my mind!), but let's face it....it wastes fabric. And lots of it!

Several years ago, I learned this trick, and I've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to share it with you. Today is the day! What is this lovely trick? Make templates for each piece before you piece the block. Templates? Yes, it's an extra step, but for paper piecing, it's totally worth it, if you ask me. I am not going to teach you HOW to paper piece, that's not my job. (hahahaha!) This is just a trick to keep you from wasting fabric and to help keep your scraps tidy WHILE you paper piece. Tidy scraps are very important to me. (And that's no joke!)

Ok, let's get started. First, print off your templates. (For each block, you will need two regular and two reverse templates.)
Cut the template apart on the lines. I keep an older rotary cutter in my craft room JUST for cutting paper. It's fun to rotary cut paper AND it's a good way to use old blades that are too dull to cut fabric. It's accurate, too!
Trace your pieces onto another sheet of paper. You can mark the points of each triangle and then use a ruler or straight edge to connect the lines.
Use your rotary cutter and a clear ruler to cut out each piece, leaving a 3/8" seam allowance around each edge.
Here you have each piece with a 3/8" seam allowance added. Label them with the numbers in the same orientation as your template, so you know which side is up! You technically only need 1/4" all around, but the extra 1/8" gives you a bit of wiggle room. You will be glad you have it! Also, note how I trimmed off some of the long points from each triangle.
When it's time to cut out the fabric, place the template (face down, because everything is reversed an backwards when you paper piece) and cut around the paper using your fabric rotary cutter. Notice, I didn't cut super close to the edge....it doesn't have to be exact, but close is good. Then, paper piece as usual. There is less fabric flopping around, and since your pieces are pre-cut, it's easier to align them!
 Once I pieced my block, these are all the trimmings I had left! Isn't that amazing??
I still have odd shapes leftover from piecing the block, but that's just the nature of the block that I'm making. At least the scraps are all fairly tidy. Still usable for something!
 Here are just a few more examples to see how tidy it is. This is the paper side, before it's trimmed.
 And the fabric side before it's trimmed.
I like to leave the background or the center piece in a square to start off with. This is to illustrate how the first piece looks like before you add the first line of stitching...before sewing.
And after sewing, once it's pressed into place. It's so tidy as you go!
Here are my 4 block sections. Once sewn together, it will make a 10" finished block. I'm not going to sew blocks together until I get all the pieces, so I can easily distribute the colors throughout the quilt. It think it's going to be a super fun and colorful quilt!

I hope that these tips help (and don't confuse) you! If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them in the comments!
Happy Monday to you!