Cozying into fall and winter projects

Last weekend we went apple picking at Russell Farms in Ipswich.  There are a lot of PYO apple orchards to choose from in the Boston area, and after a few years of trying out others we’ve settled on Russell Farms as our favorite.  Hot, fresh, cinnamon-y donuts, sweet cider, crisp apples, and a photo-opp pumpkin patch.  Can we talk about this for a moment?  Daddy dressed Melon in her orange corderoys this day without even expecting we’d see pumpkins any time that day. There is nothing sweeter than a baby toddling around a pumpkin patch!

IMG_1083

So now that I’m into the fall spirit, I’m ready to dive into fall projects.  I just wrapped up a huge volunteering comittment, and now I actually have the time and energy to focus on some bigger sewing projects.  I’m co-president of a community group in my town, and last night was our biggest event of the year…there were over 100 people in my house!  I had a great time, everything went perfectly.  Melon spent the night with her grandparents, and although I did sleep in until 9:30 am (SWEET!) as soon as I was up I was brainstorming and organizing ideas for quilts.  Truly, all my creativity has been zapped over the last month or two from the amount of time I’ve spent coordinating this event plus administrative stuff for the club, and surprisingly it all rushed back to me this morning. I thought I’d need a few days to recover from the last push prepping for the event (for example, printing out nametags took me nearly 5 hours over the course of several days! how maddening is that?) but when I awoke my mind felt clear and fresh and free.  I’ve still been sewing over the last couple of months, but mostly just doing bee blocks and my Habitat challenge quilt.  I haven’t had the mental space to focus in on bigger projects, and I’m eager to use my newly regained time and energy for some large quilts.

So, onto the actual subject of this post:  planning fall and winter projects.

First, October is my month in the Fall Bee I’m a member of on Flickr.  Even though it’s called the Fall Bee, projects are fall or holiday inspired.  I knew I wanted to make a Christmas quilt, but have struggled for a while with how to make one that I’d actually want to use.  Kitchy Christmas decor can be fun, but I really wanted this quilt to have a timeless and modern quality to it.  I ordered some Christmas print fabrics in July, and quickly realized they were much too literal for my taste.  I’ve been collecting various other red and green fabrics together, looking them over every 10 days or so, then putting them back on the shelf.

With the date to send out my fabrics to my fellow bee mates approaching, I knew I had to buckle down and figure out what kind of pattern to do.  After much searching and some serendipitous surfing, I found the Little Forest quilt on the Purl Bee blog.  This is the one!  I made several test blocks and decided to modify the technique a bit to avoid the center seam.  I made my own paper template, and have asked my bee mates to trim at least one of their trees according to their own inspiration.  Here is my final test block:

Little trees block sample

Here are my fabrics:

Fabric for little trees quilt

Another thing that stood out to me on my brainstorming list was this item: “actually finish a crochet sweater for Melon.”  I’ve started countless sweaters for her, only to either finish them so late that she’s already outgrown it, or decide halfway through that I don’t like the pattern.  I think it’s because I’m not actually such a fan of the crochet stitch.  Maybe it’s time to get serious and actually learn how to knit.  Crochet is fun for a blanket, but I find it just stretches funny and is hard to shape into a good-looking garment.  Learning a new medium feels like a big undertaking, and I don’t want to overcommit myself.  On the other hand, if I love it then I actually might finish a sweater by, maybe, January?  Whereas if I stick to crochet I might never finish the sweater.  So this subject will be on hold for a few more weeks.

Also thinking about Christmas and the colder months is the issue of Christmas presents.  I’m pretty sure I want to make some mittens for my stepson, and I already have Melon’s present in the works.  Here’s a hint:

Whose ears are these?

But what to make for my husband?  Gifts for him are always a struggle, and last year with a newborn there was no way anything handmade was happening.  This year I’m determined to make his gift, since it’s ultimately be more satisfying to both me and him.  The challenge is what would actually be useful, and something that suits him well, as opposed to a project that I’m eager to make for my own interest.  Will keep thinking about this, hopefully I’ll have decided and started it by November 1.

Recently I discovered the work of Sherri Lynn Wood. Her “Redwedge” quilt is amazing! I was truly inspired reading through the archives of her Mod Mood Quilt Along. She described techniques and theory of improv piecing, and how it can serve as an emotional outlet. This really spoke to a frustration I’ve been having that I’m just copying others’ work and haven’t yet discovered my own voice. I’ve only been sewing about 18 months, and I know I’m still in the technique/learning phase, but I’m eager to find out what my creativity + new skills can create. Making an improv quilt might be just the thing I need to get headed down that path.

And finally, I still really want to get going on this quilt.  What’s holding me back is just sitting down, finalizing my dimensions and fabric choices.  This might wait until the second half of winter, considering what I already have going above…

IMG_0769

IMG_0808

A long post, but I really wanted to get my ideas down before I got sidetracked by something new and shiny I spot on Pintrest.  Which never happens ever, seriously  :)

P.S. One last thing to add…I really want to get on top of easy meal planning. I have a fantasy of a month of meals planned out at a time! I need to find crockpot meals that don’t taste boiled and bland. Quicker prep + less cleanup = more time for crafting!

Digital Waves – My Jay McCarroll Habitat Challenge entry

Last weekend at the Boston Modern Quilt Guild meeting we presented our finished projects for the Jay Mccarroll Habitat Challenge. Here is the story behind my quilt:

First I was inspired by the pixelated flowers print to do a tumbling blocks quilt. I English paper pieced (is that a verb?) each diamond, then hand stitched them into the 3D cubes, and all together. I learned along the way that whipstich is the stitch for me…and the others I tried I eventually redid by machine when all was said and done! I added a gray border, and pieced all of my scraps into another border.

This was a project I truly cursed along the way, but I learned so much. When I finally brought it in to Fabric Corner to find the right backing, I left much more pleased than I entered. I used a bright magenta shot cotton, which I think really brings it to life. It was funny to see so many other members of the guild used gray and magenta as solids in their quilts too.

Given the fragility of the work and questionable quality of my stitching, I decided to use a piece of preshrunk flannel instead of batting to prevent bearding. I was surprised at how much the quilt shrunk even with the flannel preshrunk. But I think the lovely crinkly texture adds so much dimension to the more “mathematical” qualities of the quilt.

Deciding on how to quilt it – my parameters were: can be finished in under 3 hours, potentially stopping and starting very frequently, and likely with my daughter tugging at me to stop sewing. I knew this had to be a job for the walking foot and not the darning foot because I wouldn’t be able to mess with tension, threads, etc. I originally mapped out several different very geometric designs using 1/4″ tape, but my husband insisted it was all too choppy and the quilt really needed something more organic. I thought the cubic pattern of the piecing and the fabric patterns would call for something more “technical” looking in the quilting, but…he was right! I settled on this wavy line pattern. It was really easy to do, I just “drove” the quilt back and forth, holding the corners like it was a huge bus steering wheel as it went under the needle. I echoed some quilting lines, and exaggerated others.

Everyone grumbled about what a challenge this fabric line was to them. I liked certain fabrics, but some people didn’t like any of them at all! I originally intended this to be a pillow, but decided to make a small quilt for the car, since I knew there was no way I’d use this pillow since it’s so different from my decor. I’m so glad I made a small quilt…because it turns out it matches my daughter’s room so well! Check it out:

IMG_1098

IMG_1092

IMG_1096

In the end, I was really surprised by how much I liked this quilt. I felt ambivalent all the way until the end, but when the binding, backing, borders and quilting all are in place, it really brought the top I’d spent months working on through countless Colbert Report episodes to life! And the biggest surprise of all: I was the winner of the challenge! It was a very close vote, and I only won after a second tie breaking vote was called. Thank you to BMQG members for voting for mine! I am so honored.

WIP Wed 8/17

This will be a quick one since it’s 6 am and my boss is already protesting! It seems my toy choices for the office just aren’t sufficient. Any ideas for keeping a baby/toddler happy while I sew?

I’ve been curious about the wonky log cabin since it’s a pretty common modern quilt design. I tried it out with these Wrenly birds as the focus. I definitely learned a lot and would do some things differently next time, but I like how it turned out.

IMG_0836

Now I need to decide who will get this quilt. A very, very deserving new baby, but whose family I barely know, or a family member who might appreciate it more? This is a tough thing with making quilts. It’s such an altruistic craft, since it makes sense to give them away. But you want your effort to be appreciated, kwim?

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Pink and Green String Quilt

This string quilt I made using 8.5″ squares (regular printer paper cut down). I wish I’d done slightly larger squares to make the overall quilt bigger, but the paper was so easily available!

String quilts are definitely a lot of sewing. The work is not so much concentration, but a lot of just sewing sewing sewing. It’s a good quilt to do when watching a movie, although I think I need to get headphones for the audio so I don’t have to turn up the volume so loud to hear over the whirr of my machine. When I get to a part I really want to hear, I just stop sewing, so that’s not very productive!

I learned a LOT making this quilt. This quilt was for the daughter of a very good friend, and I really hope it lasts here a lifetime. Something tells me some seams might start to fray sooner than that, but I hope it holds itself together.

I used Tula Pink’s Hushabye fabrics, along with a lot of others I have no idea the names of. I need to start getting in the habit of writing down the names of my fabrics as they cut them at the store, in case I need to buy more online later (or want to reference them here).

The overview
P7026015

Closeup of quilting
P7026026

More detail
P7026018

Corner. Here I see the pink thread on the green Hushabye butterfly lace panels. I’m not in love with how that looked, but it’s better than quilting the whole thing with green thread would have looked on the pink squares in the center.

P7026020

And the back definitely calls for pink thread. Green would have been weird. I pieced Emma’s name long before I even knew what I was doing for the quilt.
P7026033

Kitchen Window quilt – finished!

This quilt is now at the home of a very special boy. I definitely will keep this pattern in mind again for another quilt where I want to highlight special prints, and make a quilt quickly. This came together fairly fast.

It’s funny how quickly I learn new techniques, how to better use my machine, how to choose fabrics that work well together. I made lots of choices on this quilt that I wouldn’t make now, and it’s only been a few months since I started work on it. Quilting requires a lot of different types of skills, and working on different projects at once can really hone one skill by the time you need it on another quilt. For example, I was really clueless about free motion quilting and stippling when I quilted this one. But I did much better by the time I finished my pink and green string quilt. And this quilt was bound after the pink and green one, so the binding is much more secure than that one.

The final photos…

P7026043

P7026058

P7026050

P7026062

WIP Wednesday August 10, 2011

I’m home! Nothing makes me love coming home to my own bed more than a great trip.

Stay tuned for a sewing-themed overview of our travels to Amsterdam, Paris, Venice, and Sienna, coming later this week!

Now for the quilting. I was so eager to get home and sew, because even with all the travel my hands were never free to work on the project I’d brought. Duh, traveling with a baby you never get rest. What was I thinking?

I brought everything I need to finish this project, and look at it now…
Here is the status of my Jay McCarroll fabric challenge…

IMG_0809

At least I have most of the scraps basted onto the paper diamonds. Now if I sew 4 a day into the cubes, I should be in good shape to piece the whole thing together and get it finished by the end of the month.

A month ago I said I wouldn’t touch this fabric stack based around this Wrenly print until August…look how good I was! I’m trying out a wonky log cabin. It goes fast, but I’m using wider strips than I’d like to. I have a girl quilt to gift on Aug 23, so it looks like it will come from this project. Should I piece the blocks together with white sashing? Or piece them together like in Kaffe Fasset’s Jewel Squares Quilt? Or do a combo of the two, like Ashley of Film in the Fridge’s Animal Sherbet Squares quilt?
IMG_0754

Finished August’s New Bee on the Block block (I just love the heath fabric!)
IMG_0709

I’ve finally hit on inspiration for the quilt for our family room. It can feel like swimming around in a swamp, stuck in the mud, then all of the sudden the clouds part and rays of light shine down from the heavens and all the little torturous pieces of ideas fall into place…

I’m in love with Sarah Fielke’s A Wing and a Prayer Quilt from her book Quilting from Little Things.
IMG_0808

The fan of the eagle’s tail…
IMG_0769

A few possibilities for the other fabric choices (sorry they’re so blurry, WIP Wed photos get taken at 5:30 am because Wed is one of my mornings to get up with the baby):

IMG_0805

IMG_0806

IMG_0800

And lastly, new fabrics for a boy quilt:
IMG_0755

Thank you thank you again to Freshly Pieced for Work in Progress Wednesday. It really helps keep me on track!

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

WIP July 13, 2011

Finished and washed this block that will become a pillow. Fussy cutting the Innocent Crush fabric was easier than expected!
IMG_0002

Back includes scraps of all my other projects at the moment (Habitat, Heath by Alexander henry)
IMG_0013

Closeup of how thin border got a little skeewompus…should I have quilted this?
IMG_0004

Now for my big question. How do I close this pillow? I didn’t think this through as I made it. I realized attaching two quilted pieces with a zipper might prove a little thick. For the moment I’m considering just sewing the pillow inside permanently. We’ll see what I have time for!

It looks like I’m rethinking my falling blocks paper piecing project for the Habitat Challenge again…now I’m thinking of making 2 sides of the block pink and gray, and using the Habitat fabrics for the top side. This is to make the size of the finished project big enough to make a quilt.
IMG_0014

Finished – practice block AND finished block for New Bee on the Block
1st New Bee on the Block block, Merry Go-Round pattern

My practice block, I love the vintage sheets with the chartreuse Heath fabric:
Practice block for 1st New Bee on the Block block, Merry Go-Round pattern

I’ll be taking the next two weeks off (VACATION!) but may bring the EPP project with me! So there will still be some quilting going on… :)

I love WIP Wednesdays!
WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Chartreuse and Gray Snowblossoms

Yesterday I banged out my first block for my first-ever flickr bee, New Bee on the Block. I first did a practice run with some favorite scraps and vintage sheet fat quarters I got on etsy. I love how it turned out, and the points all match up too! The pattern the Queen Bee gave us was Merry Go-Round by Quilt in a Day.

Practice block for 1st New Bee on the Block block, Merry Go-Round pattern

This had me feeling so great, and got me thinking more about chartreuse, one of my favorite colors.

I realized I only have 1 week left before we go on a big trip to Europe. We’re doing a house swap with a family in Amsterdam, and I wanted to make a gift for them as a thank you.

This is what I turned out this morning, using this Snowblossoms paper piecing pattern:

Snowblossoms paper pieced pillow top

I’m afraid the center fabric is too dark for the rest of the block’s fabrics. I think I’ll add a border made of that fabric to balance things out.

WIP Wed 7/6

Finished! See how the sun is shining on these two quilts on their way to their new homes? (one is already boxed up!)

On their way out!

Here they are:

P7026015

P7026043

Jay McCarroll Challenge progress. I’m going to add a medium gray solid where the negative space is. The size of the project is limited by how much of the gray dot pattern we got, so that means it will be pretty small. Hmmmmm….

Jay Mccarroll challenge WIP

Got some kimono scraps at a yard sale. Not sure how to quilt with them since they’re silk, but I love them anyhow:
New Kimono scraps from yard sale

Finished two sunsuits, neither of which fit my daughter (one too small, one too big). Got several yards of the puppy print from Sherbert Pips with a 40% coupon at Fabric Corner. Thought these heart buttons would work great if I make a third sunsuit from it….

2 Sunsuits and maybe a new one?

Go see and comment on everyone else’s work!

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Sweet baby sunsuit part II

Here is my second attempt at Made by Rae’s Baby Sunsuit. I’m much happier with the finished product. Except that it doesn’t fit! I used Anna Maria Horner’s Innocent Crush fabric Maybe in Blossom. I love this fabric so much, it’s my favorite in the whole line. I bought enough that I can back a quilt with it, or make several quilts, plus lots of rompers…which it’s looking like I might need to do!

P7056108

It sounds like she’s currently revamping the pattern. To wait for the new version or just get cracking again? Hmm….

My changes this time:
* I bought the snap fastener at Joanne’s. Way better than sewing on 5 (that adds up to 10 pieces) of the vintage snaps I picked up at a yardsale last week
* I attached the snaps to match the curve of the arch, not sure why Rae suggested putting them in a straight line
* I made the arches narrower. Mistake! not enough room to get the foot around the snaps when tacking it down.
* I added fusible interfacing to the arches to strengthen the fabric when the snaps attach
* I changed the size to 13″ x 16″ (but it’s too small now! argh!)
* I finally discovered the key to tighter shirring….STEAM. I’d read this in plenty of tutorials, but somehow I thought that would be an optional “finishing touch” and it turned out to be the key to success. The fabric snapped up like a Shrinky Dink! Also, just letting the fabric sit for a while it started to gather up on its own. I’d left one leg unsteamed to photograph the difference, and by the time I got to it I couldn’t tell which one was steamed and which wasn’t.
* Once I discovered it was too small, I scratched my plans for the straps and just added tie ribbons. Maybe my next baby will be another girl!

I did things in a slightly different order, and came up with a funny result. It’s ok though!
P7056113

I’m using the rolled hem foot on my Janome 7700, and while I’m still getting the hang of it, overall I’m totally amazed that I can make a seam this tiny myself. In some places it worked, in others it didn’t (you have to hold and roll the fabric going in with like 3 different hands at once). Even where it didn’t roll, the seam looks good from the right side.

P7056124

My springy, tight shirring, hooray for steam!
P7056125

Notes/Steps for attempt #3:

16″x17 or 18″
Finish top and bottom edges with rolled hem foot
Cut out 1″x2″ wide semi circle at bottom
Cut out straps
Make straps with buttonholes
Iron fusible interfacing onto scrap for arches, leaving space at the bottom of each arch for shirring
Trace arches and cut out
Attach arches and snip seam and press
Attach snaps
Tack down arches with zig zag (use a longer stitch length)
Sew sides (make sure top and bottom are aligned, use pins this time!)
Shirr bottom leg holes
Shirr top
Attach straps
Attach buttons