Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blocks for Francine

First of all, my thoughts go out to my friends and family back on the East Coast. I am so glad you are all safe and I'm sending big hugs your way. I was actually supposed to be on a flight to NYC yesterday morning for work, but Frankenstorm Sandy changed all of that. My trip was rescheduled for today but since there is no power where we are supposed to be shooting, the trip will have to be rescheduled entirely. In anticipation of another week away from home, I tried to blow through some more bee blocks this weekend. 


October was supposed to be my month in the Sewn Together Bee, but when things got hairy with work and traveling I asked if anyone was willing to swap months with me and, thankfully, Francine offered. When I finally arrived back home I expected her fabric to be waiting for me, and I even asked my husband if there was a package for me, but there wasn't. So I got worried and told Francine that it hadn't arrived. She was at the ready and sent me more fabric almost instantly. The very next day, my husband came home and sheepishly admitted that he accidentally took some of my mail to his office. Lo and Behold Francine's original package was there, thankfully not lost. Since she had already sent the second package of fabric I decided to make her five blocks. Well, okay, four and a half. I ran out of enough fabric to complete the fifth.



Francine cut into her precious Silent Cinema Fat Quarter bundle for these blocks and also included some solids in the mix and asked us to make her some Drunk Love inspired blocks. Slightly wonky is okay - super wonky is not. 




Every time I make these blocks I fall in love with them a little more and I feel compelled to make my own Drunk Love inspired quilt. One of these days I swear I will. Just put one more thing on my (Want) To Do List. What are some of the things on your own (Want) To Do Lists? And Happy Halloween to everyone! It's my favorite holiday of the year, but for the first time ever I don't have a costume this year. So Sad!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ruby Star Dilemma

I’ve been moved into my sewing studio for some time now, but the place is still definitely a work in progress. There is still some clutter going on, things that need to be moved out and furniture that needs to be replaced with something smaller and more functional. But it works for now. Since my studio is basically a repurposed detached garage it also doubles as a storage space for us. We had a plan to hand curtains to hide the storage, and originally I was going to make plain curtains in a natural color out of either linen or Kona cotton and put a patchwork panel in each for a pop of some color using some of my favorite fabric.


Then, one day I had a gift certificate to Sew Modern burning a hole in my pocket. I went in with the intention of buying a neutral colored solid and came out with the most delicious splurge. In a moment of weakness I bought up some of my favorite Melody Miller prints. They didn’t have enough of the Ruby Star Spring Insect print to do all four panels I would need for my curtains, so I bought up what they had left (enough for two panels) and then enough yardage of the coordinating Ruby Star Spring Bloom fabric in Springtime for the other two panels.


Then it took us forever to get the curtain wire hung, but finally last week it we did it. I hung the panels just for show and measurements before I started hemming them and asked my husband to take a look. Sigh. He thinks they’re too busy. Granted, the space is a complete disaster right now (please don’t judge) so I am sure all the clutter is affecting it. So I tempted to take down the Bloom panels and just use the Insect panels with two panels of a light, matching linen. The other option is to just do plain linen panels with large strips of the Insect fabric running through. Or maybe it's just as simple as moving the panels around. What do you think? I need some help before I start cutting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fixing A Piecing Error

I remember the first time I ever paper pieced a block. I was so completely intimidated. And soon that intimidation turned to frustration as I tried to fit the scraps at just the right angle so it covered all the surface area necessary and then some for the seam allowances. By the end of that first block I had developed a love / hate relationship with paper piecing. I adore the precision that you get with paper piecing, but it can be a very annoying process. But what happens when you still make a mistake? Some can be fixed without ripping out your entire block. 

Can you see my mistake?
I've been paper piecing a lot in the Bee A Lone Star(burst) Bee. I have to make four, very time consuming blocks a month in the bee. And, quite honestly, there hasn't been one month when I haven't had to, at least, rip a few stitches out. But recently I had quite a little freak out over a mistake, that ultimately, I was able to fix. I got to the end of a block section and realized there was a hole in the block. Yes, sometimes that means you need to start over but, with a little bit of creativity I was actually able to save the block. While preparing to build the block, I saw that the tip of my star center wasn't adequately covered. Once I calmed down I saw that the gap was small enough that I might be able to repair it and the mistake would easily disappear in the big picture. This is something I think translates to lots of different types of piecing mistakes, not just in paper piecing. Always remember that eventually there will be another 1/4" same there, so it gives you some room to play. 

How about now? I'll give you a clue - look in the center of the star.
I reached into my scrap bin and pulled out a coordinating piece of fabric, trying to line up the design as much as possible, keeping in mind there would be a 1/4" seam as I lined up the pattern. I gently folded back the paper foundation and stitched a 1/4" seam, then ironed and trimmed. Yes, it resulted with a tiny seam in the center, but once stitched together with the rest of the pieces to make the entire block, it virtually disappeared. 


Well, I'll admit this happened on two pieces and the other one was only slightly more significant so the seam is a little more prevalent in the finished block BUT remember (and this is hard for the perfectionist in me) once you quilt it and wash it, I guarantee you it will disappear completely. Moral of the story: All is Never lost. Be creative and don't be afraid to try and fix your mistakes. And for those of you who get as frustrated over paper piecing as I sometimes do, here are a couple more tips I hope might help ease your anxiety...


Tip #1: Use large scraps, larger than you think you need. Yes, this creates more waste but it eventually outweighs the headache for me. Larger pieces are more forgiving, especially when you're piecing odd angles in the reverse. 

Tip #2: Always check your points and second seams before moving onto the next piece. For instance, when I'm piecing these stars, the first seam runs shorter than the second, so I always make sure that there is enough fabric to cover the entirely of the second seam when I fold the fabric over the correct way, otherwise paper will end up peeking though my points and my seams will be so scant that the block could start to fall apart first time through the wash. I check when I'm laying the new piece in, and then I double check after I sew. It's much easier to rip the stitches and move the fabric piece immediately than later on in the process.

Tip #3: This might be unpopular with some, but I do a little back stitch when I get to the points in the middle of the block. This isn't so necessary on the side seams as those will be secures later when you piece the block together or into your quilt top. But in the middle of the block I find a little reinforcement helps. Yes, it does create a little bulk  but if you're using paper for your foundation thicker than tissue (I use plain copier paper because that's what I have at my disposal right now) then it can be a little difficult to pull off once your done. That reinforcement at the internal ends of your seams does help strengthen those seams.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bee Blocks Galore

I used this weekend to get caught up on a lot of bee blocks. And I mean A LOT. The Lone Star(Burst) Bee Blocks I actually started when I was in Nashville. Of course, I didn't have any fabric with me, but I was able to sneak away for a half hour and run into a lock fabric store. I was shocked at the markup. Seriously, they were selling Echino for $30 a yard! That seems way over priced to me. So I limited my purchases to essentials for these blocks. I didn't really get much work done on the blocks while I was on the road, aside from getting the fabric cut for each. I did attempt to start a few of them, but didn't get far at all, so this weekend I made all eight of them. Phew! I love these blocks but they are incredibly time consuming!


Back in July, Anna asked for some low volume blocks and that became a theme in the bee. I love low volume quilts so I was more than happy to oblige. When August rolled around our lovely feel mamas realized that many of us were behind so they allowed August as a catch up month. I know, it's October and I'm just now caught up. But I made these lovelies for Leslie...


And a couple for Melissa...


Then finally two more for Pat...


Now I'm all caught up! Phew. So I also was behind in the Sew Fun Bee. In August Dena asked for Scrapbuster Blocks with any color solid background. I noticed no one had sent her a purple block yet, so I made one. It looks like it's Kona Ash in the picture but it's actually a light lavender background.


Then, for September Heather wanted String blocks with Kona White centers. These blocks are so easy, I made her two. 


So with the exception of one set of blocks for September, I am officially all caught up. October is my month in the Sew Fun Bee and we don't have Lone Star(burst) commitments until November so I can breathe a little easier. This traveling for work thing did not help me one bit!

Friday, October 19, 2012



So you know that amazing package I received from Whitney in the Pretty Little Pouch Swap last month? Well, I got to return the favor because she was actually my secret partner too. Fancy that! Unfortunately I don't think I was able to do nearly as good a job on her package as she did on mine. There was no way to top it. 


As I was stalking Whitney I quickly learned that mermaids made her swoon, so when I saw the new Sarah Jane "Out to Sea" line I quickly snatched it up for her. Then I had a hard time cutting it up since it was so super cute. And I guess that's where I was getting hung up. I had this nagging feeling that the pouch was too simple, especially after the awesomeness I received from her. 


But I couldn't resist. I kept it simple and let the fabric speak for itself, choosing to embellish rather than piece. Originally I was going to make her a bento box bag but she specifically requested a zipper closure so I switched things up and used a pattern from an old issue of Stitch Magazine, with some modifications.


I embroidered starfish and kelp onto one side of the pouch and then designed and pieced a sailing ship to appliqué on the other side of the bag. 



I also fussy cut the side panels to capture my favorite mermaids at play.



Sadly, I had started piecing a smaller pouch to go inside, but I was given 36 hours notice to be on a plane for work, and knew I wouldn't return home before the shipping deadline so it did not make it into the package. I did, however, fill the bag with lots of other little goodies, including a mermaid embroidered tea towel and a pocket hoop for her sewing space storage.




I wish I could live up to the greatness she sent me, but in the end I opted to let the fabric speak for itself. I loved having Whitney as a partner - both ways! She totally rocks!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

do. Good Swap Angel


And then there were swaps. Holly and I hosted a blind swap for all of the do. Good Stitches Circle Hosts. Unfortunately, someone had an unexpected turn of events and was unable to complete her gift so Holly and I jumped in as angels. Amanda was such an excellent swapper and we couldn't let her go empty-handed. Her surprises arrives well past the deadline, but at least she arrived.


When it became clear that her partner was MIA Holly and I got to work. Being friends with Amanda, Holly knew she would love some knitting accessories since she had a baby on the way and probably not much time to sew when her bundle of joy arrived. I started stalking her and pulled fabrics from my stash from some of her favorite designers in colors she loved. 



As I continued to stalk her, I discovered that she might like a bag of some sort so I found an adorable pattern in an old issue of Stitch Magazine and got to work. The bag came together quickly. I actually enjoyed this pattern more than the last one I tried from Stitch. But I did make one huge mistake. And, unfortunately realized it too late. Can you tell?



Yep. I put one of the pleated pockets on backwards. Oops! I don't think it looks horrible. Or am I just trying to make myself feel better? I was rushing and that's really my only excuse. Ugh. By the time I realized it (during this photo shoot in fact) I tried to think of a way I could fix it but couldn't come up with a concrete solution, aside from ripping the entire thing apart, which seemed extreme.


As I tend to do, I did make some slight modifications to the design. I will admit, on this project the design modifications were largely in part due to the fact that I used the last bit of this AMH Innocent Crush print that I had in my stash. It's a personal favorite, but I was so glad it was being used for someone who loves it as much as I do. I added coordinating Kona Solids on the pockets and the handles to make the AMH print go a long way. And I really love how the solids sneak in and break up the print.


I also made her a little pocket hoop for some cute, sewing space wall storage and included a bunch of extras in her package. So, Amanda, I'm sorry that your package came so late. Thank you for being so patient and such a great swapper! Congrats on your new baby girl, too!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Comfort Quilt


There was a secret project I was working on over the summer. I couldn't share it until now. I've been running the Sewn Together Bee for over two years now. As we neared the end of the last round of the bee one of our members experienced a tragedy in her life. Her mother passed away and her grief was consuming. Unfortunately, she also missed out on her month in the bee after working so hard on all of our blocks. 


So we did a little stalking and came up with a color scheme and a plan and got to work. It seemed like she gravitated towards blues and greens and also pinwheels. So the members of the Sewn Together Bee started creating pinwheel blocks for her and sent them to me to finish. 


I ended up sashing the blocks that came in small. We made them any size or pattern we desired. With sashing they all ended up 12.5" unfinished. Time was of the essence, since I spent much of the summer gathering the blocks from all corners of the globe. I went with simple straight line quilting on the diagonal to accent the movement of the pinwheels. 


The backing is one Michael Miller print that I picked up thinking the yellows and oranges would contrast nicely with the greens and blues on the front. And I bound it in a simple Kona Olive, then wrapped it in love with a note on behalf of the entire bee. 


Then, one day, unexpectedly I received a beautiful note in my mailbox. It brought tears to my eyes. I rarely have time to sew anything for myself these days. Sometimes I get frustrated and convince myself I'm not joining any more bees or swaps, ever. And then there are days like this, when I am reminded why I do so much sewing for and with others. The reward is much sweeter. I would rather brighten someone else's day over making myself a new dress any day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Quilt Marathon: Month Five

It's been an exhausting whirlwind, let me tell you, but I am finally back at home. And I can't tell you just how good it feels to say that. I'm going to be playing catch-up on posts for the next week, likely. I had pictures ready to go before I hit the road but had no time to blog. I was literally averaging 3 hours of sleep a night, 7 days a week the whole time I was gone. The hours I wasn't sleeping, I was working so there wasn't even a moment to watch TV or read for a half hour, let alone sew. Well, I did get some hand sewing in on airplanes and in airports and I managed about 15 minutes on a toy machine - but more about that later. I am still exhausted and trying to catch up on sleep but I also want to catch up on blogging too. I know I'm very tardy with this update, but I did, actually shoot these photos on the morning of the 4th. So while my blog post might be late, the update on my marathon quilt is quit accurate. Let's just pretend it's the 4th, m'kay?


I have to admit that during the month of September I really felt like I was getting into a rhythm with this quilt. I seemed to have more time to dedicate to the process and I really felt like I was making some progress. And that's not to say that I haven't, just when I hit the 4th I realized I hadn't made quite as much progress as I intended. I think part of that is because I expected I would have a significant amount of free time in the evenings to work on it while I was on the road. Since I was originally expecting to be on the road for only a week I didn't pack my machine, so this was going to be the only project on my plate. Well, things changed. I bought a toy machine (more about that later) and my time was increasingly filled with more and more work. 


Another problem I have encountered, and I chalk this up to operator error, is in the planning. The beauty of this piece is that it's scrappy, but if you know anything about me I like order in the midst of chaos. So I am trying to control the chaos. But it's also teaching me a valuable lesson about letting go and allowing the fabrics to flow as they may. And I think that's important for me. This quilt is really helping me grow. So, as I plan out each block, following the order I laid out early on, I am finding myself having to play with which way I structure the rings since I chose to work with an odd numbered amount of different fabrics for in the rings. Which is fun, but sometimes after it all comes together I realize I don't like the path I took. Sometimes I go with it and sometimes I don't. When I don't, I end up with homeless pieces. But I know that eventually they will find a place to reside. Then, other times, I have made an unnecessary ring, forgetting where the rings meld together. I just look at it as less work for later. 


I have a feeling that October is going to be another slow month, as it seems that most of my free time will be spent either on planes (where I will sew if I'm not sleeping) or working on bee blocks and swaps that need to be finished. I'm just looking forward to November and the LAMQG Retreat where I promise myself I will take time to do hand work while I'm there so I can enjoy time with my friends even more.