Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sewing Ennui

There seems to be a general sense of ennui running through the sewing community lately. Rachel's experienced it. Briana Arlene's got it. No one is alone. Perhaps, it's the normal, post-holiday let down. Everyone seems to be creating at full force in November and December, making gifts for loved ones, and then once January and February roll around we're spent and the creative juices need some time to replenish themselves. Even I have been suffering from a lack of sewing mojo lately. I have a pile of UFOs on my To Do List that I need to complete, but there are days, lately, where it's been more of an obligation than a joy to work on them. Anyone else feeling the same way? I swear there is a Bee Block from January that started it. I am ashamed to admit that it's still in pieces on my sewing table. It's not that it's difficult - I just can't get the creative inspiration I need to do it justice. And I want to, I really do!


I haven't stopped sewing, and I won't. And that bee block WILL get finished... THIS WEEKEND (I swear). The husband is going away today on a business trip (to Las Vegas no less) so I am planning to create. And catch up on responding to blog comments. I really have no excuse. It's just all melded into one blob of... yep, sewing ennui. And to top it off I actually have deadlines on several projects because next week I'm leaving for a whole month. (I forgot to mention that perviously, didn't I? Chalk it up.) So to try to get motivated I'm going to make a To Do List (if you don't mind).

To Do Before Traveling:
1) Get this one quilted. I ended up going with an unpopular layout (which I'll reveal later) but now I'm trying to figure out how to quilt it. I am keeping it simple and I'm actually using the same shot cotton for the back, then binding it in an orange shot cotton. I'm planning to straight-line quilt on the diagonal. Question is: orange or teal thread? The orange is 100% cotton (which is what I prefer) and the teal is cotton covered polyester (I don't usually use poly or poly blends but this color only came in that option.) What do you think?


2) Re-cover Andrew's foot stool and make coordinating pillows.
3) Finish the changing tables for my sister-in-law and Megahn.
4) Pay... It... Forward... (More on this one later too. Ugh!)
5) Pillow Talk Swap - I have had quite the unresponsive partner this round so it's been a tough one. I definitely know the design but I'm confused on my fabric choices for my partner. I'm just going to have to dive in and hope.


6) Another diaper bag commission.
7) Bee Blocks

And those are only the things I need to finish before I start my trips. There are more things on my list, but they can wait. So how do you deal with the sewing ennui? I'd love to know, because I need motivation.

Oh... and one last thing, totally off topic... Since I try and respond to all comments (even if I'm a little late like I am now) I've adopted a new policy when I get "No Reply" comments. I don't want to leave you hanging, so I've started replying to all "No Reply" commenters directly in the comment feed. So if you don't hear back from me directly, make sure you check the comment feed because I've probably responded to you there.

Friday, February 24, 2012

New Quilt on the Wall

Yesterday I had the most glorious day. Two of my new friends, Liberty and Ramona, who I got to know on the LAMQG Retreat, invited me to join them for a morning "playdate". We met at the Torrance Bakery and headed to the nearby park for a little girl talk and hand sewing. Afterward, we headed to Momen+, an awesome fabric store in Torrance that specializes in Japanese imports, for a little shopping. I actually got out of there without buying anything. The only reason I was able to do so was because I had stopped by last week on my way home from purchasing my new machine to take advantage of their sweetheart sale, so I don't have as much restraint as you might think. (Because I don't!) And Ramona even came with the most thoughtful gift: fabric! It was such a wonderful way to spend the morning.

At home, I have been sewing, despite the lack of power in the studio. I've moved the machine back to the dining room table but I've been trying very hard to clean up after myself so all of my supplies get hidden away before my husband gets home. It's only fair that he has the dining room back. But I have been playing with something new on the wall. I took some leftover Echo and Kaffe Fassett shot cotton and started playing around a little bit. What do you think?

(Option #1)

(Option #2)

(Option #3)

(Option #4)

(Option #5)

(Option #6)

As you can see I've been experimenting with different layouts. I think I know which layout I'm going with, but I'd love to know which you like best. Do you like where any of these are going?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Little Stitches Week 13 - Pattern E - Comfy Jumper Dress

Finally, this week I can share a finish I've been promising to show you for way too long. This is another one for Arden. Her mom, Caroline, and her sister, Mayah, helped me pick out these cheery fabrics before Arden was born, which was in July, so it makes this finish embarrassing. Even more disconcerting is the fact that I made this in the 6 month size, so who knows if it will even fit her now. Ugh.

Pattern E - Comfy Jumper Dress - Difficulty Level: 3

Seriously, I couldn't find my sewing mojo on this one, right from the start. And it's not like it's a super complex pattern. I started this one early in my "Little Stitches" journey and didn't finish it up until today. Like, right now. Seriously five minutes ago.

My first mistake I didn't even notice until a couple days ago and seriously, reading back over the pattern, I don't know how in the world I even made a mistake like this. See the "V" slit I made in the back? Yeah, that's not called for in this pattern. And I just figured out how I screwed that up. I was making this at the same time I was making the Easy Empire-Waist Top and I swear I had to have accidentally turned to those directions when I was making the bodice. That's the only thing that make any sense to me. I am literally shouting "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" In my head. I didn't realize I had made the mistake until I started attaching the top to the skirt and realized it was the back and thought it was an odd design. Yep. No. Just me being an idiot. Thankfully it doesn't ruin the whole thing.

Before I realized that colossal mistake, my struggles started with the pleats. The instructions for the pleats made me scream out loud, several times. They are also the main reason I walked away from this dress on numerous occasions at the beginning and probably what turned me off from finishing it even after I figured them out.

I've been sewing for years and I know how to make a frickin' pleat. But the way the instructions for these pleats are written they might has well been in Chinese! Seriously, I started to second guess my years of sewing. Finally, after stepping away and coming back to the dress, I resigned to throw away the instructions and just rely on the basic sewing knowledge I possess and make my own damn pleats. They ended up just as they were supposed to, I just don't know why the instructions were so complicated.

Finally, I returned to the project and the other day I started to attempt to attach the bodice to the skirt. Much to my frustration, the bodice seemed to be too big for the skirt. I swear this was a doomed project. But I was determined to finish it, even if it wasn't exactly like Amy's and I resolved to gather the bodice if I had to in order to make it work.

But when I came back to it today I realized that I was trying to pin the back side of the bodice to the front side of the skirt. After a 90 degree turn of the bodice everything fit into place without gathering. I think I just let this one get the best of me and once the mental block was up, it was difficult to get around it.

All said an done, my only real complaint (other than the confusing pleat instructions) with this project is the raw edges. It's one thing to have raw edges exposed on the inside of the garment if it's not lined but if I'm going to go to the trouble of lining something, I expect the raw edges to be hidden in the lining.

That said, I would make... sorry... WILL make this dress again. After I've had some time to do a post-mortem and process my mistakes and come to terms with my faults. But next time I will make a small modification when attaching the skirt to the bodice to hide the raw edges. My plan is to fold the top of the skirt and the lining down 1/2" and sandwich the bodice in between the two and then top stitch the bodice to the top. That should solve it.

Sorry it wasn't all roses around here today. Should have been. I just spent the most lovely morning with my friends Liberty and Ramona, hand stitching in the park. It was glorious, but even writing about this dress stressed me out. Ugh. Hope your finishes are more fortunate than mine.

So, what are you working on? Link up your latest projects here and show everyone what you're making. You can share your projects in any state from start to finish. I'll keep the linky party open all week. Remember, you can also share your "Little Stitches" projects anytime in the Undercover Crafter Sew-Along Group on Flickr. See you next week - if the next project doesn't kill me. Just kidding!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tablecloth for Ericka

The good news... I finally unpacked my new machine and took her for a test drive. Man, she's fast! The bad news... we've got some electrical issues to figure out in the garage. Things were going well, for a while, but then I plugged in one too many energy suckers and shorted something in the circuitry. Thankfully, only the garage was affected. But I need to bring the sewing back to the dining room until we can get an electrician out to fix it. Ugh.

But not only lamentations around here. I also wanted to share a recent finish with you. One of my co-workers, Ericka, commissioned me to make a scrappy tablecloth for her future mother-in-law. Her MIL was throwing them an engagement party and she wanted something special as a thank you gift. I talked her through some options and she settled on something inspired by this tablecloth on flickr. It's always been a favorite of mine.

Ericka wanted to pick out the fabric herself so she could have an excuse to go fabric shopping. She told me the dimensions she wanted for the tablecloth and I told her the yardages to pick up and then sent her over to see Lauren at Sew Modern. She came back with a fabulous stack of fabric and I got to work, cutting large pieces and fitting them together to create that scrappy look. Her MIL's favorite color is yellow so the back is a solid Kona Banana and I hand sewed the binding.

I used the same concept to create this as I did a quilt, minus the sandwiching, but instead of pin basting, I just machine basted each side. And I have to apologize for the crappy pictures. I snapped them off quickly before Ericka came to pick it up and my table isn't the right size to show it off properly. And I didn't have much space or any help. But Ericka is happy and that's all that matters.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Phase One Complete

Although it might not look like much, phase one of the studio makeover is complete. We spent most of the day yesterday cleaning, at The Container Store, and celebrating the birth of our nephew. (We're going to New York in a couple weeks to meet him.)

Phase two I can't complete on my own. Someone bought my armoire and is coming to pick it up today so that will clear out a lot of space. Then we're planning to take the sliding doors down that hide the storage shelves which will also help open up the space.

So, I think I've gotten to a place where is just might be okay to take the new machine for a test drive. What do you think?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Saturday Sew

I definitely made a dent in the studio clean up. I think I must have thrown five huge garbage cans worth of old papers and trash out on Friday. I got to a place on Friday where I could move freely in the space and I've identified what most everything is, but I couldn't really move forward without my husband or some new shelves. We got some new shelves yesterday and I'm planning to spent today getting everything back in order so it's in a place where I can, at least, start working again.

On Saturday, after an awesome chat with Natalie, I was able to finally make it to my very first LAMQG Saturday Sew. Our guild hosts these on the third Saturday of each month - kind of like mini-retreats. I debated over breaking out my new machine for the occasion, in fact I actually got as far as bringing the box out to the front yard with all of the rest of my stuff that I needed to load into my car, but I stopped myself and brought it back in the house. I am determined to wait to christen her in my new space. She's gonna need a name.

Unfortunately, I just couldn't get my sewing mojo flowing at the Saturday Sew. It's all the way across town and when I unpacked I realized that I forgot to bring any cutting mats. Ugh. My plan was to work on several bee blocks so I needed to be able to cut. I used Liberty's mat in her space, but running back and forth just wasn't inspiring me. I can't tell you how many projects I picked up, worked on for a second and put down again. I just couldn't get motivated. Then I finally made some progress on the dresses I'm making for my nieces, only to discover that I didn't bring the matching thread I needed for the top stitching.

There was a light. Liberty facilitated another speed block for charity quilt. She brought a pile of yellow, pink and orange scraps from the retreat.

The rules were the same as before: Grab a handful of scraps from the pile and make a block in a half an hour. There were some incredible blocks. And Melody, who made her first block at the retreat in about two hours, was elated when she completed her block before the half hour deadline!

We decided not to sash this one. I think it was the right decision. These blocks just work so well together. So the Saturday wasn't all lost.

In other news, my sister-in-law's water broke last night so my nephew is on his way! I can't wait to meet him!

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's All About the Reward

Today I am beginning to tackle a major project. I am finally turning our garage into my studio. I'm actually embarrassed to show you the state it's in right now.


Eek! I know! Gross, right? A few years back I actually motivated my husband to finally get it organized. We pulled all of the junk he had been storing back there out into the yard and we actually refinished the concrete floor before organizing all of his crap and making it look respectable. He was going to use it as his office. He tried it a few times before retreating back into our guest bedroom, which became his office for a little while until he got an office away from home.


Slowly, I started moving my things in there. And it kept clean for a while, but lately it's turned into the vortex of doom - sucking in all of our accumulated crap. I've carved out a small pathway to be able to access my fabric stash but it's frightening endeavor.


So why, might you ask, did I choose today, of all days, to surmount this feat? Well, there are two reasons, really. One - I've been dreaming about doing this for well over a year now and I finally have some time to dedicate to doing it. And Two - Yesterday I broke down and bought myself this...


(I know!!! Can you believe it!!!) But I know how annoyed my husband gets at having my sewing stuff strewn all over our dining room in our very small house so I am not allowing myself to take it out of the box until I get this done. I'm looking at it as a reward for my effort. I can't wait to take it for a test run! Back to cleaning!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Little Stitches Week 12 - Pattern C - Pillow Sham

Welcome Back for week 11 of the "Little Stitches" Sew-Along. This week I had to whip up the pillow sham for Arden, to match her bed skirt, since I'm going to see her mommy this weekend! It's been way too long.

Pattern C - Pillow Sham - Difficulty Level: 3

Arden's getting big, and I've been planning to make this pillow for her for a long time so I suspected that it was high time I actually got around to whipping it up for her. I knew that this project would be an easy one and the difficutly level was more for the overall project featured in Pattern C, rather than just this pillow sham. In fact, I was able to whip it up in less than an hour this morning.

Yes, this project is quick and simple. It's also pretty straight forward - not many surprises here. When you create the back panel, both of the right sides of the fabric face up when you're aligning them so it creates a natural opening when you turn the pillow.

The only tip I have for this one is when you're basting your top panel to your muslin. Due to the added layer of fusible fleece, it can get a little slippery. You don't need to use your walking foot for this one, but pins can help ease any fabric slippage. I also recommend taking each seam one side at a time, meaning I stitched my seams from one end to the other and didn't pivot at the corners. I started with one of the long sides. Then I stitched the seams on each of the short sides. The key here is to stitch both seams in the same direction. I recommend starting at the long edge you just basted and stitching towards the remaining open long edge. This way you can cheat your fabric toward the opening in case you encounter any slippage and this will minimize puckering.

Otherwise, this one's super easy and it makes a fabulous, quick gift. I can't wait to see how it goes with Arden's crib skirt.

So, what are you working on?Link up your latest projects here and show everyone what you're making. You can share your projects in any state from start to finish. I'll keep the linky party open all week. Remember, you can also show off your "Little Stitches" projects anytime in the Undercover Crafter Sew-Along Group on Flickr. See you next week when I'll show you my latest finish.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Big Thank You Project

I am so excited because I can finally share one of the very special projects I've been working on with all of you. This story begins over four months ago when I first saw this post. Then, very soon after, this landed on my doorstep. I was so surprised and grateful for this amazing journal cover that Rachel had created, just for me. It was such a kind and thoughtful gift, but I immediately thought that I wasn't the one she should be thanking - it should be the other way around.

I remember, over a year before that, when I stumbled upon Rachel's blog and do. Good Stitches for the very first time. I loved the concept and I knew that it was something I needed to join. I contacted Rachel and she explained that she had just started the Love Circle and they were all full, but if there was more interest then she would start more circles. Then, just a few weeks later, she told me that she thought she might have enough people interested to start another circle but would I consider being the circle leader. I jumped at the chance and the Hope Circle was born.

Rachel created this wonderful group that has been bringing joy to my life for over a year, so I should be the one thanking her. So I immediately emailed all of the other circle leaders and asked them if they wanted to join together to help thank Rachel properly. Of course they all said "Yes!" In fact, some of them had been formulating similar thoughts in their heads too.

We created a secret group on Flickr and started discussing ideas for the thank you quilt we wanted to make for her. And Holly had a fantastic idea to take our quilt for Rachel one step further. She suggested that we open the project up to all of the members of our Circles to allow all of those other people who love Rachel and do. Good Stitches as much as we do to show their appreciation.

As we talked about design, Michelle mentioned that Rachel has an affinity for the Japanese + & X blocks and these blocks could be used to make a great scrappy quilt. Since these blocks would be in so many hands (and built from so many stashes) we needed something to make the quilt cohesive.

Then, Alecia had a brilliant idea. Rachel loves Anna Maria Horner, in fact the background of the original DGS Button was from her Good Folks line, so we decided to use that line as the inspiration for the color palate of the quilt. We opened it up to anyone who wanted to participate in our circles. The instructions were simple; make one Japanese + & X block using Amy's tutorial, use Good Folks if you have it - if not, pull fabrics from your stash that compliment that color palate, then send your block off to your circle leader.


We set a deadline of two months for the Circle Leaders to collect the blocks from their Circles. The Circle Leaders would then assemble the blocks into a strip of ten blocks (any more or less could remain loose so I could create additional strips or augment shorter strips) and send them to me by the start of the New Year. Although, Rachel did give some of us quite a scare when she posted this! We almost thought we were done for! Thankfully, she decided to go with scrappy triangles. Phew!

In January, beautiful little packages began to grace my doorstep. And as I would open them I would squeal with delight. I never in a million years thought that I would be able to work with such wonderful blocks as these. They were all breathtaking, surprisingly coherent and each quite unique like their makers. I am still amazed at how beautifully they all work together - kind of like do. Good Stitches, don't you think?

I collected the last blocks right before my LAMQG retreat and set quilting this as my main goal for the weekend. The first night of the retreat I pieced together some of the shorter strips to get them to ten blocks across and I pulled out my own AMH stash and started making the last blocks needed to round out the final strip.

The next morning, when I was working on the layout, I quickly realized that some of the strips were slightly longer than others, one of the challenges of having this project pass through so many hands. Thankfully, Ramona had a brilliant idea. She recommended offsetting each row slightly and to stop worrying about aligning the blocks. It was a stroke of genius and totally helped me get outside of my own box, since I have a thing for lines and symmetry. I dashed for my AMH stash and added chunks to the ends of each of the rows, alternating side to side to even everything out. And the quilt top was complete.

The backing fabric was thoughtfully donated by Alecia. She selected the most gorgeous print from the Good Folks line. I made my quit sandwich before dinner and mused over how to quilt it.

Initially, I intended to straight-line quilt her, on the diagonal, perhaps, through the middle of the Xs. I thought that would be the perfect compliment to these scrappy blocks. But, with offsetting the strips, this suddenly didn't seem the right way to quilt it any longer. Many of the women at the retreat were admiring this spectacular quilt, even threatening to steal it away, when Jamie (the fastest stippler in the West) offered a trade. She wanted to get her hands on this puppy and hates to straight-line quilt but she wanted her own gorgeous Drunk Love-Inspired quilt, straight-ligned so she proposed a trade. She would stipple Rachel's quilt if I straight-lined hers. Wanting to make Rachel's quilt only the best, most special quilt in the world I wholeheartedly agreed to the trade. I knew Jamie's work would make this quilt even more beautiful.

Jolene (who generously contributed to help purchase the batting) reminded us that Rachel loves black and dark gray so I picked out some Kona Coal for the binding, thinking that a solid would be the best way to showcase this lovely. And I used a Gutterman 100% cotton variegated thread in Raspberry to quilt it, which was graciously donated by Mary Catherine, along with the fabric for the binding. I attached the binding but left finishing the binding hand for later, planning to take the hand sewing with me on another trip.

But there is icing on this cake. Oh yes! Fate was on our side, and literally two days after our quilt retreat, none other than Anna Maria Horner herself was speaking at our monthly guild meeting. Seriously? We couldn't have planned this any better. Latifah and Alissa told AMH about this quilt and after the meeting I was able to show it to her and have her sign it for Rachel. She was touched by the story behind this quilt and even mentioned that the print on the back was her favorite and she was sad because she didn't have any left in her own stash.


I finished up the binding by hand on my recent trip to Denver and even had a chance to do a little photo shoot in the freshly fallen snow to help showcase it's brilliance even more before washing it up and secretly sending it off to it's rightful home.

Seriously, I am in love with this quilt. It was a labor of joy and thanks. Usually, I'm not much for scrappy quilts, but this quilt changed me forever. I want one of my own. Even my husband, who isn't much into quilts absolutely GUSHED over it. Every single person constructed their portion of this amazing quilt with so much consideration and love and it just radiates through the entire thing. I can't speak for everyone involved, but I know that helping to create this masterpiece for such a wonderful woman as Rachel has given me so much joy. I only wish that we all could have been there to present it to her in person so we could thank her for all she's done first hand.

Thank you to all of the amazing women who helped me spearhead this project:
Natalie of the Love Circle
Alecia of the Faith Circle
Jolene of the Joy Circle
Michelle of the Bliss Circle
Katie of the Peace Circle
Holly of the Inspire Circle
Mary Catherine of the Grace Circle
Kay of the Cherish Circle
Leigh of the Harmony Circle
Deborah of the Trust Circle
Ronit of the Empower Circle

I loved working with all of you on such an amazing project.