17 December 2011

Quilt for a Smile: We have a quilt top!

As is par for the course around the holidays, things have been pretty busy around here.  Children's activities, meetings and my shoulder surgery have kept me away from the sewing machine more than I'd have liked.  But I did manage to eek out a quilt top.

 As I posted earlier, the generous Patricia Bravo sent fabric scraps from her studio to readers who volunteered to make a quilt for Project Linus.  I chose to make a Mod Mosaic quilt based on Elizabeth Hartman's Mod Mosaic floor pillow tutorial.  I absolutely love the Mod Mosaic block, but it is time consuming!  I think I'll keep to simpler blocks for charity quilts- the goal is to make them quickly so I can donate them quickly.

After watching me play around and make blocks with the scraps I received, Martina (my 8-year old) has become an ardent admirer of Patricia Bravo.  So much so that she has commissioned a Mod Mosaic quilt from me.  We went to Pat's blog and browsed though her fabric collections, where Martina chose the yet-to-be-released Poetica in the cool colorway for her quilt.  My parents gave her Christmas shopping money, and she decided to put aside some of that money to buy a 1/2 yard bundle of Poetica when it hits the shops in February.

The quilting of the Project Linus quilt will, unfortunately, have to wait until my shoulder completely heals.  This gives me a little time to decide how to quilt it.  Free motion quilting is out (never tried it), as is stitch in the ditch (which lines would I follow?).  Any suggestions?

16 December 2011

Giveaway Winner

Many thanks to everyone who shared their short-listed projects with me!  It was so fun reading through all of them.  In fact, I borrowed many of the ideas and now I'm going to have to short-list my short-list!
The time has come to draw a winner for the Sew Liberated Emmaline Apron pattern and Jennifer Paganelli FQ's.  Without further ado, the random number generator chooses:

Shana said...
I want to make a lap quilt for my Mom.
 Congratulations Shana... hope you can use the FQ's in your mom's lap quilt!

12 December 2011

Sew, Mama, Sew! Giveaway Day

With the year almost over, it's time for me to wrap up my projects from 2011 and think about what I want to do in 2012.  With just a year of quilting under my belt, there's still so much I haven't tried.  Paper-pieced hexies, New York beauties, and cathedral windows are all on the short-list.

Also on my short list is a giveaway.  Who doesn't love a good giveaway?  I know I do.  Sew, Mama, Sew! Giveaway Day provides a great way to reach a lot of people, so I'm jumping on this train.  My husband continually complains comments about my ever-growing fabric stash.  He'll be ecstatic to know that I will be offering up some of that stash as a prize.  (Of course, that just makes room for more fabric, right?) 

Not only will the winner receive 5 FQ's from Jennifer Paganelli's Bell Bottoms, but a copy of the Emmaline Apron pattern from Sew Liberated as well.

What do you have to do to win these this fabulous pattern and fat quarters?  Just leave a comment about what's on your sewing short-list for 2012.  Following me is optional (and appreciated), but not necessary to win.

The giveaway, open to both U.S. and non-U.S. residents, will be closed at 5 pm PST on December 16th, at which time a winner will be picked at random.  Be sure to leave your email address in your comment if you are a no reply commenter.  I'll contact and post the winner on December 17th.  Good luck!

Post now closed to comments

09 December 2011

Back in the Saddle

After an unexpected sewing hiatus due to a minor surgical procedure on my right shoulder, I'm finally able to sew again.  I probably should let the shoulder heal a bit more, but I've been itching to get in front of the machine.  Nothing like being told to rest and take it easy to get me motivated to sew!

One block I've been wanting to try (but didn't have enough scraps to make until now) is the string block.  Val at Pink Please! recently put out a call for 10" (finished) string blocks for a charity quilt she's making.  The perfect reason to try it out:

This was a fun block to make, though I probably agonized a little more than I needed to over fabric placement.  It's a scrappy block, so I should just be able to pick up any old scrap that's the right size, no?  But there I was, auditioning scraps, over-thinking as usual.  A 5-minute block became a 15-minute block as I hunted through my scraps for just the right print.  Here are a couple of smaller string blocks made for the Mini Scrap Basket Swap:

These 6.5" took 20 minutes to make.  I'm going to have to force myself to grab random strips if I want to finish 19 more in time for the swap.

I also completed my block for do. Good Stitches.  Before my shoulder surgery, I had finished one side of the December block for the Love Circle, based on this excellent Herringbone Block tutorial from Rachel at Stitched in Color.  After piecing the second half of the block three days later and trying to match the points, I noticed the first half had shrunk about 1/2 an inch.  No amount of re-pressing fixed it. 

And then a light bulb went off.  Normally I press my seams to the side.  I asked myself "Would it help of I pressed the seams open?"  Why yes, it does!  The block grew back to it's original size and the points matched up perfectly.

 I may have to re-think the way I press my seams.  Which way do you press, open or to the side?

01 December 2011


     My little guy loves to roll his Thomas trains all over my sewing machine.  All over.  Yesterday he kept having train crashes.  One of the crashes knocked the thread take-up spring on the tension unit out of whack.  To quote Sir Topham Hat, this has caused confusion and delay.  I didn't notice it until I tried to finish a secret swap project for this week's BAMQG meeting. 

     So now my machine has to have some unscheduled maintenance done.  I may try to do it myself... there are some good references on the vintage Singer yahoo group.  If I muck things up, I can always take it to a repair shop.  Thank goodness I have a backup machine.  Which the little one is now rolling his toy truck all over.

    There were a few things I managed to complete before the fateful crash.  Two 12.5" log cabin blocks for the BAMQG Heirloom Challenge

There was a third in the works, but I scrapped it.  I also made a gift for the guild's December Secret Swap, but the photo won't be posted until after the meeting.   

     My November bee blocks were mailed off just under the wire.  I usually finish bee blocks well before the deadline, but the procrastinator in me doesn't like to send them as soon as they're done.  I'm always rushing to get them off a few days before month's end.

    The November block for Piece Bee With You was Geese In A Ring in aqua and orange.  This was lots of fun to make.  The next time I make one, I'll pre-cut the fabric.  Although this isn't a quick block by any means, it took much longer to make than it should have.  Alisha also asked for a small siggy block.

     The theme for November's Design Camp [think outside the block] Swap was Ocean Dreams.  We were sent a mix of beautiful solid cottons and linens and asked to improvise a block with a beachy feel.  The block I made was inspired by striped beach cabanas along a boardwalk. 

It doesn't look as improvised as it is.  It sort of looks paper-pieced, but I suppose that will happen if you're rotary cutting with a ruler!

21 November 2011

Art Gallery Fabric/Project Linus Charity quilt

          Look what I found waiting in the mailbox after the wine weekend getaway:

The scrap bag from Patricia Bravo's studio had arrived!  She's one of my favorite designers- those gorgeous prints and solids!  Her generosity has just sent her to the top of my list!  Sending out studio scraps to benefit Project Linus- it's green (reduces waste), it benefits a wonderful cause, and I get to work with her beautiful fabric- what's not to love?

      I've spent the past couple of nights piecing like mad.  The Mod Mosaic block is perfect for the scraps I received- mostly small scraps, but almost a yard and a half of Pure Elements solid.  I LOVE how the blocks are shaping up.  Little momma watched me working on the blocks last night and lamented that they were not for her.

I am now fighting what will probably be a losing battle to buy a half yard bundle of Bespoken and some yardage of Pure Elements in Cabernet to make a Mod Mosaic quilt to keep!

14 November 2011

Wine, wine and more wine (and a little bit of fabric)

     Weekend getaways without the kids are very few and far between.  With my parents in town for a week, my husband and I took the rare opportunity to go down to the central coast of California to do a little wine tasting this past weekend.

     Paso Robles is a wonderful alternative to Napa Valley.  The vibe is laid-back and the scenery is absolutely beautiful.  If you love bold or complex reds, then Paso Robles should be on your bucket list.  It's what they do best.

     Not wanting this trip to be a blur of wines we couldn't remember, we selected a handful of wineries that we wanted to try at a slower pace.  This was a much more enjoyable experience than the usual vineyard crawl.  Highlights were lunch and wine tasting at Cass Winery, wine tasting and a cave tour at Eberle Winery, and our last stop, Calcareous Vineyards, where we had lunch outside enjoying the 50-mile view, delicious food and great wine.

     A non-wine highlight of the trip was a visit to Birch Fabrics.  It's a charming little shop with a nice selection of modern and Japanese import fabrics.  I liked it so much I went twice!  My husband was such a sport while I shopped.  It would have been quite easy to break the bank, but I showed restraint with my fabric haul.  No easy feat, but only fabric I needed to round out my stash for Flickr bees came home with me.

     My husband and I felt guilty about leaving for the weekend while my parents were visiting, but the wine helped.  As did the fact that the children seemed unconcerned when we said goodbye to them Friday morning (they knew they were in for a weekend of getting anything they wished).  And the fact that my parents could enjoy their grandchildren without us to reign in the treats.  Winners all around!

07 November 2011

Worthwhile diversions

     It is with much regret that I report that, for the first time in my adult life, I missed a deadline.  I dislike being late for anything.  I even had all three of my children early!  [Not on purpose- they all just decided to show up a few weeks earlier than expected.]  The Habitat Challenge is a different story altogether.  Here sits the quilt, hibernating on the hutch until I feel inspired to pick it up again:

I'll blog about the Habitat challenge in my next post... not feeling great about it at the moment.

    In the meantime, I'll post about something I do feel good about- helping others.  I came across a blog post where Kelsey of Kelsey Creates put out a call for help making blocks for a donation quilt.  The quilt will be made for an acquaintance of hers who not only lost his home last year in the San Bruno gas line explosion, but was recently involved in a car accident that put him in the hospital.  His wife is due to have a baby in December.  

    The block requested is a Mod Mosaic block, which I've been wanting to try.  I love it.  Here it is in the chosen color palette:

There's still time if anyone is interested in making a block.

     And because my family keep hounding me about finishing their quilts, of course I decided instead to answer Pat Bravo's call to make a charity quilt for Project Linus.  I received an email from her, and some of her beautiful studio scraps should be landing on my doorstep this week.  I'm looking forward to playing with her pretty fabric, and I hope to knock out a quilt before Christmas.

01 November 2011

The quilt top

     The Habitat quilt top is finally done.  I think.  At 50" x 72", it's kind of a funky size- too narrow to be a throw, but too long to be a lap blanket.  I'm debating on whether to make it wider, but I'm running out of time (and fabric).

     I struggled last week to find time to piece the blocks.  Most of my sewing was done after the kids went to sleep.  I thought I was finished Friday night when all sixteen blocks were sewn together, but after pressing the top and spreading it out on the floor, it seemed smallish.  So I decided to add another row of blocks.  But where to find the time to cut and sew them? 

     Enter the hubby.  After the older kids' soccer games Saturday morning, he took all three kids to the park and let me have 3 hours of peace and quiet so I could sew.  He even brought home dinner so I wouldn't have to cook.  My hero!  

[Full disclosure:  In the spirit of true procrastination, not all 3 hours were spent sewing.  Some of it was spent playing around on Flickr and blog-stalking.]

     I'm mulling over whether to add a wide border on the sides and a narrow border along the top and bottom in a contrasting solid color.  Leaning towards no because I want to keep things simple.  And because I have to work on the back of the quilt- more piecing!

26 October 2011

The plan

     Thank the gods, inspiration for the Habitat Challenge finally struck around 10:30 Monday night.   A plan was sketched, Habitat fabric was cut, a test block was sewn.  Things were looking up.  Until I was lured away by Parks and Recreation (damn you, Netflix!).  My project was dunzo for the evening.

     I fully intended on getting the rest of the fabric cut and all 16 blocks sewn yesterday.  After getting the older kids off to school, I built an elaborate train track for the little guy and let him go to town playing with Thomas, Salty and friends.  But I had conveniently forgotten about the planned power outage to upgrade a transformer in the neighborhood, so no sewing for me.  I couldn't even cut my Kona Moss into the 69 pieces required for this project because it hadn't been ironed yet!  I thought I might get to sew because the power came back on at 2:30 pm, but the transformer blew half an hour later.  On the bright side, I didn't have to make dinner.

     So now, with Kieran down for a nap, fabric mostly cut, and plan in hand, it's time to get down to business.  I'll be at my sewing table if you need me.


24 October 2011

Habitat Challenged

     This Habitat challenge is not quite working out the way I planned.  My great idea was...well, was not so great.  The plan was to discharge color from half of each fat eighth we were given and choose a simple design to highlight the results. 

     Here's what the fabric looked like after 20 minutes in my washing machine with a weak bleach and water solution, then a spin in the dryer:

The moss color turned to amber, and the aqua faded a teeny bit.  Aside from that, there was no perceptible change.  I threw a few of the pieces into my kitchen sink with a much stronger bleach and water solution, swishing them around for about 10 minutes.

The colors faded a bit more, but not to the degree I was expecting.  Of course, had I accidentally spilled bleach in the washer while pre-washing the fabric, there would have been all kinds of discharging going on!   
     Either the colors weren't saturated enough before the discharging experiment, or the fabric was treated to hold color.  Whether one, the other, or both, I've got to think of something fast- there's less than 2 weeks before the next BAMQG meeting.

     Speaking of BAMQG, I've also got to make my blocks for the A-Z Quilt-along.  We're on "E" blocks, but I've fallen a little behind.  So it's "D" and "E" blocks, plus my Habitat Challenge project by next Saturday.  I'm hoping the quilting gods will smile down upon me this week.    

19 October 2011

A bee for a Bee

     I've been hijacking time here and there from my domestic and child-rearing duties to work on a blog button for the Piece Be With You Flickr group.  My kitchen table was the sight of some furious paper piecing last night.  I thought I would be able to knock out the actual block for the button image during the little one's nap yesterday.  But those two hours were spent divvying up the design into sub-units and numbering the pieces.

    Here's a sneak peek that leaves little to the imagination, but it's fun to see the block before the paper was torn away.

    The big reveal will be on Flickr.  After I figure out how to make the actual button.  I'm hoping it's as simple as finding a piece of code, then copy-paste-replace.

18 October 2011

Down in the dumps

     The past few days have been stressful.  I'm embroiled in a tense situation with my daughter's Brownie troop.  And it came out of nowhere.  The only explanation I have is the troop leader is offended that we're transferring to another troop and felt the need create trouble.  I've had headaches ever since this bewildering situation arose over the weekend.   
    So, no sewing the past few days.  But today I decided not to let the pettiness of one woman keep me down.  My goal this morning is to make good on my commitment to make a bee button for the Piece Bee With You Flickr group.  Oh, who am I kidding?  It'll take all day because the little one is clingy these days.  Hopefully he takes a nice, long nap.

12 October 2011

Mission (almost) accomplished

   It's such a nice feeling to have fulfilled all of my bee/swap blocks for this month early.   So different from my college days of all-nighters, pots of coffee, pleas for divine inspiration, and vows that the next paper would be started earlier than the night before it was due.

The blocks for Teal We Meet Again, Design Camp, and Piece Be With You sit on my hutch, ready to be packed up and posted.  And the Scrapbuster Swap blocks were mailed weeks ago. 

     It was such a relief to get those blocks done, because I had a commitment to this guy:

Yesterday was his 2nd birthday, and I promised to make him a birthday cake from scratch.  He talked all day about his birthday cake and being "2 old."  We celebrated by having our special occasion dinner (Pan-Roasted Pork Pork Loin with Leeks over rice), followed by an eggless vanilla and chocolate cake with ice-cream.  It's pretty amusing to watch a 2 year old open gifts. 

     The only other thing I've got with a hard and fast deadline is the Habitat Challenge through BAMQG.  We were given fat eighths of Jay McCarroll's Habitat in the Brights colorway .  Here they are in their uncut glory:

     There are a couple of ideas percolating in my head.  The first is one which involves a lot of applique which would be beyond my skill level and patience.  The second idea is much simpler.  Given the impending deadline, I think the second one is the way to go.  Could be cool, could be a disaster. 

09 October 2011

The devil is in the details- Girl Skipping Rope take 2

     After 3 days of sewing, unsewing, design tweaking, and re-working an entire section, the first paper-pieced block I've ever designed and drafted on my own is done.  So much work never went into a 10-inch block!  
     Meet Ginger:


She's more than a little patchy- a testament to my lack of paper-piecing skills.  The head section was the part I had to tweak.  Those pesky y-seams!  The second incarnation was done without them, and came out much neater.  There are a few other spots that didn't need to be chopped up so much, but I wasn't looking at the big picture when I was piecing, and then the block came out a rectangle.  For me, squaring up meant adding fabric, not trimming back! 
    Nevertheless, I think she turned out well (I can't bring myself to refer to her as an inanimate object.  We spent too much time together).  I'm very sad to see her go (as are my children), but this week she'll be on her way to her new home in Melbourne, Australia.  Hope you like her, Jane! 
     Next month's Piece Bee With You block shouldn't be so much of a struggle for me now that I've got one under my belt.  Some takeaways from constructing Ginger:
  • The first sketch should not be the final draft
  • Draft the design using squares, rectangles and triangles.  Here I did the opposite- chopping the design up into squares, rectangles and triangles, which resulted in umpteen teeny pieces
  • Avoid y-seams if at all possible
  • Know the targeted block size beforehand
  • Measure twice, cut once (an oldie but goodie)
Just for fun, here is a pictorial history of Ginger's progression (first blogged here):

07 October 2011

girl skipping rope

     Oh my sainted aunt!  I jumped in feet first with this block!  For the Piece Bee With You October block, I sketched out this for Jane, who requested girls in dresses.  All those tiny pieces- what was I thinking?  I'll tell you what I was thinking... I fell in love with the sketch and knew she had to be made.  So post her in the swap's Flickr pool I did, to make it official.  Now I'm committed.
     See how nicely the lower half of her body came out?

 She was easy, until I got to her upper extremities.  So many teeny pieces of fabric to maneuver through my beloved, if temperamental, machine.  There are a couple of places where y-seams are required- putting those newly acquired skills to use (though still in the process of trying to master them).  Because of this, and the teensy weensy pieces in the top third of the block, a few bulky spots were unavoidable.  I'm hoping that the recipient will love her so much that she won't notice :)
   p.s. I unintentionally worked some Denyse Schmidt's Katie Jump Rope into the block.  I was looking for green in my stash to represent grass, and this was the only thing that could pass.  How neat is that?

05 October 2011

Letting go- sort of

     I have made my first ever improvisational block.  It took most of the day yesterday because little K is in this phase of needing me to be right there alongside him.  Or he needs to be a part of whatever I'm doing.  Not good when I'm trying to sew- he's tends to make a grab at all of the pointy tools.
     Working without a pattern was a wonderful experience- very liberating.  I must confess, however, that I thought making improv blocks would be quick and easy.  Not so- there was a lot of forethought and "unsewing" in the production of this block.  I wanted to make sure that the fabrics were balanced throughout.  I also had to have a crash course in Y seams (thank goodness for youtube).  I'm very happy with the results, but I fear the little blue and white striped triangle in the bottom right corner is going to be swallowed by sashing.     
    Anyway, without further ado, here's Dustin's Red X block for the Design Camp [think outside the block] Swap:

    It was great to work with fabrics I normally don't work with in my projects (although the brown herringbone came from my stash).  The older kids saw the unfinished block on the table yesterday when they came home from school.  They both LOVE the fabrics, and when I told them it was for someone else they were sorely disappointed.  Little momma even went so far as to suggest that I go out and buy all the same fabric and make a quilt for us! 
     I feel inspired to quilt fabric other than quilting fabric.  I kept a pile of the hubby's work shirts that were marked for donation, thinking I would make them into a quilt.  I hear them calling my name.   

24 September 2011

Make someone happy

     The last inch of binding has been sewn down and the last knot buried.  The crib quilt I have been working on (first blogged here) for the 100 Quilts for Kids event at Swim Bike Quilt is done.

    Scrappy bindings are my favorite- they neatly pull the whole quilt together when composed of the fabrics used in the blocks.  I used four of the six prints from the quilt blocks, two Jenean Morrison Wild World prints along with a couple of the other complementary fabrics.  I quilted by following the zig zag lines of the pattern.   
     I'm in love with the quilt and wish I could keep it, but I'm glad to help a child in need and grateful to be in a position to do so.  I hope the child who receives the quilt gets much warmth and comfort from it. [Edit 10/28/11- This quilt is going to Project Night Night.]

23 September 2011

What's that buzzing sound?

     The Scrapbuster Swap blocks, both monochromatic and mixed, have finally been squared up.  They were finished last week but squaring up is my least favorite part about quilting, so they sat in a pretty pile in my living room.  I finally decided yesterday it was time for a trimming so I can post them.   

     Because four quilts-in-progress and a sweater-in-progress seem not enough to keep me occupied, I have joined two new quilting bees via Flickr.  I'm a little apprehensive, as they both involve blocks with which I have very little experience.  But I've always been a quick study, and I'm eager to stretch myself as a quilter.

     The first bee is Design Camp [think outside the block] Swap.  This is a modern block swap with improvisational blocks as the focus.  I consider myself a modern quilter in that I use modern fabrics in my blocks.  I love the bright colors and bold graphics.  But I have yet to piece an improvisational block.  Hopefully this experience will help me let go of that need for symmetry and order.  It's time to get a little crazy with the block piecing!
     There are some very good discussions about modern quilting and improvisational blocks out there.  I'm eager to try and hoping that the blocks look improvisational by design, not from laziness to follow a pattern or to match seams and points (matching seams and points perfectly is something I'm still trying to master).

     The second bee I joined is the Piece Bee with You Swap, a foundation piecing bee.  I've done exactly one foundation pieced block- the square-within-a-square.  Not exactly challenging.  I'd better practice before the bee starts up in October.  I bounced around the web looking for suggestions on how to create and piece your own design, but there wasn't much on this topic.  I'm sure experienced foundation piecers would think it quite easy to know where to begin piecing their own original design, but I am clueless.  Looks like it's time to hit the scrap pile and figure this thing out!  And if anyone who may be reading this has any references they can point me to, I'd greatly appreciate it! 

13 September 2011

Scrapbuster swap- more, more, more!

     Twenty blocks for the Scrapbuster Swap (blogged here) are waiting to be sent.  I was ready to package them up and send them on their merry way until I browsed the Flickr pool for this swap.  Photos of monochromatic blocks were posted by a fellow swapper and they are gorgeous.  So, of course, now I have to make monochromatic blocks!
     I have enough in my stash to make aqua, pink and green monochromatic blocks.  That's sixteen different aqua prints, sixteen pink prints and sixteen green prints.  I've only completed two quilts, so the math doesn't quite add up, does it?  I have a bit of a fabric hoarding problem.
     Here's the aqua block.  I love it and can't wait to make the pink and green blocks.


08 September 2011

Hurray for holiday weekends!

     Thanks to a kind friend, my family spent the long Labor Day weekend in California gold country.  We had an amazing time at the preserved gold rush town of Columbia, where we panned for gold, dipped candles and bowled old west-style.  We also enjoyed fishing at Pinecrest Lake with friends, hiking the Natural Bridges trail down to a flooded cave leading out to the New Melones reservoir, and just plain relaxing at the home where we were staying.
     In spite of all the outdoor activity, I was able to get a little sewing done.  Earlier this summer, I pieced a bunch of half-square triangles using white Kona cotton and a mix fabrics (including some lovely Jenean Morrison Wild World prints) with no concrete project in mind.  It was just mindless sewing of fabrics that had been in my stash for quite some time.  I learned about the 100 Quilts for Kids challenge through the Bay Area Modern Quilt Guild and decided this would be the perfect project for those orphan HST's.

I agonized over the layout for over an hour before settling on this zig-zag layout (the kids are actually holding it sideways).  The quilting and binding should go fairly quickly since it's a crib size quilt.  Then it's off to Project Night Night, where this Wild Zig-Zag Quilt will make its way to a small child in need of warmth.    

29 August 2011

Scrappy block, take two

     One Postage Stamp block down, nineteen to go for the Scrapbuster Block Swap.  So I thought until I measured it.  Finishing up at 8 3/8", it's an 1/8" shy of what it should measure.  Naughty thing- now I have to unsew you!  Ah, well, I wasn't really in love with the block anyway.  There were too many aqua tones in the block.
     After a little trip to Hart's Fabrics to pick up a few FQ's and raiding a friend's stash (which negates the"scrapbusting" part of the swap), I started the second iteration of Block #1. 

It measures up at exactly 8 1/2" square.  
     The first block was strip-pieced, which went mighty quickly.  The second was pieced individually.  I enjoy piecing individually piecing the components better than strip-piecing.  It takes more time, but I like playing with fabric selection and placement.  That, or I just like doing things the hard way.