Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sewing fun


All quilting activities have hit the back burner the last couple of weeks. I have been working on some other sewing, including a fun little Christmas project for my darling 3 year old (that is not done yet of course). Who can believe that what she wants from Santa is a "long white dress" that must touch the floor and "look like yours" (aka a wedding dress). Santa's elves don't have the sewing skills (or the time or the or money or the patience) to make a dress like mine...so they are making a dress that will be similar in all the important ways...it will be long, and it will be white. :)  Meanwhile, I decided to make a skirt for my cute little sister who is going to be a missionary. She was having a hard time finding suitable skirts, so I volunteered to make her one and this is what we ended up with:


Super easy, and I really like how it turned out. The fabric for this is Midwest Modern Optic Blossom in Linen by Amy Butler and the pattern is Simplicity 2257. I have never really been a huge Amy Butler fan, but I really like this fabric for some reason. I had a bunch of leftovers. And I had this sweet little gem that I borrowed from my sister-in-law:


I don't own a serger (yet), but every time I decide to make a clothing item I wish I had one...so it was really nice to have this itty bitty one (that only does the over-lock stitch) on hand. It totally made me want to make more stuff. So I decided to try and make a little toddler dress out of the leftover fabric from the skirt. I didn't have a pattern for this though...I just grabbed a dress out of the closet and faked it. I even made up the sleeves. And surprise, surprise, it doesn't look completely goofy! Success!


The little neck ruffle was an afterthought...since the neck was looking slightly bunchy. And baby girl likes it...and the sucker I had to bribe her with to put it on! ;) 


Friday, November 18, 2011

Quilty Christmas Gifts!

I am generally not someone who thinks about Christmas until well after Thanksgiving is over---which usually leads to a mad scramble half way through December. But this year, with so much extra time on my hands here in Arizona...I got a little bit overzealous and got some things done early!


My calendar is done! Yay! I liked the one I made last year so much, I decided to make it a yearly tradition. The plan at the beginning of the year was to make at least one quilt a month so I would have enough to fill a calendar. Then I made a few extra quilts I wasn't planning on, so I wasn't able to fit all of them in--I just picked my favorites--and only one or two got left out.


I  got these printed at Zazzle again--I was so pleased with the quality last year, and this year they are just as beautiful. And Zazzle has sales...they are kind-of expensive (in my opinion) if you get them at regular price, but if you get them on sale, they are totally affordable. I ordered more today --$10.50 each for the standard size (11x17" open) and $13 each for the huge size (14 x 22" open) on a 4 hour sale--so I got a killer deal. I even got free shipping with their ZazzleBlack trial which is worth it if you plan on ordering more than once. But the best part is I give these as gifts to half the girls in my family...so half my shopping is done already! Mom and Grandma are going to be so happy (and probably surprised, since they don't read this blog)!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

This is where the magic happens...

Spoiler Alert: This post is filled with pictures of my quilting room!

I recently gave my quilting room a really good cleaning (there was vacuuming involved, so you know it was getting serious)! I thought it would be a good time to take pictures so I can remember my little Minnesota quilting room forever--I will be so sad to leave it in a few months when we move!

Earlier this year my husband went out of town on business. I was so excited. I love my husband, but sometimes it is nice to have several nights in a row to just get some quilty projects done without having to worry that he'll think I'm neglecting him. I had big plans. I had just finished making a bunch of quilt tops and I was ready to take a break and do some actual quilting. So the first day he was gone, I turned on my quilting machine and quickly discovered that I wouldn't be doing that quilting anytime soon. I've had my machine for 3 years and never had a problem, but with any machine...it was inevitable. Luckliy, I wasn't working on anything with a deadline.

I quickly made a call and found out I'd have to send in some of the parts for my machine and I wouldn't have them back for a couple of weeks. So I booked it over to UPS and got them sent off. Then I sulked for at least an hour. All my big plans were ruined. Finally I decided I might as well do something constructive. That night I made my daughter a nightgown that I had been meaning to make for months. Yay. But with that done I still had 2 more days that my husband would be gone...and I was burned out on piecing. I started thinking about what I would do for 2 or 3 weeks without being able to actually finish a quilt. So then I got the most brilliant idea ever! I would give my quilting room a makeover!! We'd lived in this house for 3 years and I had never changed the decor from the previous owner...lemon yellow walls (it looked neon yellow in some lighting) and a valance that reminded me of a circus tent (mostly because of the shape). Plus, it was a giant mess...it really needed a good cleaning. The time had come...it had to be done.

Of course I needed to buy some fabric for this...I had to make a new valance, etc...so I shopped online and planned for 2 solid days. Monday morning, I went to the paint store and got paint, moved everything around and had the room painted in a few days. Then it was time to accessorize...so here are some pictures. I've included a couple of  "before" pictures because it makes the "after" pictures look so much more amazing.

BEFORE:

What? You thought I was kidding? It was a GIANT mess. And please note the circus tent valance--it's kinda hard to tell from the picture, but it stuck out about 6 inches from the wall!

Another angle...notice the lack of wall decor...

...the lack of organization...

...the piles of junk stacked everywhere.

AFTER:

The first thing I did was make a new valance....I totally love it...I think the fabric is so happy and fun but it has certainly gotten mixed reviews (I'll let you guess who definitely doesn't like it).

The fabric is June Bug by Alexander Henry and the black dots are from the same line.


And here's where my small quilts ended up...this wall was begging to have some mini quilts on it so I made these four (see these posts (L-R): circles, wedges, squares, peels).

Love em...


I obviously needed some organization for all my quilting supplies. I thought about making an organizer I saw in a magazine but then I was looking online and I saw this sweet scrap-booking embellishment center. I knew it would be perfect to hold all my little tools and notions...so I shimmied on down to Michael's the next day and bought one on sale! I absolutely love it! It holds tons of stuff. The little jars are sold separately, and it does come with little rods to hold ribbon, but I just left those out.





I decided the room needed a little flair so I made these blocks. On the other side they are different colors and say something else...they were given to me as a gift but were still sitting in a cupboard, package unopened...so I pulled them out, flipped them over, and used vinyl stickers I found at Hobby Lobby to make them say something more appropriate for the space.


I finally hung up my cork board...that's where I put all my coupons and inspiring pictures, etc.


And I made this little sign...I've been wanting to do this one for sometime. My husband gave me a quilting magazine subscription for our first Christmas (before we got married) --since you can't really wrap something like that he printed out a picture of the magazine and next to it he wrote "so you can keep quilting your little heart out". So I made this sign to remind myself (and my husband) that he encourages my quilting addiction! I was so pleased with my resourcefulness on this sign..I used a piece of an old desk that was lying under my quilting table...painted it with acrylic paint and used fabric and liquid starch  for the "quilt" letters and the border. Easy.



I figured that since I was getting all crazy I might as well get a new ironing board cover too-- I found this one on etsy.


And then I pretended to organize my closet...it still needs work.


This shelf is sitting on the floor in a corner...not visible in any of the pictures. The fabrics in these baskets are just dying to become quilts! I love to pull stacks of fabric from my stash when I get an idea for a new quilt...but usually it is a while before I get around to using them--but I don't want to put them away (I want to keep looking at them so I don't forget about them)...so in the past they have been left on the cutting table, or the quilting table. And then they get stuff stacked on top of them, and it just adds to the general disarray that is my quilting room. So now I keep the fabrics for my next few projects in these little baskets.

The last thing I did was make a rule for myself that I would clean my quilting room every time I finish a quilt. I am super awesome at making exceptions to this rule, but so far I'd say it's working...the room is clean right now!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Beach Umbrellas Quilt


Here is my latest quilt and entry for Blogger's Quilt Festival. And surprise, surprise, there are some circles involved. Yes, I'm obsessed with circles. I was trying to deny it for a while, but let's just embrace the obsession, shall we? ;) I started making this quilt with the intention of using it as decor for my family room (which I finally decided to decorate even though we are putting our house on the market in less than 6 months). I had made the decision to decorate in tangerine and aqua, and one day while in the midst of a Google image search, I saw a block from this antique quilt. I thought it looked so cool with a background that was the same color as some of the wedges in the wheel...I wanted to try it with white as the background. So since that block and the colors orange and aqua were in my head at the same time, they all became this quilt. 


I designed this in EQ6. The inspiration block and most of the wheel blocks in the EQ block library had a circle appliqued on in the center, but I wanted to make mine without...I thought it looked cooler...like little asterisks. I decided to go with all solids on this one...I thought about just using one color for the asterisks...or maybe two...but it just seemed a little boring, so in the end I used four different colors...the dark orange and light aqua are Kona school bus and azure and the dark aqua and light orange are Connecting Threads aqua and apricot. I love that darker aqua. So pretty! Of course these colors don't exactly match the colors I used for my family room decor...but oh well. Close enough.


These blocks were surprisingly easy to make. I had a little template I printed out of EQ that I used to cut the wedges, and fortunately I was smart in planning my cutting. The thing that made these easy and fast was that I cut strips of each fabric the length of the wedge, and then stacked them (i.e. white, light aqua, white, dark aqua) and then cut the wedges. Then, when I took it all to the sewing machine, I didn't have to waste time matching up the sides before sewing, I just had to pull the top two pieces from the stack of four and sew. Easy. I was a little worried that the centers of the circle would be super bulky, but they didn't turn out too bad. I kinda rotated the seam with my thumb on the back before I ironed it and that helped the seams to lay on each other and flatten out a bit. There were a few that were a little sassy, but don't worry...I took a hammer to them (while they were laying on a piece of wood) and then they behaved quite nicely. I contemplated (for about 30 seconds) actually piecing the curved seam to finish the block, but then reason won over, and I decided to just applique the dang things on to the background fabric using my favorite applique method for circles (roughly explained in this post). But since I didn't have a giant piece of white fabric...I just cut some white fabric into squares and sewed them back together into a grid that I used to help place the circles...then I stitched them down using a blanket stitch and white thread. 


Here's a closeup of the quilting, but don't look too close. The design was amazing in theory, not so amazing in execution. So a couple of weeks ago, right before I finished the top, I discovered Green Fairy Quilts (no, I have not been living in a cave, I have no idea why I hadn't heard of her before). Anyway, Judi is an amazing long arm quilter and she free-hands everything. Amazing. I looked at her blog for like 2 hours and swore I would never use another pantograph again (but really, who am I kidding, pantographs are crazy fast and great for some quilts). I really loved the little loops she used on this quilt, so I wanted to try to incorporate some loops somehow. I drew a bunch of little sketches and finally came up with this design. I think it is really cute...kind of reminds me of a carnival a little bit. However, let's just say my freehand quilting skills have diminished somewhat since I discovered the almighty pantograph. Ok, diminished a LOT. But in my defense I was on a little bit of a time crunch...like the kind where I had to finish quick because I was leaving my quilting machine while I moved with my family to Arizona for 2 months for my husbands work. I finished it the day before we left. So I may not have been as careful as I could have been (i.e. I didn't take time to mark things at all). Oh well, it's done, and not completely unfortunate looking...as long as you don't look close! ;)


For the back, I just used all the leftover fabric I had and sewed it into these cute stripes! I actually really love this back...it's only the second one I have ever pieced, but I think it turned out great. And BONUS, I used up all the fabric I bought for this quilt! (If I had a theme song, it would be playing right now because I think I am pretty awesome when I use up large amounts of leftover fabric).


For the binding, I used this Aqua lifesaver print from connecting threads that I happened to have. 


Arizona is way too hot today, but it does have some benefits...like this beautiful weather and scenery for fun quilt pictures!! See more quilts at the bloggers quilt festival!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Boxy Rings Quilt #3


Here is the last triplet quilt. This might sound funny since they are almost exactly the same, but this one is my favorite.


This quilt was constructed the same as the other two, but I did do one thing differently just so I didn't go nuts finishing this one up. Usually I enjoy the process of constructing a quilt, but after two of these, I was ready to move on. I was pretty sure number 3 was going to kill me! The most time consuming part of this quilt is appliqueing the shapes on. I had a plan to iron on and (blanket) stitch one color per day, for five days so I wouldn't burn out. The plan was working pretty well, but by day 3 it was getting a little tough to stay on task. So I got the brilliant idea of timing myself to see if I could stitch each shape in a specified amount of time. That would make it more fun, and I would forget how much I didn't want to keep going. Brilliant. I don't have a clock in my sewing room though, so I decided to race a song instead...everyone has done this, right? The lucky song was Kenny Chesney's "Somewhere with You" (good tune...Yep, I'm a country music fan). So I played it over and over trying to finish one shape before the song ended. In hindsight, I should have picked a more upbeat, more race appropriate song, but it served its purpose...it was just a tad over 4 minutes long. Though I am sad to report that I never did finish before the end of the song, the good news is, I now have the song memorized and I finished the quilt without hating every minute of it. Win, win.


The main reason this quilt is my favorite is the brown on the back. It's Kona Espresso, and it is beautiful. I also love that you can really see the quilting pattern on it. And it matches the brown on the front perfectly.


And now, since I haven't posted enough pictures of this quilt...here they all are together!


I took these pictures on my friend Jill's clothesline. It was pretty windy and we had a grand time trying to keep the quilts from flying off the line!






I can pretty much guarantee that I won't be making another one of these anytime soon. So here is a pattern for this quilt so its cuteness can live on!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Floating Rectangles Quilt


Here is a quilt I finished a few days ago. It is for my cousin Nate who is getting married next week. I've known he was getting married for a couple months but I wasn't really planning on making a quilt. Well once I got the invite I decided, what the heck. I'm not sure if they'll like it or not..."amazing original handmade quilt by cousin Cynthia" was definitely NOT on their registry. But it was either this, or a Target gift card. I'm sure a gift card is probably what they would really like, but too bad. Everyone else can get them a gift card. :)

Since this was a tiny bit last minute, I wanted to do something fast. I thought about just making this quilt again--but with different fabric:


I wanted to try and use fabrics I already had, so I peeked through my stash and pulled out a bunch of stuff. Unfortunately, I didn't have pieces large enough to make a quilt that was exactly the same. So I decided to just use the same layout (it's from the layout library in EQ6-- one of the irregular grids) but add a white border around each piece so I could use less of the print fabrics, and this is how it ended up...


I like the way it turned out, but I would like to try this again with a little less white space--with so much white space the rectangles all look like they are floating to me.


The fabric is two-thirds Cherish Nature by Deb Strain for Moda and the rest is just random stuff I had that happened to match. And I am happy to announce that I didn't buy one thing for this quilt...it all came from my stash. I just barely had enough of the white. Yay! I love it when that happens!


For the quilting on this one I decided to make my own pantograph using elements from the main floral print. I usually don't mind making my own pantographs, but this time QuiltCAD and I were totally in a fight almost the entire time. I was completely frustrated, but I know it wasn't QuiltCAD's fault...I just forgot about the "matrix" feature. It lets you see how the design will fit together which makes it easier to edit so there aren't big gaps or overlapping lines in your design. Without using that feature it was pretty hard to make it work. So in the end it didn't turn out exactly how I would have liked, but overall I think it looks acceptable.


For the back I used this almost matching dotty fabric that I had on hand--more of the $2/yard fabric--man I am just using that stuff up left and right! Yeah! I had a few scraps left over from the quilt top so I made scrappy binding...didn't want to add any more fabric to my already overflowing scrap bag.


ahhh...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Boxy Rings Quilt #2


Here is triplet quilt #2. It has been done for close to a month but I haven't been super motivated to take pictures and post on it. Maybe because it looks exactly the same as the first one? Well anyway, I decided today was the day. It had been sitting in a heap in my quilting room, so I ironed it. While ironing, I decided that I am putting my blue water-soluble pen on notice (Colbert Report fans? No? Ok.). Anyway, I don't know why, but as I ironed it, some of the blue marks that had previously disappeared suddenly decided to reappear. I have never had that happen before, but it was driving me a little crazy--I kept finding all these little blue spots! Luckily they re-disappeared with water...so...crisis averted.


Aside from the different color placement of the shapes, this quilt was made exactly the same as the first one: fusible web applique on a single piece of white fabric, and blanket stitch in matching thread to sew each shape down.


The back of this one is Kona Azure...and it doesn't match exactly, but it's close enough. The quilting is the same as the first, as is the binding. Easy, easy!


I wanted to take pictures of this quilt someplace new and different...just to mix it up. Sometimes my yard gets boring. I am constantly on the prowl for interesting places to take quilt pictures. Today the big winner was my friend Sarah's backyard. They have this little fort that they built in their apple tree. It is the kind of thing I was always making plans to build when I was a kid so I think it is pretty cool. I decided it would be the location of my little photo shoot. And bonus, since the tree fort is made out of wood, I had something to tack the quilt to! No helpers necessary (my husband has totally been fired for acting unenthusiastic while holding quilts up for pictures)!


Two down, one to go!