Wednesday, December 31, 2014

CatVent #1

It hasn't been a good fall for meeting deadlines, at least not quilty ones.

My Q4 FAL list included a pair of quilts commemorating my parents' cat, Clea, who died about a year ago.  That event tidily coincided with the CatVent quilt-a-long hosted by Elizabeth Hartman over at Oh, Fransson!  Because I'm a glutton for punishment, I decided to make not one, but two CatVent quilts, one for my mother, and one for my sister Lucia.  Lucia is the one who picked Clea out from the shelter 20 years ago.

I was hoping to finish them both for Christmas.  When it became clear that would not happen, I opted to finish Lucia's in time to gift.  My mom has a birthday in March, so her CatVent quilt will roll over onto the FAL 2015 Q1 list.

Here's the finished quilt:

Rather than going with the rainbow scheme, I decided to make cats that actually look like cats: black cats, Siamese cats, ginger cats, and my favorite: calico cats.

I backed the quilt in minky, so that it would be soft and cuddly on a lap.

And then I made a fateful decision.  I decided to quilt in a heavy-duty top-stitching thread around each cat face to add a decorative touch (and help distract from the complicated sashing).

This was a mistake.  My machine *hated* the top-stitching thread.  It was a total nightmare, particularly in combination with the slippery minky.  I managed to finish, and I like the way it looks, but NO WAY am I going through that again.  My mom's quilt will have to be quilted some other way. 

This was a very fun project---I had a great time (a year ago) making all the cats.  However, the project eventually started to drag.  The lesson: make ONE.  Don't make TWO of the same thing.  Yes, it's efficient and faster than making two completely different quilts, but you lose interest a lot faster. 

Fortunately, my sister loved it.  She was snuggling under it as soon as it got unwrapped.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Stocking

December was a crazy month, work wise.  And then we spent a weekend away Dec 20-21.  That meant coming into Christmas week totally unprepared for the holiday, and feeling like my head was screwed on backward.  We had the tree up and decorated, but that was about it.

Fortunately, my CEO wanted a nice long holiday, so he closed the office for the week of Christmas and the week of New Year.  I've got work to do over the break, but it did mean that I could take some time to prepare for the holiday.

First up: my 2-year-old son needed a stocking.  As a quilter, I couldn't just buy one. So, to procrastinate the house cleaning, I made him one.

I love this 50's style Christmas fabric!

I used a tutorial I found here at Diary of a Quilter:

I made a few modifications, lengthening the stocking and adding a wide cuff at the top.  I love how it came out, as does my son (he particularly likes the picture of the train on the front).  And it held plenty of presents.  So a win all around!  

It was a fun, fast, easy project.

I guess wanting to make more stockings is not a good reason to have more kids, is it?  ;)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Best Friend Baby Quilt

My best friend has a baby boy due next month.  Some of her friends threw her a baby shower a few weeks ago, so I was of course racing to get her gift finished in time.  The gift?  A baby quilt, of course!

This quilt was very much inspired by happenings at Stitched In Color.  Readers of Rachel's blog will notice that this pattern is essentially her Penny Patch quilt.  I didn't actually use the pattern posted in her QAL.  It was a little bit too regular.  I preferred the more freestyle look of her original Vintage Tangerine quilt.  The difference is subtle, but it mattered to me.  It meant adding some simple four-patch blocks to the layout, along with the solid blocks and the penny-patch blocks.

This quilt was also inspired by the Purge-A-Long she hosted this summer.  I had these two fabrics from "In The Forest" by Steffie Brocoli of Cloud 9 fabrics:


I bought them at a time when I was trying to acquire more fussy-cut-friendly fabrics.  I really liked the fabric, but I don't like primary color schemes, so they were languishing in my stash.  When it came to actually using the fabric, everything I could think of was way too red-yellow-blue or even red-yellow-green-blue for my taste.  It just didn't work.

The purge-a-long inspired me to try.  And it occurred to me that the penny patch sampler would be a great way to use these fabrics.  The last inspiration was to realize that if I made all the large squares low-volume, and only used darker red or blue as small accents, that it would soften the primary-color effect into something I could really get behind---something bright and soft at the same time---something that would be perfect for a baby boy!  Almost all the accent fabrics are blue or red (in a range of shades that also help soften the primary-ness of the quilt).  I just threw in a few yellow squares as a fun little highlight.  

And I love the result!  Enough that the quilt feels entirely worthy of my best friend's baby.  I backed it in another print from "In The Forest"---available at clearance prices by now---and bound it in a hand-me-down fabric from my mother's stash.  

I love everything about this quilt, especially the fact that something so beautiful and so "me" was designed around fabrics that I felt were so "not me".  

It also contains lots of scraps: scraps from the wedding-gift quilt for the same friend, scraps from the quilt currently on my bed, scraps from the backing I used on my sister's wedding quilt, and binding from a big scrap in my mom's stash leftover from a dress she made for me when I was a kid!  

The quilt has now been gifted and is installed in the nursery, waiting for its new owner to arrive in the world.  

This quilt was the first item on my Finish-A-Long list, so at least I've started on it!

And because much of the quilt was cut from scraps, I'm linking up with Leanne and Nicky's Scraptastic Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Scrappy Baby Bibs

One of my favorite ways to use scraps is to make baby bibs.  I adored seeing these on my toddler and they make perfect baby gifts.  They're gorgeous, useful, and they're quick to make!  Also, the more you wash them, the more 'vintage' they look.

I use the "Best Baby Bib" pattern by Jennifer Casa.  All you need for the front is a 9"x10" (height x width) slab, so you can piece it out of fun little scraps.

I've started keeping small scraps together in ziploc bags, organized by color combinations I like.  When I want a bib, I just dump out a bag and start piecing!

Bonus: these little bibs are a *perfect* place to practice free-motion quilting because they are so small and easy to maneuver.

Here's a pair that I am making from scraps of my son's baby blanket---these will be a gift for a friend who just had a little boy:

These bibs are the perfect size for a baby under the age of 1.  As my son got older, I found I needed something a little bigger.  I just elongated the bib pattern by 2" and made a slightly longer bib, using an 11"x10" slab.  These bigger bibs were perfect for a toddler.

Happy scrapping!

Monday, October 13, 2014

2014 FAL - Q4

My original ground rules for quilting were that I do this for fun, so:

(1) I can start a new project whenever I want, without having to finish old projects first.
(2) I don't have to blog about things if I'd rather spend the time sewing.

I have limited time to sew, so I hardly blog, and my starting of new projects has gotten completely out of control.  To get control of both of these things, I'm going to participate in the last quarter of the Finish-A-Long hosted by Katy over at The Littlest Thistle.

Here's my list (and you'll see why I need the accountability!):

1.  Baby quilt for my best friend's little boy, due in December.  The baby shower is next weekend.  It's quilted and trimmed, just needs the binding attached.  This one *has* to get done.

2.  Baby quilt for a good friend in England, who just had a little girl.  I've had this top for, oh, about a year.  Backing has been picked out.  Needs to be sandwiched, quilted and bound.  We're headed to England on October 22, so there's a deadline on this one too!

3.  Baby quilt for a friend from grad school, whose little boy was born in July.  Notice the awesome science and astronomy fabric---fitting for an astronomer's little boy!  They live in Switzerland, so I'd like to mail this from England when we are there to save on postage.  Therefore, see previous Oct 22 deadline.

4.  Patchwork baby bibs for *yet another* set of friends from grad school who just had a baby boy.  These also have been nearly-done for months.  They just need the binding / neckties attached.  As of yesterday, I own both binding tape and matching thread, so another easy finish.

5.  Twin-size quilt for my nephew.  He's also in England, but there's no way this will be done in time to take in person.  I'd like to finish in time for it to be a Christmas gift.  He's moving out on his own around that time, so a bed-quilt will be an appropriate gift for his new digs.  I've got 10 blocks made by myself and my partner from the Supernova Friendship Swap.  I'm considering a different layout (alternating supernova blocks with empty or mostly-empty blocks) but haven't quite decided yet.  

6.  Plus quilt with the red and blue color ways of Tula Pink's Salt Water line.  This is a quilt for my husband, who loves anything with tentacles.  The top has been made for months (are you sensing a theme here?) and just need to be turned into a quilt.  I'd like to (finally!) give it to him for Christmas.  I may send this out to be quilted on a long arm.  I love piecing, but quilting not so much.  This puppy is big, I have a lot on this list, and if professionals like Jeni Baker can have things long-armed sometimes, so can I!  I just want it done.  

7.  Pow Wow quilt.  This one is for me.  Again, top finished ages ago, needs to be quilted.  Another that I might send out.  For some reason, I feel like quilts I gift away should be quilted by me (I can't really say "I made it" unless I actually made all of it!) but ones staying in my household I feel less strongly about.  I'd like to have this on my bed come spring-time, rather than on the closet shelf.

8.  Cat quilts for my mom and my little sister, from Oh Fransson's Catvent quilt along last December. This QAL started a few days before my parents ancient cat (our only family pet) finally died at age 20, so I naturally had to make little lap quilts for my mom and my little sister as a memento (my other sister has a real cat of her own, so she doesn't have the same level of cat-snuggle-need).  Tops finished months ago, but need to be turned into quilts.  I'd like to give these as Christmas gifts.  

9.  This was originally the baby quilt that I was going to give my grad school friend in Switzerland, but (a) it was so incredibly awesome I was having trouble with the idea of parting with it, and (b) my 2-year-old saw it and said "That's mine's."  So I'm keeping it.  That removes the October deadline, but I'm oh-so-close to having the top finished.  I'd like to at least finish the top before the end of the year.  I know quilt tops don't count for the FAL, but it's here on the list to help me remember and to keep me honest.  :-)

10.  Another quilt for me.  This will be an X-plus quilt using Denyse Schmidt's Chicopee line.  I've decided I don't really want to make anymore quilts using a single fabric line, but (a) I had already started this one, (b) I *love* Chicopee and feel like it looks less "same-y" than a lot of lines, and (c) rules are meant to be broken.  This fabric screams "fall" to me, so it's the thing I *want* to be working on this quarter.  It will also help break up the monotony of the quilting projects I have---yay piecing!  Just gunning for a quilt-top finish on this one.  I'd love to finish it and be able to use it on my bed next fall.  I have this idea of having a quilt for each season for my bed, and rotate through them.  The one we currently have is the winter quilt (in my head, at least).  The Pow Wow listed above will be spring, this one will be fall, and as for summer...

11.  I think I started this quilt before I started anything else on this list.  I've made 10 of these pinwheels.  I need 25 in total.  I cut the fabric back in the day, and all the HST are cut such that the finished squares have bias edges.  It makes them miserable to work with.  I hate it.  I would never make HSTs this way now.  But I do love this quilt, and I want it finished.  I don't expect a finish this quarter, but I want to make at least 10 more blocks.  I'd love to have this on my bed come summer 2015...

12.  And finally, a Christmas medallion I started last Christmas.  I'm making this pattern up as I go.  I love what I have so far---maybe too much, because I got stuck at this point when the next border I'd planned just wasn't good enough.  I know we're supposed to do our Christmas sewing in July, but I just don't work that way.  I like to inhabit the season that I'm in.  I'm guessing I will want to pull this project out after Thanksgiving and work on it to help set the Christmas vibe.  That means I won't have it on my couch for this Christmas season, but I will get to inhabit its holiday goodness during the holiday.  I'd love to finish the top this Christmas so that I can then put it on the shelf, and get it quilted in time to have out for Christmas 2015.  

Okay, so that's an insanely long list.  Some of these things are really, really close so I think I can get a bunch of them done.  And some of them have nearby deadlines, so I *have* to get them done.  There are also some projects that aren't on this list, but I have to save *something* for the next FAL because I can't only have roll-over projects, right?

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 19, 2014 with the new...

Quilting is something I do for fun.  It makes me happy to play with color, and to make something with my hands.  I have no ambitions, and rarely have an agenda for my projects.

Because of that, I decided early on to let myself off the hook when it came to finishing things.  I'm allowed to start a new project whenever I want, even if I have tons of WIPs, because that's fun.

This week has been a party (a disaster?) in that respect.

I had a layer cake of Sewing Basket and the bright, cheery colors were calling my name.  A couple of nights ago, I sliced into it.  I'm making a simple pattern, so one night later I had reassembled all the sliced-up layers into blocks.  But I want a bigger quilt (with more white space), so I needed more blocks.  But that meant having more fabric.  Which means waiting.  And I am not a patient person.

So last night I ordered the needed charm pack, and then started another new project, one that has been in my head ever since I saw Susan(Canadian Abroad)'s ombre X-plus.

I started a new job back in January, and got my first paycheck Feb 1.  To celebrate, I treated myself to a long-coveted FQ stack of Chicopee.  I'm going to use the black-and-white prints for the pluses and the colors for the X's.  It's going to be awesome.  You'll see.

Not much to see yet, but I did manage to get all of the 'plus' parts of the blocks strip-pieced and sliced up last night.

It went very fast.  I know the next step will take longer, but I'm super-excited about this quilt.  Maybe that will encourage me to actually finish it in the near-term...?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Blogger's Quilt Festival

Another first for me!  I am entering my Hipster Swoon quilt in the Modern Quilts category of the Blogger's Quilt Festival, hosted by Amy's Creative Side.

This quilt was a house-warming gift for my sister and her boyfriend, who recently moved in together.  They are both political journalists in D.C.  He has a beard and wears plaid shirts.  She wears terrible, over-sized plastic-frame glasses.  They went to the White House Correspondents Dinner this year.  How cool are they??

The answer, of course, is *almost* cool enough for this quilt!

I had been wanting to make a Swoon quilt, but I wanted to pair up the traditional / sweet look of the block with some edgy fabrics that were decidedly non-traditional and non-sweet (tangy?).

I started with a bundle of Riley Blake's Geekly Chic in a pink/multi colorway.  I then purchased a few more large-scale hipster-y prints and added fabric from my stash, including a couple of vintage hand-me-down scraps from my mom.

The individual blocks are HUGE:

Micheal Miller Bicycles with Jeni Baker's Color Me Retro...

...Groovy Guitars from Michael Miller, the Boy Toys Camera fabric from Robert Kaufman (with the super-awesome Geekly pink skulls!)...

...a newsprint fabric (because they're journalists! get it??) with the Geekly glasses...

...a giant plaid from Joel Dewberry's Notting Hill collection (along with vintage pixelated airplanes from my mom's stash)...

...and so on.

I bound the quilt with a medium-scale black and white zigzag, which gives it lots of snap.

I backed it with a grey-and-white stripe queen-size sheet from a Target sheet set---one of my favorite ways to back a quilt.  Because (a) you don't have to piece it, (b) you can get a comfy cotton-poly blend that gives the quilt tons of strength and staying power, (c) they are cheap, and (d) you get a matching fitted sheet and pillow cases that you can use on the bed with your quilt!

I free-motion quilted it on my home machine (an old-school Bernina 802 sport) with a loop-the-loop motif.  This was my first attempt to free-motion a full-size quilt.  Definitely not perfect, but it holds the quilt together!

The finished quilt is about 80"x80" and now lives on their bed in D.C.  I snagged some pictures when I was visiting in March.  Fun, and not too girly, even for a guy!  I wanted my sister's boyfriend to like it too, since it was going to be in his room.

Finished quilt stats:
Quilt Size: 80" x 80"
Quilt design: Swoon, by Camille Roskelly
Fabrics for the top: Geekly Chic by Riley Blake, plus a bunch of others listed above
Binding: Riley Blake medium chevron in black and white
Backing: a sheet from Target
Batting: no idea!

Thanks for visiting!  And thank you to Amy for hosting this fun event.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Stash Bee Hive #12 blocks

2014 is a year of changes for me.  New beginnings.  
  • Moving from Princeton, NJ back to Santa Cruz, CA
  • Abandoning my academic astronomy career (10 years in the making!) to do something new
  • Making some online quilty friends
That last one is the most important, right?  

In service of which, I started this blog, which no one reads (yet).  And decided to do some quilt-alongs (including two Catvent quilt tops which still need to be made into quilts, and Sew Lux Fabrics' Medallion Border of the Month where I'm still working on the January border), so nothing much to show for myself.  

And, and, AND... I joined the Stash Bee.  More success there, in that I have been finishing my blocks, mostly on time.  Still working on the convert-bee-mates-into-friends part of the equation.  :-)  

So, in reverse order...

May blocks for Heather at Bobbins & Bullets.  She asked for a Square Dance block in grey and aqua, but then realized that technically, she was only allowed to ask for 1/4 of a Square Dance block.  

I like paper piecing, and didn't want her to be sad and thwarted... I made four quarters so that she'll have a full Square Dance's worth of block from me.  

Fun, right?  Finished those last night, should have them in the mail tomorrow.

Moving back in time, Aprils' simplified Dresden block for Michele:

This block was much easier than I'd feared, but I didn't have it in me to make more than one.  The blue fabric with hearts is a scrap from my mom's stash, given to her in the 1970's by the woman who taught her to quilt.  To make up for my one-block lameness, I also made her a cute patchwork pincushion.  It was my first ever pincushion, and a bit lumpy, but hopefully she'll stick it full of pins and the lumps won't matter.

In March, it was an Arizona block in orange and aqua for Jennifer.  In February, a number of our bee-mates had (intentionally or not) swapped around a few pieces of Cheryl's simplified Swoon block.  I looked at that and though, "How fun!  That'll make an even more interesting quilt!"  And then I remembered this quilt by the Littlest Thistle, and the Gen X Vice Versa BOM, and I had to make two blocks: one "correct" Arizona block, and one inverted.  Except when I laid out the "correct" one, I didn't like the combination of fabrics (too many lights, not emphatic enough), so I split up the lights and wound up making three blocks.

The "correct" blocks are fine, but I *LOVE* the inverted block.  I now totally want to make a whole quilt with this inverted block.  It also somehow feels even more "Arizona" to me.

Not sure if Jennifer will use it in her quilt, but since I sent her two real ones as well, I figure she won't complain!

Moving along (backward?) we had February's simplified Swoon for Cheryl.  She chose colors that were really hard for me: purple and grey.  I like them both individually, but together they just felt 'blah' (no offense, Cheryl).  But I couldn't make or send a block I thought was 'blah', so I just had to keep looking until I found fabrics I could like for this one.  I'm pretty happy with how it turned out:

I *LOVE* how the Alison Glass "Bike Path" fabric looks radiating out from the center (more on that in another post someday...).  

And after ransacking my stash, I could only find one thing I liked for the center: a piece of Liberty Tana Lawn from a gorgeous scrap pack my British in-laws got me for Christmas.  So in it went.  Not because I'm generous (I would happily have kept it all to myself!) but because it was the only thing that I liked there.  And I couldn't make or send a block I didn't like (see above).  

And finally, a very simple paper-pieced block in January for Heather at Quilts in the Queue:

She's using them to finish up a quilt with lots of much fancier stars---what a clever idea for a bee!  And a nice way to ease into the new year, and my first bee.

Hooray for 2014!  At some point, I'll have to decide what I'm going to ask for in my month...