Monday, May 31, 2010

The Teacher Quilt

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I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!  I finished handstitching the binding on today... and actually, I finished the quilting today too. 

I'm really pleased with how it turned out.  I used 20 different prints so that each block has a special feel to it.  Each kid is unique so I figured that each block should be as well. :) I sashed each block in white which I think balances out all the colors well.  I quilted it with a free motion meandering stitch which is quickly becoming my favorite way to quilt.

Here is my favorite block because it's just so darn cute what he has to say about his teacher...

Here is my daughter's block as well...  If you couldn't tell, she loves math!

And here's mine... there are 19 kids in the class so I did my label on the front in the 20th block...

The backing is Kona Buttercup which is strikingly similar to the blanket I carried around as a child.  I love it.  I did a pieced binding which is something I've been wanting to do and I really like the way it contrasts to the front and back of the quilt.

This was a fun quilt to make for a really special teacher.  It's been a wonderful school year and I'm a little sad that kindergarten is over...

P.S... don't forget to enter the giveaway for the vintage pillowcase and elastic thread if you haven't entered already!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pillowcase Dress

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My daughter is having a blast telling everyone that she's wearing a pillowcase.  We went to church tonight and I cringed the first few times she said it but then I got over it when everyone was telling her how cute she looked. :)  She is just so impressed that she has a dress made out of a "real" pillowcase...

This is a standard size pillowcase; the ruffle on the open end of the pillowcase becomes the ruffle on the bottom of the dress.  How cool is that?  I bought a matching set of cases from Whimsiedots and I can't say enough good things about her and her shop.  She is queen of all things vintage!

I took me less than an hour to make the dress and I thought I'd share how I did it here...

Accross the width of the pillowcase, cut the enclosed edge of the pillowcase off.  This is where you will determine the length of your dress.  For my 6 year old, I ended up cutting approximately 3" off.


Take that strip and cut it into a 2.5" wide strip {it will still be the length of the original edge of the pillow case}.

Cut your strip in half {I followed the natural crease of the fold} and set the two strips aside.


Now take your the case which will be the body of the dress.  The bottom of the dress is already hemmed for you because it's a pillow case so all you have to do is hem the top!  Fold the fabric 1/2" and press.  Fold over again another 1/2" and press again.



Topstitch as you desire and then you have the top of your dress hemmed and the real fun can begin!



Get your elastic thread and wind your bobbin by hand.  Don't wind it too tight or too loose.  Now you are ready to sew your rows of smocking.



About 1/2" below your hem, start your first row of stitching.  I backstitch at the beginning and the end of each row but I'm a habitual backstitcher... ;).



Once you finish your first row, move on to the next row.  I just let my presser foot follow the edge of the first row to get the spacing for your second and so on...



At this point it's up to you how much smoking you want to do.  I did five rows which gives a nice ruffle and structure to the dress.  My daughter complains about a lot of smocking being "itchy" and we certainly don't need that!


Trim your stray threads and then you are done with the body of the dress.  Not bad, huh?

Grab your strips that you set aside earlier.  Fold them right sides together and press.  With right sides still together, stitch lengthways down the strip.  Repeat for the second strap.



Now here's the not so fun part... turn each strap right side out.  As my friends across the pond say, "it's a bit fiddly...".  I can think of a few other words to use instead of "fiddly" but I'll leave those off this blog.



Once you have the fiddly part done, with the seam running down the middle of the strap, press.  This will hide the seam and give the straps a nice finish.  Lastly, topstitch down each side of the straps approximately 1/8" away from each edge.



You're almost done!  To attach the straps, I put the dress on my daughter so they would be perfect on her.  While threatening being stuck with a pin if she wiggled too much, I eyeballed where I wanted the straps.  Pin them to the inside of the hem and extricate your child from the dress without messing up where you pinned the straps.

With a normal stitch, sew the straps to the inside of the dress.  I recommend backstitching a few times on both edges of the straps for extra strength.  Press the dress if you need to and then you are done!  One vintage pillowcase turned into a super-cute summer dress!



I am by no means a seamstress so if you have any questions or need clarification, please let me know!

Edited to add:  If you don't have a pillowcase, you can substitute two pieces {the front and back of the dress} of fabric that measure approximately 19" x 24".  Place those pieces right sides together and sew down both sides to create your own "pillowcase".  Before turning the dress rightside out, serge or zig-zag stitch down the raw edges of your seams.  After that, adjust the length of the dress the same way by cutting a strip off the top of the dress which will give you the fabric for the straps.  You will have to hem the top and bottom of the dress but otherwise, all the instructions are the same.  As you hem the bottom of the dress you could also add a ruffle...

Edited again... :) I have received lots of questions about the elastic thread:

  • You can purchase it at almost any craft store that stocks sewing notions. 
  • Wind the elastic by hand around your bobbin.  Don't wind it too tight; just wrap it securely without actually stretching the elastic. 
  • Only your bobbin will hold the elastic thread.  Use regular thread for your top thread! 
  • Don't try to thread your machine and sew with elastic thread as the top thread... that will be a mess.
  • I used elastic thread regularly and it has never hurt my machine.

Happy sewing!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Inspiration Running Rampant!

Pin It I am in two virtual quilting bees and June happens to be my month in both bees!  I'm a fairly decisive person but this has been tough.  I've changed my mind multiple times but I finally narrowed down my block ideas and it's worked out well that I can use my two favorite ideas at the same time.

My first bee is a scrappy bee so I've decided on scrappy flying geese.  I have long loved flying geese blocks and I really like the scrappy versions that have been popping up lately.  I am asking for 12" blocks here and they certainly don't have to be in any sort of traditional layout... I also don't mind if they are wonky!

My second bee is the Fresh Modern Bee.  I've been eyeing the asterisk blocks lately so I made a few the other night and I was sold!  I've asked for two blocks of varying sizes since I want the blocks of the quilt to be different.  I think that's going to look really cool!  Again, these blocks can either be perfect or wonky because I love variances in my quilts.  I included a few cross blocks in this inspiration mosaic because I like the look of the varying sizes and multiple crosses per block.

I have the Teacher quilt to finish this weekend, a few bee blocks to finish, and I really need to do some organizing in my studio.  Thank goodness for three day weekends!  My daughter finishes kindergarten next week *sniff*... I can't believe how much she has grown and changed in this short school year.

*I can't seem to get the code to link to these mosaics but I'll keep working on it... ugh, darn computers!  If you go to my Flickr, you can see where each picture came from...*

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wordless Wednesday {My Two Favorite People}

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Quilting Without Obligation {Part Four)

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My third quilt ever... I've come a long way!

Or should I title this one Quilting With Obligation?  I know... but stay with me for a minute.

We have all been there, rushing to make a quilt for a birthday, a holiday, or a baby shower.  And let's be honest, a lot of last minute gifts are obligatory ones.  And then there are other obligations; obligations of a different purpose.  What I am about to write is personal and it is what happened and worked for me.  I know that we come from all sorts of backgrounds so I don't write this to push an agenda.  I write this because it is why I, an imperfect person, am passionate about quilting.

This is my story... my ultimate behind-the-scenes process...

I went through a very difficult set of circumstances in the time before my daughter was conceived, through my pregnancy with her, and in the first few years of her life.  I found myself in the situation that no married person wants to find themselves in; my then husband was having an affair.  Our marriage unraveled and I found myself humiliated, heartbroken, and going through a divorce while I was pregnant.

Fast forward four years... I had been remarried two years to a wonderful man who loves me and my daughter.  My ex-husband was also remarried to the woman that he had the affair with.  Things were tolerable and even somewhat amicable as we all settled into our new lives.  And then I heard that they were expecting a baby. 

When I found this out, emotions I never knew I  had came rushing to the surface.  Ugly ones such as jealousy and anger.  Hurt and grief also began to seep out over the things I did not experience...  I spent much of my pregnancy alone.  I did not have a husband by my side as our daughter was born via emergency c-section after 18+ hours of labor.  I spent much of being pregnant dealing with lawyers and worrying about how I was going to make it as a single mom.  All those things I experienced while my husband and his girlfriend were care-free traveling and enjoying the newness of their relationship.  It was hard.  But I made it.

Still reeling with emotion, I went to bed one night and dreamt about my ex-husband's baby on the way.  In this dream he and his wife were both very sad because they had no one to make their baby a blanket {his mother is severely disabled and her mother had recently passed away}.  I woke up the next morning knowing what I needed to do.  I had only been quilting a short amount of time so I used that excuse for awhile.  I also told myself that I would be overstepping boundaries and would offend them.  That afternoon I was driving home with my daughter who was four at the time and she exclaimed, "momma, who's gonna make my baby sister covers?".  Good. Grief. I just about drove off the road.

That evening I swallowed my pride and hurt and emailed my ex-husband and asked him for the baby's nursery colors and theme.  I didn't tell him anything else about the dream or what our daughter said because I was still nervous about what I was planning to do.  He responded almost immediately and the next day I ordered the fabric for my third quilt ever... a quilt for my daughter's sister.  This was truly a quilt of obligation but it was also the quilt that made quilting mean so much more than just designer fabrics, patterns and blogging.

It was a simple quilt that I hand pieced and hand quilted.  I machine appliqued the monkey on and this was the first time that I ever used a sewing machine.  For the quilting, I made a plastic template by tracing my daughter's hand and I used that template to hand quilt her "hand prints" all over.  It was very cute! 

Obviously hand piecing and quilting takes a long time so I had the time I needed to work through my own emotions.  With each stitch I took, my heart healed a little.  I found all the things I was thankful for in our situation; my daughter and my wonderful husband being at the top of that list.  By the time I stitched the binding down, I had a new sense of peace. 

For the first time I was able to say that there was nothing I would have changed about the circumstances of the past several years.  All the pain, all the tears, all the hurt... they were all worth the place I ultimately arrived at.  I found a new place as a happily married woman no longer hurt by the past.  And then I found my place as a whole mother who was able to support my daughter in her relationship with her father, her step-mom and her new baby sister.

What started out as an awful situation has become a wonderful situation.  I eventually shared the background of the quilt with my daughter's step-mom and any remaining awkwardness seemed to melt away.  I consider her a friend; one who cares deeply for my daughter.  We have now planned birthday parties together, we've comfortably attended so many events together, we have even joined forces to parent a happy, bright, and well-rounded 6 year old little girl who loves her little sister, her Momma, her Dad, her Daddy, and her Amy.  All because I made a quilt of obligation...

Now, I don't write this to make a statement about myself because I'm just That Girl, a really imperfect and slightly neurotic person who just happened to listen and follow my obligation to a higher calling.  Quilting is an amazing process that I love to write about as it can be therapeutic, healing, and peaceful for the maker.  But it can also be used to build a bridge, create a patch, and serve as an offering of grace and love worth a thousand words that dries thousand tears.

Edited to add... Things have become quite tense due to a certain set of circumstances but it is my hope and prayer that over time, our families are able to return to some sort of normalcy.  If you are the praying type, you are more than welcome to keep all of us in your prayers...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bloggers Quilt Festival!

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On The Road To Spring

I made this quilt this past spring in my first quilt along.  After a long stretch of making quilts for others, this is the first quilt I made just for me and I love it.  I use it almost every evening when I curl up on the couch after a long day.  It measures 50 x 60, the perfect size for me {I'm short!}, and it has some of my very favorite Hope Valley fabrics by Denyse Schmidt.  I machine pieced and quilted it and this is the quilt that I figured out how to relax and really began to love free motion quilting...

It was tough to choose a favorite but I have entered this quilt in the Blogger's Quilt Festival.  I hope you will take a look at all the other entries that make the online quilting community something really special!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quilting Without Obligation {Part Three}

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My favorite Moleskine journal...

Repeat after me: "It's not a competition... it's not a competition" 

It's not about the number of quilts you make.  It's not about the number of sales you get in your online shop.  It's not about the sponsors you have or don't have on your blog.  It's not about the number of contacts you have on Flickr.  Are these things fun and/or important?  Sure.  Are they the top reason for me to quilt and blog?  I hope not because that sounds a lot like obligation to me...

I'm a competitive person.  It's in my genes, my blood, and my brain.  I competed athletically until my body pretty much refused to do it anymore {1 knee surgery, 2 shoulder surgeries, 1 reconstructive foot surgery}. *That Girl waves the white flag*  But I'm hardwired for competition and now I watch our 6 year old daughter wrinkle up her nose in that same competitive face.  Those who know me in person know that look and have probably been on the receiving end of it a time or two. ;)

So what's different when it comes to quilting?  Everything.  I was telling my husband the other day how non-competitive I feel when it comes to quilting and how odd it feels.  Odd in a good way though when I'm able to walk away from a blog or a real life person because I refuse to compete with them over something I love. 

No competition.  It's remarkably freeing to have that lack of obligation!

Quilting is for me.  It's about my process, my ideas and having a finished quilt that I am proud to give or thrilled to keep as an addition to our home.  What the quilter next to me does is of no consequence to me be it in blogland or down the road from me in real life.  I want to make quilts that are unique to me and show my personality and passion when you look at one.  I also want to surround myself with quilters and other creative types who feel the same way.

I'm good knowing that I have strengths that other quilters may not have and surprisingly enough, I'm content knowing that I also have weaknesses that other quilters do not have.  The combination of these strengths and weaknesses make my art uniquely "me".  And they certainly do not make me a greater or lessor competitor because that is not what quilting is about...

If I had to point to a weakness in my quilting I would say it's piecing.  I'm completely self-taught so this is something I'm still figuring out.  Lining up seams, especially when I'm sewing rows together to complete the quilt top, is not something I'm great at.  But now for the fun part... if I had to pick a strength, I'd say that I'm strong in my color/fabric selections.  I think I have a pretty good eye for color.  Of course that's my opinion... you may be reading this and wondering if I'm color blind. ;)

So, what are your strengths and weaknesses that make you the fabulous and unique quilter you are?

Go ahead... it's ok to brag here.  And don't beat yourself up either!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Signature Blocks {Tutorial}

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Signature blocks are so much fun to exchange!  I made these for my daughter's class for them to sign.  I made a quilt from them and we presented it to her on the last day of school.
Here is what you need:
  1. 2 yards of Kona White or bleached quilter's muslin {for the siggy blocks & sashing}
  2. Assorted fat quarters or scraps
  3. Freezer paper {to stabilize the fabric for signing}
  4. Batting of your choice
  5. 3 yards of your choice for the quilt backing
  6. 1 yard of your choice for binding
  7. Thread to match
  8. Pigma pens or markers {for signing the blocks} *You can buy these at Joann's, Hobby Lobby, etc
  9. Ruler, pins, iron, scissors, rotary cutter, etc...
After gathering your supplies, press your fabrics and get ready to cut... 
  • Cut 20 5" squares out of the white. 
  • Cut 20 matching sets of strips {40 total} that measure 2.5"x 5".
  • Cut 20 matching sets of strips {40 total} that measure 2.5" x 9".   
  • I cut one additional 2.5" x 9" from each fabric when I was cutting the strips.  These extras will be for my binding... :)
Now you are ready to sew your signature {siggy} blocks!  Grab 1 white square and 2 matching strips that measure 2.5" x 5".  Sew those on opposite sides of your white square.  Open and press seams toward the darker fabric.

Next you will need 2 strips that measure 2.5" x 9".  They will be slightly longer than the block edges but that's OK.  Sew those to the other two sides of your square.  Open and press seams again. 

Square your block and you now have one 9" block done!  You can continue this process block by block or you can chain piece the rest of your blocks which makes this process go much quicker. 

Once you are done with all of your blocks, cut 5" squares of freezer paper and iron each square to the back of your block.  This will make it much easier for the little hands writing their names on their block!

I completed these blocks by sashing them with white. Cut 2" x 9" strips and 2" x 11.5" strips and just like you sewed the other strips, sew these strips onto the block as well.

Sew the blocks together in rows and sew the rows together to complete your quilt top.  Baste and quilt as desired.  Use your extra strips that you cut to bind your quilt!

*Helpful hints: 
  • I picked 20 different fat quarters because I wanted each child to have a unique block.  You can use as few as 5 fat quarters to cut your strips from.
  • If you have a small number of kids or an odd number, consider making blocks that the parents can sign too.
  • Make extra blocks to be signed to allow for mistakes. 
  • I highly recommend making the blocks before the kids sign them.  That will eliminate someone writing in the seam allowance and getting their signature cut off.
  • Make sure the pens/markers you are using are Pigma/Acid free/Waterproof/Washable
Feel free to email me or ask any questions here! 
You can see the finished quilt here...

Monday, May 17, 2010

You know...

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... you are a hardcore quilter when you have paper hexagons, charm squares, a needle, thread & scissors in your purse at church.  And NO, I don't sew in church!

... you are a hardcore quilter when you have charm squares in your purse instead of a tissue or band-aids.

... you are a hardcore wife when you offer a charm square to your bleeding husband in church because you don't have a tissue or a band-aid. 

A square of precious fabric for his bleeding arm??  Now, that's true love...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Quilting Without Obligation {Part Deux}

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One of my really early quilt sketches...

The response to my first post on quilting without obligation was overwhelming to say the least; lots of thoughtful and insightful comments and even more emails.  And no hate mail LOL!  Not that I expected that many mean people read my blog but you never know when you present an opinion... ;)  It also appears that I'm not the only one thinking along these lines.

So here's the second installment of Quilting Without Obligation.  And now is probably a good time for a definition.  What does this mean?  For me, it means living the process of a unique quilt from start to finish.

Notice I did not say enjoying the process because that would be unfair.  But let's at least be honest about the process! 

I would much rather read, "I was inspired to design this quilt by... I really struggled with this step... I don't like sewing binding on by hand but I did it... I messed up when I was cutting this fabric..." instead of "here's my perfect quilt that I made in two days, don't you love it??". 

Now, I'm not being mean.  For real.  We would all love to make the perfect quilt in a few days time but that is not what appeals to me when we are talking about the art of quilting.  To me, a quilt of obligation is one that takes little time, isn't very visually appealing, and is easily reproduced.  And I know we've all been there making a baby gift at the last minute and that's really OK.  However, making a quilt just to get it in your shop, to sell a pattern, or post a finished picture on your blog waters down the process for me.

Art should be a rich process with rich results.  A process with ups and downs.  A process with imperfections that come to life because you stretch to work with them.

For me, my favorite part of the quilting process is cutting fabric and piecing it.  The logic, yes logic, behind cutting up fabric into pieces and sewing it together again is only logic because the end result is more appealing than the starting point.  I love to take stacks of fabrics, stack and re-stack them and visualize a quilt.  The funny thing though is that I used to be terrified of cutting fabric. 

When I began quilting three years ago, I had my husband cut my fabric pieces {I know he's going to love me sharing that here LOL!} because if a mistake was made, it was his and not mine.  But eventually I got brave and did this on my own and I began to love it because ironically enough, if I made a mistake, it was my mistake to create around.

So, what is your favorite part of the quilting process?  Or maybe, if you are brave, what is your least favorite part of the process?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

MT Swap Inspiration

Pin It Dear Swap Partner,

I'm so excited to be participating in this swap. The virtual bee component of blogging happens to be one of my favorite parts of this online craft community!

I love bright and rich colors... just no lime green! Blocks sashed in white, linen, or gray are great. I don't particularly care for pastels or black. I love triangles but I know that not everyone enjoys making them so don't sweat it if they make you crazy. Above you will see six quilts with colors and/or shapes that I love. And yes, two of them are mine but hey, I make what I like! LOL

I can't wait to see what you come up with... have fun!!

Almost Wordless Wednesday {Government Through the Eyes of a Kindergartener}

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Pronunciation: Rock-o-Bom-o

Monday, May 10, 2010


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Today is a pillow kind of day.  I'm blogging from the couch because I'm home sick with a sore throat, fever, body aches, and chills.  Boooo!  I have my favorite pillow and Gus, my sympathetic Beagle who is using me as a constant pillow.  He is a great "sick" dog.  Buddy the Beagle, on the other hand is probably off somewhere in the house eating a Barbie head.  I'm sure the drama will ensue when my daughter gets home from school...

I took a break from my normal quilting activities to make a Dresden Plate.  It was a fun process but not one I think I want to repeat for an entire quilt.  I used up some of my Hope Valley scraps for the blades; this is a great project for scraps!

This was a pretty easy block to put together.  I made 20 blades and then sewed 4 sections made up of 5 blades each. From there, you can either make fans or stitch the 4 sections together to make a plate like I did.

The pillow is a simple 18x18 envelope style pillow.  The front is linen and the back is also Denyse Schmidt fabric in home decor weight.  And BTW, I'm not nuts about sewing with linen but I was pleased with the results.

I appliqued it to the front with a simple zig-zag stitch.  And I'll confess, the hardest part was getting the circle in the middle to be a circle and to get it appliqued correctly.  But I think it looked great in the end!

I hope ya'll had a wonderful weekend and a happy Mother's Day.  Despite being sick, I know I did!  My daughter had some very sweet gifts for me that I will share here another day.

PS: Thank you for all the kind and insightful comments on my previous post {I'm still working on responding to everyone}!  I think that Quilting Without Obligation might be a reoccurring theme around here... :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Quilting Without Obligation

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I finished this quilt top last weekend.  I had great intentions to baste it and quilt it this week but life happened...

I need to write this... for me.  If you happen to agree, that's great!  If you don't, well that's great too!

Quilting is a fabulous hobby.  It is one that can be all consuming too.  If you let it.  Blog-land is a wonderful place for quilters because there is so much inspiration, encouragement, camaraderie, and talent.  But there is also a flip-side and it's not so pretty or inspiring.  Jealousy, competitiveness, one-upmanship, and even the occasional case of a copycat among quilters make for some interesting drama {and hurt feelings too}.

I am a wife, a mother, a friend, an employee, and a trusted advisor first.  I would love to unveil a new finished quilt or pattern every other day but that's not possible for me.  And that's OK for me because I have other obligations first. 

My favorite blogs are still those that have a handmade feel to them.  They aren't covered in sponsors but rather they have pictures of "here's what I'm working on".  They are friendly, honest, helpful and interactive beyond their sponsored giveaways.  And please know, I'm not knocking the bloggers that are big and have sponsors because that really is awesome to be recognized commercially.

So for me, I quilt because I love it, not because I'm in a race to finish. Because really, what fun is it to race through a project just to have a "finish"?  I love to quilt because I'm making something with my hands for someone else that will be used and cherished.  I also love to quilt because there are just so many beautiful fabrics out there to work with!  It can be easy to get frustrated and discouraged if you can't keep up with the pros but maybe it will help to remember why you quilt in the first place...

So, why do you love to quilt?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bee Blocks

Pin It I'm participating in my first bee and I am loving it!  It is so much fun to get an envelope of scraps and turn them into a one of a kind block.  This is a scrappy bee and we are making two blocks for the recipient of the month.

These are Leslie's:

She wanted scrappy, wonky log cabins with the cute birdie fabric featured.  These are 15.5 inch blocks!

And then these are Andrea's:

She wanted right angles and I was happy to oblige after all the wonkiness I had been partaking in as of late :)  I was so bummed because I ran out of fabric on the second block and I didn't have anything that matched even closely so hopefully she will have some extra scraps...

I love getting other people's scraps to play with!  I'm working on this month's blocks already and once again, she has sent some gorgeous scraps. 
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