Friday, December 30, 2011

Goodbye 2011...

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... hello 2012!

I have tried and tried to write a list of goals for the new year but that list just isn't forming.  So instead of a list, it feels more right to reflect and give 2011 a proper send-off.  Here goes...

If you have read much here this past year, you probably know that it's been a challenging one for me.  I can't say that 2011 has been my favorite year but at the same time I'm grateful for the things I've learned.

I never, ever planned on writing about depression here but when it happened this blog became about so much more than just quilting because well, there's more to life than quilting. 

People struggle no matter who they are, how big their fabric stash is, or how many quilts they complete.  I'm not ashamed to admit that either... but that's not always been the case so for that loss of shame, I am grateful.

When I started blogging I knew I wanted to be a real person and not just a blog of perfect seams and pretty quilts.  Has that always been easy?  Not really.  But when I started spiraling downward, it felt completely normal to write about it instead of painting a fake and happy picture. 

Writing here kept me going because I had an outlet to be myself.  But then the unexpected support from ya'll was amazing and I suddenly did not feel so alone anymore.  For all of you, I am grateful.

But what about the quilts?  My goal has always been to finish one quilt a month.  That didn't happen this year.  My perfectionist, goal-oriented self is slightly disappointed but ultimately I'm OK with it because there's more to me than a finished quilt. 

Steve and Chaney are happy and healthy.  I am happy and healthy.  We have a home.  We love each other.  We encourage each other.  And we laugh a lot too.  For all these things, I am grateful.

So here's to a new year that is probably full of challenges but also full of possibilities.  Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Simple {goals}

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So I know I said that my Blossom quilt was my last finish for the year but then I made these the other night.

And a big surprise... more chevrons!


They measure 14"x14" and are made from one of my favorite combinations: quilting cottons & natural linen.


One of my sewing goals in the new year is to make some pillows.  I love how something so simple yet useful can brighten and entire room!  Our house is in desperate need of some new throw pillows and it would be absolutely silly to go out and buy them.  So here's to new pillows!  I'm thinking this would be a good sewing project for Chaney too...

What are some of your sewing goals for 2012?


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

{Blossom}

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Quilts for Christmas gifts are the best!  I got one last finish in for the year and I love how this quilt turned out.  I love traditional log cabin quilts and I'm so glad I finally finished one.


Would you believe that I bought this fabric {2 jelly rolls} 4 years ago when I was a new quilter?  And incidentally, along with the fabric, I also purchased a pattern to make this quilt which makes me laugh. This was obviously way before blogging or discovering the online quilting resources that we have today!


Do you ever finish a quilt and wonder what the heck took so long?  That's certainly my feeling here because I finished most of the blocks way back when and even started sewing the rows together.  And then it sat and I can't even remember why. 

Details... it measures approximately 65"x65".  I don't know why but I love square quilts.


It is backed with a vintage sheet... my favorite detail is the print only at the bottom.


It's bound with a print from the Whimsy line {I think}.  I love it when fabric lines play well together. :)  On my last few quilts I have been cutting my binding strips 2.5" wide but I went back to 2.25" strips with this quilt and I'm sold; I really like the skinny binding. 

On Christmas Eve I hand stitched the binding to the back while watching a marathon of Real Housewives of New Jersey {nothing says Christmas like over-the-top everything!}.  Hand stitching the binding just might be my favorite part of the quilting process.  I know all the cool kids bind their quilts by machine but I still love finishing a quilt by hand and I even get a little sad as I finish my last few stitches of the binding...


I quilted it with a meandering free motion pattern which I like against the angles and lines of the blocks.  And speaking of the blocks... I made them long before I understood much about color values so thank goodness you can see the "stripes" fairly well.

We are off to visit family later this week so barring a bout of of insomnia, this quilt will be my final finish of the year.  Next up... finishing the last little bit of quilting on my Chasing Chevrons quilt and binding it!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

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Bird made from Last Minute Patchwork Gifts pattern

Being that I have a quilt to quilt and bind in the next two days, I'm signing off until after Christmas...

So have a wonderful Christmas, ya'll!  May your holiday be filled with family, friends, joy & warmth.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chasing Chevrons {part 6}

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Wow!  We are in the final week of our quilt along.  Week 6 also means that we are a matter of days away from Christmas.  Gulp. 

I certainly do not remember asking for bronchitis for Christmas but that's what I've got and I'm scrounging up the energy just to get going each day. :(  I had grand plans to do a binding by hand tutorial but aching and coughing aren't the perfect match for sitting still and hand sewing.

So I'll probably go back and re-do this post later but for now, in case you are ready to bind your quilt I'm going to give you some links to tutorials that I have written and also two others that I have used a lot and know that they are great:


My tutorial on cutting bias strips and binding a quilt with rounded corners


My tutorial on attaching your binding completely by machine

Mary of Tulip Patch fame and her life changing pocket binding tutorial {it really is!}

Crazy Mom Quilts and her fabulous binding by hand tutorial {this is the tutorial I originally learned from}

Sometimes I think that the binding step can be the most neglected step in the quilting process.  We cut our fabric precisely... pin and make our points match... baste with no wrinkles... agonize over how to quilt the thing and then slap on the binding to just get the darn quilt done. ;)

So don't rush this process because it can make your quilt look polished if done with care or it can end up detracting from your beautiful quilt if done with little thought.  However, there's no such thing as perfect so don't go getting all uptight on me either... just do your best!

What fabric should you use for your binding?  Hmmm... there are several ways to choose.


Maybe you want a scrappy binding using all the leftover fabric from your quilt top.  I love a scrappy binding!


Maybe you want it to blend in with your quilt.  If so, then stick with the solid from your quilt top or a low contrast color.


Or maybe you want it to frame your quilt.  If that's the case then go with a high contrast color or print.


Want something in between?  My personal favorite is a striped binding... you will most likely have to cut a bias binding but don't let that scare you off.  My tutorial above makes it really easy!  But if you want to cheat, find a plaid or argyle print because a lot of those can give you that striped look without cutting bias strips.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me, comment here or post in our Flickr group.  We will have a show off day on Monday, January 16th where we can all share our finished quilts.  I can't think of a better way to start a crafty 2012 off than with a finished quilt!  More details to come...

Have fun with your binding... I'll be thinking of you while buried under a quilt trying to get better before Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesday {Words}

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Steve: are you going to Joanns by chance?

{imagine my shock}

Me:  ummm... yeah. 

{I'm hoping this isn't some sort of trick}

Steve:  well you know those wooden needles with the plastic loopy thing? 

Me:  yes, my new circular needles...

Steve:  you might want to pick up another pair.  Buddy decided to knit.

The good news is that circular needles make knitting much less frustrating for me.  I have no idea why but I actually enjoy knitting with them.  I'm making this scarf and it's so much fun... plus it's something I'll actually wear!

Lastly, than you all so much for your comments and birthday wishes for Chaney yesterday.  She read every one of them and enjoyed every minute of it; especially all the compliments on her pillowcase!  The sewing bug has definitely bitten again in our home. :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Birthday {Girl}

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 Chaney turns 8 today!  I can hardly believe it.


 We gave her sewing machine to her on Sunday and it was a huge hit.  


 Seriously.

She has talked non-stop about nothing but sewing since she made her first stitches Sunday evening.  I've never seen her like this and she keeps saying, "I'm so proud... I'm so proud of myself!".  It's the cutest thing ever.


 I made her a sewing machine cover with pockets on the front to keep her small notions in.  We are sharing my studio so we need to keep things somewhat organized.  

You can find the tutorial for the cover over on Sew We Quilt today.  It was a lot of fun to make and it came together quickly.


Last night we started and finished her first project.  She picked out all the fabric and we made a pillowcase, French seams and all.  I did the cutting and ironing and Chaney did the rest.  I guess she's been watching me closer than I thought because she pretty much knew what to do.  She did great!!   Her machine sews beautifully, BTW.

She is now begging me to write a post so I'm sure ya'll will be seeing her around here soon... ;) 


I'm so proud of her for so many reasons.  Sewing together is just the icing on the cake. 


 Happy Birthday, sweet girl!   I'm so blessed that I get to be your mom...
 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chasing Chevrons {part 5}

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Welcome to week 5!  This week just happens to be my favorite part.  I love quilting far more than making a quilt top.  There's just something about having an almost finished quilt piled up in my lap that makes me happy.

There are many different ways to quilt a quilt and I'm certainly not going to reinvent wheel.  In my last quilt along I put together a post with lots of links to tutorials so I'm going to be resourceful and use that post and instead talk about how to pick your quilting design in this post.

How you quilt your quilt can separate your quilt from the typical quilt.  There are always the clear choices... you can follow the lines of the quilt. 


For example, our chevron quilt has strong lines and angles.  If I were to pick the obvious, I would probably choose straight line quilting.  Straight lines can be visually stunning but they can also detract from the overall design if the design already has lots of lines.

Free motion quilting with lots of busy fabric patterns might be a good choice if you want the quilting to blend in.  However, the opposite can happen too sometimes... a busy quilt + busy quilting might end up being overwhelming.

I obsess over symmetry in general and I tend to go the opposite of my quilt design.  If there are strong lines, I might use quilting with lots of curves.  If there are curves or a busy pattern I tend to lean towards straight line quilting.  I like using opposites to balance the overall quilt design.  But that's just me... ;)

Another thing to consider is how the quilt is going to be used.  If it's going to be used and washed a lot {a baby quilt} free motion quilting is a good choice.  But if you want a quilt that isn't flat as a pancake and has some "fluff" to it, straight lines or even a grid pattern might be ideal.


And lastly, time and skill have a lot to do with your quilting.  Free motion quilting might be a lot for a first quilt; but as you improve it can end up being the fastest way to finish a quilt.  Straight lines close together are pretty simple but they are also hugely boring and time consuming.  You might find your balance somewhere in between using a grid layout or even random straight lines.

Still stuck??  When in doubt just doodle!   Sketch your quilt on paper and audition different quilting designs.  Some of my favorite free motion patterns have come from doodling. 

As always, if you have questions please email, comment or post in our Flickr group!

It's going to be a busy day around here tomorrow... I'm guest posting over at Sew We Quilt, it's Chaney's birthday and I'll be showing off her first finished project on her new sewing machine!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chevron {Party}

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1. Half of Chasing Chevrons, 2. Chasing Chevrons QAL, 3. Rainbow Dancefloor, 4. Stacked!, 5. chevron quilt top on floor , 6. Chasing Chevrons, 7. 1206111957a, 8. 384230_10150504409282028_670817027_10518873_1963060644_n, 9. Quilt-a-long Fabrics Fandango (can't decide)

I am having so much fun watching the Chasing Chevron pictures pop up in our Flickr group.  When I designed this quilt, I wanted it to be one with a flexible design for both the layout and color schemes.  As you can see, there is a good amount of variety which makes me smile. 

It's not too late to join in!  We just started Part 4 but there is no pressure to finish within a certain time frame... :)     

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

knit rhymes with...

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... well, you know. 

I hardly think it's a coincidence that knit is the only craft I can think of that rhymes with a 4 letter word that Chaney is not allowed to say {or even knows}.  But if I knit more while she hangs around me, I might be biting my tongue a lot.

Crochet rhymes with...?  nope, can't come up with anything

Quilt?  nope

Sew?  nothing for that one either...

Scrapping?  well that's getting closer but I don't scrapbook so I won't count it...

I'm not waving the white flag yet but it's probably a good idea for me to put the weapons long, pointy needles down and take a deep breath.  Remember the stocking cap I wanted to knit for Chaney? 

It took an ugly turn. 

I got to the same point in the pattern 4 times and had to rip it out 4 times.  I thought it was me but before I tried it a 5th time I decided to email the seller.  Turns out there was an errata page that she forgot to attach to the email when she sent the pattern PDF to me.  I'm not upset with her at all and she promptly sent me the errata.  More than anything, I'm relieved that I'm not completely crazy.

You knitters have my utmost respect!

For now, I think I'll stick to finishing my Chasing Chevrons quilt and leave the knitting to all you peaceful tea drinkers because knitting makes me very thirsty. 

And it's not for tea. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chasing Chevrons {part 4}

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I love a pieced quilt back!
Previous Chasing Chevrons posts:

Can you believe that we are already to Part 4 of our quilt along??  This week is an easy one: piecing your quilt back & basting your quilt. 

If you are a little behind on finishing your top, you can catch up this week because it typically only takes a few hours to make your backing and baste your quilt.

Next to basting, making the quilt back is my least favorite part of the quilt process.  I have no idea why either.  So when I'm really not feeling it, I'll cheat with one of the following methods:
  • Use a vintage sheet slightly larger than the size of the quilt top.  I do a lot of my quilts like this not just because it's a simple way but also because vintage linens are super soft.
  • Buy a good quality top slightly larger than the size of your quilt top.  Make sure you prewash this sheet!  Cotton linens tend to shrink more than quilting cottons.  Trust me on this one...
  • There are other means out there such as extra wide fabric, flannels, and even fleece but I've never tried these so I don't want to recommend them without trying them.
I know that there have been questions and discussions on using sheets to back quilts but I have backed at least 10 quilts this way and have never had an issue with quilting or washings and use after.

There are a few things to consider when choosing your backing fabric{s}.  If you are less than confident in your quilting skills, avoid a dark solid that will show all of your stitches.  A dark & busy print will work fine because the pattern will hide the imperfections. 

Also, don't plan on using one thread color to match your top and another thread for your bobbin to match your backing.  Unless your machine has perfect tension, the threads can end up sneaking through.  Try to choose a backing that will work well with whatever thread you will be using on your quilt top.  We will talk more about thread choices next week but I wanted to go ahead to put that out there...

On to piecing our top! I apologize in advance for the pictures... this is what happens when you sew and take pictures late at night.


The typical quilting fabric measures 42" wide.  If you are unsure go ahead and measure just to be sure.  Refer back to you fabric requirements for yardage needed for your quilt back.


*If you are feeling simple and do not want to make a pieced back with a contrasting fabric{s}, the easiest way to make the back is to take your backing fabric, then fold in half length-wise.  Cut along the fold as shown to make two pieces. 

Now that you have the two pieces, stitch these pieces together width-wise.  Please note, you are not sewing the edge you just cut to create the two pieces.  If this is a little confusing just lay the backing pieces out, lay your quilt top over the pieces and you will visually be able to see where to sew the two backing pieces together.* 

If you are making a lap size or twin size quilt this method will work great.  If you are making a queen this method will not work because the queen top will measure more than 84" wide; you will have to make a pieced back.

To make a pieced backing for a queen or any other size; there are multiple ways to go about it.  Most of my pieced backs are improvisational which is code for: oh, I need the back wider or longer, more colorful, etc.  But pieced backs are visually interesting and can really add to the overall quilt too.


Remember that one lonely chevron block left over from the front?  It belongs on the back. :)  If you have leftover scraps from the front, cut them to measure the same as your chevron block and you can also include them on the back.  These scraps can vary in length as long as they are the same width as your block {5.5", 7.5", 8.5"}   Little things like this tie the quilt design together nicely.  Remember that this is improvisational but here's how I made my back:

Piece your left over scraps to your chevron block to make a strip that measures the width of your block.  This is random so don't stress too much about the design or pattern!  Press your seams open. This is important because you will be quilting over these seams, the batting, AND the quilt top.  The less bulk, the better! 

Cut your main backing fabric as described *above*.


Lay your back out as shown; your pieced strip will be in between your large pieces to create that pieced look.  Stitch 1 to 2 and then that section to 3.  Press seams open.  If your pieced strip measures wide, don't worry as this can be trimmed down to the same width as the rest of the quilt back.


Done!

Your quilt back will measure wide and a little long.  Don't worry about that because you always want your backing wider and longer than your top to allow for movement when quilting.  There's nothing worse than your backing being just shy of your quilt size after it's quilted.  Trust me on this one too... ;)

Now it's time to baste your quilt!  Make sure your quilt top and back are pressed well.  There are two main methods for basting a quilt.  I have used both and prefer basting spray.  I know that some hate spray for various reasons so if you do, just follow the pin basting method.  I'm linking to my basting tutorial here because I'm lazy efficient. 

If you are wondering about what kind of batting to use, I also talk about that in the basting tutorial.

This is one of those steps that makes a lot more sense as you apply the instructions hands-on.  As always, if you have any questions please comment here, post in our Flickr group, or email me. 

I'm also linking this tutorial up for Fabric Tuesday!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hello {Kitty}

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I'm so super excited!  Chaney has been asking me when I'm going to teach her how to sew for the past 6 months or so. 

A few times I thought about teaching her on my machine but it's a heavy duty machine that sews two speeds... fast and faster.  It still scares me sometimes!

I've seen the Hello Kitty Janome and always thought it was cute but I wondered about the quality.  It has good reviews but it always helps to hear from someone you know.  I asked Facebook what to do and Ginger told me that she loves her Hello Kitty so I was sold. 

I'm an easy sell just in case you were wondering. ;)

So Hello Kitty is on her way!  Chaney's birthday is December 13th and I can't wait to give it to her.  I'm thinking that 8 is a great age to start sewing.  Plus she's always volunteering me to make her friends bags, notebook covers, pillowcases, etc.  Now I can just tell her to sew the things herself.

But of course I'm totally kidding because she will always be supervised.  So don't go sending me emails telling me that she's going to sew her fingers because I'm totally That Mom who worries and frets about safety. 

And besides, there is no family history of stitching ourselves unless you count that little free motion quilting incident.

I'm really looking forward to teaching her and having another activity to do together that we both enjoy.  And from what I've heard, it sews great so I might be sneaking some sewing time on her machine too.

Have a wonderful weekend!  Oh, and I'll have week 4 instructions for our quilt along up tomorrow.

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