Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Yes, I am taking on another project, and I'm OK with that.

No WIP Wednesday post for me today.  It isn't because I haven't done anything; I have. But I'm just not quite ready to show you :)  I do however have a few other things for you.

First of all, there is something more important than the current post that you should be reading. It's truly beautiful.  Sarah from Emerging Mummy wrote a post, In which I promise not to call myself fat. I always look forward to Sarah's posts coming through on my reader, and this is one of the best yet.  If you are a woman, or if you know a woman, you should read it.  {It's not just about perceptions of fat}

NO, really, go read it.  Then come back here.

Second, another Sara.  I've already told you about her mad quilting skills.  She also makes bags and now she's embarking on a journey to make a new wardrobe based on the Colette patterns.  Um, I would like an entire wardrobe from those!  So I'm {sort of} joining her.  I'm starting with the Violet top and Ginger Skirt.  And best of all, I get to use the Haven's Edge voile I've had my eye on for some time now for the blouse.  It's on sale for $7.50/yard at SewMamaSew right now!  {yes, you read that correctly}.  They didn't have the violet color {wouldn't that have been perfect?} so I "settled" for the softer pink. Darn. I haven't decided on the skirt fabric yet. 

{Image from Colette Patterns}

{Image from SewMamaSew}
I considered using a Westminster Shot Cotton for the skirt, but I've never actually seen/felt the stuff in real life. Have any of you worked with Shot Cottons? Do you think it would be good for a skirt? What is it like compared to some of the typical 100% Cotton quilting fabrics or the Kona Solids? I know it's different, but without actually having felt it, it's hard to know how it is different.

Oh, in case you're wondering, I haven't really lost my mind or this giant belly.  I'll be making the blouse {hopefully} before the baby comes because it is meant to have a lose fit, and I'll wait until this fall to make the skirt--when I can actually try it on as I sew!  As of tomorrow I have {approximately} six weeks left! Holy Moly! 

I'll be back later with a progress update on the projects I actually did work on this last week.  {By later I mean a day or two or ...}


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Work in Progress Wednesday OR The Weekly Round Up

It is Wednesday again, and lots of progress has been made this time!

  • I finished undoing all the stitching on my sister's quilt!  No really, YAY!
  • I found out that can do the quilting myself on a long arm machine--Double YAY!  There is a sewing center in town that rents a long arm quilter; the only requirement is that you take a class to learn how to use it (darn).  So next month I'll be taking the class then getting busy quilting FOUR quilts.  
  • I also finished my Kitchen Windows quilt top.  I'm loving it! I still haven't decided how I want to do the back, so that's on the WIP list.
  • I finally took pictures of my diaper bag and posted the review of the Amy Butler pattern I used to make it.
This coming week I have several WIPs
  • Make my final MSQB block.  I'm pretty settled on this one, but I'm sad because it means the bee is officially over for me when I finish the block. 
  • Make a cosmetic bag or makeup brush roll for a good friend who watches Della for me quite a bit.  She often will not let me pay her, so I think I'm totally overdue in making her something.
  • Work on my New Wave quilt.  I have everything cut out and have started sewing the pieces together.  I don't anticipate finishing this top until next week with the other two projects taking priority, but I hope to get some work done on it.  

Other WIPs
  • Quilt back for the Kitchen Windows quilt: I need to decide if I want it all to be the same fabric or if I actually want something snazzy on the back.  I'm leaning toward the first option. 
  • Quilt back for Della's "first" quilt--AKA the Baby Troll Quilt.  This is actually the first quilt top I ever made, but it's been sitting in my studio for a good year now because I was too intimidated to do anything with it.  Now that I've done a bit more quilting, have a date with a long arm, and have a big girl to give it to, I think it's time to finish this one ASAP.  
  • Kitchen accessories: I still want to make several more, but these are kind of a "back  burner" project.
  • Baby gear: I haven't made anything for the new baby, but with her due date coming up in 7 weeks (OMG!), I think I need to put this much closer to the top of the list.  I just need to decide what to make.  I'm thinking a sleep sack would be a fun project to try, but I'm totally open to suggestions (other than a quilt)!

I'm linking up again with Work in Progress Wednesday!
WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Amy Butler Sweet Harmony Tote: Reveal, Review, Modify

{The quick version for those who don’t want to read all about it}
Do you all remember last month when I {almost} said I would rather carry my stuff around in a plastic grocery sack than make a new bag from one of Amy Butler’s patterns? Yeah, thankfully I didn’t really say that because I would totally be eating my words right now. I don’t know if I am just such a master at sewing now or what, but this pattern was actually fun to make. Yes, I just said that. I have made several other of her patterns, but they were much earlier in my ohsomature sewing career, and they were so difficult. But the thing is, the finished product was always worth every headache along the way. That’s why I went full steam ahead and made this bag under a tight deadline and with my many picky-me modifications.

{The long version for those who want a step by step replay of making the tote}
So here’s the scoop. I used décor weight fabrics from Joel Dewberry’s Tossed Flowers line for the outside and décor weight fabric from Denyse Schmidt’s County Fair line for the piping and lining. The designer décor weight fabrics are really wonderful to work with. The thread count is really high (nothing like the loosey goosey home décor stuff you buy off the bolts at J’s fabrics) and the fabric is definitely thicker than regular quilting weight, but it’s still really easy to work with and my little machine was able to sew through six layers with a size 11 needle. That’s close to miraculous, folks. (I bent something in the machine when trying the quilting on my sister’s quilt so I can’t use a high needle higher right now).

The pattern says the finished tote will be 17.5” across the bottom, 4” deep, and 11” tall. I don’t know about you, but if I’m carrying a big diaper bag, I want it to be big, and 4” isn’t that big. So I added an inch to really make it big. (If I made it again, I would add another inch just for kicks.) This was a little tricky, but once I cut out the pattern pieces, I just sliced all the ones that would be affected in half straight down the middle and then taped them back together with another strip of paper to add an inch to the middle.
So that means I cut the bottom piece, the side pieces and also the handle. Except, with the handle, I tapered it so an inch was added to the center at the bottom where the handle attaches to the back, but I didn’t really widen the top of the handle. I should have taken pictures but didn’t…sorry.

I also wanted to add side pockets on the outside and only have one big pocket on the front, thus omitting the big pocket on the back. I just took my side pattern piece and cut two pocket pieces for each side but didn’t cut them as small. I followed the directions from the front pocket for adding the piping and attaching the side pockets. Easy peasy.

As for fabric placement, I again steered away from the directions and I knew ahead of time which pieces I would cut from which fabric (and marked it on my directions so as not to get confused!) I also “fussy cut” (if that’s possible with such a big piece) that pink piece on the front so that the flowers would look pretty popping out in the background. I didn’t figure this out though until I had already cut the panel once and sewn a cell phone pocket to it, so I had to do that step again.

OK, for the interfacing. I didn’t want a bulky bag in terms of fabric thickness, so I cut the interfacing as I was sewing. Here’s what I ended up with:
  • Side pockets, Front pocket, and back outside panel: 1 layer each of fusible fleece.
  • Front outside panel, cell phone pocket, and interior pieces: 1 layer of very thin fusible interfacing (not sure what number)
  • Interior pockets: 2 layers of same thin fusible interfacing, 1 on each piece of fabric
  • Bottom panel: 2 layers of Peltex (Pellon?) 70 plus 1 layer of fusible interfacing.
The directions say to trim all interfacing (except that last piece on the bottom panel) ½-3/4 inch around. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! It is a little bit of a pain while you are doing it, but it will make your seams so much nicer and easier to work with. Trust me. DO THIS.

The actual construction of the bag was fairly easy. The directions made sense, including the order of doing things. I made very few modifications here beyond adding my side pockets (and a key fob). One thing I’ve learned to really appreciate from quilting is to keep your iron hot, steamy, and ready for action. Ironing after each step may seem a little tedious, but your final product will look so much nicer if you do!

And the final bag? So worth the 8 hours it took me to make! I spent a lot more time cutting out the pieces and the interfacing than is really required, but that’s because I was being so picky about what I did or did not want interfaced, where I wanted my pattern placement to be, etc. I think this could be a 6 hour project (maybe??) if you followed the directions exactly, but it’s definitely not a super quick one.

As for difficulty, I would say this wouldn’t be bad for someone with intermediate sewing skills. Although it wouldn’t be impossible, I don’t recommend this for a beginner because you really need to have your bearings around all the basics before getting into something more complicated like this. I know others have said it would be great for beginners, but I’m going to disagree here.

OH, and the most important part, Do I like the bag?? Yes!! In fact, I love it! It totally meets my expectations. The size is great for carrying lots of stuff, and with the customizations I made I was able to use this as my sole bag when flying alone with Della from KY to CA for my sister’s graduation! We have also taken it to the zoo, the pool, and given it to the babysitter for the day.  I mainly use my purse with my diaper clutch when I'm out for a few errands with Della, but I think when Baby 2 gets here, I will get plenty of use from the bag as I’ll need room to fit stuff for two (and I’m not always a light packer).

I'm linking up today with the other fabulous projects at Fabric Tuesday and the Creative Itch!

Fresh Poppy Design

Creative Itch


Friday, June 17, 2011

On sticking with your instincts

When I first picked the fabrics for my Kitchen Windows quilt, I was drawn to using a light blue fabric for the sashing.  I had planned on purchasing it at a local quilt store, but they didn't actually have any (one of the many LQS conundrums* I have found recently).  So I bought another light blue fabric with a darker texture to it. When I got it home, I pretty much hated it.  The textured look of the fabric totally threw off the balance of the quilt, and the darker shade was anything but right in this context.

I eventually settled on Kona Solids light blue, but from the moment I paid for it, I felt fairly unsettled about it.  I really wanted this to be a soft palette with the pinks and grays and pop of red, and I wasn't sure if the blue would interfere with that.  I let the fabric and blocks sit for a couple months while I finished many other projects.

Last week I decided it was time to go for it.  I cut all the sashing, but the whole time I still wasn't sure if it would produce a quilt I would be crazy about or one that would make me crazy.  Well, last night I all but finished the quilt top, and

I am crazy about this quilt.  The blue was so right.  Even in this photo, the "big picture" feel is missing but hopefully you can see why I am so glad that I stuck with my instincts on this one.  Keep in mind that the binding is a pink/gray combo to tie that palette back in all the way around so as not to allow the blue to overpower everything.  I don't know if this follows color rules or not, but in my mind it totally does! 

In case you missed it, the Kitchen Windows quilt is one of the many patterns found in Elizabeth Hartman's book, The Practical Guide to Patchwork.

*About those conundrums...why would a quilt shop not have a simple light blue fabric or even a charcoal gray or solid black, for crying out loud??  Both of our local shops are totally lacking in the solids department.
And another thing I don't my quest for an alternative to doing the quilting on my machine (see here or here if you're a new reader), I have found that [our] local quilt shops don't actually have a way for you to make a quilt.  They can give you names of people to do the quilting for you with a long arm machine--for which you'll pay with one of your limbs--but forget about having resources to actually enable the quilter to do the quilting.
Sewing machine accessories?  Yet another thing missing from the local shops. 
Sewing machines? nada.
OK, enough whining.  But really, do your local shops have any of these options?  Are my expectations way out of line??  Does someone want to start a LQS with me that carries solids and machines and allows quilters to do their own quilting should their machine fail them?

***UPDATED*** OK, so there actually is such a thing as a long arm rental!  I finally found a local "sewing center" that rents its long arm machine for a much more affordable price than having someone else do it (and you can still have the satisfaction of making your own quilt).  So, I have scheduled a time to take the class to learn to use the machine and I've schedule TWO days of quilting.  So now I really do have to finish all three quilts by next month in order to get them all quilted before baby comes.  Eep! I am so excited about this! ***consider this quilting drama over for now.  I'll spare you for a while.***

I need to get on with my day.  Happy Friday!!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Farmer's Wife Takes the World by Storm

Three days ago I stumbled upon someone's blog who mentioned the Farmer's Wife Quilt Along; little did I know just what a big deal this is!  Based on The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt, folks all over the quilting world are trying their hand at traditional quilt block but typically using modern fabric combinations. 

Here is a great example of some of the blocks from Lynn at Lilys Quilts

What I find most appealing about this quilt is that while the blocks go together, none of the are the same.  So each one is its own new little world and new project.  Forget the sweatshop of sewing 30 of the same block to make your quilt; you get to enjoy learning a new six inch beauty every step of the way! 

So, am I joining?  Not yet.  I can't.  As you saw yesterday, I have some pretty big projects to finish before this baby comes in less than two months. {yikes!}  Instead I have joined the Flickr group, added the book to my post-baby wish list (and to-do list), and am enjoying seeing all the blocks others are busy making these days. 

Just in case you wanted to see a few more...

Are you doing this quilt along?  I want to see your blocks if you are!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Work in Progress Wednesday: Stitch Ripping and a Quilt Top in progress

My last post was also a W.I.P. Wed. post.  What's that all about?!  Well, it's about the only progress being made this week was the backwards kind.  I spent three of four sewing nights pulling stitches out of the quilt.  And I'm still not finished.  But I am *so close*!  Also, it was hot.  And if it's hot outside, it's just as hot in my sewing room since there is no AC in that place.  And I'm pregnant, which doesn't mix well with hot!  All that to say, here's what I've got going on this week...

Finish removing the stitches from the Mod Sampler QuiltDid you know that for every minute you spend sewing something on the machine, you'll spend 5 minutes to take out those same stitches?  OK, so that's not scientific fact, but that's about how it seems to me right now.  I just need to decide on who I'm going to send it to for the actual quilting. insert sarcastic enthusiasm about paying someone else to do what I want to be doing.

All of the Kitchen Windows blocks are now ready to be sewn together!  I finally committed to the light blue sashing, which I still have mixed feelings over, but this was my original instinct so I'm sticking with it.  I chose the blue because the other main colors are pink/gray/red and I want Brandon to be able to like the quilt too.  I plan to finish start the quilt top this weekend.

I have one last quilt block to make for the MSQB and then I'm officially finished (well except for my quilt).  This block is for a man's quilt, so I'm super intimidated by it. I might put it off one more week until I know for sure I've settled on the right block. sorry, Sharon! I did get some "inspiration" about which fabrics to use today though.

I am really behind on getting up my review/reveal of the Amy Butler Sweet Harmony Tote I made last month.  I want to take good pictures to show you, but I'm stumped and feel like all my photos are lame-o these days. 

I have a New Wave quilt stack ready to go but I need to make/get the template. Oh, and I need to finish "all of the above" before starting this one.

I also need to mop my kitchen floor again. It's been a while.

I am still wondering: What kind of sewing machine do you use and is it pretty good with quilting?  I'm starting to think about getting a new machine, and I really want to be able to finish my quilts on it--something I can not do with my current machine.

I'm linking up with Lee today at Freshly Pieced!
WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

W.I.P Wednesday: Kitchen Accessories!

Up until a month or so ago, I was not expecting to be making new kitchen accessories in this house, but here we are for an indefinite period, and I'm thankful for all the charm of an old kitchen to hang new goods.  I've started what will probably be a long process of making little things here and there between the bigger projects to spice up my own kitchen (no swaps for me at this point in pregnancy!).

Most of the fabrics I plan to use are from Alexander Henry's Farmdale line, but I'm sneaking in a few others as well including a piece of Joel Dewberry's Modern Meadow and something from Anna Griffin (can't remember the print!) along the edge.

I'm also working on pulling all the stitches out of my sister's quilt so I can send it off to a pro; I need to commit one night and just do it. This is the worst kind of progress to have to make though!  I have all the fabric for the Kitchen Windows Quilt and need to finish putting that together, and if time and heat and energy permit, I'll be making one more quilt before baby comes in August.  And of course, I have one more Bee block to finish this month as well!  So plenty to be working on.

I'm linking up today with the Freshly Piece Work in Progress Wednesday

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced


Sunday, June 5, 2011

MSQB: June Block for Sandi

Sandi chose a really beautiful hexagon log cabin quilt block for her quilt and requested purple and gray with permission to use a few other "pops" of color.  We sort of used this tutorial, but I will admit it's more of a guide than anything.  It looks waaaay easier there than it really is. That's not in any way meant to slander the blog author!

I'm a little hesitant to show you this block because I feel like I kind of cheated in making it. In reality though I just had a little help from a friend.

My first go at making Layer One of the hexagon looked more like a diamond--not really a great start!  I quickly checked the discussion in the MSQB group to see if anyone else had started this block and was having problems, and sure enough Toni said her first try didn't work but she used her ruler's 60-degree angle feature, and that really helped.

First off, I didn't even know my quilting ruler had a 60-degree (or any degree!) angle until she said that.  I asked her to post a few pictures, which she did here and here, and that made all the difference.  Once I knew how to trim my fabrics after adding each pair, I was able to do this block sans problem.  The key is to trim every time you add a pair of fabrics rather than waiting to just trim up your hexie after each layer.  (If you're attempting this block, what I am saying will probably make a lot more sense than if you're just casually reading!)

So, after my first layer, I was thrilled.  It's so much better than the first try and even has six full sides!  All in all I think I spent about 3 hours on the block, including starting over after the first attempt and ripping the seams on two of my triangles when finishing the block.

I have to admit, I'm pretty pleased with how this one came out once it did!

I probably wouldn't recommend this for a bee unless you have a more detailed tutorial or are in a bee with geometry nerds, but if you feel comfortable with a good challenge, this is a great block for it.  I can see this turning out many different beautiful ways depending on the color and fabric combination used.


MSQB: May Cathedral Windows Block

When I started the Modern Stash Quilting Bee, Sara was one of my blog friends who I really hoped would join, and she did.  I knew she could be counted on for great style, impeccable skill, and choosing a challenging and creative block.  Little did I know just how right I was!

In May, Sara asked everyone to make a Cathedral Windows block using blue and green.  This is one of those blocks I can say with a fair amount of certainty that I never would have tried on my own.  Sara posted a few tips of her own, and we used the tutorials she linked to in her post to make the block.

Mine came out right on the first try--not something I have been able to say for all my blocks!  I really enjoyed making this block, and it is one I could see myself making again.  The only thing I did differently was to use pins to secure the printed fabric to the white when making my window frames because I didn't have any glue.

oops! I hit "publish" a few minutes too soon, so my links weren't active yet.  I've updated them and hopefully you'll get the "live" version.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book Review: The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

Haji Hassan, the central character and narrator of Richard C. Morais' debut novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey, has a unique passion and talent for food.  Rooted in his grandfather's Bombay lunchbox-delivery-turned-restaurant, and tragic twist of fate transplants his family first in England then in the French Alps where Hassan's real talents and adventures begin. 

Hassan's father establishes a Bombay-style restaurant in the quaint Alpine town of Lumiere, only to find that Madame Mallory, Lumiere's local and famed chef, will not allow her grasp of the town's cuisine or culture to be easily infiltrated.  The Hundred-Foot Journey is as much fictional memoir as it is an insightful telling of journeys to manhood, friendship, and cultural understanding.

My review
The Hundred-Foot Journey opens as a page-turner, immediately grasping the reader with it's character and plot development.  This continues throughout much of the book but seems to loose its grip about 3/4 of the way in.  The last 50 pages slowed and lost much of the excitement and potential seen in the first pages.  The book ends with some lingering questions, but the questions seem to come out of nowhere and feel fairly forced. 
Morais' writing style is authentic, and I caught myself considering this book a memoir rather than fiction on multiple occasions.  He brings the key characters to life through his descriptions of their lives, looks, and interactions with others, but there were several characters who remain lifeless in spite of their important role in the book. 
Even with those complaints, I did enjoy reading The Hundred-Foot Journey and would definitely recommend it if you're looking for a good fiction.  The historical, cultural, and culinary development of each stage of Hassan's journey are in themselves contextual treasures many readers will enjoy.