Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Closing 2013 with the Christmas vest

To balance out my blog content of late—which has featured a lot of fabric, needle and thread—I decided to close the 2013 year with a "yarny" post. Life, after all, is about balance, now isn't it?
The makings for my Christmas vest.
So, here is how the planets aligned for my new Christmas vest: 
I got encouraged to pick up yarn and knitting needles after seeing the Show and Tell from my former knitting students at our holiday get-together. About that same time, I came across this free pattern for the Lone Star Fitted Vest by Mary Lynn Patrick. Then, coincidentally, my stash re-org endeavor unearthed a bag of lovely red Granite yarn by Nashua. Knitting kismet! 

Granite is a thick/thin single [70% wool, 30% acrylic] with tonal variations in the coloring. I was drawn to the red color at the initial purchase, and once again, it inspired me for this project. I thought the red was quite appropriate for the holidays, as well.

The project—a vest—was sleeveless [read: less to knit], the stitch pattern was a basic k1, p1 rib, and the 17 sts/4 in. gauge would make it a relatively quick knit. Could I possibly have something new to wear for Christmas? Nothing like a deadline to keep one motivated and on task.
Knitting both front and back of the vest at the same time.
I decided to try the technique of knitting front and back [or two sleeves, or two socks] simultaneously so the gauge would be consistent and the row count easy to track. Note: this is an excellent concept and it worked very well!

Although I didn't quite finish the Lone Star Vest in time for Christmas, it was ready for a try-on on December 26. Today, the 3-needle bind-off and weaving in the ends were completed—just in time to welcome in the new year. Here is the finished piece—my new Christmas vest.
"Lone Star Fitted Vest,"
my 2013 Christmas vest.
So, as we close the book on 2013 and crack open a new calendar for 2014, I wish you encouragement and support from those around you, abundant inspiration for your passions, motivation to grow in experience and wisdom, and a balance in life so you may be open to serendipity and enjoy the good things that come your way. Remember to believe in yourself, and believe in those worth believing in.

Happy New Year!

The 4-patch: easy, patchwork goodness

The humble 4-patches from my back-to-basics patchwork interlude turned into this handsome quilt top. 
A variation of "Cloe's Quilt" pattern, 51" x 67"
Scattering the stylized floral fabric across the top adds a bit of playfulness and contrast to the grid-like composition. The solid white provides the brightness and sparkle (and a blank canvas for future free-motion quilting). I can't decide if the framed blocks look like window panes or a tiled floor. What does it look like to you?

What a fun top to piece—especially the 4 patch blocks. You can crank out a bunch of these little gems lickety-split. Here's how:

Cut strips WOF (width of fabric or width of a Fat Quarter). My strips were 3.5" wide. Pair up the strips.
Cut and pair up strips.
Sew each strip-pair together along the long edge. Use a 1/4" seam.
Chain piecing the strip sets goes quickly.
Subcut the strips into 2-patches and sew two pair together to make 4-patches. The chain piecing saves time and thread. I like the random scrappiness of these 4-patches. So, don't stress over selecting the pairs… just pick and sew.
Chain-pieced 4-patches.
That's it!
Scrappy 4-patches.
Easy. Scrappy. Patchwork goodness!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Does your Stash runneth over?

While doing some end-of-year re-org, I took a little inventory of my fiber and fabric resources (aka my Stash). As with many of us long-time fabric and fiber enthusiasts, I uncovered several items that I knew I would never find time (even in two lifetimes) to use, or my interest in that particular "fiber trend" had waned. Conclusion: Time to purge!

So, two big bags of fabrics and scraps went to my MIL's church group that makes Prayer Quilts and four bags of yarn and fabric scraps were delivered to the Northside Neighborhood House. I'm happy knowing that someone will be creating something with their hands, getting enjoyment from the process, and feeling a sense of accomplishment from making a project.

There are lots of churches, schools and organizations that can make good use of your unwanted—but still good quality—needlework, craft, sewing and quilting supplies. Ask around and I'm sure you'll find several. If you choose, you can claim your donation as a tax deduction (you've got one more day to do this in 2013). Me? I'm happy knowing someone will be using this stuff and I've gained a little space in my studio. So, share the wealth!

And, don't worry. Stashes magically replenish themselves… amazing how that happens.

Snowball blocks now Rolling Along

The snowball quilt blocks that I showed in this post, made their way into "Rolling Along." This is a quilt top, for now. I'll have to ponder the quilting design.
"Rolling Along" quilt top, 42.5" x 52.5" 
The top went together easily and quickly and it was fun revisiting a classic quilt block.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Quilting cottons: fabulous for garments

Schoolhouse Tunic (women's) by Sew Liberated
made with Sophia 6864 russet 
Have you considered using some of those fresh, pretty florals, the contemporary geometrics, or even the novelty prints you find at your local quilt shops for something other than quilts? Like, maybe a garment??

Through my travels as a Blank Quilting fabric rep, I'm seeing lots of fabulous (and fun!) garments made from these high-quality, beautifully printed 100% cotton lovelies. At left is my version of the Schoolhouse Tunic (pattern design by Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated). The fabric is one of the geometrics from the Sophia collection by Blank Quilting.

If the thought of making a garment using quilting fabrics has ever crossed your mind… here is some inspiration… or some motivation.

Left: Audrey's Afternoon Dress by Indygo Junction.
Right: Schoolhouse Tunic by Sew Liberated.
Crossover Tunic by Indygo Junction
Left: Cowl Neck Shift by Indygo Junction
Right: a peasant top
For the little girls.

Gabby's Sleepover Jammies by Izzy & Ivy
made with Bella Blvd by Blank Quilting.

Simplicity 2171 designed by Sarah Rose
made with Sunflowers and Samsara 6794 cocoa by Blank Quilting.
Dress made at Barb's Sewing Center
with Madeline and coordinates by Blank Quilting.
Made with fabrics from Floral Dream collection by Blank Quilting.
From Barb's Sewing Center.
This cap sleeved dress has a smocked front yoke.
And for the boys, check out this adorable dinosaur.
Another clever idea from Barb's Sewing Center:
a sweatshirt with an embroidered appliqué using Wondertones.
Machine embroidered appliqué.
Visit your local sewing center or quilt shop for other great patterns and sewing ideas.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Revisiting basic block patterns

My friend, Shannon, at Fabrics N Quilts, recently wrote a blog post about giving herself some ME sewing time. With all the card-sending, cookie-baking, gift-buying and box-wrapping the past few weeks, I've been wanting to run away to my studio and do some "just for fun" sewing, too.
Chain piecing 3.5" fabric strips.
Shannon is working on "crumb blocks" using bits from her scrap basket. I decided to revisit a few basic block patterns—simple construction, quick cutting, and mostly petal-to-the-metal chain piecing.
Starting with: the snowball block.
Snowball blocks.
The humble 4-patch. 
Here I used small prints, tone-on-tones, and several solids in shades of gray and brown.
4-patch blocks.
 And, the versatile half-square triangle.
Half square triangle blocks.
Piecing these blocks was so relaxing, therapeutic and I felt very productive. Go ahead and stitch some of those basic block patterns and you'll know what I mean. I'll post soon on how these blocks develop.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Christmas

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Lucy settles in for a long winter's nap.
A slideshow of my quilts that I put out for the holidays is below...

Still shots (if this code doesn't work on your tablet, etc.) are here:
Holiday wreath with yo-yo berries.
I rescued 4-5 quilted "blocks" from a quilt that was cut apart. It was too amazing to ignore so I cobbled it together (thus the wacky edges) and hang it every Christmas.
Antique rescue quilt.
Here is a detail of the amazing hand quilted and hand appliquéd pinwheel.
Hand quilted by anonymous quilter.
Here is one of my first patchwork pieces. Scrappy fabrics and sawtooth stars.
This one was made early in my quilting career.
 This one is called "Christmas Geese."

Made from vintage Dresden Plate blocks and pieces. The original hand piecing was preserved. "From her ScrapBasket to Mine."

A scrappy pieced binding.
Another one of my beginning projects. It was all about scrappy quilts--which I still love! Early on, I had to "make scraps." Now, I already have them.

This little nine-patch was also hand quilted.
 A mini quilt: hand stencilled wreaths with fabric paint.
 I even did some hand quilting on this one.
(Before I fell in love with free-motion.)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Birth of a book

There's nothing like a hard bound book—the weight in your hands, a firm cover, the crack of the spine upon its first opening, handsome endpapers, beautiful page layout, exquisite typography, generous and balanced margins, the paper's fine tooth surface and the scent of freshly printed ink.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Are you a Gadget Hound?

OMGosh! I was re-organizing my space and came across all these. I didn't think I was such a gadget glutton… but, maybe I am???
Rulers, templates and assorted "acrylic quilting tools."
I've been quiltmaking for over 15 years and I know I've had all of these for quite a while (forgot I had them, actually). When I was a new quilter, I took lots of classes, workshops, participated in guild programs, went to quilt shows and attended lectures. I think I got enamored by the class projects and presentations by national instructors and got swept away by the excitement and potential for all the creativity before me.

Are you a gadget hound, too? Maybe you should do a sewing room re-org and find out.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Going Modern with Lola

When Blank Quilting's Lola collection came out this summer, it had several coordinates that filled out the fabric line. One of the colorways is comprised of a cool analogous color scheme of turquoise, teal, aqua, green and royal that reminded me of what you might find in ocean-front beach houses. 
A modern quilt featuring Lola collection by Blank Quilting.
Azteca pattern in Lola fabrics.
39.5" x 56.25" quilted.
Serendipitously, the Spring 2013 issue of Modern Quilts Unlimited was on the top of my pile of quilting magazines. This issue had Patty Sloniger's Azteca quilt pattern in it that called for a collection of 7 coordinating prints and a bright white background. The color palette looked very similar to that of Lola's blue/green colorway, so I paired it with a white, tone-on-tone, dragonfly print (6615) from Blank Quilting's White Out for the background to make my version of Azteca
For my quilt, howeverI added a top and bottom border (the original pattern in the magazine had only side borders). I think having borders on all sides keeps the eye moving around the perimeter of the quilt and it also created an interesting corner treatment.

And now to my favorite part—the quilting.
I kept it "modern" with free-motion straight lines in the white background areas. This was done with the feed dogs down (not with the walking foot—as it would have taken for. ev. er to quilt it that way). Three clusters of circles—several smaller satellites orbiting the larger one—strategically float over the quilt top. 
Circles are quilted with pebbles to contrast with
the straight lines in the background.
The triangles that create the chevron in the center of the quilt have a small feather motif quilted in each of them. The thread color for the feathers was a medium blue.
Add caption
The 108" backing fabric is Fusion Illusion (color: navy) by Blank Quilting. In reality, the color is more like royal than navy.
Fusion Illusion 108" navy wide backing.
A free-motion zig-zag is featured on the border with a feather motif quilted in the border triangles.
Back detail of quilting Lola.

Auditioning quilting threads.
Quilt stats:
Finished size: 39.5" x 56.25"
Top threads: Auriful and WonderFil 50 wt. cotton thread.
Bobbin: 60 wt. poly Bottom Line. 18.75 hours of quilting. 3 bobbins.

Check your local quilt shop for fabrics from the Lola collection. (The other colorway is black/brown/gray.) They are suitable for quilts with modern or contemporary styles, and would also work well with traditional block patterns, appliqué quilts or garments. Lola is very versatile!
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