Way back at the start of January (um, wait, where did January go??!) I set a few goals, including one to "carve out time for more personal sewing" with the promise that I was planning "thirty days of thirty minutes of sewing just for me! " Well, guess what? This is it! The 30/30 Sewing Challenge starts on March 1st here at Berry Barn Designs - and you can join me!
I tend to get caught up in days that get away from me, hurriedly squeezing sewing into a weekend or up against a deadline. And I always have so many new ideas brewing and fun little projects tucked aside, but they seem to take a backseat to the "have to" projects and commitments. So I've created the 30/30 Sewing Challenge for myself to help make sewing a daily habit and to carve out time for projects that I'll work on just for me. If this sounds like a fun idea to you - or like a habit you want to start, too - then please join me for the month of March to have fun sewing just for you!
The first link up will be Saturday, March 1st. Set a sewing goal for yourself to share with us then - it can be anything sewing related as long as it's for you! A new wall quilt for you, a flattering spring skirt or two for you, a machine technique class you'll take and practice for you. You get the idea! Start brainstorming a few things you'd like to work on and then link up with us each week to post your progress. At the end of the month, hopefully you'll have a healthy new daily sewing habit and some wonderful things you've finished just for you! Plus we'll have a final link up with the chance to win prizes for participating!
I'll share more details as the challenge gets closer - in the meantime, grab the 30/30 Sewing Challenge button and check out the link up dates.
Oh, and speaking of prizes - last week I won a little something from one of my favorite fabric designers, Dear Stella! They featured this lovely and bright Big Love quilt tutorial by Modern Handcraft on their blog, plus a giveaway of some delightful Mini Confetti Dots in coordinating Valentine's colors. You all know how head-over-heels I was for their Piper line last summer, which I featured in my Summer Sun doll quilts, right?
Well, the mailman just delivered me a whole bunch of dots to brighten up my stash and I <3 them! Hmm... what to make... what to make....
I hope you'll be joining me for thirty days of selfish sewing come March! In the meantime, are you working on any projects for someone else? Your special Valentine perhaps?
Many of my friends at Cobblestone Quilters, my local PTQG chapter, have beautiful name tags they've sewn or quilted, and now I do, too! I came across this easy-peasy lanyard tutorial from She Can Sew, and whipped one up with just a few teeny tweaks (mine is a tad narrower and shorter, and I twisted one end of the strip before stitching so it will lay flat when I wear it around my neck). With the addition of an embroidered name tag (I covered up my last name for the pic), my new credentials are complete and ready for our next meeting : )
I'm excited to be participating in Stash Bee this year! It's the first bee I've ever joined. I signed up in the fall and had to wait a few weeks to hear whether or not I'd gotten a slot, but I can't lie - part of me was sort of hoping it would be full because I was really nervous about how my green skills might pair up next to the many veteran quilters in the bee. I did get assigned to a hive, though, led by Alison of Little Bunny Quilts, and I am so glad that I did - it's just the challenge I need this year to try new techniques and practice working from someone else's color palette, and it's been a great way to meet other quilters from all over the globe!
Here are my blocks for January. The colors aren't ones I'd usually work with, but they really grew on me as I pieced. Plus, I learned a new technique - Fast Flying Geese (I pinned the tutorial over here if you want to give them a whirl) - and discovered just how easy they are!
And I have to share my LQS Day finds! I took my youngest along with me in order to trick her into a nap (she wasn't going to go down easily at home, but she needed it and a car ride after lunch never fails!)... not sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing in the end. She woke up chipper and chatty when we arrived - singing and talking to me non.stop. the entire time I was in the store : P It distracted me enough that I couldn't think about big projects and stuck with quick finds for my stash, so she kept me from going overboard. But after thirty solid minutes of a little-bit-too-loud-for-inside-voice play by play of our visit, I think all the other shoppers must've been happy when we finally left the store! She's pretty darn adorable, and I had her in a sling so she wasn't touching a thing, but there is only so much, "Look! Dinosaurs, Mama! Look! Flowers, Mama! Look! Thread, Mama! Look! Cupcakes, Mama!" that others can smile at.
I picked up a few black and white prints and tone-on-tone white, both of which my stash could use, plus some stripes and dots for bindings. I also got a silicone thimble I hope will fit well, and a pair of tweezers for those pesky thread nests my Janome is prone to. The little yellow rolled up remnant was picked out by my daughter - she used it as a telescope while we shopped - "Look! Pirates, Mama!" I declined the pirate fabric, but agreed to apples instead : )
Did you shop locally over the weekend? Any great finds? And have you ever participated in a bee? I'm still trying to decide on the block for my month if you have a suggestion!
The most recent topic in the Sewing with Certainty series at Quilty Habit is showcasing your work. Jess asked Laura of Little and Lots to write a guest post on the topic and I love what she focused on in her piece: photographing your finish. I love it because I agree! Not all of us will have our work hung at the next national quilt show, or see our quilt gracing a magazine cover. But just because we may not be trying to sell patterns with glossy images of our next finishes, and they may not quite be best in show material, doesn't mean they don't deserve a few great photos to document our hard work, creativity, and personal growth as quilters. Taking time to get a few good pictures of each finish will help you see the project through from what you originally just envisioned in your mind's eye to the beautiful final quilt that emerged after so many hours of hard work. And it will allow you to look back at your work as a whole and see how you've grown - from that first attempt at a basic block to the intricate points and layers and quilting you achieve after years of practice.
Here's what a quick look back at the doll quilts I've made revealed for me:
At left, my first from almost two years ago. The quilting was very basic outlining, and as for photography, notice the uneven lighting, foggy upper right corner of the image, and overall unexciting staging?
I made the quilts at right about a year ago, and repainted the antique beds to coordinate, but somehow the only pictures I took highlight the dolls more than the bedding! I don't even have a good excuse because these babies reside about twenty feet away from where I'm typing right now. Even though I made them as hopeful heirlooms for my daughters to pass on to their children, I've never taken the time to really document them as part of my quilting journey.
And finally onto my doll quilts from last month...
See a little improvement?
More quilting detail (but oh so much FMQ yet to learn in order to improve!), which motivated the taking of decent close up shots, aided by better lighting, and I think a much more successful attempt at staging overall. All improved thanks to a lot of trial and error!
In this vein of practice and improvement, I'm keeping an eye out for a future sale over at Craftsy so I can sign up for Shoot It! A Product Photography Primer. It's been on my wishlist for a while, but I'm waiting for warmer weather so I can take advantage of more natural light to practice. I'm not quite as hardcore as Alyssa - Blizzard quilt or no, I'm not anxious to wade out into snow drifts all winter to snap pics of stash shares and bee blocks just for the lovely filtered sunlight, so I'm making good use of my layout wall and an OttLite in the meantime. Hoping to eventually further hone my skills at capturing really gorgeous shots of my projects, though, and if you have a goal to market your quilts for sale, click eye catching images for patterns, or simply to take better pictures for your blog or personal album, you might want to check the class out, too!
As for other outlets to showcase work, online there are blogs (thanks for stopping by mine!) and photo sharing sites, such as Flickr (I'm a newbie over there having just recently joined to link up with Stash Bee, but what a great resource for images and a wealth of creative inspiration). But better yet, there are real people in real time link ups called quilt guilds and quilt shows. (I know - people still get together face-to-face? How novel!)
I began attending the local chapter of Maine's Pine Tree Quilters Guild this fall and I am so glad that I did. For starters, this stay at home mom loves having a few nights out a month to look forward to. From a quilting standpoint, though, I greatly appreciate having a group of like-minded new friends who enjoy the same hobby, hold a wealth of knowledge and skills that I can learn from, and who delightfully ooh and ahh over each other's work at our show-and-tells each meeting. My husband always says something nice about what I've made, but it's just not the same as hearing an encouraging compliment from other quilting aficionados. Besides - even the crème de la crème of photographs can't hold a candle to seeing in person someone's intricate piecing and beautifully textured quilting - there's the Google image spread of Michaelangelo, and then there's standing in the Sistene Chapel.
Speaking of standing in front of amazing work, the quilt above, Ms. MacDonald Had a Farm, is my best personal example of doing just that. This quilt won first place in the group category at the 2012 International Quilt Festival in Houston, but I saw it in person at AQS QuiltWeek in Paducah that spring, where it won second place in the group category, and I fell in love! This is one of those quilts of which no photo can do justice; the intricacy of the applique shading used cannot be explained without seeing it. Sometimes you just have to be there. I encourage anyone new to quilting who hasn't attended a quilt show to make the time to attend one. The chance to see up close hundreds of gorgeous works of art displayed is priceless - you'll see such a range of skills and styles and walk away excited to start your next project! I have my Paducah trip to thank for rekindling my love of quilting, but even if you can't get to one of the big shows, look up something local (here in Maine we have Maine Quilts) and go for the day with a quilty friend. Then get home, get to work, and when you have something you're proud of, hopefully that will be your work being showcased at the next show you attend!
If you want to read more about showcasing your work, head over to Quilty Habit and check out this week's Sewing with Certainty link up. Have some advice to share? What is your best tip for showcasing your work? Are you part of a guild and have you entered work into a quilt show before, or do you enjoy posting photographs for an online community, or both?
I'll be shopping at Cotton Weeds Quilt Shop in Freeport ME - they're offering customers 20% off storewide (excluding block-of-the-months and special orders). That's like buy four yards of fabric, get one yard free! Hmm, I wonder what they have in purple....
And speaking of what you get when you mix red and blue, my January Stash Stack Club package just arrived from Pink Castle Fabrics, and you guessed it - purple! Here's a peek:
Are you joining in the LQS Day festivities? Do you have a favorite LQS in your neck of the woods? If you're headed out to shop for fabric today, enjoy! (And of course if you're home creating with fabric today instead, enjoy that, too : )
Linking up my new stash goodies with Sarah Quilts who's hosting Sunday Stash this week!
Talk about a popular new fabric line! Have you tried getting your hands on Sarah Jane's Wee Wander yet?? It was just released this past week, but it took me three shops and four days of online scouring to secure the yardage needed for the project I've planned (one of The Library Project QAL projects that I just chose, so yeah me for staying on task!). As of this morning, though, I'm happily switching from online stalking to mailbox stalking. I will literally be holding my breath and hopping back and forth from foot to foot awaiting the mailman this week because I am that excited to get started! (And yes, "literally" because apparently literally now means both literally AND figuratively; for you English junkies out there like myself, doesn't that just blow your mind that the word means both its synonym AND antonym?!).
Ok, now on to some fabric I already have in my possession. Here are my entries for the two most recent Stash Shares of Alyssa's over at Pile O'Fabric. (Please excuse the repeats of browns in some of my shares lately - I don't own much, I rarely use it, and I probably won't be adding a whole lot more any time soon ; )
This scheme doesn't excite me...
(l-r) Remembered by Riley Blake Designs, 2wenty-Thr3e by Eric & Julie Comstock, ? by Urban Chiks, Choco en chocolat by Cosmo Textile
But this one - despite being built entirerly around not favorite colors of mine - actually really interests me. I like the play of the brights in the chocolate and mustard to make it all pop a bit more!
(l-r) Piper by Dear Stella Design, unknown, unknown, Potluck by Sandy Klop of American Jane, Glimma by Lotta Jansdotter
I'm off to tackle pulling fabric and jumping into the bee blocks for my Stash Bee hive. I'll post those when they're done! I should also have a killer photo of purples to share soon - I *may* have gone a little crazy prepping my selections for the Radiant Orchid Challenge. Let's just say that purple is going to have to figure heavily into a lot of projects this year for me to put a dent in the hue once it all arrives. How about you - have you hopped on the purple bandwagon yet??
I finally have my sewing machine back! And my work space is all cleaned up. So even though we're already almost three weeks into the year, I'm counting today as my REAL start to 2014 in my sewing studio : )
Today I'm also joining The Library Project Quilt Along hosted by Chezzetcook Modern Quilts. It's a fabulous QAL idea: dig out your project books (you know, the ones you pour over and plan for and maybe even have shopped the fabric and then it's all just one more idea added to your get-to-it-someday list and one less WIP?) then pick at least four projects for 2014, and get quilting! Even though I usually make up my own designs, it does seem a shame to relegate all these great books to merely collecting dust after the initial boost of inspiration. So having recently reviewed titles of my newest quilt library acquisitions, I'm going to pull them back out and choose a few projects to jump into *just for me* that I can work on around my have-to project schedule.
Here are my projects:
From Sarah Fielke's Quilting from Little Things, the Peaks & Troughs quilt. It was hard to pick which of these projects to start with - I hope to tackle many more from this book, as well, but I have an idea for this one and I can work with diamonds for the first time!
From Weeks Ringle & Bill Kerr's Quilts Made Modern, the cover quilt Beach Glass. I've loved the simple lines and tonal color scheme of this for a long long while. They suggest a few darker colorways, but wouldn't this be fun with some Kona Sunrise?
From Cathy Gaubert's Pretty in Patchwork: Doll Quilts, the Arches quilt. So hard to choose! I love every last thing in this book, but now I can get some practice with curves and use up some of the scraps I sorted out when I tidied my studio.
From Amy Ellis' Modern Basics II: 14 Easy Patchwork Quilt Patterns, the Improvised Herringbone. I've been wanting something with a lot of negative space, and I love that this checks that box plus is very scrappy at the same time.
So how about you? Are you participating in any QALs this year? The Library Project or something else? And have you used your quilt library frequently to tackle projects or do you just like enjoying the pretty pictures for inspiration and flipping through with a cup of tea? Hmm... speaking of tea, off to brew a cup!
*Editorial note: when I first posted this, I transposed which books the Arches quilt and the Peaks & Troughs quilt were from, but I've corrected the mistake. Sorry for any confusion about where to find each of these beautiful patterns.
In my last post I mentioned the new color tool that I was given as a Christmas gift, but I was also the lucky recipient of a few new quilting books over the holidays, including Quilter's Handy Guide to Supplies & More, Pretty in Patchwork: Doll Quilts, Modern Basics II: 14 Easy Patchwork Quilt Patterns, and Doodle Quilting. Some of these you've probably heard of before, but they were all new to me, to I figured I'd give you a little preview of each.
Quilter's Handy Guide to Supplies & More
by Dawn Cameron Dick
This spiral bound, lay flat resource book is a brand new title from C&T Publishing (who also print the Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool). The format is a tabbed reference guide covering topics like Needles, Threads, Batting, etc., and is definitely geared toward those new to quilting, providing a very solid foundation of in-depth information about the materials and basic processes used in quilting, as well as tools, work space set up, and quilt storage. There is great information for even intermediate quilters who may be skilled at piecing but lack general understanding of the hows and whys of the tools they've always relied on. I'll definitely be using this book when I need to look up proper needle sizing or thread weight for projects (oh, and had I thumbed through it before watching my last Craftsy class, I'd have already read detailed discussion of parallel-wound vs. cross-wound thread and spool pin positioning ; )
Pretty in Patchwork: Doll Quilts
by Cathy Gaubert
An oldy but goody! This title has been out for a few years, but if you like color, whimsy and improv, and haven't yet thumbed through this book, you must; I want to make every single project! (And I haven't said that about any quilting resource since Sarah Fielke's Quilting from Little Things three years ago.) I think this is going to be one of my motivational books for my 30/30 challenge - more on that soon!
Modern Basics II: 14 Easy Patchwork Quilt Patterns
by Amy Ellis
Like the title says, this book includes fourteen different simple projects with clear directions and illustrations. The book doesn't grab me because of its more muted colorways than what I prefer and find eye catching, but obviously that can be easily overlooked by updating the designs with a brighter palette when piecing. This is certainly a great book for anyone wanting to dabble in more modern but also easily approachable layouts.
by Cheryl Malkowski
After falling in love with longarm quilting (I guess it'd be love at first sight considering I've only done it once? lol), and also wanting to get better at FMQ, I added a doodle book to my wish list. This one is nice - the pages are laid out horizontally, so you can press it flat and trace easily. (My only complaint is that it isn't spiral bound, but it still lays flat fairly well.) I put this to use right away by following the Calm Water Grid Work directions to complete the quilting on my Summer Sun doll quilts.
Do you have a favorite reference or project book in your quilt library? Please share it below - I'm always looking for new titles to browse!
I'm getting a bit stir crazy, and it's not just the wave of cold we've had, but the fact that I can't even whittle away at my sewing machine while I'm stuck in the house. I, foolishly in hindsight, did not take my sewing machine to the larger repair shop that's an hour away to save the drive time, but I'm paying for it in spades as the smaller shop near me is taking much longer to get around to fixing it. Hopefully I'll have it back in just a few more days.
I've used the down time to reorganize my studio and watch some short quilting tutorials. I thought I'd re-rainbowtize my stash, and in doing so, refold to fit more on the shelf. Um, yeah, that took a lot longer than expected : P Still working on the reds and pinks, and then I'll share a pic of it all tidied up. In the meantime, my new Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool that I received for Christmas has been a big help in sorting! And I've watched a few of the freebie Craftsy classes as I've worked (saving the in-depth ones in my queue for a day I can actually SEW while I follow along!), including A New Look at Longarm Quilting with Mandy Leins and Piece, Patch, Quilt: Basic Quiltmaking Skills with Gail Kessler. The latter of these is really, really basic, but I find value in listening to this type of class as a refresher. (Seriously, I need to be told a million more times not to sew over pins! When will I learn?!) Plus, sometimes I glean new tips that are helpful, such as when Gail explained the difference between cross-wound thread and stacked thread, and that you position your spool holder horizontally or vertically depending on the type - I never knew that!
Hope you're all having a very productive start to the year. I'm chomping at the bit to get started on all the crafty things I have planned, but I've found the silver lining in my hold up is that now my work space is so much less cluttered : )
Remember the Table Setting Placemats I posted a few weeks ago? I gave them to my two year old niece for Christmas and she loves them! Not your usual toddler gift, but she really enjoys helping at home and is one of those kids who's very particular about order and routine, so the placemats make it easy for her to be a helper at mealtimes when she likes having a "big kid" job to be in charge of. I cut out a second set for my daughters, and as soon as my sewing machine gets back from its tune up in a few days, I'm going to put them together and get my 2 year old into a new dinner-time job, too!
I found the inspiration for these over at Squares and Triangles. They're fairly simple and easy to assembly line, plus you can choose more sophisticated fabric for the back so they're reversible to something you'd use when you're dining with company who have a more refined palate than that which chicken fingers and carrot sticks will satisfy ; )
Table Setting Placemats
Getting started.... To make a set of six placemats measuring 12" x 18", you'll need:
- 1 1/8 yards of the front fabric
- 1 1/8 yards of the back fabric
- roughly a 6" x 8" scrap of contrasting fabric for each place setting applique
(I used scraps from the back fabric for the napkin appliques and purchased 1/8
yard of each silverware color, but had plenty leftover even after cutting two sets
- 1 yard of heavy weight fusible batting
- Heat'n Bond Lite or similar sewable adhesive (enough for place setting appliques)
- Template plastic
- Coordinating thread
- Optional: spray starch, paper/tracing paper, marking pen, corner turning tool
Step 1: Cut six (6) rectangles measuring 13" x 19" from both your front and back fabrics (for a total of 12 rectangles - 6 front, 6 back). Pay attention to direction of the fabric's design; assuming your fabric is 42-44" wide, you can cut the pieces either 2 across horizontally or 3 across vertically from the yardage.
Step 2: Cut six (6) rectangles measuring 12" x 18" from the heavyweight fusible batting. Center batting on the wrong side of each placemat's back fabric and iron on following manufacturer's directions, then set aside for later.
Step 3 (optional): Starch pieces of placemat front fabric and set aside. This is optional, but I found it a lot easier to align and applique the silverware once the fabric was stiffened a bit. My picture shows Mary's Ellen's Best Pressed (which works great) but my bottle is actually refilled with homemade starch (much more economical and super easy to make!). I use a 1:2 ratio, filling this 16 oz bottle about 1/3 full with really cheap vodka and then topping off with water.
Step 4: Raid your silverware drawer for some spoons, forks and knives to trace. I decided on a height of 6" for the spoons and forks, and 7" for the knives, and I drew a 6" tall triangular napkin. Trace your silverware and napkin designs onto clear template plastic and cut out. Knowing that a) my spoons and forks were not perfectly symmetrical and b) I would flip the knife absent-mindedly later, I labeled each utensil template with the word "top" so I could keep track of them for the next step.
Step 5: Trace your silverware and napkin templates upside down onto the non-adhesive side (the smooth paper side, NOT the rough adhesive side) of the Heat'n Bond. Make sure at least the knife template is upside down! (If you've labeled it, the word "top" should read backward through the template as you're tracing ; ) Leave enough room between each traced utensil to have a buffer for cutting out the shapes once you've ironed them to the fabric.
Step 6: Roughly cut the utensils and napkins outside their lines from the Heat'n Bond, and according to the manufacturer's directions, iron to the wrong side of the silverware fabric you've chosen. (As a side note, this is the step where I realized it would've saved me some initial cutting if I had traced the silverware in sets onto the Heat'n Bond in Step #6 instead of all spoons together, all forks together, etc. I had to cut every one out instead of a set of three in a row, and that would've been a time saver.)
Step 7: Put on your favorite show/soundtrack/podcast (Have you checked out While She Naps? Abby has a great post 10 Podcasts to Listen to While You're Crafting), and start cutting!
Step 8: Mark placement of utensils on the placemat fronts, then peal off adhesive paper backing and iron utensils and napkins to placemat fronts. (I'm really really OCD about stuff like this, so I laid out rulers to square exactly where I wanted my silverware on each placemat, and then made a few small guide marks with a disappearing ink marking pen. If you're happier eyeballing it, feel free to simplify this step, just make sure you account for the 1/2" seam allowance! I didn't mark the napkins; I used the forks as a guide once they were ironed on.)
Step 9: Machine appliqueing! I chose a variegated grey thread to coordinate with the chevron print (from my recently-purchased-now-in-love-with set of Aurifil's Tula Pink collection : ) and used a small zigzag stitch to applique around the edges of the napkins and silverware. By starting on the inside between each set, I was able to minimize wasting thread as I hopped from one iron on to the next. Also, if you're new to appliqueing on your machine, the needle down position is your very best friend - especially turning back and forth on those fork tines!
Step 10: Getting close to the end! Time to assemble. Lay your placemat front and back on top of each other, right sides together, and pin. Begin sewing around outside edge of placemats, using a 1/2" seam allowance. (I failed to snap a photograph of this being sewn from the other side, but your seam should end up running along the edge of the fusible batting that is attached to the placemat backing fabric). At the start and finish, reverse stitch to secure the seam, leaving a few inches open for turning right side out. (On larger projects like this, I typically gauge my opening by the width of my hand to make it easier to reach in and pull : )
Step 11: Turn placemats right side out, working corners to a neat point using a corner turning tool (if you don't have an official one - I don't - there are plenty of stand ins from knitting needles to chopsticks to my personal tried and true favorite, a blunt pencil with full eraser). After squaring your corners, carefully turn under the seam at your opening and press with an iron to set. (Since the human eye tends to travel left to right, top to bottom, I usually try to plan my seam openings for the bottom left side of a project where any variances will be least noticed. Of course on the one placemat I photographed for this step, the opening accidentally landed beside the knife and spoon, though I think it hid well once ironed : P)
Step 12: Last step! Topstitch the perimeter of the placemats using a 1/4 seam allowance, overlapping and backstitching where you began in order to reinforce the seams. This will close the opening from where you turned the placemats right side out, and will anchor the batting between the front and back layers. It will also give your placemats a nice finished look. (And I've had to learn this tip the hard way... old me would've used my usual 1/4" foot to topstitch - and you certainly can with decent results because the layers are not all that thick, so no worries if you don't own a walking foot for your machine, just take it slow - but switching to a walking foot for this step will give you a better result without any tucks in the seam.)
Ta da! You're done!
Now you have a nice new set of reversible placemats that can keep your table tidy and help teach your kids to set it, too : )
Enjoy! Bon appetit!