Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Quilt #2

And here is Halloween Quilt #2 - the one I am keeping for myself. I'm kind of in love with it. This came about for a few reasons. 
1- I've had a little pile of Halloween fabrics I've been collecting for the past few years - mainly on after-Halloween clearance sales, waiting for the perfect project.
2- I've always wanted to try something scrappy inspired by Denyse Schmidt's Hop, Skip and Jump design. 
3- Last year I saw Allison's quilt - the perfect marriage of the two ides. So I shamelessly copied payed homage to her creativity with my own rendition.
Here's a little close-up of some of the fabrics. In addition to my Halloween pile, I pulled out every orange or black fabric I had to throw in.  I'm extra pleased with this endeavor because I did the quilting myself!! I really wanted just straight lines to echo the strips design. Kind of scary when you feel so proud of yourself for sewing straight lines (which, in reality, aren't really that straight- but they go with the wonky feel, right?)
The pumpkins on the back are a Minick & Simpson print I got a few years ago - again on clearance. (I'm such a clearance fabric junkie!)

The one thing I didn't have was just the right binding - and my friend and co-worker Sharon (hi Sharon!) found just the right black with gold print for a binding. Perfect - except I was 2" short. So I threw-in a little orange patch for personality.
Here's the picture where we tried to shoot the quilt on location. (I'm afraid you're all going to get bored to death with my backyard fence.)  A great little 'fallish' looking spot, but we were on the way home from piano lessons,working against rapidly darkening skies and an impending snow-storm (I know) and my only option for official quilt holder was my 11-year-old.  Stalwart and brave (and ever patient with her mother's weirdness) as she was, her arms just weren't quite long enough to get a full body shot of the quilt. But it's still kind of a cool picture, so it get's recognition as well.

Hope your Halloween was spooky and fun. We had a cowboy, a camo/army guy, a cute girl from the 50's complete with poodle skirt and pixie glasses - which she really doubted looked as awesome as they did - and Hermione Granger from Gryffindor. All was covered up in raincoats as our neighborhood tricked-or-treated last night in very soggy weather. Happy that all came together well and also happy to be done. (Am I a party pooper?) Halloween is fun but those costumes start stressing me out!

PS I delivered Halloween Quilt #1 this past week. Can I just say it brought me that weepy kind of happiness to see a 4-year-old rolling on the floor wrapped-up inside it?

Linking up to: 

Fresh Poppy Design

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blogger's Quilt Festival - A festive flag quilt

I'm so excited that Amy's Blogger's Quilt Festival is here again! I love this event and the crazy amounts of inspiration to be found. This fall I wanted to share my favorite quilt I made this year.  Some of you have seen this before.  It was my summer project: the red, white, and blue flag quilt.
Here's where it started. As a young adult I lived in the UK a couple of times: once as a student and a year later as a volunteer with my church. When I came home, I left a big piece of my heart behind.  I went back for the first time two years ago with my husband, and yup- there was that piece of me still there.  Last winter I started working on Union Jacks for a quilt.  (Because, in addition to my UK obsession, I just think the Union Jack is cool.)
Well, this summer one of my favorite flat-mates during my time in England was coming to visit me here in the States. She is from Oslo, Norway and I think we are long lost cousins because she is a kindred spirit. (I have a Norwegian great-great Grandfather so it's genetically possible!) We will go for years without seeing each other and then when we do, we just pick-up where we left off like no time has passed. I love those kind of friends.
So, I decided it was time to make her a quilt. And I used the flags from our two countries - to which we both have ties - and the flag for the country where we met each other.  It's extra great that their colors all coordinate so nicely.
The back.  The red gingham fabric in the cross is from Scandinavia.  The little blue and white floral reminded me of Julie's mom's kitchen in Norway.
The best part: all of the fabric was from the stash. Except one.  I needed something perfect for the binding and I found just the right thing.  I love this quilt so much - I really need to make a matching quilt for myself.  In the mean time, maybe I need to go to Oslo to check on the quilt in it's new home. Oh to dream . . .

To see oodles of lovely quilt inspiration, check out the Blogger's Quilt Festival

Amy's Creative Side - Blogger's Quilt Festival

Past Quilt Blogger Festival entries:
Arcadia Quilt
Vintage inspired red, aqua & pink
Peas and Carrots

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Intro to Quilting 101

originally posted at Make and Takes
We are now ready to combine the three layers of our quilt sandwich and ‘quilt’ our project. There are a variety of methods for quilting. I’m going to focus on machine quilting, but we’ll discuss others as well.
Basting is a very important step in the quilting process. It seems tedious, but doing it carefully will result in a professional-looking finished project. Basting is a way to temporarily hold the three layers together while you ‘quilt’.
First of all, it is very important that all three layers are smooth and wrinkle free. Iron the backing fabric and lay on the floor face down. Carefully pull the fabric taught (but don’t stretch it) and tape it to a hard, flat surface.
Smooth the batting and lay your quilt top over the batting.  I like to press both layers together to get all wrinkles out. Doing so also helps the quilt top adhere slightly to the batting. When top and batting are smooth and flat, carefully roll the two together.
Bring the top/batt to the quilt back and carefully unroll on top of the backing, smoothing all wrinkles as you unroll.  Make sure you can see backing fabric around all four edges of the quilt top.
Now is the time to baste all layers together. There are two options that work best for machine quilting: spray baste and/or safety pins.
  • Basting spray is available in the notions of most sewing supply stores. (Make sure you get one that washes out.)
  • Basting pins are slightly curved (as opposed to regular safety pins) to make it easier to pin from the top through all three layers.
Pin quilt top starting at the center. Working out pin every few inches, especially at the edges of the quilt top.  When pins are in place, remove the tape and check the quilt back to make sure things are tight and flat. If there are puckers or excess fabric, now is the time to fix the problems. If the fabric is loose when you start quilting, there will be tucks or puckers in the quilting. There is no way to adjust the back once you start sewing without a lot of headaches or time with the seam ripper. (However, using a busy, patterned fabric for the back will help to hide any small mistakes.)
Machine Quilting:
There are many options for machine quilting.  The first is to let the seams/fabrics themselves be your guide. Sewing next to the seams themselves is called ‘quilting in the ditch.’  (Top left) Works great.  If you want to create more visual interest in the quilt you can stitch lines or patterns in other directions.
There are lots of supplies for pre-marking your quilt before you start quilting.  Pens with disappearing ink, chalk pencils etc. work well.  I really like to use a hera which gently scores the fabric. (All available in the quilting notions aisle at most stores.)  You can use a ruler for marking straight lines or there are quilting stencils available in all kinds of patterns.  Or be creative. Here’s a great example of using painters tape as a guide for quilting. For my quilt I chose diagonal lines. I used my hera and a ruler to mark my lines.
It’s a good idea to start quilting from the center and work your way out.  Because it’s hard for all that bulk to fit through your machine, roll the sides in. You can un-roll as you work toward the edges.
I use a walking foot when I’m quilting.  It’s not necessary, but it helps feed the layers of fabric evenly through the machine.
Another machine quilting option is free-motion quilting. This process is kind of like drawing with your needle and thread. One kind of free-motion quilting is called ‘stippling’ and looks like a continuous squiggly design over the whole quilt.  For this kind of quilting you use a darning foot and drop the feed dogs on your machine – this means the only thing moving your quilt is you! Free-motion quilting  takes a little more practice because there is usually no pattern marked on the quilt and  it can be tricky to maneuver a quilt through a machine. But the results are fantastic once you’ve mastered the technique. There are some great tutorials herehere and here.
Hand quilting vs. Machine quilting:
Hand quilting is another option – and again, there are lots of variations.  If you choose to hand quilt, it is still important to baste the quilt.  You can use safety pins or baste in the traditional sense with very large stitches.  Traditional hand quilting requires a thimble, small quilting needles called ‘Betweens’ and a heavier thread specifically for quilting. There is a great hand quilting tutorial here.
I also really like to use the DMC pearl cotton for a bigger stitch look. It’s thicker thread, so you will need a bigger needle. The size 8 thread (center) works well for a running stitch and the size 5 thread (left) is great tying a quilt.
Quilting  is not only functional – holding the three layers together – but it also creates texture and visual interest. The more quilting – or stitching – there is holding those layers together, the longer the quilt will last; fabrics last longer, batting shifts less, etc.  But there’s no right or wrong option. As with everything in this process so far, choose what works best for you!
Up next in our Quilt Along Series: Binding - or finishing - a quilt

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Quilt #1 + an ode to single moms

Finished Halloween Quilt #1.  This was a design I had in my head for a while - and I love seeing it come to fruition -esp when it actually looks like you wanted it too. (I hate when I try some new design and it just does not work. So glad that wasn't the case this time!)
A friend, Becky, that works at the same shop I do did the quilting on this one, bless her heart.  Aren't the spider web quilting details awesome? The fabric is from the Boo! to You collection by Riley Blake.  I'm not a big fan of the blood and gore part of Halloween and I like how this design throws in the good old Halloween motifs like ghosts and mummies and makes them cute and charming for scaredy-cats like me.  
I know you're wondering how in the world I made two Halloween quilts this year.  Totally abnormal for me, but my husband has been out of town for most of the past two weeks (yeah, not something I like to broadcast while he's not here) so after the kids were in bed every night me and my sewing machine would go to town while I stayed up too late watching The Scarlett Pimpernel on DVD from the library.  That coupled with the fact that I just fed my kids scrambled eggs or Little Ceaser's pizza at the kitchen counter every night while I left my mess creative endeavorers on the table for most of the time, meant I got a lot done.
To my credit, I shared the table with the kids' creative endeavors as well and we got a lot of great Halloween decorations completed while we were waiting for Dad to get back. Because as fun as it all was to live our temporary bohemian lifestyle, we really like having Dad around.  My hat goes off to every single mother on the planet.  You are rock stars and completely heroic in my book.
Single moms have been weighing heavy on my mind (and heart) and were the whole impetus behind this very quilt.  One of my oldest friends - we've know each other since grade school - lost her husband to cancer last week. Talk about courage and grace. (If you want to be truly inspired, read her husband Ben's final thoughts on his blog chronicling his battle with cancer.)

While feeling utterly helpless in Ben and Allison's current situation I've been thinking a lot about another friend who lost her husband a year and a half ago - also at age 36. Her husband Chris, was another old and special friend of mine - and a total character.  He was also obsessed with Halloween - he loved going all out for it.  I kicked myself after Halloween last year for not thinking of it in time to make them a Halloween quilt in honor of their Dad. Watching Allison's situation this year, it was not hard to remember.

And forgive me if I get a little bit deep - it's been kind of a deep week around here - but I'm grateful to know that there is a "Father to the fatherless" (Psalm 68:5.) I know that He gives comfort and guidance when it is needed. I also know that those cases where fathers are no longer on this earth, they are close to their families and that their separation is only a temporary one.
So this quilt is for Chris's wife and three young kids.  I don't know exactly what they'll do with it, but I hope they keep it around all year to think of their dad and know that it came from someone else who thinks their dad is awesome too.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Halloween Pennant

Yeah, I have been on a roll with the Halloween fabric this year. I'm feeling highly motivated to de-stash - or to actually put to use the fabric that has been waiting patiently for, in some cases, years. So while the Halloween pile was out, I went ahead and cut some pennant triangles with my Accuquilt GO! Cutter. I'm totally happy with the end result.
Hope you are enjoying your weekend. This is what I'm going to enjoy this weekend. The last of the tomatoes. My crop was not abundant but it was sufficient. And oh I will miss them. We've had the most gorgeous, warm fall/autumn this year. But it looks as though this weekend is the end. Winter is coming. Drat. So yard work is on the weekend to-do list too. I can't get out of it any more - although an out-of-control yard might just add to the spooky atmosphere.  Hmmmm . . .

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oh Scrap! A giveaway!

A sneak peek of Halloween Quilt #2. Made with lots of scraps!

Are you a scrapaholic?? Scrappy quilts are my favorite kind and so I'm always hanging on to my fabric scraps because you never know when you might need them! And I always get so excited when I find the perfect place for them. (Plus I feel this weird [ok, pathetic] responsibility towards them. Like I need to provide them with a good home or something.)
The good old Table Runner tute is one of my favorite uses for scraps. 
But, if you're like me, and your scraps are starting to take over your life, not to mention your storage space, go visit Jodi @ Pleasant Home (if you don't already)! She is having a fun scrap-along and will help you get great joy and satisfaction out of those multiplying fabric scraps.
And just in case you are not like me (a budding hoarder who is on the road to reform), but you want to participate, I have some scraps to share!
Lots of pieces of Amy Butler's Midwest Modern and Daisy Chain collections left over from making this quilt. Enough to fill a bulging flat rate envelope.  Leave a comment (one) to enter.  This giveaway ends Monday, October 25 at midnight.  Have fun!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Batting and Backing 101

Originally posted at Make and Takes

Ever been overwhelmed by the variety of batting (or wadding) options available to quilt stores? This week for our Uber-beginning Quilt-along I'm going to talk about the different kinds of batting and which projects they are best for.  And, as always - feel free to weigh-in. I love when you do because I haven't tried every product or technique. For example, has anyone out there used the Bamboo batting? What did you think?

Basically the definition of a quilt is a blanket made of a top (front) and back with a layer of batting sandwiched in between and held together by some kind of stitching through all three layers. Today we are going to discuss choosing batting and backs.
There is a wide variety of quilt battings available on the market. Like everything else, the variety can get overwhelming so I’m going to break down some of the differences so that you can pick the batting best suited to the project you have in mind.
The two most relevant factors in choosing a batting are Loft and Fibers.
First off – Loft. This means how thick or thin your batting is.
  • Low Loft = thin and High Loft = thick.  Thin batting makes a thinner quilt (obviously) but it works much better for a running stitch whether done by hand or machine.  High Loft batts are best for a thicker comforter-type finish where the quilt is only going to be tied.
Fiber defines what the batting is made of.  The three most common types of quilt batting are Polyester, 100% Cotton, and Cotton/Poly Blend and each has it’s own pros and cons.  (Wool and Silk are other options that are wonderful, but usually a lot pricier, so we won’t discuss those here.) Another recent option is batting made from Bamboo. To be honest, I don’t know much about it yet. If you’ve used it or know more, please feel free to chime in!
  • Polyester - Less expensive, better for hand-quilting (low loft), doesn’t need to be quilted as closely together.  Tends to shift when not quilted closely and ‘beard’ (which means the polyester fibers migrate through the fabric to the outside of the quilt).
  • Cotton - Feels like a thick flannel.  Better option for machine quilting. Generally must be quilted closely. Washes better without pilling. Shrinks slightly. (This can be good or bad, depending on your personal preference. I personally like when the batting shrinks after the first wash because it softens the quilt and gives it more of a vintage appearance.)
  • Cotton blend (usually 80% cotton/20% polyester). Very similar to the cotton option, but is less-expensive and doesn’t shrink as much. Good for machine quilting.  This is what I use most often.
Batting can be purchased by individual size (you will need a “crib size” batt for this project), or big sewing stores will also let you buy it by the yard (get 1 ¼ yards).  Batting goes on sale often at the big box stores. I always stock up then – or use those 40% off coupons.  Save your batting scraps. It’s very easy to whip-stitch (largish) scraps together. Or you can use your scraps to make an easy table runner!
Size: you want your batting to be slightly larger than your quilt top (front) and slightly smaller than your quilt back. In other words the backing should be the biggest.
Now let’s talk backs. For this project you will need 1 ¼ yards of fabric for the back. This should be roughly 42″ square.
Most fabrics come 42-44″ wide which is perfect for baby or crib quilts.  For larger quilts you will need to piece your back – meaning you will need to sew yardage together. Some fabric companies do make fabrics that are 90″ (or more) wide if you don’t want to piece a back. A pieced back can be as simple as one seam, using the same fabric for the whole back or complex with multiple fabrics and seams. Just so long as it’s a few inches bigger on all sides than your front, you’re fine.  The reason a back needs to be bigger is because you’re usually quilting from the top of the quilt and the batting and backing can shift slightly underneath. The extra inches are your insurance policy that your back doesn’t suddenly become smaller than the front.
In other kind of fun news, have you been following Baby Shower-palooza over at Sew Mama Sew? Cuteness abounds.
I'm excited because my Nursing Cover (aka Hooter Hider) tutorial is included in their Mama & Baby Essentials Roundup! I'm a wee bit excited. Especially seeing the picture I made my 11-year-old daughter take quickly while we were supposed to be walking out the door to piano lessons. Behind the scenes around here is never very sleek or sophisticated.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ikea Love

Last week I hit Ikea on the way home from the Dentist. Fun! (Nothing like a good incentive to go to the Dentist like a stop at Ikea on the way home.) I always love to check out their fabric selection because they have great stuff at great prices. Here's what I found new this time. Love it! So Scandinavian looking. It's called Snoa Flinga and is only $4.99 a yard. I didn't have a specific project in mind (maybe throw pillows?) so I only bought a yard. Now I'm wishing I bought more and I would just quilt it as is for a cool throw.
In the mean time I used a small piece like this. Instant wall art. And so much faster than sewing something.
Here's my other new love at Ikea. The Hemnes Linen Cabinet. I LOVE this one. Wouldn't it look awesome with stacks of folded quilts inside?They used to have a similar piece in gold; while totally awesome on it's own, it just wouldn't look super against my taupe colored walls. I used to look at it and contemplate how hard it would be to buy one and paint it red. Well, thank you Ikea people for doing the work for me! Now I just need to start saving my pennies!

Finally - one thing to consider when visiting Ikea on the way home from the dentist with a numb mouth: don't eat the frozen yogurt cone until you are safely inside your car. Or you may end up like me, checking your rear view mirror only to discover the frozen yogurt dripping down your chin of which you were totally unaware.  Just a friendly warning.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Halloween Quilt Sneak Peak

A work in progress. Yes, I'm working on not one but two Halloween Quilts this year. (This is amazing because I've never even made one before.) One is for someone else. I will explain in future posts. The fabric in this one is called Boo to You! by Riley Blake. (I originally had the wrong name. :) It was late.)
It is Fall/Autumn/Otoño/Oсень/whatever you love to call it :) break from school around here. Kids are home, the weather has been phenomenal so we've been outside as much as we can, visiting our nearby mountain canyon (pictures), mini-golfing, spray-painting furniture (pictures to come), feeling guilty about avoiding the yard work I should be doing -  which leaves not much time for the computer. So a boring post. I'll have more to share next week besides pictures of dying leaves.
Happy weekend.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

French General Hour Glass Quilt

I finished the Hour-Glass block - that I originally shared here - for the quilt shop where I work. So, nope, I don't get to keep this one, but it was fun to play with all that French General fabric!  
Most of the quilt is made with the Lumiere de Noel line. We also threw in any of the remaining prints we had from prior French General collections and a few other reds that were on hand.  This was quilted by a friend, Marilyn, who works at the shop. Then I put the binding on and took the pictures.
It was kind of a cool, overcast day. I loved the clouds hovering over the mountains. At the end of September we were still having 90 degree weather - which I actually didn't mind. Suddenly a week of cool, rainy weather blew in and it suddenly felt like real fall. (Or Autumn if you live in the rest of the English speaking world. When I lived in England I remember being teased for saying "Fall" - so now I'm always a little conscious of that fact.) Whatever you like to call it, it's my favorite time of year.

Pattern available for this quilt in THE PATTERN SHOP

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Adding Borders 101

Originally posted at Make and Takes.

Today we are going to talk about sewing borders onto a quilt.  It’s important to have borders that help keep your quilt square – otherwise your pieced top will be more difficult to ‘quilt’ and it will not lie flat – instead it will have little ripples in the edges of the quilt.
For this project you will need four strips of fabric measuring 3 ½” x 42″ (or the width of the fabric as it comes.)
It’s a good idea to measure the length of the quilt sides before you sew, rather than just starting at one end, sewing on a strip, and cutting-off the excess after. This will help to keep the quilt ‘square.’
This is the easiest and fastest way I’ve found for measuring your border lengths. Before you measure your borders, carefully trim off the selvage edges of the borders themselves. Then lay 2 of the border strips across the middle of your quilt, lining-up one end of the strips with the edge of the quilt. The other strip edges will hang over the side. Place a pin in the border strips where the quilt ends. And then carefully trim with your ruler and rotary cutter where that pin marks.
Then fold the border strip in half, end to end, to find the center. Pin the center of your strip to the center of the edge of your pieced quilt top and pin the ends of the strip to the ends of that quilt side. Then space pins along the strip to secure the strip in place. (It is not bad if your strip is slightly smaller than the pieced part of the quilt, but this is why starting at the center and the ends when pinning is important.)
Pin opposite side of quilt and sew both borders on to the edges of the pieced portion. Press the borders open and flat working from the front side of the quilt.
Repeat the process on the other edges.  Lay the 2 remaining border strips across the center portion of the quilt. Place a pin to mark where to trim, cut off remnant, pin and sew. Press. That’s it!
Now, this project worked out nicely size-wise – we didn’t need longer strips. If you are working on a larger quilt, cut your border strips the same way (just cut more of them) and sew the strips together end to end to create a longer strip of fabric. The process for measuring is the same. Measure, trim, pin, sew, press. Same goes for adding multiple borders to one quilt.
Up next Tuesday in our Quilt Along Series: Batting and Backing fabric

Monday, October 11, 2010

Playing with Half-Square Triangles

I've been cranking out half-square triangles lately. 
 I loved the Freebird collection that came out last Spring. I was very disciplined and bought only one charm pack and traded for some yardage for a back.  The colors in this collection go so well with my American Jane  horde stash. (With the exception of the purple.) So I've been cutting into that too.
 And playing with the options. I haven't even decided what I'm going to do with them all yet. I like each layout - I may just keep cranking out the hst's and try them all! Plus - it feels good to use the stash. This is my goal these days - start depleting. Which is what motivated me to dig out all the Halloween fabric too. And I'm making progress. Pictures to come!
PS - Thanks for bearing with the "keepin' it real" post below. And for the encouragement. I always feel like such a whiner after those unloads. But when I start having dreams that I forgot to buy my kids any Christmas presents (which I really had last week) I start to wonder about re-prioritizing. All right, that's all for now.