Monday, January 30, 2012

Sew What You Love, by Tanya Whelan Review and Giveaway

I was given the chance last week to read and review a copy of Tanya Whelan's new sewing book, Sew What You LoveFirst of all, let me say, I am a fan of Tanya.  I've used a lot of her shabby chic prints and fabrics in my daughter's room, including the recent hoop wall. So when I heard fromTanya, I was a little star struck.
One of my sewing goals this year is to break out of my quilting-comfort-zone and sew more bags, and get more comfortable sewing clothing.  I have multiple reasons for this - partly to just expand my sewing skills and partly because I think I'll be able to quickly burn through some of that fabric stash as well. :)

Feeling somewhat timid about where to start, Sew What You Love arrived like a burst of inspiration and motivation. Definitely one of the main things I look for in a pattern book, is multiple good patterns so that I really get my money's worth out of the investment.  There are around 30 patterns in this book and I can honestly say I want to make almost every one of them.  I love these cute tops (above) - the Lila Shirred Blouse and the Go-To Top or Dress. Both are on my list for spring wardrobe updates for me and my girls.
Also included are 5 really simple but good-looking bag patterns. Two cute clutches and three large tote bags. All with very clear and simple instructions. 
Saturday night I whipped out this City Tote so quickly. And I LOVE it. It's now my new winter go-to bag for hauling all my 'stuff'.  The handles are integrated - meaning the handle is part of the bag, instead of cut and sewn on separately - making the project a really quick one.
All of the projects and patterns in this book are for very simple, but darling projects. The instructions are well written with clear diagrams. Even with my fear of "3-dimensional" sewing (clothes, balls, etc.) Tanya's designs and instructions make me feel confident that I can make any of these projects. And do them in a reasonable amount of time. I'm so excited to try many more - and I'll share the results.
Finally, I love that the patterns come drawn to full scale in a handy pouch at the back of the book. I have to say, anytime I see a pattern that requires me to make a trip to the copy place for enlargements, I know right then and there the chances of me actually making that extra effort are very slim. Because multiple patterns are printed on the same page (to conserve space and paper) you will need to trace the pattern you plan to use.  I just used my giant roll of freezer paper to trace my bag patterns and was able to get right to work. Also, the fact that this book has a spiral binding makes it so easy to leave open on my work table.
Tanya is offering a free download of the Travel Checkers pattern to all of you. 

Tanya is also giving away a free bag pattern to anyone who wants to Tweet or mention Sew What You Love on Facebook. All you need to do is provide a link to the Sew What You Love page on Amazon. Go here to find out the details on Tanya's Share Program.
Lastly, Tanya has kindly offered to giveaway a copy of Sew What You Love to one of you readers! Just leave one comment on this post. If you want, you can share something you'd like to try to break out of your sewing comfort zone. Giveaway closes Friday, Feb 3 at midnight, MST.  GIVEAWAY CLOSED

WINNER:  Amber said...  I would love this book!
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Thank you so much for all the love on the HST Spectrum quilt - esp for reassuring me about the 'bleeding' triangles and the binding.  Sometimes after working so long on a project you need a fresh perspective from someone else.  I'm resolved to leave the quilt as it stands. :)

Also, the ADORNit giveaway winner has been announced. It's Paula. I have emailed you Paula!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Half Square Spectrum Quilt

This quilt has been in the works for a L O N G time.  One of those quilts that I wanted to work on (because I was making it purely for me), but always got pushed to the bottom of the priority list. I cut out all the fabrics last fall and played with the layout for these half-square triangle blocks, but that's as far as I got. The blocks resurfaced this summer and I started sewing them into rows, but it kept getting pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Then in a one-night sewing binge at the Sewing Summit, I cranked this baby out - well, the rows anyway. Then some time to add some borders, get it quilted and she's finally done!

Why do I bore you with all those details? Well, mainly because I do not want anyone under the misconception that I sit and whip out a quit in a weekend or two. The majority of the quilts that I make are L O N G, drawn-out works in progress.  Just because they magically appear finished for a blog post doesn't mean they are whipped up over night.
This quilt was all about playing with fabric and color.  It started out with a couple of Freebird charm packs. (One of my all time favorite fabric collections. I used it in the big circles quilt too.) I didn't have enough for a whole quilt, but the colors and prints played together so nicely with the abundance of American Jane fabrics in my stash as well as a few random Denyse Schmidt, Amy Butler, etc. prints. Also I have a thing for color spectrums. (I think it comes from visiting Purl Soho - the whole store is so pretty with everything organized by colors.) I tried a layout mixing the colors but everything looked muddy - putting the colors together made them sing. (Not literally, but you know what I mean.) I love it.

What I'm not sure about is the triangles 'bleeding' into the borders.  It was nice in theory, but the jury is still out about the final result.
The pieced back was born more of necessity - I didn't have quite enough of this yardage for the back, but it's always fun to come up with a solution right?  And applying my goal of pulling from the stash only this is what came from it.  The red floral is probably my favorite print from that good ol' Freebird collection.
Binding again from the stash.  The fabric is a stripe from a Christmas collection that I got on clearance one year. Not sure how I feel about this one either. The colors are perfect, but the stripe feels wide.  I think it will grow on me. Maybe the floating triangles in the borders too. If not, then I can always cut off the borders and re-bind right?
It's so satisfying to complete a quilt for myself that I love. Fun to look at every fabric and color and feel warm and fuzzy about each one. (I know, I'm a dork.) I cut all the HST (half-square triangles) with my Accuquilt Go cutter. Cut all those triangles SO fast.

After I posted the Freebird circles quilt I had a lot of people contact me about where they could find some of those fabrics.  They are scarce these days because the collection came out a couple of years ago. But luckily I heard from Jennifer who runs an online fabric shop, Dragonfly Fabrics in Canada. She still has many Freebird prints available in her shop - and they are even on sale. So if you're one of those folks on the hunt, you're in luck!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Quilting for a Good Cause - or two

Today, a few good causes to share with you kind readers.  And I really mean that - I continue to interact with the kindest of people through this blog.  I recently got an email from Kelly asking if I would share information about a fundraiser she and her family are doing to help them adopt two little girls with Down Syndrome from another country.  
This request was immediately near and dear to my heart. My husband has two brothers (not twins and not adopted) who have Down Syndrome. They are such a blessing in our family! On top of that, our neighbors recently adopted a sweetheart with Down Syndrome from this same country.  She is an angel and we love having her in our neighborhood and congregation.  We saw first hand the cost it takes to go through the legal process to adopt one of these angels.  Clearly it is not something that everyone can do, but I have high admiration for those who do.  
Not knowing my own experience having family members and neighbors with Down Syndrome, Kelly asked if I would mention the fundraiser her family is doing to help them with the enormous costs to give these girls a family.  (We're talking 10's of $1,000's.)  One such fundraiser is to make a quilt block along with a financial contribution to their cause. If you would like to contribute, please visit the Grove's Where Love Resides blog. You can also read more about their girls and their experiences at their family blog.
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And for further incentive to help this family, there are fabric prizes involved for those who contribute a quilt block and donation, thanks to some lovely sponsors.  The above fat quarter pack of new collection, A Stitch in Color from Fresh Squeezed Fabrics.

A Tender the Earth charm pack from Green Fairy Quilts
  
And two Always and Forever charm packs + accompanying yardage 
I am kicking in some Robert Kaufman vintage Darlene Zimmerman charm packs as well as some other goodies.  

On top of that I will give away a free pattern of your choice from my pattern shop to anyone who makes any financial contribution to the Grove family fundraiser here or here. After you've contributed email me at amy(at)diaryofaquilter.com and let me know which pattern you choose.
And now, one more special cause - which may have more universal application. As you may know, February is Women's Heart Health Awareness month. Remember all those celebrities who wear red designer dresses and then auction them off to raise funds to help with heart-health awareness? Well it's like that, only with out the designer dresses. Instead you get to make yourself a quilt.  Much more within my realm.

Leah, of Burgundy Buttons, has created a free Block of the Month and Blog Hop called Sew Red for Women to help raise awareness for Heart Disease among women - a disease that has affected her own family. 

This blog hop will feature a different block tutorial from a different blogger each month.  The Block of the Month kicks off February 3 - Wear Red Day - at Burgundy Buttons.  On the 3rd of each of the 12 months following there will be a new free tutorial at these different blogs: 
February 3 Leah of Burgundy Buttons
March 3Fat Quarterly's Tacha of Hanies Quilts
April 3 Katie of Swim, Bike, Quilt
May 3  Melissa Corry of Happy Quilting
June 3 Charlie of Qubee Quilts
July 3 Jessica of Twin Fibers
August 3 Melissa of The Polkadot Chair
September 3 Amber of A Little Bit Biased
October 3  Amy of Diary of a Quilter
November 3  Amy of Amy's Creative Side
December 3  Sherri of A Quilting Life
January 3  Lynne of Lily's Quilts

Blocks will be made from fabrics from the Chemistry collection by Cosmo Cricket. Kits with these fabrics will be available at Burgundy Buttons or you can use whatever fabrics you've got in your stash under your bed! 


Basically - a fun, free Block of the Month quilt with a gentle reminder to take good care of your heart. Because I know what sweet ones you have.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ADORNit Giveaway

Today I have a very generous giveaway from the ADORNit girls.  If you're not familiar with ADORNit, they are a crafting company that designs and manufactures their own products.  Many of their designs are available in both fabric and paper goods with lots of accessories like ribbon, stickers, etc.  Which means lots of options not only for sewing, but for scrapbooking and card making as well.
Owner and creative director, Carolee McMullin is assisted by her three daughters Georgana, Alison, and Jackie.  (How fun would that be to work and be creative with your family?) Their blog is full of ideas, including video demonstrations for lots of different craft projects.  A lot of their current ideas are Valentines-themed and feature their latest collection, Happy Hearts.
The ADORNit girls are offering a giveaway of their Happy Hearts Paper collection as well as a Happy Hearts Fat Quarter bundle.  Lots of goodies to play with. That's like $60 worth of loot just in time for your Valentine's crafty needs.
To enter the giveaway leave a comment on this post.  If you'd like an extra entry, you can 'Like' the ADORNit Facebook page and leave another comment telling me you've done so. Giveaway will end Friday, January 27, midnight MST.


GIVEAWAY CLOSED

Winner: Paula said...
It's an awesome giveaway! Please count me in, thanks!
JANUARY 27, 2012 3:54 AM

And because the ADORNit Girls are just all around nice folks, they have offered a free download of some of their latest Valentines projects to all of you readers. Enjoy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Weekend Sewing

Progress on my bright, scrappy blocks. They are big blocks - 12" each. I used Leigh's tutorial as my inspiration and just made the blocks bigger. This project is so not high on my priority list right now, but it's the one I keep wanting to work on!

This was one of those rare and lovely weekends when we didn't have a national holiday, a birthday, sporting events, sinus surgery, extended family event, house guests, yard work, or any other major commitment. Can I tell you how much I enjoyed it?  I should have been cleaning out and organizing my basement, but the fabric scraps that exploded all over my sewing table kept calling my name.  (To my credit I did spend 45 minutes dismantling and unclogging the large blockage in my vacuum cleaner, so I should get points for that at least. I'll spare you the pictures of that 'creative' endeavor.)
Saturday was one of those afternoons here where the kids built forts and played "orphans" with the neighbors for hours. (Why do kids love pretending they are orphans?)  My sewing space is right off the room where they were playing so I loved feeling like I was close by but able to get a lot of sewing done at the same time. Very rare, but very awesome. I wish every Saturday could be like that! (Especially when I end the day gorging myself on sushi with my husband. Talk about a perfect day.)
I worked on getting caught up on some of my blocks from Jackie's free online Block of the Month. There are four blocks so far with a new one on Wednesday and next month one from yours truly. 
Some of the sewing was even practical: new baby burp clothes for a baby gift, made with the worlds' easiest burp cloth tutorial
Finally (one more gratuitous fabric shot) I've finally picked a palette for my Swoon-a-long quilt. Which, yes, has not even been started. But this is progress. And let's face it, probably a long term project. Nevertheless, I'm still enjoying the Swoon-y inspiration going on right now.

I was having a hard time deciding what colors and fabrics to use for this quilt. I swore up and down, no new fabric - it ALL had to come from the stash.  Then I went to JoAnn to buy a new rotary cutter during a 50% off sale and happened to walk past the Denyse Schmidt fabric (which also happened to be on sale). I didn't realize she had a new collection, Daisy Mae.  Some really COOL prints and colors - that's where the greens and the red at the top came from. Seeing those colors totally inspired me for this quilt. The rest are from the stash. Sadly, (or maybe fortunately for me), the fabric quality is not nearly as good on this collection (and yet the price is the same). As a result, I did not buy very much. Unfortunate, since there are some really cool prints.

So anyway, thank you 'boring' Saturday afternoon for your generous donation of productive time. I hope you had some weekend time to sew, or play 'orphans', or clean out your vacuum cleaner too.  This is when I like January.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Scraptastic - new life for my fabric scraps

Progress using my American Jane scraps (previously seen here) on my design wall. Totally digging it. I'm using a white linen blend I unearthed in my stash, instead of my old standby Kona Snow. Look at me branching out.
After Christmas I was asked to help teach a scrap-busting class at American Quilting in March.  (Wanna come? It's on March 15. Schedule here.) Because, as you know, we quilters can not let any fabric scrap larger than 1/2" square go to waste. It would be like abandoning puppies in the desert.

Planning for that class has been a huge motivator to do something I've needed to do for far too long: sort my scraps AND actually make something with them. These American Jane scraps are leftovers from a bunch of projects. Some were already sewn in rows from this quilt and this quilt. I love giving them new life - and freeing them from their captivity in a box in the closet.
Here's another new WIP (work-in-progress) using leftover scraps from the Amy Butler lattice quilt from last spring along with other assorted random brights. I have a vague idea what I'm planning to do with these assembled strips, but I'm still curious to see how it actually materializes . . .
For lo these many years, I have mostly been keeping my scraps sorted by collection and scattered about my fabric stash. And frankly, they've been hard to find, they act awkward around the bigger pieces of yardage, and I tend to forget that I even have them. (Reminds me of Junior High.) Reading Jodi's Organizing Scraps post was perfect for me. She simply sorts ALL her scraps by color. I know I've heard this other times and other places, but for some reason this time it finally clicked. NOW was the time to seize my scraps once and for all, free them from the bondage of their pre-assigned collections, and assemble them all in one, easy to find location, purely by color. I can't tell you how liberating this was for me. Next step is to do the same thing with ALL my fabric. (And for further permission to do the same thing, read AmandaJean's post on the topic.)
My method is not fancy.  I went and bought some of those clear, plastic drawer sets (that are handily on sale this time of year) and just started sorting by color.  Now everything is so easy to find and I am so much more inspired to USE them. Seriously, what took me so long?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Valentine Throw Pillow Tutorial

I wrote this tutorial last year for Ucreate, and decided this year to share the whole thing on my own blog for the first time. This throw pillow can be made any size or shape your heart desires and comes together very quickly.

Supplies needed: 
  • WonderUnder or HeatNBond - enough to trace 5 hearts
  • Scraps of fabric for the hearts
  • Background fabric in the size you desire
  • Needle and DMC floss for the 'string'
  • Batting to stuff the pillow
  • Backing fabric in the same size as your background fabric for the back of your pillow

First trace a heart template (or draw your own) on the paper side of the WonderUnder/HeatNBond.  I googled Heart Template and found dozens if you want a slightly different heart. I used this one, reducing the size a little. My hearts are about 3.5" long and 2" wide.

Iron the fusible side to the back of your fabric scraps.  You could use a variety of scraps, or if you're not like me with fabric scraps coming out of your ears, you could use all the same fabric.  Felt would be equally adorable. 

After the HeatNBond is fused on, cut out fabric hearts.  Cut a piece of backing fabric to the size you would like your finished pillow. I used a piece of linen-type fabric and cut mine 12" x 21" - but there's lots of room for flexibility here. Make it whatever size you want.
Using a water eraseable pen draw a line for the 'string' the hearts will hang on. I just eyeballed it. And if I wasn't happy with the drape of the string, I erased and changed. Don't stress about this part. You will stitch on this line after the hearts are attached.
Lay your hearts on the 'string' line to play with their placement. 
You could mark where you would like them to  stay permanently. 
Start with the center heart when you are ready to adhere the hearts to the backing fabric. Remove the paper backing of the WonderUnder and iron the first heart into place. Repeat with the hearts on the left and right of center, and then finish with the final two hearts.
After hearts are fused to the background fabric, sew around the edges with a sewing machine. Hand stitching would look great too.
After hearts are stitched down, it's time to stitch the 'string' the hearts are 'hanging from.' I used 2 strands of some dark gray DMC floss and backstitched along the line I'd drawn on the fabric.
When you get to the edge of the heart come up inside the heart about 3/4" from the edge, make a 1/2" stitch" and resume stitching on the other side of the heart, so it looks like the hearts are threaded onto a string, hanging like a banner.
When you're finished stitching, cut a backing fabric the same size as your front piece.  Sew right sides together, leaving an opening at the bottom for stuffing. Turn right-side out and stuff. That's it! Super easy. The same design could be used as a table runner or wall hanging, instead of a pillow.
I'm loving this with my Snoa Flinga throw pillows. Perfect for February.


And if you are looking for more valentine's inspiration you may want to check out Melissa's Simply Charmed Blog Hop during the first 2 weeks of February.  All kinds of projects made primarily from one charm pack.  (I've had a little sneak peak of some of them, and they are really great. Really.) And way cool prizes are involved as well! You probably don't want to miss out. Visit Melissa's blog for more details. I'll be participating with a new tutorial of my own, so keep your eyes peeled.