Spring + Prioritizing

It’s my month to send out fabric and block instructions for my BeesKnees group. Add that to the list of the bajillion things I am behind on right now. Finally I pulled out some fabric a couple of nights ago (which is something I always enjoy, but seem to be finding less and less time to do…). While I was at it I started setting aside fabric for a big destash. Who knows when that will actually happen, but it is a needful thing. Time to purge!
Last night I carved out a little time to put some of these beauties into piles to mail out to my group ladies. I’m excited to see what they come up with. 

These are the blocks they made last year. I LOVE how they all look together. This year I am having them each make one more block with a little bit of a twist to make the squares even busier. I’m so excited to see what they come up with. Of course, I had the instructions all typed up and ready to go and then blogger freaked out at me and it was all lost. I was way too drained last night to try to summon that brain-power again. I’ll have to try again today.

my poor little favorite magnetic pindish is in need of some TLC
Speaking of brain power- mine feels a little fried at the moment. I think I’m just in one of my funks – you all know how that goes. And it’s pretty much following the same pattern as most funks – a lot on my plate and feeling overwhelmed and just needing to step back and recharge. I’m not sharing so that you’ll all throw me a pity-party – but because I think it’s healthy to be real. I never want to present the image that I have it all together. Heavens no!
Life is good. It’s full and busy with 4 kids and some weighty responsibilities elsewhere right now, but my life is full of things and people that I love. I just need to do a better job of prioritizing. I’m finding that there is less time for quilting and sewing and that’s okay too. I’m glad I have something that I enjoy so much and that fulfills my creative needs, and at the same time has even become a business that I love, but I’m learning that I need to keep it in the realm of “stress-reliever” not “added stress.”

In fun news, a new friend and fellow-quilter sent me the funnest little surprise in the mail, which was a great pick-me-up. Look at these numbered labeling pins! No more using random post-it note scraps for labeling my quilt rows. Thanks Nancy!! POST EDIT: Nancy has a tutorial for these Quilt Row Marking Pins!

New blocks + new machine quilting technique

I feel like I’ve been working like a crazy-lady behind the scenes around here, but don’t have a lot to share right away. I have been staying caught up on my Bee Blocks though, so I’ll share those. This is the latest block from the 2014 Aurifil Block of the Month, this time designed by Emily Herrick. Here is the tutorial for this specific block.

I am still totally digging this color scheme and I’m having fun watching this quilt start to grow.

 Another Bee block for my friend Nedra from the Bees Knees.

This block was made using Triangles on a Roll papers to piece the flying geese. They were really cool! Nedra has the tutorial for this block here and explains more about Triangles on a Roll.
Basically, it’s another method of machine paper-piecing, but this time you are working and sewing on the same side as the markings, which eliminated that flip and match-step. This kept the same accurate piecing, but there was less fabric waste because you can see where you were sewing. It took me a few minutes to get used to a new method, but then I really loved it. And the results were awesome.

A few more projects in the works behind the scenes that aren’t ready to share yet. This quilt is for an upcoming quilt-along on the We All Sew (BERNINA) blog later this spring. For this quilt, I tried a new quilting technique and I was so happy with how it turned out. I am still not very confident in my free-motion-quilting skills. I know I just need to practice – it’s finding the time to do it that’s my problem, but definitely something I’d like to become more comfortable with in the future.

In the mean time, the only kind of quilting I’ve been comfortable with is straight-line quilting. So, if you’re like me, this was a good step outside my comfort zone, but not TOO scary since I was just using my walking foot, going in straight lines and letting my needle do all the work. I love that it gives the quilting more of a stipple-organic look, without having to free-motion it. I’m not perfect yet, but the overall quilt looks really great. (Full reveal soon.) I have to admit the giant throat space on the BERNINA 710 has also given me more courage to quilt a big quilt myself.
I used stitch #4 on my Bernina 710. I think it’s a pretty standard stitch for all newer Bernina’s. (I think it’s stitch 3 on my old Bernina Sport 801 – it looks like a wavy line.) The width is set to 5.5 and I used a stitch length of 3. I think I’d like to try it with a longer stitch next time and see how that changes things. Chime in if you know what stitch this is on other machines. 

And one last bit of eye-candy because it’s just SO pretty and makes me want spring. A new quilt design in the works with this new Kona solids New Bright Palette roll-up. I’m itching to get started!

Kona Solids Blocks and Oakshott Modern Maples

I am happy to report that I’m getting my sewing mojo back – or my “sewjo” as my friend Maggie puts it. First of all, I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my Kona Solids Virtual Quilting Bee blocks. (Thanks so much to everyone for their thoughts and input.) For the measurements and instructions on adding the sashing, cornerstones, and borders, see the Sashing and Borders post.

As you know, this was a change from my original plan of a pieced sashing. It had some cool aspects to it, but once I started laying it out, it just wasn’t the look I was going for. I really wanted this quilt to be a stark contrast to the busy Happy Go Lucky version. I wanted it a little more sleek and modern. So I went with the light gray sashing and a few more pops of color with the cornerstones. I also left off the inside border and just let the outside white border be a simple frame for the blocks. I am so happy with how it turned out. I will probably do more color in the binding, but we’ll see.

I also pulled out my Oakshott Rubies Modern Maples from last fall. I ran out of the Essex Linen I was using for the back ground and had a hard time finding more. I finally sent a small swatch to Brenda at Pink Castle Fabrics and she matched it for me! Hallelujah!

Those Oakshott Rubies fabrics are so gorgeous. They’re kind of hard to find in the US, but if you see them, you’ll see what I mean. I also added a couple of gold leaves out of a Kaffe cotton because we have a lot of gold leaves during the fall season here in Utah. It feels good finishing an old WIP (work-in-progress). I’m going to keep it around as is for another week or so and then send it off to the quilters. Next fall it will finally be finished!

And finally, I even got caught up on my BeesKnees blocks! This one is for Sinta. The tutorial for this block/quilt is called Starry Eyed and can be found at the Moda Bake Shop. It’s still one of my favorites.

These improv trees are for Melissa. Aren’t they fun? This is her own design. She has an Improv Tree tutorial on her blog.

Whew! Feels good to be crossing stuff of the list. Just in time to start creating a whole new list before Christmas.

Bee Blocks – tips and tricks

Learn to make a quilt

I have been putting the blocks from the Virtual Quilting Bee up on my design wall as they have been coming it. It’s so fun to see them all together, as well as to be able to see the variations in the block designs depending on the different colors used. It’s going to be fun to put these different quilts together!

Here is what I made for my Block #7.

Because I like experimenting (okay, really because I’m lazy) I decided to try and strip-piece the pieced striped units. So I cut the middle strip 1 1/2″ x 14″ and the two outside strips 1″ x 14″. (Actually, it’s a good idea to cut them a little longer than the 14″ so that you have some wiggle-room for squaring-off the ends. Don’t forget to use a scant 1/4″ seam allowance when piecing quilt blocks!

Then cut the units into 3 1/2″ lengths and voila: four units done at once! Just an option.

Another little reminder about matching up points: pinning can make a big difference – especially in blocks with small pieces! Put in a pin at the corners to match your points and hold them in place. If one of the pieces is slightly longer than the other side, run the longer side through the machine on the bottom. The feed dogs will help to ease the bigger piece of fabric through the machine without creating any tucks.

I’m also feeling pleased with myself because I was able to complete a couple of the Double-Wedding Ring ‘melons’ for Calli’s quilt.  
I’ve always been a little (okay, a lot) intimidated by a Double-Wedding Ring pattern. I’m still a little tentative with curves, but I’m starting to get a little better at them. I need to remember to just try, for crying out loud. It’s only fabric. (Did I really just say that?) I should just practice until I more confidence. But I think these will do for now. Calli is using Aneela Hoey’s Pickledish tutorial for this quilt.

And finally, a tale of quilt-block woe. Last December when I put together this sampler quilt, I realized afterward that I hadn’t included one of the blocks I’d made for it. I assumed it was just buried in the hazardous waste zone that has become my sewing storage space and would turn up eventually. Well the other night I was in the yard cleaning and weeding and found something blown under a shrub. Imagine my surprise when it was the missing quilt block! (You can see it in it’s original glory at the bottom of this post.)

Poor little block spent the winter trying to find shelter from the elements. The only thing I can figure is that when I took all the blocks outside to get photographed sometime last fall, this one escaped without my notice. That’ll teach it for trying to pull a runner!

Post edit: Someone on FB asked about the tutorial for this block. It is here: http://www.quiltdad.com/2012/01/bloggers-bom-block-5.html

By the way – I have loved reading the Quilting Life comments! Thank you for taking the time to write them. (I wish summer vacation allowed me more time to respond to them individually.) It’s fun to feel the common bonds that run through quilt-y folks.

One quick Public Service Announcement. I’ve been asked to teach a class at a fun new quilting retreat here in Utah next winter called Quilt Bliss. There is a great line-up of teachers, trunk-shows and lectures by Sherri McConnell and Sarah Jane Wright! Tickets went on sale yesterday and spaces are very limited – this is a smallish retreat. You can find our more by visiting the Quilt Bliss site.

Scrappy Trip Along progress and New Olfa Splash

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a lot of projects with deadlines. I finally wrapped many of them up and it has been so nice to do some “just-for-fun” sewing. I pulled out my Scrappy Trip-Along blocks that I started last January. They got put on the back-burner and it was fun to see again. I’ve worked on a few each day and my number is growing.
Here’s the progress as it stands right now. I’m using lots of my very favorite fabrics – the kind you hoard for “just the right project” but I’m not 100% smitten. I’m trying to figure out why.  I added some brown to the mix and I think it’s given a little more depth. I’m going to keep playing with it. I know I will LIKE however it turns out, but I kind of want to LOVE it. The original tutorial for Scrappy Trips Around the World is here. I warn you: it is addicting in the funnest kind of way.

I’m also trying to catch up on my final outstanding (as in over-due) bee block for Calli. It’s a paper-pieced Double Wedding Ring quilt. This one is going to stretch me a little, but if I can conquer it, I may have found a new project I want to try! That is what I love about Bees. I still need to make my Block #7 from the Virtual Quilting Bee!

As I’m working on these rotary-cutter heavy projects, I am loving using the new Splash rotary cutter by Olfa. This is their brand new model of the mid-size (45mm) rotary cutter. I am a die-hard Olfa rotary cutter user. I have been using them as long as I’ve been quilting and I think they are the most sturdy and stable. Any time I’ve tried a different brand of rotary cutters I’ve been disappointed or frustrated or just plain irritated.

So when the nice people at Olfa contacted me about sending one of these new Splash cutters to try out my answer was a “yes please!” I am hooked. This cutter is more ergonomic (easier on your hands), lighter-weight (but just as sturdy) and the clincher is the much-improved mechanism for changing the blade. You just slid the yellow doohickey on the back down and the blade is ready to pop off, change and put back in place. So much slicker than that knob and washer-thingy that have to be put back just-so. And, it’s turquoise so points for color too. And on top of all that: it’s cheaper than the old 45mm version. Kind of a no-brainer.

Other than sending me the rotary cutter, Olfa did not compensate me in any way for this review (though I wouldn’t turn down a life-time supply of blades if they offered it) – all the thoughts and opinions are my own. But they did send a second rotary cutter to share with a friend. So if you’d like a new Splash rotary cutter of your own, leave a comment on this post. Open until Sunday, June 9 at midnight MST. GIVEAWAY CLOSED.

Winner: ✾Jamie Lee Cooley✾June 6, 2013 at 6:11 AM

Your scrappy trip is looking good! I’d love to try the cutter…I can never remember which way the washer goes whenever I remove it to change the blade!

Now back to my sewing in random, snatched moments between slip-n-slides and handing out popsicles.

New Blocks + Fabric

I’ve been catching up on sewing some Bee blocks and now I need to catch up on sharing them. This star was paper-pieced for April in October. I am still working on my paper piecing skills, and this one was a good practice for me. I’ll admit I was a little cranky at first but after I got past the first three points, and past my impulse to not waste fabric (I think that’s an important hurdle with paper-piecing) I really enjoyed it. 
I want to make more of these blocks. And I’m feeling a little more confident in my paper-piecing skills.  The pattern for this star can be found here. If you’re looking for some good paper-piecing basics, check out Faith’s tutorials.

The paper-piecing skills were honed even more piecing this modernish Dresden for Emily. Her quilt will consist of different colored wheels – I love the idea. I can’t wait to see the other colored blocks.  I’ll try and find out if there’s an available pattern for piecing this block.

Finally, this is my last block in Jackie’s Blogger’s Block of the Month.  This block was designed by Sarah Fielke and you can find the instructions here. There are lots of great blocks in this series, and of course, it’s never to late to join in – the block tutorials will always be available.

I bought that background fabric this summer at Pins and Needles in New York. It comes from Atsuko Matsuyama’s 30’s Collection for Lecien.

I love those vintage/retro 30’s inspired prints by Atsuko for Yuwa
Especially that kelly green with strawberries. I love a good kelly green.
I just ordered a bunch more from Kerri at Sew Deerly Loved to help complete my quilt. Also some Millie’s Closet by Lori Holt and Simple Life by Tasha Noel for Riley Blake. 

Kerri has one of my favorite selections of Japanese import fabrics (love those mushrooms and bunnies!) and vintage inspired prints. I love using them in my i-spy quilts – they give them that cute, retro look. Thanks, Kerri!

And now, it feels good to be caught up on Bee blocks. On to Christmas sewing!

I forgot to mention, I had a little sewing ‘adventure’ over the past holiday weekend – I sewed a sewing machine needle through my left pointer finger! My husband thought I was crazy when I told him to take a picture of it before I had him pull it out. I won’t share the picture here, but I did share it on my Facebook page if you’re a thrill seeker and you’d like to see a needle sticking through one side of my finger and out the other.

Between rotary cutters, needles, swallowing pins, I think we sewers definitely qualify as ‘living on the edge’ extreme sports enthusiasts.