Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mystery Quilt

Back in January while doing a search for quilt-a-longs I stumbled on to the Gold Coast Quilter's Guild website.  For the first four months of 2015 their guild was participating in a mystery quilt.  I decided to jump right in and give it a try.

January brought the supply list along with several hints on how to pick out fabrics that would look nice in this project.  Following the suggestions I weeded through my stash to come up with these fabrics.

The only thing I knew for sure was that this quilt was going to be colorful.  I'm not even sure where or why I picked up the hot pink paisley.

February and March brought the two blocks of the quilt and both went together very quickly.  Which is exactly what I needed.  
February Block

March Block

Though I must make a confession about March's block.  In my head I was thinking about sewing four patch blocks together so I didn't pay attention to my fabric placement.  In my head you could just turn the block the way you needed it.  However, placement mattered; a little seam ripping time was needed to correct this mistake and make all my blocks the same.

April finally revealed the quilt layout and the finished project!

I'll be honest, with my color choices I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the finished top...but I love it!  All those bright colors make me so happy.  Maybe that's why bought the hot pink fabric?  Hopefully I can start quilting on it soon.  I see myself and this book

spending some time together while I wait for my thread to arrive.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Mini Quilt Addiction

Recently I posted this picture to Pat Sloan's wonderful quilting group on FaceBook (Quilt Along with Pat Sloan--  I love being apart of this amazing group of quilters.  Everyone is so supportive and we have fun giving each other advice.)

I was in need of advice on which fabric to choose for my binding.  I had so many people respond with great advice, later asking which I chose and questions about the pattern that I thought I would write this entry.

I realize I have an addiction to making miniature quilts but I have my reasons.
     1) the are just adorable
     2) I can purchase smaller amounts of fabric (I have limited space at home)
     3) quicker to assemble than larger quilts (although not always)
     4) easier to quilt on my domestic machine
     5) faster sense of completion from start to finish

I stumbled upon 101 Fabulous Small Quilts a few years ago on amazon.  This has been one of the best quilting purchases have I have made!

It is full of beautiful miniature quilts to keep you busy for hours.  (Also don't forget Pat's Aurifil Mystery Designer BOM for 2015.  Each one is a mini quilt FlurryChubby Churn Dash, April's Mini)  This particular quilt is called Sunny Lane.  I made it last year and loved it so much I had to make another.  

I chose a fat quarter bundle from my stash that had been begging for a while now to be used and got started.  The quilt itself is made up of four of these blocks...

After piecing them together I had to figure out what do for the boarder.  

I almost went with the yellow fabric on the right, but my voice of reason told me to use the dark blue.  By voice of reason I mean my husband and he was right I LOVED the blue after it was pieced together.  

I'm constantly building up my Aurifil thread inventory, so I hopped online and ordered a nice dark blue and yellow spool so that I could start quilting as soon as it was pieced.

Next comes my favorite part...quilting it.  Out came the Plexiglas and dry erase markers.

This is all I had to draw to convince myself that this was the plan and for once the plan did not change when I sat down to quilt it.  I used two pieces of a warm natural batting for this project, which I had never done before.  The extra layer of batting really did help some of the quilting to "pop."

After all the quilting was completed, came my plea for help on picking out a binding.  I truly appreciated all the comments of everyone weighing in.  Some asked why I didn't use the blue (and I probably would have) but I didn't have any left to use.  This lead me to consider the other color options.  By an overall land slide the light yellow seemed to win.  I was leaning toward the gold in the beginning but asked for everyone's opinion because I was having doubts about it.  

I do think the yellow gives is a nice fresh burst of color, I'm very happy with it!

I also wanted to post pictures of the one I did a few years ago.  It was one of my first attempts at custom quilting a piece.

I couldn't resist getting a picture of them both together

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Late Night Quilting Casualty

Since I work full time during the day at my job that finances my quilting addiction, I find myself quilting late at night.  These sewing sessions can lead to big time mistakes that call for the seam ripper or sometimes they are just funny.

I recently caught up on a few projects and decided to work on some of my bitty blocks for Quiltmaker's Bitty Block BOM .  I have been working on these little fellows using scraps for a few months now.

They are too stinking cute!!  And a great way to use all those tiny little pieces you just hate to throw away...wink wink.

Last night I found myself needing to make six flying geese units and used a technique that produces four at once.  So I marked my blocks lined them up and...

sewed straight down the line on all of them.  I realized when I went to cut on the line to make two separate units what I had done.  No biggie.  I thought I would just stop for the night, get up this morning and...

 sew 1/4" away from the line on each side then cut on the line.  This worked perfect until I picked up this little square.  Something didn't feel right when I picked it up.  I flipped it over...

I managed to sew a random bitty square to the back!  If that's the worst mistake I make today, I think it's gonna be a good day!  Late night quilting...you never know what can happen.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Color Inspiration--Part 2

So what do I do when I want to make something but have 0% inspiration on where to start color wise?  I turn to nature.  Mother Nature has provided us with so many beautiful things to see, how could you not be inspired?  However, this does not mean I pack up and go outside...all though that's not a bad idea either.  I take the modern lazy approach and set on the couch and surf Pinterest.  I do not have a great camera, but it allows me to take advantage of the fact other people do and like to share their work.

I have found two great programs from Sherwin-Williams that help me in deciding which colors to pull from photographs.  The first is Chip-It which is a free program on their webpage.  It's very easy to use, you just upload the picture from your computer and it will give you color "chips." matched to the picture.  

I found this butterfly picture on Pinterest and LOVE the pop of orange with the soft purples.  When I upload it to Chip-It this is what it gave me.

I do love the colors it produced but was disappointed to see that the orange did not come through.  Unfortunately with Chip-It you do not have an option to try to grab other colors from the picture.  However, they have a phone app for iPhone and Android called ColorSnap and it will let you pick and choose.  This is what it came up with on the first try.

This time it did pick up orange but not the vibrant one.  No problem.  You can use your finger to move the bubbles to the colors that you like.  When you move one of the bubbles a little window with a white cross hair appears so that you can see exactly where you are placing it and the circle will change to the color of what the cross hairs are touching.

With the original color sample I decided to trade out the taupe and the orange and this is what it would look like

Another nice thing about the phone app is if you find a crazy fabric at the store, you could snap a picture of it, upload it and boom you have help picking out your colors.  It's also fun to print pictures and match things up yourself.  I've kind of found there is a trial and error in picking fabrics and like anything the more you do it the better you will get.  

And when all else fails be a rebel, throw out all color rules and make a scrappy quilt.

Sometimes breaking all the rules can be even prettier!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Color Inspiration--Part 1

I think one reason I love quilting so much is that it allows us to challenge ourselves on different levels.  You can be as complex or as simple in the thought process as you like.  You can take the time to design a pattern, figure out all the math behind it, choose your fabric and colors, cut it and piece it and then quilt your own unique creation.  Or you might find yourself walking around your local quilt shop and spy the most amazing quilt kit (maybe even with pre-cut pieces), piece it together and then send it off to be quilted.  From a California King all the way down to itty bitty, I love it all.

When I first started out one of the things that I found most difficult was to pick out fabric for my projects.  Similar to painting and drawing (disclaimer: I'm not claiming to be an expert on this) you must consider color and value but with quilting print and scale are thrown in.  Even just saying, "Oh, what colors shall I use?" makes things sound much more simpler than they are.  Things to consider with color is shade, saturation of the color throughout the fabric, and temperature (hot/cold) of the color.  We can use a monochromatic (based on one color), analogous (blue/green/yellow or red/purple/blue), or complementary color scheme for our quilts.  You can add interest to your quilt by adding different values (light, medium, dark) of fabric.  Then toss in fabric pattern or lack there of and scale of the pattern and things get crazy and your head really starts to hurt!  

Leni Levenson Wiener has a great book called 3-Fabric Quilts that covers the topics of color, value and print scale.
 The book has several patterns that will allow you to play with these topics using only three fabrics...testing the waters without going too crazy.  Sometimes we must learn to craw before we run.

Thankfully the fabric Gods love us and gave us tools that make things much easier, like pre-cuts.  I cannot say how much I love my fat quarter bundles, jellyrolls, charm packs and layer cakes.  These beauties allow me to create using fabrics that are proven to go together or are from a fabric line.  With the addition of white fabric, part of this fat quarter bundle
became this

I just had to figure out how to fit the pieces together to get the look I wanted.  I didn't have to spend hours in the store pulling bolts off the shelf, looking for the correct lighting and scratching my head.

Fat quarter bundles can also just be a great place to start.  Some stores will put coordinating fabrics together that may not be from the same fabric line, but are from bolts of fabric within the store.  If your quilt requires more yardage, find a bundle that speaks to you and ask for help locating the bolts.  I'm not aware of any fabric stores that would not love to sell you lots and lots of yardage for your stash...I mean project.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Elf Not on My Shelf Anymore: A cleaning victory

I can admit that I'm a sucker for simple entertainment.  I can amuse myself for quite a long time making up new words to songs, like I'm some sort of Weird Al Yankovic wanna be.  My dad was the same way.  So when the Elf on the Shelf craze hit I truly thought my family needed one.  I could clearly  visualize the amusement posing a small stuffed elf would bring!  I really hadn't taken into
consideration that my daughter was almost thirteen years old and possibly too old to start this tradition.  If I'm honest this was probably what I was thinking anyway...
Of course I would have never left him like this for Jen to find.  

The problem is he never made it out of the box.  For the past two years he has not sat on a shelf high and proud, but was left stuffed in his box unloved and unseen.  Santa would be very upset to know that he became just another "thing" laying around.  A victim of hoarding.
After last weeks cleaning spree I decided that it was time for him to live.  He needed a new home where he would be loved and allowed to have the adventures he deserves. My dear cousin has three wonderful little boys who are just the right age to enjoy this holiday tradition, so I knew what I had to do.  He had to go.

So today I set in motion Operation Santa's Watching.  I pulled some strings and acquired a letter from the big man himself and wrapped the package.  Hopefully in a few days 2 little boys (the third is too little) will open this package and their little eyes will widen with the hope that from miles away the jolly old man that is Saint Nick is watching them.  

 Sometimes there are rewards in tasks we don't want to do and for me this is one of them.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Bookcase--Not a fairy tale

After I finished cleaning the area of my night stand I was feeling pretty good about starting on the area around my bookcase.

 The bookcase sits just outside of the closet and has become a catchall for things I don't quite feel like putting up.  The intention is there, "Oh, I'll put that up in a minuet," but the follow through somehow gets lost.
Seeing the placement of a sweater that is to small for me stuffed on a shelf makes me pause and say, "What is wrong with you? And why are we keeping that??"  So with my tail tucked between my legs I began pulling things from the shelves and putting them in the floor.  Everything had to come down because my intention was to move the shelf closer to the side wall.

Once I saw how much stuff (mostly books though) I had stored on the shelves I thought I might have to call in for back up.
The one thing I love almost as much as my quilting stuff, is my books.  There is nothing like holding a great book and turning the pages to find out what hides inside.  I hope that one day when I'm senile and don't know my name, my grandchildren will go through my books and think that I must have been pretty cool or off my rocker crazy.  Weeding my book collection was one of the hardest things I've had to do.  Seeing this mess on the floor and knowing I had to make decisions, caused the irrational part of me to think that moving and starting over might just be the easiest choice. 

In the meantime, my daughter was performing the same task in her room, but having a blast doing so.  Through out her elementary school days, I accumulated quite a book collection for her.  I had a bad Scholastic Book Club addiction.  However, she did not inherit my passion for books.  Reading was not something in those days that came easy for her and most set on the shelf never opened.  We boxed up all of the books she had out grown and donated them to one of her teachers.  She assured me that her students would love them.  This made my heart feel happy again.  In the end I would just like to see them loved and used.

After a nice glass of moscato, I returned to the mess I had made and I have to say I was pleased with my progress.
When it comes to organizing I'm a complete loss so I turned to my dear friend Pinterest.  This lead to the purchase of two fabric covered storage boxes to house my paperback books.  It's amazing how many more you can fit in that space just by doing that.  I also read several articles about adding visual interest to the shelves my arranging the books in different ways.  Most of the things that were in the floor went into the yard sale box or made their way back to their original spots.  The boards are the only oddball thing that remain in the space and they will have to wait till I pull the mattress off the bed to go home.  

By moving the bookcase further down the wall I made space for another future project from Pinterest.
I found this half table on Larcie Bird's blog and I love it!  It makes me think "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"  (If you haven't noticed, I love Alice in Wonderland)  In her blog they actually found a table at a yard sale and chopped that baby in half.  I'm not sure if I shall take that route or possibly just build one and use an upholstered storage cube for a bench.  I think it will be a great place for my laptop and to use as a small office space.  Not including the closet, I'm half way done with this room.  Back to cleaning!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

How many first quilts can you actually have?

Today I was looking back through pictures of quilts I have made and I was reminded of a blog post by Pat Sloan about her first first quilt.  If you have never read this, take the time to check it out.  So I started trying to remember what was my first quilt?  More importantly what qualifies something the honor of being your first quilt?

I guess you could say my first quilt was a Turning Twenty.  At that time I had never even considered quilting as a hobby.  I was a dedicated cross stitch-er.  I had completed a series of 10 cross stitch pieces called Wedding Herbs and wanted someone to turn them into a quilt for me.
I wandered into the local quilt shop to ask the lady who owned it if she could help me or at least give me direction.  Somehow I managed to let her talk me into trying quilting with the goal of making them into a quilt myself.  Over the next few days I spent a few hours at the shop in the evening learning how to use a rotary cutter and how to piece and press my pieces together.  The result was a scrappy looking quilt top in red, greens and golds.  She sent it away to a long arm quilter and a few weeks later I was the happy owner of a quilted quilt that I had picked the fabric for and pieced myself.
 Here is the kicker, to this day the quilt is in a Rubbermaid storage bin unfinished.  I have yet to sew the binding on it and it's been at least ten years.  (The cross stitches are stored away somewhere as well)  So if the quilt is unfinished can I really call it my first quilt?

So my next choice for first quilt would have to be the second quilt I pieced.  I decided to make a small wall hanging for one of my best friends.  She lived in an authentic log cabin and LOVED the color red.  So I gave the good ol' Rail Fence a try.  I remember making a ton more blocks than what I needed  so that I could sort through them and pick out the ones with the straightest seam lines (you do what you got to do).  Again I shipped that baby off to a long arm quilter and waited for it's return.  When she came back I headed back to the quilt shop to try to figure out how to put a binding on.  After some instruction I could finally call this quilt finished.  She was wrapped up, put under the tree and delivered right before Christmas.  She also came
with the instructions that should the binding come off just let me know...I'll fix it.  I really felt like I had no idea what I was doing.  But I ask again is it my first quilt?  It's my first completed quilt but I didn't quilt it.  At that point I didn't ever see myself actually quilting a quilt.  I was in love with fabric and piecing.  

The next candidate for first quilt is an even smaller wall hanging I made for my daughter.  It was a pattern I found on Moda Bake Shop with some easy applique so I gave it a try.  
For my first time it's not that bad.  There is not a whole lot going on with the stitching just some simple meandering/stippling for the quilting.  From a distance the texture looks great.  If it was actually being judged for technique, its a hot mess.  It looks like it was stitched by a drunk person with the lines of stitching crossing and many not so round turns.  But it was made with lots of love and it is a completed quilt, pieced and quilted by yours truly.  So does that qualify it as my first quilt?

Maybe the answer is that we can have many firsts.  Or maybe the answer is that it doesn't matter which one is considered first as long as you love them all for what they are.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I'm not nesting...I promise

It all started last week, or possibly many weeks before, but I finally reached a breaking point concerning all the clutter and messes around our home.  I had just finished piecing this wall hanging for a fund raiser and was waiting on thread to arrive when I decided enough was enough.
With working full time, being a parent to a teenager, and focusing all the time I can on quilting its been too easy to ignore piles and pretend dust isn't there.  The spring cleaning bug finally hit me much to my daughter's horror.  She was perfectly content to ignore chores right along with me.

I started last week, cleaning out our master bathroom, thinking it would be the easiest and quickest place to start.  In my head I could knock that puppy out in an evening, heck hour and a half at the most and be back at my machine...wrong.  I spent 2 evenings throwing away old stuff, organizing and gathering things for donations or a yard sale.  But the results felt amazing.  So amazing, I proudly announced to the family the whole house is getting a well over due make over.  My husband raised an eyebrow suspiciously and ask if I was nesting...ha ha.

This week my focus has been on the master bed room.  After assessing the condition of the room, I narrowed it down to four main problem areas: nightstand area, book self, area in front of the bed and side dresser.  Each of these places have become catchalls for all kinds of junk due to lack of storage space.  I spent a lot of time on Pinterest this week looking at different DIY ideas and before and after pictures, and I have to say it really was motivating.

I started with the easiest section first, the nightstand and under this side of the bed.  I debated on sharing the pictures I've taken because this is probably one of the things I'm most insecure about.  But personal growth doesn't come without being uncomfortable.

So where did all my stuff go?  After going through the drawers, I found that most of the stuff inside could actually be tossed or put in the yard sale box, freeing up quite a bit of room.  Moving the dresser closer to the bed makes it easier to turn the light on and off from the bed (no more crooked lamp shade for all the OCD peeps) and gave room for a basket to put magazines in for late night reading.  I even discovered a possum living back there! Well a stuffed one that was a present.  The little white box leaning against the wall is an unopened Elf on the Shelf that my family had outgrown when I bought it.  It will be wrapped and on its way tomorrow to my cousin's 3 young son's with a letter written by Santa to let them know he watches...wink wink.  He's such a voyeur.  I also donated three bags of bed sheets (some from my daughters room as well) stored in containers under my bed.  How did I end up with so many???

One of my Pinterest finds is this awesome platform bed with lots of storage.
With the help of my favorite wood worker, I'm hoping to make this dream a reality.  This would solve many bedroom storage issues for us.  With this area finished and my thread still on the way to me, I guess I will turn my attention to the book self.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Three Little Miniatures Setting In A Row

I'm pretty excited that I've been able to keep up with Pat Sloan's Aurifil Designer Mystery BOM challenge for the year.  And so far I LOVE each one of them.  The picture above shows my finished Flurry mini, Chubby Churn Dash mini, and this month's mini designed by Kimberly Jolly from Fat Quarter Shop.

I dug deep into my fabric stash to come up with two coordinating fat quarter bundles that I purchased someplace locally last summer.

I decided to add an additional boarder of the darker maroon fabric to practice doing feather boarders.
Usually I try to draw up a quilting design before I actually dig in and for some reason I could not completely commit to what I originally designed.
Instead of doing the different quilting designs in each of the color bans, I kept things simpler with my favorite dot-to-dot design.  I loved the idea of the feathers with scribbling as the filler to make them pop a bit.
Because it can be a bit tricky seeing where you are going when working white on white, I used my blue water soluble pen to mark my echo lines so that I didn't get carried away and quilt over them...although it probably happened several times anyway, it is called scribbling.
 This is the first quilting project that I have been brave enough to attempt feathers.  I marked my spines with a porcelain quilting pencil and free formed the plumes as I went.  Overall I was very pleased for my first try on an actual pieced project.  

I'll even be brave and show a peek of the back...

I cannot thank Pat enough for the idea of mini quilts each month.  It helps to have a small sense of accomplishment each month.  Thanks Pat!
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