Friday, March 29, 2013

Salty Sisters Just Under the Wire...

This is the second month in a row that I've waited to finish my Sisters' Ten blocks until the very end of the month...maybe one of my goals should be to flip it and reverse that trend!  Any who...the block for March is School Girl's Puzzle.  My fabrics were all lined up and ready to go...

...and then they just sat there for a while.  Sorry guys.

Thankfully octopi can't judge...

But once the last week (or rather, the last few days) of the month were looming, I got into gear and hammered out both blocks.    I really like these blocks, but the brightness of the fabric and the color combination seems to be really hard to photograph (the aqua prints in particular always look like they're glowing - sorry if I'm burning your retinas, readers).  I'm hoping that once the full quilt top is all together, it won't look so off in pictures.

I'm ridiculously proud of these blocks because I actually consistently matched my points and seams - I must be getting better!  I'm also loving that since I've converted to an almost fanatical use of Best Press, everything lies so flat and crisp. 

I also managed to cut all of the large negative space and sashing pieces this month, so at least that's out of the way for later in the year.

Linking up:
Lily's Quilts

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Free Motion Failing...But Not Quitting!

I've been working on the SMQG's latest challenge off and on for the whole month.  At some fairly regular intervals, I've completely stalled.  It's all the bottom half's fault.  I had previously declared that this would be the project where I would finally break free of the straight lines and give free motion quilting a go.  There's a particular portion of my Asbury mini quilt that is just perfect for Angela Walter's wood grain quilting pattern.  Turns out that a few times of practicing didn't put much of a dent in improving my attempts at looking a bit better than my little one's scribblings...but I'm determined to finish!  I won't do a final reveal until it's completely finished, but let me share with you my free motion failings.

I've been quilting with my regular machine foot for a while - which means that I'm very used to having to stop every 30 seconds and pivot around a corner or move the fabric around while the needle is down.  In other words, I'm used to fiddling with the presser foot about a jillion times in an hour.  That proved to be a habit very, VERY hard to break.

I'd start out pretty good (well, good for me...totally out of control for a normal FM quilter) then pause and start up again.  Unbeknownst to the logical half of my brain, my hand must have gone for that darn presser foot and shot it up without snapping it back down, because this happened about 20 times:

The seam ripper was in high demand.  It was frustrating to say the least because it was my own stupid fault and I couldn't seem to break the habit.  I was finally forced to break out the big guns - my post-its.

Surprisingly, this tactic actually worked!  So while the first few lines of wood grain took me about a week (thanks mostly to a mixture of frustration and discouragement), the majority of that panel got finished in 30 minutes. 

I know that my free motion skills leave a LOT to be desired, but I'm pretty glad that prints cover a multitude of sins.  It's still intimidating, but I'm going to keep at it!

Linking up:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Custom Quilting...

I got a pretty exciting offer about a week ago – a chance to create a custom quilt!  A friend asked me to help her create a quilt as a gift for her dad.  Let me tell you, if creating a quilt for yourself is difficult, I thought that it was 10 times harder creating one for someone else!  I had about a zillion ideas running through my head all at once and I couldn't just decide on one that I liked the best or make the call on the fabrics that I thought worked the best.  I wanted her to make all the final decisions, especially with it being a personalized gift for dad.  She needed her fingerprint and creative stamp on it as well!

We ended up deciding on a reversible quilt with no designated front or back.  I’ll share one side with you all today because it’s something that challenged me a little bit – paper piecing.  On a BIG scale.  I had recently seen Don’t Call Me Betsy’s string heart quilt that she completed for the Madrona Road challenge.  I loved this idea – how can you say no to a heart for your dad?  But I also pulled a couple of heart pattern variations, one of which was a paper pieced block that my friend fell in love with.  We married that pattern with Elizabeth’s layout of lots of negative space with the heart in the lower right corner, which meant blowing up the originally 6” heart.  A lot.  Like 350%. 

The finished heart measures out to about 22” square.  That was a majorly big piece of paper running through my machine.   She wanted to have a red/white/blue theme for her veteran dad and I wanted to try to avoid anything that looked too novelty-print. I purposely chose a red and blue that were pretty saturated and had a similar value so that the colors would complement each other nicely instead of looking like Ernie's striped shirt.  I think we got the job done.  :) 

Once I got into the groove of putting my mind in reverse and working out how to waste the smallest amount of fabric for such a large piece, I really enjoyed it and wouldn't hesitate to put paper piecing in my regular repertoire!  I guess that made it a little easier to decide on paper piecing a few more blocks for the reverse side, but that's a post for another day.

Linking up:
Fresh Poppy Design

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Quilter Goes Into a Hardware Store...

So I'm not one who really frequents the hardware store unless its to pick up some salt for icy steps (which I was hoping that I wouldn't actually need again now that it's spring...but the snow did not get the memo) or some random piece of flotsam once or twice a year.  As soon as I walk in the doors, my eyes kind of glaze over and I feel a little lost.  But I've found a new reason to actually like going to the hardware store.  I'm sure that I'm ages late to this brainstorm, but for those of us who don't have these AMAZING color cards of Kona solids to match colors, let me introduce you to the life changing hardware store staple of...wait for it...paint swatches.

I know, I'm a genius.  (insert sarcasm here)

For a while now, I seem to be taking my cues from color schemes first and then trying to find quilt patterns that complement them.  So my inspiration board is full of random scraps of paper where I love very specific colors paired together.  You might remember that a bit ago, I posted a picture that my daughter drew and said that a quilt might be inspired by it.

Well, I haven't been able to get that sketch out of my mind and for once it didn't take me long to figure out how to make an original quilt out of it.  Of course, the colors had to be different swatches of pinks and I assumed that the background might be either white or gray.  But the more I thought about it, I wanted to do something different.  While working on countless weeks of Bookworms blocks  I took occasional peeks at my inspiration board (which happens to be right next to my ironing board) and I kept going back to this scrap of paper:

I just loved this peacock blue paired with the deep raspberry. blue....hey!  What if I did the background in blue with the pops of deep pinks?  Yes!  But I really liked this SPECIFIC blue and pink combo.  I brought the swatch of magazine paper into my local hardware store and snagged a few strips of perfectly matching swatches so that I could get the full spectrum of pinks and blues in the color line. 

Matching up with some fabrics from my stash and some newly purchased cuts...and I think a top will be coming up soon!  I'm thinking a mini quilt - just to keep things simple.

I think that from now on, I'm going to be keeping an envelope with all of my collected hardware store paint swatches.  Maybe now and then, I'll just pull a few randomly and see how I like them together.  At least until I can justify getting one of those Kona cards...

Linking up with: Really Random Thursday

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Feather Frenzy...

Well this past weekend was the BMQG's annual quilt retreat weekend at the Franciscan Guest House in Kennebunk.  I wasn't able to get away for the entire weekend, but my friend Samantha and I were able to take advantage of a "commuter pass" to come up for a long day of sewing and socializing with the ladies. It was fabulous and so much fun to get to see everyone's works in progress!

Photo of Samantha & I courtesy of the BMQG - thanks Alice!
I had purposely been hoarding a stash of fabrics to create a quilt top using Anna Maria Horner's Feather pattern just for the retreat, and was supremely optimistic that I'd be able to churn out a bunch of feathers.  So just how many feathers did I make during an uninterrupted day of sewing?

(dramatic pause)

Actually my grand total was 7, but 5 was my total when I posted them up on the retreat design walls.  Yeah...I was kind of disappointed. 

Definitely not with how they came out though - I love the colors and fabrics together, and the feathers themselves are pretty big.  I can see myself embracing some negative space with a quilt top totaling no more than 20-30 feathers. 

But putting these babies together is a lot of work, which did get done in bulk at the retreat.  Lots of fabric strips were ironed, cut and pieced together and template pieces are all set to go - its the sewing grunt work that takes up the most time!  I just thought that I'd get a little further in the project. 

Oh well - looks like it will stretch into the spring and summer.  Not a bad work in progress to keep up with here and there. 

And as an added bonus, I won a door prize as well!  I ended up picking from a great pool of prizes collected by Aimee and chose a charm pack of Aneela Hoey's Posy line from Moda.  Love it!

Linking up with: QuiltStory's Fabric Tuesday

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Monday, March 18, 2013

I Hate Change... I was pretty bummed out to see that Google Reader is phasing out this summer.  But I decided to follow trend and import all of the blogs that I follow into Bloglovin.  Seems pretty easy so far...

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Thanks all!

Fabric Haul...

I'll be back tomorrow to give you the rundown on my daytrip to the BMQG Retreat, but I thought that a trip to a discount fabric store that we stopped at on the way there was worth its own post! 

Only about 40 minutes from home and 30 minutes from the Retreat is Mardens in Sanford - a sort of all-purpose discount store based in Maine that I have seen plenty of commercials for but actually never been to.  When people mentioned it as a great place to stop for fabric that can be hit or miss, I was thinking of a couple of aisles or maybe even a few bins of bolts that you would have to sort through.  NOT SO!  We're talking easily 10 aisles with some major lines that you would spend $10/yard at most fabric stores...for $3-4/yard!!  Plus, our guild leaders gave the store a heads up that a big group was headed their way, so they gave us all an additional 10% off (a tip for you based here in New England - you can get the same deal if you put together a car load of 5 people or more).  You just cannot beat that!

So my fabric haul made up of half yards and yard cuts came to less than $25 - unbelievable!

I already had some of this Valorie Wells line in orange, but I've loved it so much that I've been determined to use every scrap.  Now I have her flowers in the blue and pink colorway too - yay!

These are only a sampling of the Tula Pink prints that they had from the Parisville and Prince Charming collections:

My stash is pretty slim when it comes to reds, so I found these great blender fabrics including a geometric print that I love from Ty Pennington:

Yeah, I already have a ton of aqua fabrics, but I loved the hexie print and the multicolored string print is going to be perfect for binding my Asbury challenge mini:

I have no idea what I'm going to use this print for (any ideas people?), but I loved it too much to pass up:

Thanks for indulging my fabric heavy post everyone - more about my progress at retreat tomorrow.  Want to guess how many feathers I can create in a day?

Linking up with: Let's Get Aquainted Blog Hop

Thursday, March 14, 2013

One Proud Mama...

Lately I've been working on some handwork with my hexie project and cross-stitching and it has caught the attention of my oldest daughter.  One day while I was working on the Princess Bride pattern, she said, "Mama, can I do some sewing too?" 

Can you?  Absolutely!!  Ever since I saw this post from Dining Room Empire, I've just been waiting until one of the girls showed an interest to break out this activity - turns out I didn't have as long to wait as I expected.

I let her pick 3 floss colors out of my massive box and I think she has a nice eye for color combinations.

Then I set her up with the smallest hoop that I had and a small swatch of aida fabric and let her go to town.  A little coaching about going from the top and the bottom and pulling your thread tight...

We sat together side by side doing a little stitching until I just couldn't hold it in anymore and ran to get my camera.

Her finished result - pretty darn good for four and a half!  But that could just be the proud mama talking. 

Far and away the best part?  We're both sitting and stitching (watching Princess Bride, coincidentally) and she turns to me and says, "Look mama, I'm a good sewer like you!" 

Sniff, sniff....

Monday, March 11, 2013

Up to the Challenge...

In addition to a great workshop on sewing curves, the last Seacoast Modern Quilt Guild meeting brought another fun challenge.  Since I didn't participate in the Madrona Road challenge and was so excited to see all of the amazing results the ladies came up with, I was quick to say yes to this one!  (Side note:  Yes, that is me in the picture but it was not my challenge result.  I am holding up a photo of Samantha's pillow as she couldn't show it off in person that day and it deserved to be in the group shot!)

Asbury line - courtesy of SMQG
Amy was able to get charm packs of Thomas Knauer's Asbury line from Andover Fabrics to anyone who wanted to participate.  From this charm pack, we can create whatever project we want and can use additional fabrics (but only solids to showcase the Asbury).

As soon as I saw the fabric online, I had a vague idea about what I wanted to do, but I waited until I had it in hand to do some sketching.  I decided to make a mini quilt and I'll write a longer post about it once its done, but I'm super excited about how its looking about halfway done!  Of course, I can't resist giving a small sneak peek...

Yes, this portion does break the only solids rule - but it's the only spot and less than 1.5" - I hope the end result gets me forgiven!
I'm also going to free motion quilt it - I know that I've said that before, but I really mean it this time.  A mini quilt is small enough to reasonably work through my machine's issues and build up my confidence.  Isn't that what a challenge is all about?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Blocks for a Good Cause...

Well it definitely feels like a post-season slump around sewing machine has been sitting in the corner collecting the most dust that it has seen in months (which is not a lot but still - it's been pretty inactive since finishing the Bookworms).  Of course that hasn't stopped me from sketching, arranging fabric into project piles, and browsing online for some motivation.  I just couldn't seem to move into action. 

Thankfully I stumbled across a post by Kisha in the Modern Quilting group on Facebook - it was a call for help and only required contributing a block or two to a fantastic cause.  Please check out her blog post for all the details because she articulates it much better than I can with two girls running around like banshees behind me (while I pretend not to hear them or wonder how much of a mess they are making), but to sum up, she is going to make a generous sized lap quilt that will be auctioned of at a benefit to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Kisha is asking for wonky log cabin blocks in shades of red and yellow (the colors of LLS) with a minimum size of 8" - that's all you have to do!  Then after you mail them off (before April 22, please) you can feel all warm and fuzzy while she does the heavy lifting of arranging the quilt top, quilting and finishing it for the charity auction! 

For the centers of my two blocks, I wanted to add a little something special to catch your eye.  I was really looking for a heart or something to fussy cut - I had completely forgotten about these two orphan blocks that didn't make the cut for my Paintbox quilt

After a quick spray with Best Press and some ironing, they looked as good as new, so I cut into them and after no time at all with my pile of scraps, the first block emerged!

For the second, I really wanted to highlight a special little guy...Kisha's post tells the story of LLS's Boy of the Year, Matty.  This fabric from Sarah Jane's Children at Play seemed just perfect to suggest Matty playing, happy and healthy! 

Fussy cutting, sewing, and voila...a second block!

I had so much fun throwing these together this morning and I cannot wait to see the finished quilt and everyone else's blocks - thank you so much Kisha for getting my butt in gear and making me feel good at the same time!

If you want to lend a hand to Kisha - check out her blog post or email her at  Thanks everyone!

Linking up:
Live A Colorful Life

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Just Three for March

I had a pretty good record for Traceyjay's Just Three feature for December and January...did I keep it up in February?  Let's see...

February's goals were:

1. Complete Gen X Quilter's Sisters' Ten BOM Susannah blocks - check!

2. Finish Little Bookworms - check!  I mentioned that I had a special goal and since I met my self-imposed challenge, I wanted to share...our little town's library has a very cool feature that each month, a resident is chosen to be the Artist of the Month.  You get a write-up in the library newsletter and on their website and selected works are hung around the library for the month.  Well, I am the Artist of the Month during March!!  So I really, really wanted the Bookworms to be finished so I could feature it in the library - how perfect is that?  The children's librarian has talked about making a little game of pointing the characters out to kids coming and going during the month - it just makes me happy to share it with everyone!

3. New shower curtain inspired by Rachel at Stitched in Color - I loved a very pretty shower curtain that she finished and wanted to do a version of my own with this color inspiration:

BWAAAHAA!!!!  Excuse me while I wipe the tears from my eyes....yeah, that just didn't even remotely happen.  I'm not quite sure how I thought I was going to get that fit in with everything else, but oh well.  To give myself a little bit of credit, I did buy some fabrics for it, but I've been doubting my choices as well as a possible pattern...I guess I'm just having a hard time making some final design choices.  I'll get to it eventually.

Now as for my March goals...

1. Complete the Sisters' Ten blocks for March.  It's already been released last Friday, so it's waiting around for me when I get to it!

2.  Our BMQG retreat is giving me the perfect chance to start working on the Anna Maria Horner feather blocks that I've been planning for a while.  I can't wait to see how they turn out.  I'm still not sure how large I'm going to make it or how many blocks I'll fit onto the top - I'm willing to fly by the seat of my pants on this one a little bit.

3.  Hexies!  I started working on this handwork project last month and have been working on it here and there.  I'm enjoying the process and really liking how its all coming together, so you can plan on seeing some of the larger pieces in progress during the month.

Linking up with:

traceyjay quilts

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Anybody Want a Peanut?

Sometimes my girls surprise me. Here they are, ages two and four and a half and a decent amount of things scare them - people in crazy face paint, dinosaurs, that kind of thing. But apparently these are okay:

Just in case you don't immediately recognize it, they are known as ROUSes - that's Rodents of Unusual Size and they are prominently featured in the fire swamp scenes of The Princess Bride. We've had this DVD for a while (it's an old favorite of mine), but ignorant mother that I am, I assumed that it was a little too old for them.  But they managed to catch a glimpse of it on AMC a while back and loved Buttercup and Westley and their "love, twoo love" and begged to watch the whole thing.  I don't think they've gone a week without watching it a couple of times since then!

At this point, you might be wondering why I'm talking about movies on a sewing/crafting blog and telling me, "Skip to the end!"

As you wish.

I've done my fair share of large projects lately, and I've been craving something that will move along quickly and still be satisfying. I did quite a bit of cross-stitching before I ever even learned how to operate a sewing machine, but I haven't picked it up in ages (mostly because concentrating enough to count stitches with babies crawling around just doesn't mix). Enter Liz, a fantastic blogger and friend from the BMQG who introduced me to Wee Little Stitches, an adorable Etsy store selling cute patterns. Considering the girls' latest movie obssession, their Princess Bride pattern seemed a clear choice as a cute decoration for their room.

Overall, I loved the pattern - cute, uncomplicated but different. I changed one tiny detail - everyone's eye pixels are supposed to be black, but I made Westley and Buttercup's blue - just makes them stand out a bit more. My only real complaint was a couple of color choices in the pattern. I mean, we're talking about a DMC floss that has hundreds of colors, so you really have your pick of any hue. But some of the colors that the pattern specifies really melt into each other a bit too much to make the pattern noticeable. I'm especially looking at you, Inigo Montoya...I mean, you really can't even tell that there's a belt surrounding his middle except for the tell-tale gold buckle. And the shirt and the hair melt all together, so he looks like one long brown letter A.

These are two different colors, but you really can't tell the difference - especially when stitched on aida fabric!
I did really love the inclusion of metallic floss to add a little sparkle to Humperdink's crown, Buttercup's belt, Fezzini's shirt and everyone's belt buckles.

Oh, and did I mention that the week I found them, they were having a sale? So I ended up getting not only the Princess Bride pattern but the Superhero Alphabet pattern as well - it's SO cute and would be great either all on it's own or perhaps made into a pillow!

I'm sure that I'll be sewing at the machine again soon, but this is a nice break.

Linking up: