Friday, August 28, 2009

wishful thinking

Do you all remember in New Moon when Edward breaks up with Bella? And she feels like she has an empty hole in her chest where her heart used to be? Wait, what am I saying, of course you remember.

Well, that's exactly how I feel these days. No, not because someone left me. Because I haven't done any quilting (or anything really creative) in weeks (my dress doesn't count because it wasn't fun to make). I know I'm being ridiculously dramatic but that's actually how I feel. Hollow, empty, not whole.

To help ease the pain (or make it worse?), I wanted to show you what I'd be sewing if I could, if I was in my studio, if I didn't have many more boxes to move and then unpack.

First, you know I'm desperate because I want to try pieced circle blocks! Circles! I've never wanted to sew curved seams in my entire life! But now I do?

Yes, I do. And I would use this tutorial for cutting and piecing my blocks.

Also, another quilt I thought I didn't want to make but now I'm pretty certain I do want to make is a Cathedral Window quilt. Oh yes, a whole quilt!

I used to look at these little blocks and I could never understand how they were made. But then I found this tutorial and now it all makes sense. Mostly there's just a lot of folding and then some machine stitching and then some hand stitching (or all hand stitching if you prefer).

The best part about this block is that it's a quilt-as-you-go project. There's no batting or backing or quilting...you just add little windows until you reach the desired size or until you get sick of making windows. And then you have a finished quilt!

So, for now, I'm just going to suck it up and pretend I don't have a Cathedral Window-shaped hole in my chest. I'm just going to move some more boxes and maybe unpack my fabric. That should help...seeing my fabric stacked back in neat little piles. And maybe, just maybe, I'll have some time this weekend to work on something fun. I'm not sure how much longer I'll last if I don't.

Oh, the drama! My life is so hard!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dance of Death

Oh no! Instead of packing anything last night, I started reading and then continued to read 2/3 of Water for Elephants. So far I'm really into it, despite the sad parts regarding old timey circus animals. Because, you know, old timey circuses are really interesting and at the same time, really terrible. So, while I'm enjoying it, I'm also horrified and sad. And I think something bad is going to happen soon. I told Ian he shouldn't read this book because it'll only depress him. He loves animals so much that he has a hard time eating animal shaped things like Peeps and chocolate bunnies. Seriously.

Anyway, the other thing I did yesterday was draw up a sketch for a masquerade costume:

idea for masquerade dress

My friend Laura is a member of the Northstar chapter of the Victorian Society in America and they're holding a masquerade ball on Halloween night. And the theme: Danse Macabre, otherwise known as The Dance of Death. I can't believe how awesome that is!

Laura and I have been tossing out ideas for costumes. The dress I thought up yesterday is my attempt at an easy Victorian-esq costume since I don't have time to make a proper outfit.

idea for masquerade dress

There are other options, of course...themes if you will. Laura is potentially going as a ghost, wearing her wedding dress as a starting point. I'm thinking about design elements like black birds or dead leaves or skeletal tree branches. I have a little bit of time before I have to choose so I'll probably share a few more sketches in the next week or two. It's going to be a tough decision and I might need your help to decide.

Also, if you have any ideas for a fancy Dance of Death costume, I'd love to hear them! What would you wear to this ball?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Move update

Yes, this week there is movement. I'm easily distracted so last week it was nice to say to myself "I know you feel distracted but this week you will work on your dress and next week you will move your stuff." And giving myself permission to focus on just one project felt really nice. I got my dress done, I breathed a sigh of relief and now I can focus on this week's task.

Yesterday I made two trips to the new house, both studio related. Yes, my sewing machine is at the new house, yes I'm sad, yes I know that this temporary separation is for the best. Because this week is about moving, not sewing.

Do you want to see the new studio? This room was my parent's bedroom and it looks exactly the same as it did when we moved into the house 20+ years ago:

studio before

Yes, that's yellow wallpaper (stripes!) and yellow paint (even the ceiling is yellow). The first order of business is to take off the wallpaper. I spent a lot of time last night peeling it off and thankfully it came off fairly easily. I'm about a quarter done and it was sort of fun. You never know if the next strip you peel is going to be a big one. Exciting, right?

studio before

I'm narrowing down my paint choices and I'm leaning towards a light aqua for the walls (white ceiling, of course). I have a lot of work to do at the old house first, though. So for now I'll peel a little bit of paper each time I drop off boxes.

Also, here's another wallpaper adventure:

bedroom before

My old bedroom! Can you believe it? I saved my allowance for an entire year to buy that mural. It was so awesome when I was a teenager. Now? Well, ok, fine, it's not so awesome now that I'm 28. The good news is that the paper came off in full sheets. Whew! I need to wash the wall and then decide on a paint color. But I really can't decide! I want every room in my house to be aqua but I don't think that's allowed. So, we'll see.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Venetian Dress: final photos

Whew...this weekend was quite a whirlwind! Ian had his wisdom teeth out on Friday. I took the day off of work and after his surgery we ate soup and watched movies. He's doing just fine now which is a relief. Saturday was fest and Sunday I packed and moved some of my studio stuff (more on that later).

But first Saturday! Laura, Brad and I spent the day walking around, catching up with old friends, talking amongst ourselves, eating and most importantly, looking lovely!

finished venetian dress

I'm happy to report that my dress held up all day and was actually pretty comfortable. I started getting a cramp in my back around hour 8 but before that it was wonderful. I'm also happy to report that I love this dress! It makes such a difference when you can see it all together with jewelry and accessories. It turns into a real dress, you know?

finished venetian dress

I'm so proud of this bodice! Just look at that curve at the opening! Perfection, if I do say so myself. The necklace is the one I reworked last week and the pin is one of Laura's thrift store finds.

So, that's it. I hope you've all enjoyed reading my little dress diary. It was fun sharing it with you.

If you're interested in reading more about this dress, you can find the dress diary here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

I read a lot. I always have at least one book going at a time, usually more than one. I'm not a fast reader so I don't get through as many books as I'd like but I'm a constant reader at least. When I struggle to find a new book to read, I feel a little lost, a little empty.

You all know how much I obsessed over Twilight. And after reading all four books (twice), I found myself at a bit of a loss. I moped around moaning "how am I ever going to find another book that's as good as Twilight?" And all melodrama aside, the books I read after Twilight definitely did not compare. I'm not saying that Twilight is a great, well written book. It's just that I enjoyed the series so much, the actual act of reading it was so much fun. There was not a boring second, not a moment's thought of putting it down.

It took me six long months to find another book that truly spoke to my heart, that had me hopping into bed as soon as I got home from work, piling up pillows and reading for hours. That book was The Time Traveler's Wife.

the time traveler's wife

Not to give you the wrong idea, it's nothing like Twilight. The writing is interesting and the mood is heavier, grittier. The characters are so real, so complicated and so wonderful. The plot is confusing at first (time travel and all (it's not a sci-fi book)) but I found it gave my brain just the right amount of frustration. There's love and sadness and despair and hope. It's all very complicated and at the same time, it's not. I just can't express the depth of this book or the many thoughts I've had about it, thoughts I have even now...weeks after finishing it.

I don't usually recommend books because I know how varied people's tastes are...I'd hate for someone to pick up a book on my recommendation and feel they've wasted their time. But this book, well, I'm just going to tell you that it's on my top 10, all time, desert island book list. Take that as you will.

Karrie and I saw the movie last weekend and while it was, in most ways, a great adaptation of the book (and quite enjoyable to watch), I think the book was better and more powerful. It was certainly richer. And since most of my pleasure when reading the book came from discovering how everything was intertwined, from watching the plot unfold through the past and present...I'd recommend reading the book first.

Also, even though it has nothing to do with this book: I found a new purse at the thrift store this weekend. Like, an actual new purse! It's aqua(!) and has just enough room (and pockets) for all my stuff. I'm a picky purse buyer so it was like fate! I thought it looked nice with the book so that's why it's in the picture and why I'm talking about it now.

And since I'm nearing the end of one of the books I'm reading and since I want to know more about you all...tell me if you want: what's your favorite book? Or, favorite books? Do you have a go-to book you like to read over and over? This is my favorite question to ask people so I hope you feel like answering!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Venetian: Day 7

First, thank you for sharing your opinions on my sleeves yesterday. After asking everyone I knew and counting your votes, the gold set is the clear winner. So, gold it shall be! And for all you red fans, don't be sad...I might wear them when I go back later in the season.

So, day 7 brings us a finished dress! Whew! I finished sewing the straps in their final positions, added lacing rings (so I can tie the sleeves to the bodice) and added a hook to keep the bottom points of the bodice together. I also found a little bag to hold my money and chapstick and I washed my sleeves and underthings. I also put a new layer of varnish on my flag fan to keep it from squeaking when I spin it around. Isn't it cute? I made it two years ago to use with the blue dress.



I couldn't find my hand knotted (by me!) glass pearl necklace but I found an old necklace in my costume box that I put to pieces and fixed up in the correct style. This was a lucky find because my jewelry supplies are at the new house along with most of my costuming supplies.

So that's it until I have pictures next week. I can't believe I made this dress in a week, not including sleeves. I'd need an extra day or two to make those.

Thanks for coming along on my dress making journey and for the nice compliments and support. Thinking about what I'd blog about the next day really kept me going through the boring/frustrating parts. You guys are the best!

Click here for the final installment.

Show and tell

It's been a while since I did a quilty update because it's been a while since I've quilted anything. I wasn't going to show this until it was closer to being a finished top but since I don't see that happening for a few months, I'll show you now:

new quilt idea

I'll tell you more about it when I have more to show. Just know that I'm loving the pink/orange/yellow/green combination. And using up scraps! And making more scraps (triangles mostly which I hope to use in another quilt someday...still working out ideas.)

And, look what I got in the mail:

fat quarter sets

I like the idea of having lots of fat quarters on hand to use in scrappy quilts but fat quarters are so expensive when compared to yardage ($10/yd? No thank you!) But I found these on sale at fabric.com and the price per yard came out to around $7...with free shipping. That's my kind of deal!

The first is Santorini (Moda) and the one in back is Monaco (Free Spirit). Some of the prints are not my style but most of them really are. And all of them have potential in scrappy quilts or quilts for people who are not me.

I had to laugh when I looked through the Santorini stack last night...there are a few purple/gold fabrics. And being a Minnesotan I immediately thought "hey, these are Minnesota Vikings colors! I can't use these!" Because I don't want a Vikings quilt, you know? How silly. But then I thought "I could make my grandma a Vikings quilt" because she's a big fan (one year she had a purple/gold Vikings christmas tree!) So maybe I will make a Vikings quilt. Do you think Lila Tueller ever imagined that fate for her fabrics?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Venetian: Day 6

Looks like I'm going to finish this dress in exactly a week! Well, a week if I only count the days I actually worked on it, which I am.

Day 6: finished hem.

That's right, no more pins gouging my ankles:

hem of venetian dress

I love hand-sewing hems! I love it in the way I love sewing the binding onto quilts...I like the feeling of tacking the fabric, one stitch at a time, into its final place. I'm a bit of a control freak like that.

Anyway, the inside of the hem is at the bottom of the photo, the outside at the top (the blue needle is pointing to it because it's hard to see...which is the point). All 100" took me about two hours because I'm slow like that. And because I was watching Buffy and got distracted a lot.

I also fiddled around with the shoulder straps a bit...I cut them and repositioned them and I think it toned down the gaping a little bit.

And now, an important decision must be made and I'd like your opinion on the matter. Which sleeves do you think look the best? And sorry about the sloppy bodice, I didn't feel like lacing it up (it takes almost 10 minutes!)

red sleevesgold sleeves

Red velvet or gold silk...I can't decide. Help!

*edit* I made these sleeves a long time ago to wear with my Elizabethan dress...I won't have time to make new sleeves out of my red/gold fabric this week. */edit*

Click here for the next installment.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Venetian: almost a dress

As promised, pictures of my almost finished Venetian dress:

almost finished venetian dress

I forgot my chemise so you'll have to imagine the white t-shirt is a low-cut, puffy sort of shirt.

almost finished venetian dress

I like how the back looks...not as puffy as I thought it would be which is ok. I sort of wish it was appropriate to have a train on this dress. Wouldn't that be sweet? It's a bad idea to walk around at the renaissance festival (or most places) with a train, though.

venetian dress and shoes

These are the shoes I might wear this weekend. I got them at Target and while these shoes are more appropriate, I'm just not that dedicated to historical accuracy.

issues with the bodice

I noticed that the back of the neck was gaping a bit. This is because the angle and placement of the straps in the back is not right. During my pattern making, I added an extra inch to the center back of the bodice to compensate for shrinking when the bones were placed. Turns out, it didn't shrink as much as I expected. This means that the straps are in a different spot than I thought they'd be. And now I have two ways to fix the gaping issue: I can either sew darts at these two points or I can manipulate how the front straps meet the back straps. I think I'd rather try the latter because it'll be less work and there's less chance for disaster. It's not ideal but my shirt will be puffy around the edge of the bodice and might cover up the adjustment.

Either way, I think the dress is mostly a success! I'm working on sleeves so hopefully I'll have them done in time. If not, I'll wear the gold set from two years ago or possibly a red set I have.

Click here for the next installment.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Venetian: Days 4 and 5

Day 4: finish hand stitching the bodice.

Day 5: an almost finished dress!

Let's start day 5 with a picture of my nearly finished bodice:

almost finished bodice

As you can see, the fabric is nice and smooth over the corset and the fit is actually better than I expected. I changed the boning placement along the edges which gave it a stiffer edge than my last Venetian bodice.

Next, I finished pleating the skirt and stitched it to the bodice:

sewing skirt to bodice

I love this part because it's just like hand binding a quilt. The pleats are evenly arranged and stitched to the very edge of the bodice. I decided to put more pleats at the back to make the skirt fuller there. I'm not sure if this was a good decision or not but I'll find out tonight.

When you turn everything right side out, the pleats look like this:

skirt attached to bodice

Some of the stitches are visible on the outside which isn't a desired effect but one I can't seem to avoid. Fortunately, when the dress is worn, the pleats rest on my hips (see the first photo for example of how much hippage the corset gives me) which hides the stitches and puffs out the skirt.

I'm going to wait to show you a picture of the whole dress until I'm wearing it...it'll be more fun that way. Ian said he'll help me mark the hem tonight and I'll ask him to take my picture. I'm pretty excited to see it on me since it looks like a real dress now. I need to finish everything by Wednesday night which is totally doable...I'm cutting it close but not really that close.

Click here for the next installment...an almost finished dress.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A few good finds along the way

Ian and I are taking a break from his birthday day two activities and I thought I'd use it to post some pictures. We got up early and drove to the historic river town of Stillwater and did what little nature photographing we could. Just about the only thing we saw was a black swallowtail butterfly:

black swallowtail butterfly

And this fence:

fence

And then when we were done there, we went to the Indian food buffet and then made a stop at a thrift store where I found these sheets:

sheets

I think the yellow one is so ugly/cute that I almost can't stand it! In a good way! And the green one would make a great summer table cloth for eating out on the deck. Of course, I don't actually have a table to put it on right now so maybe it'll end up as a quilt back or something. But that green...so yummy!

Anyway, we're off to buy Ian a bag for his new camera. He says thanks for all the happy birthday wishes!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Moodiness

Sigh...today is rather dull. At least it is for now. Tonight we'll be celebrating Ian's birthday (because it's his birthday) and tomorrow we're going on a picnic and nature-photographing outing (because I bought him a camera for his birthday...which he already knows about because he picked it out). So my near future will be less dull.

But my present is...sigh...rather tiresome. My Venetian dress update for day 4 is uninteresting so I've decided to include it in a less dull update on day 5 later this weekend.

To break the monotony, here's a terrible photo of more coasters and cloth napkins:

more coasters and napkins

I sent these to the lovely Jennifer. My camera hated this blue/green combination. I tried to add some yellow to the photo to balance things out but I'm not impressed. I have a confusing sort of photoshop program (Gimp) but I never use it because it really is super confusing.

But I've been thinking a lot about mood lately. Like, when I take photos, they're pretty much all the same, all pretty straightforward. So I want to know, are most moody pictures doctored to give the correct feel or are there just super talented photographers who can get the camera to do what they want? I'm not talented in either direction but I want to be.

I guess more practice is in order? Fall is coming and I feel it's the moodiest of all seasons. It's complex, you know? There's the sadness that summer is over, regret over missed opportunities. There's the anticipation of cool weather, of sweaters and tweed, of the holidays and snow. There's the joy of crunchy leaves and spooky nights and crisp mornings. And over all of that is an umbrella of anticipation...the feeling of starting over fresh, left over from my schoolgirl days. Fall is filled with moods of all kinds and I'd like to capture them with my camera. Only I don't know how.

Well, this post has wandered itself right out of the doldrums and into another post entirely. I think I'll leave off here, thinking thoughts of the fall. And what I'll do and what I'll wear and maybe a new haircut and apple picking and knee high stockings...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Praying mantis + alien = terror!

I want to take a break in my costume showing-off to show you a completely different sort of costume. My brother was commissioned by the band Wookie Foot to create a pair of costumes to wear out in the crowd before their performance at the 10,000 Lakes Festival a few weeks ago. This is what he and a friend came up with:

praying mantis/alien costume

They're wearing painters stilts at the highest setting and made the frames for the legs and arms out of PVC conduit that they bent into the correct shapes. The frames are covered with stretchy swimsuit fabric.

This costume is tall:

praying mantis/alien costume

Has a sweet tail and horns:

praying mantis/alien costume

And completely terrifies people:

praying mantis/alien costume
*dramatization*

I'm really proud of the creativity and work David put into this costume. They managed to make two identical costumes in one week and had to spend most of that time making it up as they went. I think they turned out wonderfully and Wookie Foot has already mentioned something about new costumes for the next festival. All in a day's work for a talented artist.

praying mantis/alien costume

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Venetian: Day 3

Day 3 was exciting because I got so much done. First I picked up my super classy boning material of choice:

plastic cable ties

Yes, those are humongous zip-ties. 48" long zip-ties? Who needs zip-ties that huge?

I cut them with my all purpose, super awesome craft scissors. These cut everything! Except for fabric...they do cut it but not well, probably because I use them to also cut plastic zip-ties.

If I were making a real corset, I might use metal boning but for a dress like this, these work really well.

After I put the boning in I "tried it on" and marked where the front opening would be. Then I marked where the front boning would go as well as the lacing strips. Venetian dresses use "ladder lacing" which means one lace is used to make a ladder pattern. Here you can see the lacing strips, the ladder lacing and all the boning. The corset is inside out so you can see everything:

venetian corset

As you can see, my torso is now a nice cone shape. Sexy, no? Well, it's supposed to be...Venetians were pretty sexy. As you can see, even though the cable ties are plastic and fairly bendy, they make for a pretty rigid corset when placed next to each other.

The next step is to attach the fabric to the corset. Normally the corset and bodice would be separate entities but Venetian dresses lend themselves well to the two-in-one construction. It saves a lot of work and guarantees the bodice is just the right shape and size. I traced the corset onto the fabric, cut the fabric (scary!) and folded the edges of the fabric to the inside of the corset. I used Heat and Bond to keep the tabs in place (obviously not period but helpful and I'm all about that):

bodice inside

And the front, all smooth and shiny. I was planning to center one of the medallions in the back but that placement put medallions on the front as well...in an awkward place to have circles, if you know what I mean. So, I decided to center it on a different pattern:

bodice front

The next step is to sew a running stitch around the edges to secure the fabric to the corset. I'm about a third of the way done with the hand sewing and even though my stitches aren't even, it looks so much better than machine stitching.

hand stitching

I'm sure the purists out there are groaning over my slap-dash construction methods but as long as it looks good on the outside, I don't care how it's made. I know the right way to do it, I just choose not to because I've decided it doesn't really matter. Ooo...them's fightin' words! Some day I might want to make a costume the "right" way but today is not that day and this is not that costume.

Click here for the next installment.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Venetian: Day 1 and 2

Hmmm, I'm finding it challenging to write a dress diary on my blog. I just don't know what information is necessary or interesting or if anyone even cares. So, I guess I'll just keep it simple and you can ask questions if you feel like it. Then everyone wins!

Day 1: The corset.

Correct corsetry and undergarments are so important when it comes to creating the right silhouette. I spent a few hours on day 1 tracing my old Venetian corset and adapting it to fit the new and improved 2009 Crystal. Here are my two layers of cotton duck cloth, pinned and waiting for me to sew the bottom edge together:

venetian corset

After I sewed the bottom edge, the next step was to mark and sew the boning channels:

venetian corset

Sorry for the bad picture...and there are more bad pictures to come so sorry in advance. I cut the fabric for my skirt but didn't have the energy to start sewing it. And then I couldn't find my boning so I called it a night.

Day 2: The skirt.

The skirt is made from two panels of 54" wide silk. Laura found this fabric first but let me have it because she's a great friend. The original cost of this fabric was $60/yd but through some lucky circumstances, I got it for just $10.50/yd. Laura and I almost died!

venetian skirt

I've gotten quite good at matching patterns on skirts, if I do say so myself. I've also gotten quite good at cartridge pleating (I love that I'm so modest):

venetian skirt

I really love the hand-sewing aspect of costuming. Some things, like cartridge pleating, can't be done by machine. I like sitting down with my needle and thread and an episode (or four) of Buffy (the Vampire Slayer, of course) and just sewing. With the exception of the tv, it's just like the days before sewing machines, before electricity. Calm, quiet, slow and steady.

Anyway, back to the pleating. I put a layer of cotton batting in the fold so my pleats would be just a bit puffier. There's more pleating work to be done but it has to wait until the corset is finished.

Click here for the next installment. I'll be modeling my corset...scandalous!

Venetian in a week...or two

Did I ever tell you that I like to make historical costumes? I first attended the Minnesota Renaissance Festival when I was 19 and I knew that first day, even before I had made a costume, that I was a costumer at heart. I made two Elizabethan dresses and started (and never finished) a few more. Two years ago, my friend Laura and I made Venetian dresses for Italian Carnival weekend:



I'm in blue, Laura in pink. We stayed up nearly all night finishing our dresses and had a blast at the renaissance festival the next day.

My blue dress doesn't fit anymore (it barely fit when I made it...oops) so I'm making a new dress for this year. Actually, I'm making a new dress for opening weekend, which is less than two weeks away. And I bought the fabric three days ago. Yikes!

This means no studio move yet, no social life (other than celebrating Ian's b-day on Friday and Saturday) and one frustrated costumer (since half of my craft supplies are already at the new house).

I'm going to do a mini dress diary and I hope to have a finished dress to show you by Monday. And if I have time I'm going to make sleeves next week and then I can show you a proper photo of Laura and me out at fest next weekend. She's re-working her Venetian dress right now so there will be lots of fun stuff to show you.

Click here for the next installment of the dress diary.

Are any of you Renaissance Festival goers? Did you ever make a costume to wear to fest? If so, do you have a picture? I'm sure we'd all love to see!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Easy quilts for beginners

There are some new and not-yet-started quilters reading my blog and I got a question about which patterns are best for beginners. Something fast and easy, something that won't lead to a half finished quilt top. I took some time to think about it and here are my recommendations:

First, whole cloth quilts are the easiest of easy quilts. There's no piecing, no measuring, just two pieces of fabric with a layer of batting in between. I love this ultra modern quilt from Katie Did. The straight line quilting is easy and fun and you can pick any solid or patterned fabrics you like. I've been planning to make one of these for a while now but I can't decide which colors to use.

If you want to try your hand at piecing a quilt top, I recommend one that uses minimal patchwork and large portions of solid fabric, like this quilt. Or this, this, this, this or this. Or what about stripes?

Another easy one is a Stacked Coins quilt. Once you have your coins stacked, you just add a row of sashing in between. This means there's no points for you to line up. Also, this pattern is very versatile...see examples here, here, here, here and here.

If you want to try lining up points, you can't go wrong with a 9-patch or a squares quilt.

A zig-zag quilt (made with rectangles!) makes for a flashy quilt but it's as easy as sewing squares together.

And then we have my favorite! Log cabin quilts are also very easy but a bit more time consuming. That said, they're also more interesting (in my opinion) than simple squares quilts. They look complicated but they are actually very easy and fun to make. I prefer the scrappy look but you can plan your fabrics just as easily. I make my log cabins like this tutorial because I hate cutting fabric into pieces when it's not necessary. Log cabins can be pretty fast when you make them this way. She goes on to show some ways the cabins can be arranged to make the quilt top.

Here are two more log cabin tutorials that I like. Or you can use the same techniques to make one big log cabin! I've wanted to make one of these for a long time but keep forgetting.

Tips for speed:

-Sashing between blocks or borders on your quilt top adds inches without having to sew up more blocks.

-Chain piece and strip piece if possible

-Use a rotary cutter, clear quilting ruler and self healing mat.

-Piecing 12 large blocks takes as much time as piecing 12 small blocks...but 12 large blocks can be all you need to finish a quilt top. If your blocks are small, you'll need many more to finish a top which will require more work/time.

-Keep it simple. As you can see...these patterns are all very simple but the quilts are all gorgeous! Complicated does not always mean better or more beautiful.

Tips for finishing a quilt:

-Make a quilt that's large enough for you to enjoy. This will provide incentive to finish it without being so large that it's overwhelming. My favorite size is around 60"x80". This way I can piece the back out of two widths of fabric. Sew two pieces of 60" fabric along the selvedge edge and ta-da! Instant quilt back.

-If you want to make a smaller quilt, I suggest making a baby quilt. And if you don't know any babies, doll quilts, table runners and wall hangings are fun too (although not to everyone's tastes). Make it something you will use or give away, give it a purpose so you have a reason to finish it.

-Pick fabrics and a pattern that you simply cannot live without! Don't think "this is a practice quilt, I should make it out of these boring fabrics I already have lying around." Trust me, this plan will only lead to a quilt that is boring to sew and easy to abandon. Treat yourself to something fun and interesting, something you LOVE. It may be the only quilt you ever make so make it a good one.

-Don't get overwhelmed. If something's not working, if you get frustrated, take a break. I give you permission to take as long as you need...days, months, years? Quilting is supposed to be fun so if you're not having fun, take a break until it sounds like fun again.

So, that's it! I hope this helps out a few aspiring quilters and, of course, feel free to ask questions. I know quilting seems overwhelming but it's actually pretty easy once you break it up in parts.

For those of you who are already quilters, do you have any ideas for easy quilt blocks or patterns? Any tips?

Garden party

I love when I buy something on etsy and overpay on shipping (etsy's shipping calculator sucks). This little bit of money gets refunded (by the good sellers anyway) and that little bit of money sits in my paypal account, just waiting for me to spend it. It's like free money. It's out of my bank account, it's as good as gone...only it's not actually gone.

Today I had enough "free" money to buy a flat rate envelope's worth of fabric including this beauty from Anna Maria Horner:

garden party fabric

It's from her Garden Party line, "Guest of Honor" in Ice. The print is huge and the plan is to use it for the backing on a quilt. I'd like to use the flowers as a guide for the quilting. Won't that be fun?

Of course, knowing me, it'll take a few years before I get around to making the top that will go with this fabric. But I'll be ready when I do!

In other news, I've decided to move my sewing tables, my machine and my fabrics to the new house this weekend. I moved my fabric shelves last weekend and I'm as between projects as I'll ever be so it just seems like the right time. And since the sewing room is the only reason why I'm still staying at the old house, moving it will probably help speed up the packing process.

I'm a little sad, though. I'm not a fan of change and as an extreme homebody, moving is always so traumatic for me. I just have to keep telling myself that this is a good idea and besides, there's nothing I can do about it now. Be stoic, go with the flow, accept change. Concentrate on my new studio and my quiet, secluded backyard. Breathe deeply, think positively...it'll all work out for the best.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Happy accident

I was at the fabric store the other night looking for 505 Spray Basting but they didn't have it. But, they DID have the Dresden Plate ruler I was looking for a while back. And for 30% off!

Just look at these little...um, petals? I don't know what they're called but I love them!

dresden plate petals

And just so you all know, Ian hates Dresden Plates. I threatened to blog about it while we were having our little "Dresden Plates are the best! (says me) No, they're not! (says Ian)" discussion the other day.

His argument is that no matter what fabrics are used, the pattern itself is just too old fashioned. Which got me thinking. I feel exactly the opposite. I mean, just look at these dresden plates or these grandmother's flower garden quilts and tell me they feel old fashioned.

In my mind, color and fabric choice have more to do with the mood of the quilt than the pattern. I feel that traditional patterns can be reclaimed for today by updating the color choices. On the flip side, I feel that very "modern" quilt patterns can be made to feel more traditional by using the appropriate fabrics.

How do you feel about this issue? Are there certain blocks that just scream "old fashioned" to you, no matter the fabric choice? Do you prefer modern or traditional quilt blocks/patterns/colors? Inquiring minds want to know!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

July Giveaway Month: finished!

Good morning everyone! I bet you want to know who won the last prize in my July giveaway? To get right to it, the winner of the quilt (again, drawn by Ian this morning) is:

Allison the Meep!

Congratulations Allison! I really hope you like the quilt. I have a feeling you'll have many opportunities to cuddle up with it.

Thanks to everyone who participated in my little giveaway. I really enjoyed making things that I thought you'd like and I also enjoyed getting to know you all a little better. I hope to see you around here again!

And, if you're sad that July giveaways are over, don't fret! My friend Elaine is having an August Giveaway Month on her blog! She spins and hand dyes yarn and knits the most beautiful things and she's so nice too! You should definitely stop in and say hi.

Here's hoping your July was great and that your August will be even better.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I just want to sew!

Instead of packing the studio to move it to the new house, I've been sewing in the studio, unpacking things:

summery scraps

I know! I shouldn't be sewing! But I always feel like sewing when I have a big project that needs avoiding. (Packing, I shake my fist at you!)

This weekend my parents were in town and we moved my bed and some boxes to the new house. I still have the daybed at the old house so I'm still living there. You know, so I can pack stuff.

Maybe the key is to move the studio and then I'll have no distractions at the old house. Or will I simply abandon the old house and all my stuff so I can play with fabric in my new studio? This sounds more likely.

Sigh...I just want to sew...

Monday, August 3, 2009

A question

Has anyone here ever used a rotary pinking blade with their rotary cutter?

I'm curious...do the edges get caught on your ruler? Or are you supposed to use them without a ruler? I need to know because it's very important. Ok, so maybe it's not that important but it would save me a lot of time. Thanks!

Summer of '09

Yesterday Ian and I went on a picnic at Minnehaha Falls. There's a great seafood restaurant at the park but you have to get there early or all the fun stuff is sold out. We walked to the park and had our food within 20 minutes...an all time record. Usually we have to wait in line for 30 minutes and wait another 30 for our food...sometimes even longer.

Instead of bringing our usual picnic blanket along, I brought the Summer of '09 quilt:

Summer of '09 quilt

It was early June and I was feeling all nostalgic for the days when I'd spend my birthday up north over 4th of July weekend. Then I got a call from my mom inviting us up for that weekend this year. And then I thought it would be fun to make a blanket to use while watching fireworks. And then I remembered this gorgeous quilt over at Red Pepper Quilts which gave me inspiration for the colors.

Summer of '09 quilt

Her quilt is much lovelier, of course. I mean, that tan sets off the blue and red so well! I thought about using a similar tan in my quilt but in the end, I went with good old white because I'm not very brave and it's also what I had in my stash. I picked out reds and pinky-reds and blues and I also found some nautical prints that I bought a long time ago. And since I didn't have a lot of time, I made some super fast nine-patch blocks.

The finished size is 45"x65" which means it's smaller than I planned, nearly by half. But I was running out of time and knew that if I didn't finish it before 4th of July weekend, I'd never finish it. The back is a sand print (I used some on the front too) which I thought would be good for setting out on the beach (they shoot off the fireworks over the lake). There are two layers of batting to give us a little extra padding while sitting on the ground.

I finished the quilting (free motion meander) and binding (by hand) in one night while watching episode after episode of Laverne and Shirley (finished at 2am). And the next day I washed it and packed it in the car. And then, after all that rushing, we were so tired from swimming all day that we didn't make it to the fireworks. Instead, I curled up under my new quilt, made Ian curl up under it with me, and watched a movie with my family. And ate potato chips...my guilty pleasure at the cabin.

So, back to this weekend! Ian and I took our lunch and our blanket and picnicked under a shady tree.

summer picnic

And while we were at the park I saw some of my renaissance festival friends. They were practicing their act for this year's show:

friends at the park

My friend Ken is on the right. I was just a young lass of 19 when we met. Oh, 19, how fun you were! What great times we had together! 28 is fun too but not in the same way, 19, so don't be jealous. I still love you the most.

Anyway, they're playing some sort of strategy game. The kids love it...they get to roll huge dice, move the ships around and "blast" them to pieces. Good times!