Friday, December 14, 2012

Last Minute Gift Ideas, Just in Case

I can't believe the holidays are nearly here. It sort of sneaks up on me every year because I don't celebrate christmas and never really pay attention to the date on the calendar (I even missed my brother's birthday this year). All I know is that my parents are coming to my house for the weekend before christmas and that the day is rapidly approaching. (On actual christmas I'll be at the theater watching Les Miserables and eating an entire tub of popcorn by myself. It's going to be awesome!)

Even though I don't celebrate religiously, I still enjoy giving gifts to my friends and family. And were I paying attention to the date, I would have started making things much sooner. As it is, I'll be spending the next week frantically sewing upstairs in my studio. And since you might be in the same position, I wanted to share my go-to, very favorite, last minute gift ideas. You can seriously finish each of these in an hour or two, depending on how long it takes you to pick out just the right fabric.

In no particular order:

Cozy flannel (or not flannel) pillowcases by Ashley at Film in the Fridge

The ever popular Jane Market Bag by Alicia Paulson

Mobius Scarf by Fancy Tiger

Drawstring bags from my own pattern

And last but not least, I'm adding this clever little doll to my list, even though the one I made for Ian's niece took an entire morning to finish. Check out Emily's other dolls for inspiration for the darling painted faces and outfits.

A Black Apple Doll for Olivia

I made a flannel pillow and blanket set to go with her doll but when Olivia's older, I plan to make a ton of accessories. To get you started, here's a pattern for a darling beret, cape and shoes.

A Black Apple Doll for Olivia

And with that I leave you to enjoy your holiday (or non-holiday). I hope the coming days are magical and stress-free and all kinds of wonderful!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Grandmother's Flower Garden: First Blooms

Check it out, you guys! I finished the first two flowers for my Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt.

great grandmother's flower garden

I felt pretty wild and out of control when I was sewing these. I pieced and ironed, pieced and ironed...ripped out stitches, lined up edges...ironed...ironed...and after (and because of?) all that, I pretty much knew it wasn't going to work.

great grandmother's flower garden

But then I fliped them over and they looked just like they were supposed to! Hurray!

great grandmother's flower garden

It took me about 2 hours to cut, mark, sew and iron each flower. Not bad considering how long it would have taken me to sew one by hand (hint: forever!). I also think, with a little more practice, I'll be able to sew them better and faster. I'm still nervous about making an entire quilt but I'll think about that later...much later.

(Finished hexagons measure 1 1/8" on each edge, machine sewn using this tutorial)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Grandmother's Flower Garden

Since most of my Sunday quilts will take a long time to finish, I'd like to start making a few blocks here and there. I don't want to jump in like a crazy woman and then get sick of everything halfway through. I'm trying to set small, manageable goals and, most of all, have fun and not stress out about it.

If you've read my blog for a while, you know I have an on-again, off-again relationship with hexagons. About once a year I get all excited to make a grandmother's flower garden quilt and about a day after that, I give up again. Every year I say "this year will be different" and every year I fail miserably.

My only experience sewing hexagons is English paper piecing. I like it alright but if I'm being honest, I don't really enjoy hand sewing. I think I do and I make up a cozy spot on the couch and sit down with my sewing and feel all Ma Ingalls-y...for about two minutes until I remember that I don't like hand sewing at all! So, you know, that's what happens with the hexies.

summery hexagons

Just yesterday I was perusing blogs and found Kati's beautiful flower garden quilt. Not only is it visually stunning but it's also pieced by machine using Y seams. What the what? I didn't think anyone actually did that.

But then I remembered a tutorial I'd seen a while back. A little searching and I found it! Check out Liz's spectacular video if you're at all interested in learning this magical technique.

This is pretty much my last chance to make a grandmother's flower garden quilt (we all know by now that I'll never be able to paper piece one) so I hope I like piecing hexagons this way.

And I've finally decided on the pattern. This beautiful quilt made by Rachelle's great-grandmother is exactly what I've been searching for. I love how each flower is made with a print and a coordinating solid.

My plan is to make flowers while I'm working on other projects. If I have a fabric out that would make a great outer ring, I'll pick a coordinating solid from my stash, cut out some hexagons and use Liz's fantastic method to sew up each flower. I'll worry about how to complete the quilt top later. I'm trying to avoid getting overwhelmed right now.

I think I'll use this Etchings fabric for the center hexagons. It's my favorite!

etchings fabric

My goal for this weekend is to sew one flower, photograph it and blog it early next week. How about you? Do you have any goals for the weekend?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Plan for Sunday Instead

Lately, I've been feeling the need to be more organized. More than that, to actually plan and prepare for the future. I'm not talking about retirement accounts or making sure we have food in the house. What I've really been thinking about is how short life is and how many quilts I want to make before I die. How's that for getting my priorities straight?


I have an old quilt that my great grandma made. It's all torn and ratty but I love having it and keeping what's left of it safe. I love looking at the fabrics she used.


When I'm old, I'd like to have piles and piles of my own quilts. I want to look at the fabrics and remember this time in my life. And when I die, I want the quilts to go to people who will enjoy them, who will love looking at all the different fabrics, who will respect them and keep them safe.


I've been thinking about all the quilts I really, really want to make, the stacks of fabrics I've saved to use in a special quilt...someday. But what am I waiting for? I don't understand why I've spent most of my time NOT making my someday quilts, NOT using my someday fabrics.


It's easy to mix up priorities. Making decisions and following your dreams can be overwhelming that we'd rather not start, we'd rather play it safe.

It reminds me of how my best friends Mike and Karrie started dating. After a very long time spent secretly (and then not so secretly) crushing on each other, Mike was cautious, he wanted to wait. He told Karrie that maybe they could go on a date someday. Karrie, pretending to misunderstand said "Sunday?" Karrie couldn't, wouldn't wait for someday. Their Sunday did come and a year later they were married.

I think of them when I put something off for someday. It's a wonderful lesson, one I've taken to heart many times. I know that someday doesn't always come. I try to plan for Sunday instead.

(This is why I'm terrified of tying quilts, by the way. The more quilting, the better!)

And so I've been thinking about quilts. If I want to have heirloom quilts someday, I need to start making them today. But what ARE my "Sunday" quilts? I'd never really thought about it before. It took me a while to decide...and the list may change...but for now, here are my top ten "Sunday" quilts:

Dresden plate
Lone Star
Trip Around the World
Cathedral Window Quilt (I just want to own one someday...I know I will never have the patience to make one.)
Arkansas Crossroads
Postage Stamp Quilt
Tiny Triangles
Double Wedding Ring
Grandmother's Flower Garden

And, of course, my "Sunday" fabrics:
The Birds and the Bees
Far Far Away 2
Dream On
Flea Market Fancy
Castle Peeps
My three bins of selvedges

I've already started cutting up Neptune to make a Trip Around the World quilt and I've ordered the Fons and Porter Hexagon Ruler so I can get started on cutting hexagons.


So, how about you? What are your Sunday quilts? Your Sunday fabrics? Maybe a non-quilting Sunday project/goal/dream? If you need any encouragement, you've come to the right place! I'm definitely going to need your encouragement. Let's help each other plan for Sunday today!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Three Little Bears

I don't have many work all know I'm a solitary sort of person. Still, work days are long and having people to talk to around the office makes for a better day. In an effort to kindle these tiny flames of friendship, I've started asking some of the ladies to go out to lunch with me. It's been a great way to get to know everyone a little better.

I've grown particularly close with one woman in the group. Heidi and I first got to know each other while driving to a very far away meeting. After talking nonstop during the 5 hour road trip, we were sad for the day to be over.

A few months ago, Heidi told me she was expecting her third boy (her son is 3, her step-son is 8). I immediately started planning a quilt for the new baby. In the middle of cutting fabric, I decided it would be fun to make a quilt for each of the three boys. I already had the fabric out so the cutting part was easy. Only after I cut all the fabric did I realize what I'd gotten myself into. I'd have to actually finish three quilts in just a few months.

The good news is that after a few freak-out quilting marathons, I finished them a week before the baby was born!

Three Little Bears Quilts

I wanted all three quilts to have the same pattern and fabrics to symbolize their family...they're all brothers even if they don't all live in the same house every day. When they're all together at Heidi's house, they can snuggle with these matching blankets and enjoy their time together as a family.

Because that's what boys do, right? They spend most of their time snuggling and being all cute...right?! Poor Heidi...

Three Little Bears Quilts

As I was sewing these quilts, I kept thinking of Goldilocks and the Three Bears...I wanted each brother to have a quilt that's just right.

The baby bear quilt is made up of 4" (finished) HST blocks and measures 40"x40".

The middle bear quilt is made up of 6.5" (finished) HST blocks and measures 52"x65".

The big bear quilt is made up of 9" (finished) HST blocks and measures 54"x72".

Three Little Bears Quilts

The pattern and fabrics are completely 100% inspired by this most beautiful quilt.

Three Little Bears Quilts

All are backed in flannel and quilted the same. None have batting because I wanted these to be soft summer-weight quilts.

Three Little Bears Quilts

I have to tell you that I'm totally in love with this quilting. It took a long time but I loved every second. I quilted for 12 hours one day and when I came down at the end of the night, I told Ian that it was my best day ever! I think he was a little offended.

Three Little Bears Quilts

I spray basted for the first time and it worked really well. There was no stretching, creeping or puckering...even when quilting on the diagonal. I wonder how much of that is because I didn't use batting.

After making three nearly identical quilts, I was a little sick of blue/green/grey and half square triangles. But when I gave them to Heidi...well, I sort of wish I'd made just one more for me. I'll keep that in mind for next time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Lightweight Coverlet Tutorial (Bojagi!)

One thing I love about having a quilt blog is getting to share tutorials. It's been forever since my last tutorial and I just finished something I think you'll like!

What I want to show you today is more of a technique than a project. The tutorial shows how I made a lightweight coverlet for my bed but this technique can be used to make tablecloths, towels, clothing or curtains. You can use any fabric, lightweight to heavy. What makes this technique really special is that your finished object will be only one layer and, with certain fabrics, reversible.


What I'd like to show you today is a traditional Korean patchwork called Bojagi (or Pojagi). It was love at first sight when Victoria posted about her gorgeous Pojagi panels on her blog: The Silly BooDilly.

I read up on different techniques (including Victoria's wonderful tutorial) and did some experimenting. Now I'm excited to share with you my preferred way to make Bojagi fabric.

Any kind of fabric
Sewing machine

Take two pieces of fabric and place together wrong side to wrong side (or right side to right side). Layer so that the edge of the top fabric is at least 1/2" away from the edge of the bottom fabric (if your fabric is thicker than quilting cotton, you may want to increase this distance). Sew 1/4" from the edge of the top fabric.


When you open your two pieces, you'll have a smaller and a larger flap.


Press the larger flap over the smaller flap. I use an iron on both sides to get the seam nice and crisp.



Once your seam is ironed, start tucking the larger flap under the smaller flap.


Press with your iron to make sure the flap stays tucked under.



Sew close to the edge of the flap, making sure to always catch the flap with the needle.


If you sewed your pieces wrong side to wrong side, you will have two lines of stitching on the front of your piece and only one on the back.


If you sewed your pieces right side to right side, you will have one line of stitching on the front and two on the back.


Start adding more pieces. Always layer your pieces at least 1/2" apart.


Fold the larger flap over the shorter, tuck under and iron.


Sew close to the edge of the flap.



Add pieces until you reach your desired size. For my coverlet, I sewed strips of the same lengh (but different widths) together until I got a squarish block. I sewed the blocks together into rows then sewed the rows together.


Once your piece is the correct size, you can finish the edges a few ways. You can add a binding if you want to "frame" your piece or you can simply fold and sew the edges like I did.

Fold your edge over 3/4"-1" and iron (I try not to worry about being too precise here.)


Tuck the edge under and iron flat.


Sew near the edge from end to end, backstitching at the start and finish. Repeat on all four sides, folding the corners when you get to them.



At this point, you have a finished piece of fabric!



As always, thanks for reading and let me know if you have questions. Please do check out all of Victoria's Pojagi panels for more inspiration. My favorite is the all green one!

Here are some more great ideas for Bojagi patchwork:
-Shannon is planning to make a shower curtain!
-I've always secretly wanted to make a patchwork skirt.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Crystal Dreams of...???

Last night, Ian and I watched an amazing documentary about sushi. Only it wasn't really about sushi. It was about an ordinary man who has dedicated his life to greatness, to perfection, in short: to mastering the art of sushi.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (available on Netflix streaming) is inspirational to say the least. Jiro Ono is 85 years old and has been perfecting sushi for 75 years. It is (almost literally) all he does. He says:

"Once you decide on your occupation... you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success... and is the key to being regarded honorably."

I've been thinking about this and what it means in my life. I'm obviously not in love with my job but I AM in love with my creative work. Except...I haven't been behaving like it. I get tired of my projects, abandon them halfway through. I sit on the couch and watch tv rather than force myself to go into the studio. My back hurts, I'm tired, sewing is repetitive, painting takes too much effort.


Why is it that before last night I never realized what being in love with my work meant? The secret of success...immerse yourself in your work, fall in love with it, never complain about it, dedicate your life to mastering your skill. Like all relationships, you get out what you put in. No wonder sewing gets boring...I don't strive for greatness. No wonder the thought of painting is overwhelming...I have not dedicated my life to perfecting my skills.

"I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I'll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is."

I used to think doing the same thing over and over again was a waste of time...why not move on to something that poses new challenges? After watching this movie, I understand that it is not one or the other that cultivates satisfaction. We must work to improve skills we already have and use them to push our work to new heights, to climb, to try to reach the top even though no one knows where the top is.


I have much more thinking to do about this but in the meantime, if you feel at all stuck, bored, uninspired, imperfect, incomplete...please watch this documentary. If you don't feel any of those things (lucky!) but you really, really love sushi, this is also the documentary for you.

(A note about the photos in this post...while writing this, I remembered the time I made a bunch of Dresdens for my friend Jen...a project that, had I been making it for myself, I would have quit after the first one. But I didn't quit...instead, I worked hard for days and never once got bored, never once wanted to quit. There was something so peaceful yet exciting about making those Dresdens. It was repetitive but with each blade sewn, each circle completed, each Dresden sewn to the background fabric, I felt that much closer to perfecting Dresdens. It was one tiny moment in a life-long pursuit of artistic perfection. It was one step closer to the top...wherever that may be.)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Avada Kedavra!

What do you do when your friend's kid turns 8 and has a Harry Potter themed birthday party and you have no idea what 8 year olds actually want for their birthdays?  Make him his very own Harry Potter themed banner, of course!

julian banner
(It's not this wonky in real life...sigh...)

Literally the only thing I regret about not having kids is that I have no way to know if a gift is age appropriate.  It makes me feel all weird and stressed out.  Like, I try to remember what sort of things I wanted when I was 8 but I can't remember!

Fortunatly for me, I don't have many friends who have kids.  Also fortunately, Allison said Julian liked the banner and he sent the most adorable thank you note.

julian banner

If you or someone you know loves Harry Potter and you want to make yourself/them HP themed quilted things, you HAVE to check out Jennifer's Harry Potter pattern page.  She's so awesome and has paper pieced patterns for all things Harry Potter (and also things NOT Harry Potter if that's more your style).

Don't know how to paper piece?  Don't worry, she has you covered!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Busy Summer

I can't believe it's August!  Last year at this time I was in London.  This year I'm busy in other ways...including staying up late to watch the London Olympics.


I've been practicing the accordion.  I can now play 8 notes (badly!) and 5 chords (pretty well).  I've never tried to learn to play an instrument before.  It's a challenge that I find invigorating rather than depressing.  I prefer to be good at things right away but I find that improving slowly but steadily is nice in its own way.  I can see now that with enough practice, I'll be good at the accordion someday if not today.


I've also been enjoying my ballroom dancing class.  I can now do an (admittedly mediocre) Around the World (I tried to google a video for you guys but the internet thinks I'm searching for international ballroom dancing instead of a dance move).  You'll never believe this but I actually went out dancing the other night!  It was a variety dance night at a nearby bar.  Variety indeed!  They had both kinds of music: country and western.  We were expecting more swing (the website told us there would be swing!) so we were a little disappointed.  But, not to be deterred, we danced swing anyway since the two-step uses the same timing.  And get this: not one guy asked me to dance!  Can you believe it?  I'm super nice!  I did manage to convince some of our guy friends to dance with me...and Karrie and I danced together quite a bit.  We had a great time but still, a girl likes to be asked to dance on occasion.


I've also been sewing!  I've managed to complete 4 quilt tops in the past month which feels super good!  Two were recent starts (gifts!) but two were half finished tops that had been sitting in a storage bin for years.  I'm not sure when I'll quilt them but for now, just finishing the tops feels like a major accomplishment.


I've also been getting out of the house more, mostly in the manner of dinner with friends.  Ian and I saw Moonrise Kingdom which was awesome!  We saw The Merry Wives of Windsor and had a picnic...I love an outdoor play!  I also went to California for a week to visit Ian's parents, sister and niece. 


So, anyway, that's what's up with me these days.  What are you up to?!