Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bee in my bonnet

A friend invited me to go garage-saleing with her a few weeks ago. Having never done anything like that before, I joined her. It's a lot of fun! I've been out with her a few times now. Most of the time, I don't find much... mostly clothes for the boy. But last week I went to a fabric/craft garage sale and found some nifty stuff (I apologize for the horrible picture... I'm still learning):

Friday fabric finds 7-25-08
Included are 5.5 yards of great vintage-looking cottons, a yard of lovely green woolen, a quilting hoop (now I just need to learn how to hand quilt!), five black zippers, and a package of 1.5" calico charm squares from Keepsake Fabrics. All of this loot for the bargain price of $15.25!

Since then, I've been obsessing about that little package of charm squares. I've just felt this need to do something with them. Now. So, with the blocks of my Star Quilt Along quilt sitting on the floor taunting waiting for me, I found myself cutting and sewing something completely different. I ended up with this:

Pink 'n' Blue top
Pink 'n' Blue! The pattern is from the book Bits and Pieces: 18 Small Quilts from Fat Quarters and Scraps by Karen Costello Soltys ("Americana Nine Patch," pages 29-31). I used some stash fabric for the background and border and nearly half of the little charm square package. It is 21.5" square. I was really excited at how quickly it came together (it definitely helped that all the little pink and blue squares were already cut).

This is my first attempt at a small quilt. It is so cute! I don't know what I will do with it once it's completed, but I'm sure something will come to me before it's done. It's tempting to try and do some hand quilting on it since it is a small project. But I don't really know how to do that, and I have no idea when I'd actually get around to doing it. So, I'm thinking machine quilting might be the way to go.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Star Quilt Along, Weeks 12 & 13

It's been awhile since I've done a Star Quilt Along update. I have not been sitting idle. I've got all of my blocks completed!

Week 12:
Star Quilt Along week 12 block
Week 13:
Star Quilt Along week 13 block
Currently, I'm working on the sashing. I've also got a bucket of prairie points ready to be attached—extra exciting because I've never done a prairie point edge before, so it is all new. I've always loved the look and feel of all those little triangles along the edges of quilts, so I can't wait to see how it all comes together in this one. My hope is that I'll get all of my blocks together in the next week.

It's so exciting seeing how it is coming together!!! Thanks so much to Amandajean for creating and leading us through this wonderful design.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: BR-6

Dear Jane block BR-6Block number/name: BR-6 “Frank’s Rickrack”

Date completed: July 24, 2008

Number of pieces: 22

Notes on block: This triangle was a scary one. I probably should have made it easier on myself and redrafted the top to be pieced, but I didn’t. I pieced the bottom portion. Then I started work on the top teepee section. I appliquéd the little bar onto the green background and then reverse appliquéd the diamond shape around that. The last step was to appliqué the bottom portion to the top part. It actually ended up working pretty well, even if it was a pain in the patootie.

I really didn’t expect to be able to complete this in one evening. But, with Lord of the Rings: Return of the King as my companion (extended edition, of course), I was able to get it done.

Motivated by Anina’s progress chart, I went ahead and attempted (yet again) to make one similar. I have been keeping a chart, but it's HTML and pretty lame compared to her chart. I think I did pretty well this time, though it took me awhile to do. My Paint Shop Pro skills are seriously lacking. I just need to figure out a good way to do the triangles. I was able to get this one in there, but haven’t been able to get the others to work. But it’s a good start.

Robin's Dear Jane progress, 7-25-2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Zoo Party Done!

The final stitches were completed in the wee hours last night—just in time for the baby shower today!

Zoo Party front
I'm thrilled with how it came together! And it looks just like the EQ design I did. I'll admit, as I was cutting out all of the fabric, I was kicking myself because all of those center diamonds were on the bias. And I had all those half-square triangles on the bias too. Eeep. Fortunately, I tried to be extra careful in handling them, and everything went together without a hitch.

Zoo Party quilting detail
I did free-motion quilting in each of the diamonds and through all of the sashing. I'm pleased with the result. But I realized on Saturday evening when I finally sat down to quilt that I didn't have enough thread to do everything as originally planned. I ended up using three different colors to make it work, and had to skip out on quilting the outside borders. Fortunately, they're pretty narrow (3.5" finished), so it should be fine.

Zoo Party back
I used a flannel back. It's the first time I've tried that on a quilt. I really like the result as it is very soft and snuggly, and shows off the quilting quite nicely. But I didn't account for the extra thickness when I sewed on the binding. It worked out, but it is stuffed tighter than I'd like. Now I know that in the future, I need to move my needle position over a little so that it will fold over easier.

Zoo Party label
The mama-to-be and her son are my zoo buddies, thus inspiring the quilt's name. We actually made a trip to the zoo yesterday and she mentioned that she has recently been fascinated by owls. Coincidentally, there is an owl motif in the fabric. So I went ahead and brought that into the label. Ah, serendipity!

And best of all, she loves the quilt! She actually had some tears in her eyes as she unfolded it and looked at it. I'm a very happy and proud quilter right now.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: E-10

Another visit to the way-back machine for this block. This is one of the three I completed back in 2004. And, boy, you can sure tell by looking at it! It is tempting to re-do it (I mean, look at those melons!). But I'm going to keep it. It seems like a big part of creating a Dear Jane quilt is the journey. And it's kind of cool to see where I started and how I've grown since then. My quilting skills have come a long way! :)

This is my journal entry for this block from 2004:

Dear Jane block E-10Block number/name: E-10 "Five & Dime"

Date completed: October 25, 2004

Number of pieces: 6

Notes on block: Tonight I attended my first meeting of the Austin Area Quilt Guild Dear Jane Bee! I had been thinking about going since last November, and have just chickened-out every time. But this time when I got the email invitation, I said yes and offered to bring the chocolate treat (I made chocolate-marbled cheesecake squares from Cooking Light). It was at Andi's house. I'm so glad I went!!! All of the ladies (most of whose names I can't remember—ugh) were very friendly and welcoming. I (of course) didn't say much—but really enjoyed listening to what others had to say, and (every so often) I'd say something (but not too much). Man, I'm a chicken!—But I went! Baby steps! This block was pretty challenging for me because of the applique—I'm not too good at it. Far from perfect, but good enough that I want to keep it (has character). I figure by the end of this quilt, I'll be an applique expert.

I'm still struggling to figure out what I want to do color/design-wise. I'm just feeling more and more that I'm going to take Stacy's advice and just go for it—the random look. I'm not sure why this is bothering me so much (enough that I'm still thinking about this decision)—maybe I'm just too anal. So it's good for me, the randomness.

And after this block, I took a 4 year Dear Jane hiatus. Needless to say, I never managed to attend another meeting of the Dear Jane Bee.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: A-3 & C-2

Dear Jane block A-3Block number/name: A-3 “Hunter’s Moon”

Date completed: July 18, 2008

Number of pieces: 9

Notes on block: Ah, appliqué. So soothing! Particularly after working on the piecing extravaganza that was A-1 and A-2. This block is very similar to B-7, “World Series.” In this case though, the background is pieced in four sections and there are no diamonds in the corners. I saw one in the flickr group that used two different fabrics. I love how doing that really differentiates the block from B-7, not to mention that the fabric she used really showcased the seams. After seeing that, I did look for a second fabric, but nothing really called out to me. So, one green it is. I’m definitely getting stronger at appliqué, and I’m very pleased with how the block turned out. I’m just not thrilled with its impact (or rather, lack thereof). I’m definitely going to need to start looking for more opportunities to utilize two fabrics—they can really give a block a whole new personality.

Dear Jane block C-2Block number/name: C-2 “Streak of Lightning”

Date completed: July 19, 2008

Number of pieces: 15

Notes on block: I did a combination of piecing and appliqué here. The center diamond motif (with the 9 diamonds) is pieced. Following Anina's suggestion, the pieced background was reverse appliquéd onto the diamond (it seemed like less work than piecing across all those seams and I was in an appliqué kind of mood). Then the two outer diamonds were appliquéd using the freezer paper technique that Anina showed a few blocks back. Still not thrilled with my points there… one of them is awesome, but the other three are so-so. I need to investigate the glue basting method, see if that helps.

This green is from Lakehouse fabrics… such a pretty mossy color with nifty metallic green highlights. Kind of lightning-like, so I thought it fit the block nicely.

And now I’m caught up again! Huzzah! And I've got enough blocks to do a little 9-patch! Now what to do about that sashing...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: A-1 & A-2

Dear Jane block A-1Block number/name: A-1 “Pinwheel Gone Awry”

Date completed: July 15, 2008

Number of pieces: 28

Notes on block: It took me two evenings to piece this one together… so many seams, and so many points to be concerned about! I think I did okay. The only part that is nagging at me is the center. When you look closely, it is just not very pretty. On the bright side, because of the high contrast between the green and white, it seems to look pretty good from a distance.

I almost wish I had taken the time to redraft this one. I really like the look of the original with the center pinwheel that kind of bows outward on the sides as opposed to being square. But I’m behind enough on my blocks without taking extra time to re-invent the wheel.

Dear Jane block A-2Block number/name: A-2 “One-Two Buckle My Shoe”

Date completed: July 16, 2008

Number of pieces: 45

Notes on block: I’m really glad I took the time to piece the inner white rectangles (as was done in the original). The effect really is lovely. Like A-1, this one also took me two nights, though it actually felt as if it came together faster and better than that block even though it had a lot more pieces. Of course, fussy cutting all of the green triangles took a good amount of effort. But again, the result was worth it. I’m really happy with this one!

Even though I'm a little behind on my Dear Jane blocks, I've been making lots of progress on other projects. The top is complete for the baby quilt I started over the weekend and the batting is washed and ready so I can baste tonight. I also completed all the setting blocks for the Star Quilt Along and have cut all the sashing strips. Yay, progress! :)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Another baby quilt

My friend just learned that her family may be adopting a little baby girl who is due to be born any day now! This does not leave much opportunity for dilly-dallying about design and fabrics. Time for some decisive quilting action! (And another excuse for a girly quilt!)

Inspired by AJ and her beautiful designs, I whipped out my Electric Quilt program. Lacking any original thoughts of my own though, I adapted a design I found in the June 2008 issue of McCall's Quilting called "Summer Ice":

eq baby quilt design
I had three fabrics in my stash that I knew I wanted to use, all from the Mackenzie collection by Anna Griffin. I really wanted to get a good idea of how they might look in the design, so I made my first attempts at importing fabrics into the program. It's not perfect, but you can definitely get a good feeling about the overall look of the quilt. But I still need to come up with a name for it. On the other hand, that is probably the least of my worries at this point.

Yesterday I went fabric shopping and picked up the other fabrics needed (the pink, green, and blue) and then did my pre-washing. Now I'm ready to cut!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Happy pads

I'm a cloth-diapering mama. I diligently swathe my boy in his hemp prefolds and Thirsties diaper covers at every changing, use cloth wipes, and launder it all myself. Yay for the savings over disposable! Yay for not contributing to landfills!

Since I've been doing that I've had this nagging guilt following me though— I don't use cloth pads myself. I have been a faithful user of disposables my entire adult life. When I think about it, I realize it's for the same reasons that people don't want to use cloth diapers: convenience and less mess. I started thinking, "If it's good enough for my boy (and it's working well), it should be good enough for me too, right?"

I started by looking around online to see what was available. I saw some great looking pads, but the cost just seemed prohibitive—particularly when investing in something that I wasn't even so sure about. So a few weeks ago, I attempted to make my own pads. They turned out not-so-hot, and only moderately functional (it didn't occur to me that if I quilted through the waterproof barrier that it would no longer be waterproof... oops!). It's taken me a few weeks (admittedly, I've not been thinking too hard about this... only once a month or so...) to come up with a better plan, but finally, I think I have.

The result:

happy pads in all their glory
Not only do I think they are going to be functional, but they turned out much prettier than the first attempts. And they are all stash! The flannel (left over from a quilt project), scraps of batting, snaps, and even the waterproof layer (some of that rubberized flannel stuff bought long ago for a bib pattern I never got around to making) were all sitting about just waiting to be used. For the pattern, I just traced around my favorite brand of disposable pad and then adjusted the shape to be a little more sew-friendly.

Of course, now the real test is how they perform. I'll find out soon enough. If they work out well, I may try and post a tutorial.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Star Quilt Along, Weeks 10 & 11

I actually finished this one last week, but am only now getting to posting it. Week 10 block:

Star Quilt Along, Week 10 block
It came together very easily and I like how it turned out.

Week 11 block:

Star Quilt Along, Week 11 block
I really love the final result, but it was a pain! I was having all sorts of problems with my seams and points, and was tearing out stitches right and left. Ugh. I think one of my main issues though was pressing.

Sometimes, pressing is really intuitive for me. But other times I seriously struggle. It's like chess. In chess, you're supposed to always be analyzing the board, making moves in your head many turns before you actually make them. My brain just fails miserably at this. I can't focus so specifically that far ahead and retain what it is I'm supposed to be doing now. Frankly, I am just not a good chess player. And that is how I feel when pressing blocks like these—I'm just not a good presser. Which way should I press this one, knowing that it's going to connect to this and that and then eventually that??? Fortunately, the block looks good—but I know that if I had pressed certain things differently, it would look even better. I really should sit down and make a gameplan, but for a single block in a fun quilt, it just seems like too much.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: D-10

Dear Jane D-10Block number/name: D-10 “Battlefield”

Date completed: July 4, 2008

Number of pieces: 42

Notes on block: This block looked a little scary, but it came together pretty well. I think B-6 was much more difficult. But it did take a looong time to put together. I spent about 30 or 40 minutes working on it Friday afternoon as the boy napped. But the bulk of it was done on Friday evening as I watched The Other Boleyn Girl (meh… the book was infinitely better) and episodes 4, 5, and 6 of the Showtime series, The Tudors (much more fun!)—about 6 hours of television there. (I know, I know… but I was sewing too!) Altogether, nearly 7 hours of stitching time. For this little 5” block. Sometimes I really wonder what I’m doing, handsewing all of these blocks. On the other hand, they do help keep my creative juices flowing and happy. So it’s worth it.

Start-ups and progress

For whatever reason, this last weekend I've been on a starting projects rampage. It's not like I've run out of stuff to work on, or even finished anything lately, but I'm feeling this need to start on new things. Sigh... I'm hopeless, I know.

On Friday evening, I started cutting fabric for a new quilt project. It's going to be a largish queen size. I've only managed to cut about 1/4 of the fabric thus far.

Prairie Pinwheels dark pieces
Hopefully, I'll get the rest cut in the next week or two. The pattern is "Prairie Pinwheels" from the August 2008 issue of McCall's Quilting magazine. I'm anxious to start stitching on this one!

Last night, I went on a cutting frenzy and cut out five patterns—all clothing for me! Included are three tops, a pair of pajama pants, and a pajama top.

evidence of my pattern cutting frenzy

But it hasn't been completely about the new projects. I managed to complete a Dear Jane block. I also stitched up a few more flowers for my Grandmother's Flower Garden. I'm up to 112 now! (Only 14 more to go!) I've actually started in on pressing my completed flowers as well. I've pressed more than half at this point. (Yay!)

pressed and unpressed hexes
The pile on the left is unpressed, the pile on the right is pressed. The pressed pile actually has more blocks in it. Doing all this pressing is making me appreciate why most people seem to do these quilts by English paper piecing. I suspect they are not only much more accurate, but probably much easier to deal with!

Completely unrelated to my ever-growing list of projects— today I had the pleasure of meeting and having coffee with the fabulous Anina! She's like a quilt celebrity to me at this point. I just love her blog, and so appreciate her guidance and efforts on Dear Baby Jane. She's an amazing quilter and it was much fun meeting her and talking for a bit. She was also so patient with my rampaging toddler—she laughed even as he threw her keys in the fountain. (Fortunately, they were waterproof and easily retrieved!)

Hopefully later today I'll have my Dear Jane block update ready. Also on my afternoon agenda is to prep A-1.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fairy Flight finished!

Actually, it's been complete for a few weeks now. I've just been waiting to post about it until we could make a visit up north and give it to baby Grace. The opportunity finally came on Thursday when we traveled up there to attend a barbeque. We got to see many friends for the first time in a long while. It was a lot of fun, and we finally got to meet little Grace. I wish we had some pictures, but I was a loser and forgot the camera at home. On the bright side though, I did manage to wrangle my husband and get some pictures of the quilt taken just before we left.

Fairy Flight front
I went a little crazy with the girlie florals and pinks. But how often do I have an excuse to do that? (Not often!) But, because the front was so busy, it really gave me a chance to practice my quilting without fears of it being too visibly ugly. Here's a close-up of the quilting from the back side.

Fairy Flight quilting close-up
I'm really proud of those vines in the borders-- I did those freestyle with no marking. Crazy!

Here's the back:

Fairy Flight back
I never consider my quilts complete until they have a label:

Fairy Flight label
Usually I hand-write/draw all of my labels. This time I mixed it up a little by appliqueing a fairy on there. The fairy and all of the floral fabrics on the front of the quilt are from the "Flower Fairy" collection by Rose & Hubble. The collection showcases the wonderful art of Cicely Mary Barker.

Hopefully, the quilt will offer lots of happy comfort and warmth as Grace grows.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: G-8

Dear Jane block G-8Block number/name: G-8 “Justin’s Comet”

Date completed: June 30, 2008

Number of pieces: 16

Notes on block: Eight-pointed stars look so cool, but they are very tricky. I decided to just piece the entire star and then do all the inset squares and triangles. This worked fine up to the point when I started doing those inset seams. What was once a nice flat star became a rounded poofy star. Thank goodness for the iron!

I do love the look of this block though. I fussy cut my fabric in hopes of creating a nice kaleidoscope effect, and I think it worked pretty well. And it’s such a bright, happy green.