Monday, October 27, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: C-6

Dear Jane block C-6Block number/name: C-6 “Ashley’s Aura”

Date completed: October 26, 2008

Number of pieces: 9

Notes on block: I decided to try and piece this one. Ugh. I’m still not very good with handpiecing curves. I probably should have done appliqué, but I figured the piecing practice would be good for me. It’s not bad, but I’m not thrilled with the result. This may be a do-over at some point. Then again, it’s a big quilt with lots of blocks… so maybe it doesn’t matter too much. On the bright side, I really love this fabric with all those wonderful flowers and the variety of green hues, from teal to olive. It makes me happy just looking at it.

I’m getting super-excited for Quilt Festival in Houston. I leave on Wednesday morning for a 4 day adventure all by myself! There is definite mama-guilt (especially since I’ll be missing Halloween)(meep!). But not only do I get to take classes and see inspiring quilts, but I also get to hang out with my friend Mikki for the first time in nearly 2 years! Woo hoo! What a treat! So I guess the “woo hoo” is definitely outweighing the guilt at this point. :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: RS-8

Dear Jane block RS-8Block number/name: RS-8 “Love Forever”

Date completed: October 20, 2008

Number of pieces: 5

Notes on block: After my weekend sewing debacle, I really needed something to boost my spirits and my confidence. Yay for reverse appliqué! So straightforward. So much better than toddler pants!

I chose this gold scroll on grey-green fabric because it seemed to fit the romantic feel of this block. Pretty!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Epic Fail!

Ottobre 1-2008Not every day is a happy sewing day. Case in point: Saturday evening, I decided to make a pair of pants for the Boy. The pattern was from Ottobre magazine. If you aren't familiar with Ottobre, it is a sort of fashion magazine focused primarily on children's clothing (though they do have a couple issues a year dedicated to women's fashion). The magazine is published in Finland, and then translated into English. It showcases a variety of designs that range in size from newborn to pre-teen. The designs are really fun and often have a distinct European flair. They always have great details, and definitely look much cooler than many of the ready-to-wear clothes found in stores. The cool part? ALL of the patterns to make the outfits are included with the magazine.

About a year ago, I went ahead and bought a subscription. Since then, the magazines have been languishing in my bookcase as I worked up the courage and motivation to tackle a pattern. There are challenges with this magazine. One is that the measurements are all in metric, so I have to convert the measurements to inches to make sense to me. The patterns need to be traced and have seam allowances added. Another challenge is that, though there are instructions for each of the designs, sometimes they can be difficult to follow because they are only written (and I'm very visual... illustrations are my friends!). Also, because it is a translation, sometimes the instructions can be a little confusing. Now, if you are a skilled/experienced sewist, that wouldn't be an obstacle at all. But I'm still learning, and so it presented me with a bit of a challenge.

Okay, back to Saturday night. I was trying a pants pattern (#25 in the 1/2008 issue). I traced my pattern and cut the fabric. I started sewing...

Most of the construction seemed to be going pretty well (though there was lots of topstitching, and that was taking a good amount of time). I even learned a couple new techniques (a cool "bellows" pocket and a new fly-zipper insertion technique). I had to do some seam ripping and unsewing, but it wasn't too bad.... until I reached the waistband. It wouldn't fit, the instructions were weird, nothing was working. After 5 hours of work, I had reached the breaking point, and I literally ripped those pants in half!

pants destruction!
Stupid pants!!! (Deep calming breath.)

In hindsight, I know that was a pretty inane thing to do. But it did feel good at the time (3 am). I've had some time to stew on it now, and am feeling like now I could try again and be successful. I definitely learned a lot, and will be able to apply that to my next attempt. In fact, I am feeling like I need to try again, because it is a challenge, and I know I can do it. But first, I need to re-build some confidence. I need some sewing success. Hmmm... a new Dear Jane block should do the trick.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: A-10

Dear Jane block A-10Block number/name: A-10 “Which Points West?”

Date completed: October 16, 2008

Number of pieces: 14

Notes on block: Thank goodness for Anina and her block construction instructions! They were so very helpful in this block. It seems like there are many ways one could approach it, and they all seem pretty difficult. Hers was challenging, but having a visual guideline was a huge help. I was a little surprised it came together so quickly, but I’m not going to complain. Other than the fact that I was a little generous in my seam allowance, and the block ended up a smidgen on the small side, I am really happy with it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

New clothes!

I've been doing some sewing lately.

This shirt was completed back at the start of September, but I wasn't able to get a picture until last weekend:

New Look 6407It is New Look 6407. I made a number of changes to this one, most of which I think worked really well. I used the short sleeves from view E combined with the collar from view A. I did my usual full-bust adjustment (FBA). I also added a couple more vertical darts. A ready-to-wear shirt from JCPenny that I really like has three, so I was trying to emulate that. I also did French seams on the horizontal darts (which worked beautifully). And I used 8 instead of just 5 buttons.

Overall, I'm really happy with the result. I'm still learning about fit, and this shirt was a great skill-builder for me. You can read more about it in my review at

This skirt, however, was not as successful:

McCall's 5431It is McCall's 5431. I'm teaching my sister-in-law how to sew, and this is the pattern she chose. I figured I ought to make one up so I knew exactly what we were getting into (since I've never tried to teach anyone how to sew before). I made view D. On the bright side, it is a "Quick & Easy" pattern that actually lives up to its name. On the downside, I just don't like how it looks on me. A big part of that, I think, is the fabric I used: a polyester-rayon gabardine. It looked all happy on the bolt, but in the garment it is just heavy and has that icky polyester shine to it.

I think it might work better for me in a different fabric. One of the comments made on my pattern review also suggested that maybe losing the pockets would help too. I suspect she's right. But I'm just not sure I want to make the investment to find out (though, there is a lovely cotton/linen blend I saw at Pacific Fabrics this week that would look so spiffy...). Hopefully, it will work out better for my sister-in-law.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: A-5

Dear Jane block A-5Block number/name: A-5 “Cathie’s Campfire”

Date completed: October 13, 2008

Number of pieces: 29

Notes on block: Pieced while in front of the television, it took an episode of Heroes, one of Chuck, and two episodes of My Name is Earl to finish it. Now that I’ve written down how much we watched, it looks like a long time. But we fast-forwarded through the commercials. So really, it was only about 2.5 hours or so. Not too bad.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: TR-3

Dear Jane block TR-3 Block number/name: TR-3 “Checkerboard”

Date completed: October 10, 2008

Number of pieces: 31

Notes on block: For this block, I really wanted to use a stripe. And I wanted it to be a pretty dark green. So this fabric was perfect. Too bad my seams weren’t as perfect. It’s a little off. The block will work fine (though I’ll probably lose the points at the tip), so it’s all good.

Last night was a difficult evening. The Boy just did not want to go to sleep. He was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed until nearly 11:00. We tried teething tablets, drinks of water, many, many stories, cuddling, singing, walking, and crying it out. I finally ended up bringing him downstairs with me to sit in front of the television for a bit. We started watching the PBS documentary Krakatoa. After about 20 minutes, the Boy was ready for bed. So I finished watching it on my own while stitching this block. It was good quiet time. With a volcano. And I stayed up way too late.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tyger! Tyger! Burning Bright

Finally! Schedules, weather, and the stars all aligned today, allowing me to take some pictures of my completed Star Quilt Along quilt.

completed Star Quilt Along quilt
completed quilt front side
I need to figure out a way to take better pictures of large quilts like this. Or find some additional quilt-holding hands. But we did the best we could with the two of us.

completed quilt back side
The majority of the back is pieced from what was left of the fabrics I used in the blocks. The one exception is the periwinkle blue flower print. I had to buy that to have enough for the back.

A couple of close-ups:

quilting close up
First I quilted the long diagonal lines through the green setting blocks. Next I free-motion quilted in the ditch around all of the colored pieces. I had never done that before and it took awhile before I was really consistently making it into the ditch. But by the end, I was feeling pretty good at it. My only regret is that I really should have used a clear thread to do that instead of the white, because my mistakes are really visible. Then I did a lot of pretty dense stippling over all of the background. Finally, I quilted my border pattern, finished all of the edges by hand, and then completed all of the quilting to the edge of the quilt. All of the quilting ended up using nearly 4 entire spools of thread! I used Superior Threads King Tut 40/3 cotton in White Linen (color 971), 500 yard spools. (Wonderful thread, by the way.) It took a long time to get it all done. But so worth it!

close-up prairie points
Yay prairie points! They turned out so wonderfully, I could not be happier. They were pretty time consuming though, so I doubt I’ll be making a habit out of them. Fun fact: one side has a different number of points than the other three. (I know this because I later found a prairie point laying on the floor. Sigh. I had been wondering why they weren't spacing out quite right.) This picture also offers a closer glimpse of the border design. I like how it sort of breaks up all of the stippling some and frames the quilt.

The label:

quilt label
I’ve named this quilt “Tyger! Tyger! Burning Bright.” My inspiration fabric was the tiger print. The quilt has lots of stars. And I have always loved the William Blake poem. It just seems like a good name. (And even though the picture doesn’t show it, there really is a “t” at the end of “bright” in the label. It’s just hiding in the wrinkles. I double checked to be sure!)

Many thanks to the amazing and wonderful amandajean for hosting this super-fun quilt along. She is an inspiration!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: K-10 & A-4

Dear Jane block K-10Block number/name: K-10 “Quandry”

Date completed: October 7, 2008

Number of pieces: 39

Notes on block: As there are so many pieces, this block took awhile to put together. I’m really pleased with it. I had to trim it down a little around the edges to get it to 5” square, but other than that, there were no problems.

So I’m a not-so-good speller. Had Anina not pointed it out, I wouldn’t have even realized that this block’s name has an unusual spelling. Hmm… editorial error, or something else? I dug out my copy of The Compact Oxford English Dictionary. (I know, I am such a geek.) The usual spelling is quandary. Though its origins are unclear, it has been in common use since 1580. It is defined as, “a state of extreme perplexity of uncertainty; a dilemma causing (great) mental agitation or distress; a ticklish plight.” (That last one is a little weird, isn’t it? But it is listed as obsolete.) Anyway, I was most curious to see some of the various spellings: quandare, quandarye, quandarie, quondary. Note that quandry is not among them. So then I Googled “quandry” to see what might come up. The top hit was for an Oregon-based band with “captivating music.” Other than that, there just seem to be lots of misspellings (I rather suspect the band misspelled their own name, even). So, what’s with the name? It is a quandary, indeed!

Dear Jane block A-4Block number/name: A-4 “Courtney’s Stethoscope”

Date completed: October 7, 2008

Number of pieces: 23

Notes on block: Caught up at last!!! And two blocks in one night, even. Crazy. I must be getting much more confident, because again, this one seemed to come together very well for me. The only real issues with this one were the seams in the center. I didn’t really want them going outward behind the white, as I thought it would look cooler if the bars sort of popped out of the block above the background. And I think it does look pretty cool. The downside to this is that the center bars are only ¼” wide. So there is a lot of bulk in there. I think it is fine so long as I don’t attempt to quilt inside the bars.

Also, since I’ve finally caught up, it seems appropriate to share another progress report.

My Dear Jane progress, 10-8-2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: G-1

Dear Jane block G-1Block number/name: G-1 “Hattie’s Hen House”

Date completed: October 6, 2008

Number of pieces: 8

Notes on block: This block went together so well. My appliqué skills are definitely improving—the curves are pretty smooth on this one. I followed Anina’s instructions on this one, creating two four-patches and then appliquéing one atop the other. The only tricky part was thread color. I actually appliquéd each curved section of the shape separately so that I could match the thread to the fabric.

The green fabric in this one was a gift from my friend E. She read on my blog that I was thinking I needed more greens, and she passed this along to me. How cool is that? It really makes this block pop.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: M-13

Dear Jane block M-13Block number/name: M-13 “Lynette’s Diamond”

Date completed: October 4, 2008

Number of pieces: 12

Notes on block: So after having pieced the curves in G-7 and being unthrilled with the result, I went ahead and completed this one using Anina’s appliqué technique. Though I am happy with the look of the curves, I’m not wild about the center. I probably would have done better had I chosen to piece those triangles as opposed to appliquéing them. Ah well. It’s not so horrible that I’m going to re-do it.

I’ve been distracted this week and so have fallen behind again. Only two blocks though, so I should be able to catch back up in a jiffy. But—my Star Quilt Along quilt is now complete but for a trip to the washing machine. Woo hoo! Pictures and blog post to come soon!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

On UFOs and Challenges

As my crafty attention has been nearly completely consumed by my Star Quilt Along quilt, I haven't managed to do anything else (like Dear Jane... behind yet again). But, since I'm feeling so close to completion (just a little more quilting and a label!), I'm not ready to post any pictures of it.

Instead, let's talk a little about UFOs—also known as "UnFinished Objects." There are a number of crafters out there who are really good about finishing everything they start. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them. I work on multiple projects at a time, and so have all sorts of UFOs there (though maybe it isn't a UFO if you're actually working on it?). I have a number of completed tops that need quilting (definitely UFO status). And there have been a couple of projects that have just gone completely by the wayside. One such project is the peony quilt:

peony quilt
Hmmm... Can you tell it has been sitting crushed up in the back of a drawer for a few years? I started this quilt in a class in January 2000. I took the class not because of the quilt (which, even then, I thought was kind of bleh), but for the techniques I would learn—ruched flowers and applique. I completed all the piecing, learned the techniques, and then never managed to actually finish any flowers or applique. As the quilt is just so not me, I've never even been remotely interested in completing it. So it has sat in the drawer for 8 years. In fact, I literally forgot about it until...

Last month, my quilt guild declared its next challenge quilt theme: "Terror in a Brown Paper Bag!" Each participant selects one of their UFOs and places it in a brown paper bag, including the pattern (if available) and as much project fabric as possible. Tonight, we are to drop off our bag and then receive someone else's bag. The challenge: to finish the UFO you receive. The twist: there is no requirement to finish the UFO as originally intended.

Eureka! My little peony UFO has a chance to find a happy new life with someone else! I'm so in. I've gathered my fabrics (or what's left of them at this point) and my little top, and have stuck them in a bag. It's all ready to go. I can't wait to see what some creative person decides to do with it.

Just as exciting is the prospect of getting someone else's UFO and then getting to use some creative juices to do something with it. The only scary part is that there is a deadline. I will have to be done by the February meeting. But right now, I'm feeling confident and excited. It should be a lot of fun!