Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Snip. Sew. Send. March

Phew! I just made it! March was Tina's month for the Snip.Sew.Send. virtual quilt bee. I loved all of the pretty pink and aqua fabrics she sent. She requested square-in-square style blocks, with the kerchief girl in the center. Her plan is to make a bed quilt for her daughter. I have a feeling this is going to be one super cute quilt!


It was a lot of fun getting my girly on for this one! I hope you like it, Tina. :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Playtime: the train

Choo, choo!!! Over the last week or so, I've been focusing my stitching time on the train block for my American Jane "Playtime" quilt. I finally completed it last night!

Playtime block: the train
I can honestly say that this block has been the least fun for me. I know I make everything more difficult than it needs to be by insisting to do this quilt with hand applique (rather than fusible as called for in the instructions). But this particular block was a real challenge because the instructions combined pieced parts with applique parts, and were not exactly clear on placement or finished sizes of the pieces. So, it was a lot of guessing on my part: to add seam allowance, or not to add seam allowance? And then there was no guide as to how far apart to space the cars or where to position them on the background. Looking back, I realize I could have been a lot smarter about the way I went about it which was to kind of eyeball it all as I went along (just in case you are wondering, trying to eyeball across a 43" strip of background while sitting on the couch is not particularly effective). I should have pressed in some guidelines for myself at the beginning. That would have made it a lot easier, I think.

Though it doesn't look like the picture on the pattern cover, I think my train turned out alright. Thank goodness it is done!

And here is my progress so far:

my Playtime progress chart
I've actually started work on putting the middle section together. Once that is done, I'll move onto the next block: the car.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tri County Shop Hop 2010

This weekend was the third annual Tri County Quilt Shop Festival. Quilt shops in three counties join forces to host a fun shop hop. Each shop creates a block for the event and then makes a special quilt using blocks from all of the other shops. This year's theme was "Smooth Sailing" and it was a ton of fun going from shop to shop and seeing all of the fabulous quilt designs.

Here's a little peek at all of the various shop quilts:



I think my favorites are the quilts from Fabrics, Etc. (how cool is that porthole???), Folktales (using the Sandy Gervais line "Frolic"), and Tangled Threads (so bright and happy!). But I love how unique each of the quilts is and how differently they used the same blocks.

Since I really wasn't sure I was going to be able to manage any of the hop this year, it was super exciting for me to make it to all of the participating shops! It took three days to complete. On Thursday, the boy and I visited 3 shops together. Then on Friday, I managed to visit 2 shops while the boy was in preschool, and then together we trekked to another 3. Finally on Saturday, I got up early and drove myself to Lynden and Bellingham (the shops farthest from home) to visit the last 7 shops on the tour (some happy alone time for mama!).

I didn't take many pictures other than of the various quilts, but I did get a cute one of the boy. Granny's House in Stanwood, WA, offers classes on creating custom umbrellas, and my boy was having a lot of fun checking out the sample:

boy and umbrella
And how cute is that umbrella? If the shop weren't so far away, I'd probably sign up for the class!

And, of course, the loot...

Tri County shop hop 2010 loot
I tried hard to not go too crazy. I ended up with a few patterns, including Amy Butler's Birdie Sling (which I have been eyeing for some time), some stitcheries (so cute!), and a festive little bunny quilt kit. I picked up the Antique Quilts magazine (because I've been reading so many great things about it). And then I picked up just a few fabrics, including some to use for the Amy Butler pattern, backing fabric for my Paintbox Quilt Along quilt, a couple of prints I just had to have, a charm pack, and some green fat quarters (sigh... I just couldn't resist! What am I going to do once my Stickle quilt is complete and I don't have an excuse to buy green fabric anymore???). The only things not pictured are some stickers I picked up for the boy, as well as a big blue button he picked out for himself.

Another fabulous shop hop adventure!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A different kind of "nesting"

I've been nesting! But not for the upcoming baby. April is the start of a new theme at preschool: oviparous (a.k.a., egg-laying) animals!

So I decided that the first craft of the month will be making bird nests. I took some time on this one to look about on the Internet for ideas and saw some really awesome ones-- but almost all of them involved serious dry-time, something that is just not practical in our school setting. So, I went pretty low-tech:


It's simple, but I think it is a cute and fun little spring craft. The prep for this one wasn't too bad either. I already had a pile of paper plate centers left from a craft earlier this month (I'm so glad I found a use for them!). But I (and my husband) ended up spending a good amount of time cutting out the bird and egg shapes (though we left some uncut so that the older kids can use them to practice their scissor skills). I also shredded a lot of paper, but that went pretty quickly.

And, of course, I found a few bird nest facts to go along with the craft:
  • Birds build nests for breeding in trees, on cliffs, and even on the ground.
  • There are many different types of nests, from simple holes in the ground to complex multi-chambered nests.
  • Nests are often made from a large variety of natural materials including sticks, twigs, mud, grass, and saliva. But some birds will use almost anything that works and that they can carry, like candy wrappers, home insulation, shredded money, and even barbed wire!
  • Some birds lay their eggs in other bird’s nests.
  • The nest of a bald eagle can be 12 feet deep, 10 feet wide and weigh over a ton.
References:
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/birds/
http://www.cockatielcottage.net/trivia.html
http://www.earthlife.net/birds/nests.html
http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/birdnests.html


Phew! With all that done, now maybe I can do some of my own crafting again. :)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fish stitchin'

I've spent the last few evenings prepping craft projects for my son's preschool.

This one I call "Flying Fish":

flying fish craft
The theme is still underwater exploration, so a flying fish seemed like a good fit. And I even got some stitchin' in! I cut out the fish shapes and then used my sewing machine (and an old needle) to stitch around the edges. I stuffed the fish with shredded paper, and then did a little more stitching to close it up. And now the fish are ready for the kids to decorate.

a big bag of flying fish
I thought stitching would actually be easier/quicker than glue, and I was right. But, this was still a pretty labor-intensive craft preparation, particularly since I had to prep 70 of them!

I did find some fun facts about flying fish too:
  • There are over 40 species of flying fish.
  • The most striking feature of flying fish are their unusually large pectoral fins (located on the sides of their bodies).
  • Flying fish use their large fins to leap out of the water, allowing them to take short flights through the air.
  • Flying fish can glide up to 665 feet through the air!
  • Flying fish can soar high enough that sailors often find them on the decks of their ships.
References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_fish
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/flying-fish/

Thursday, March 25, 2010

St. Patrick's feasting

Ooof! This week has been rough for me. But I'm still here! Hopefully, I'll start feeling more myself again soon and build up some energy to take some more pictures so I can share some crafty goodness. In the meantime, I'll show you this:

Chocolate Guinness Cake!

Chocolate Guinness cake of yumminess
And, YES, it tastes as good as it looks! I made this for our annual St. Patrick's feast we hosted this past Sunday. Super easy, super yummy. The recipe is from the domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson (though I actually used this one, because I'm lazy metrically challenged). The biggest hurdle in putting it together was in not drinking the rest of the Guinness. But I was a good girl, and didn't even take a taste.

I wish I had a picture of the rest of the feast (which included soda bread, corned beef, colcannon, pan-roasted carrots, festive green fruit salad, and roasted brussels sprouts and horseradish), but I got distracted and didn't manage to get one.

One thing I learned: corning an already corned beef = crazy, overpowering corned beef flavor. But at least it was edible (I was a little concerned we'd be ordering pizza). Next time though, I will definitely make the effort to find a plain brisket to start with (my regular grocery store doesn't carry beef brisket of the non-corned variety).

Another thing I learned: hosting a big ol' feast when 35 weeks pregnant is maybe not such a brilliant plan (and I've been suffering for it these last few days). But, it was still a lot of fun!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jane Stickle Quilt: K-2

Jane Stickle block K-2Block number/name: K-2 “Grandpa’s Chickens”

Date completed: March 19, 2010

Number of pieces: 40

Notes on block: Evidently, I had problems with my seams in this block. The center came out way too big and I essentially had to crush it to get the borders to fit, and it shows. It’s also not my favorite fabric, but it does seem to fit the block (it makes me think of chicken scratches). This one may end up being a do-over. If I happen to get motivated enough.

In more exciting news: we got a new camera! Woo hoo!!! My irrational fear was that the baby was going to come at any moment because we didn’t have a camera. So, it was with great relief that we went out on Saturday and found a new one. It’s pretty spiffy too! We picked up a Sony DSC WX1-- just a point and shoot, but it has lots of handy settings and takes great pictures in low light. It should meet our needs really well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kaput camera

Alas and alack! Our camera has finally met its maker. And since I feel weird writing blog posts with no pictures, I guess I'm taking a blog break until we are able to replace it. Boo.

In the meantime, I shall continue plugging away at all of my projects, and hopefully will be able to share my progress again soon!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Jane Stickle Quilt: TR-10

Jane Stickle block TR-10Block number/name: TR-10 “Precious Gems”

Date completed: March 12, 2010

Number of pieces: 32

Notes on block: Of the 182 blocks that I have completed, this is the first one on which I’ve actually bled. And on a white section, no less. Ugh! As soon as I noticed, I tried to mitigate by rubbing in some saliva. That actually worked pretty well. But, there’s still a faint stain.

So now it is official: blood, sweat, and tears have all been a part of the making of this quilt. Here’s hoping I don’t do any more bleeding.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Jane Stickle Quilt: BR-11

Jane Stickle block BR-11Block number/name: BR-11 “Tartan”

Date completed: March 11, 2010

Number of pieces: 33

Notes on block: The lack of symmetry in this block drives me crazy! But, after carefully scrutinizing the original block, I determined that Jane’s wasn’t symmetrical either. So, I went with it. But that one missing diagonal bar near the bottom still bothers me.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Party on!

While the boy sat "reading" (really, he recites stories he knows really well... it is the cutest thing ever!), I found a few minutes this morning to put together block 2 of the Pinwheel Party quilt along:


These fabrics just make me feel happy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Paintbox Quilt Along update

Over the weekend, I managed to finish off my Paintbox Quilt Along blocks. Woo hoo!

last 30 Paintbox Quilt Along blocks
30 blocks in this batch; 80 blocks in total.

Now I'm all set to start sashing! I think Elizabeth will be posting instructions in a couple of weeks for that. It feels good to be a little ahead of the game.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Jane Stickle Quilt: I-7

Jane Stickle block I-7Block number/name: I-7 “Mac and Muff”

Date completed: March 8, 2010

Number of pieces: 21

Notes on block: This is another block that I really enjoy looking at. Those triangles really set it apart. And other than those tiny little triangles, this one was nice and simple to put together. The triangles actually weren’t too bad either, really. I appliqu├ęd them with freezer paper on top. Before stitching them down, I finger-pressed the seam allowances (which were pretty narrow, between 1/8” and 3/16”). A happy little block!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fishy, fishy, fishy...

Fish!

One of my jobs as a co-op preschool parent is to help plan, organize, and prepare some of the art projects for the last couple months of the school year. The theme for March is underwater exploration, and so I decided it might be fun to create a little coral reef scene.

coral reef painting
I used some sponges and paint to make my little reef. And I roped my my husband and our unwitting houseguest (I have a feeling maybe this was not a part of his vacation plans!) into helping me cut out a few hundred little fish to help decorate the scene. It's simple, but the projects have to work not only for pre-kindergartners but also for toddlers. Projects also have to be able to be completed in a pretty short amount of time so they can't be too in-depth.

I had fun putting it together and think turned out pretty cute. Hopefully, the preschoolers will have some fun with it, too!

Just for fun, here are some facts about coral reefs that I found:
  • Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems and are often referred to as the rainforests of the oceans. A great variety of fish, more than 4,000 species, and other organisms, such as sponges, jellyfish, crustaceans, and turtles, inhabit coral reefs.

  • Coral reefs develop in shallow, warm water (between 70° and 85° F), usually near land.

  • Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems on Earth.

  • Coral reefs are the largest living structure on the planet.

  • Although coral reefs cover less than 1% of the Earth’s surface, they are home to 25% of all marine fish species.

  • The Great Barrier Reef (off the coast of NE Australia) is the largest coral reef in the world. It is over 1,257 miles long!

  • Reef growth is extremely slow. An individual colony grows ½ inch to 7 inches a year, depending on the species.

References:
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/biomes/coralreef/coralreef.shtml
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/coral.html
http://www.nature.org/joinanddonate/rescuereef/explore/facts.html
http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/programs/coral/facts.htm
http://www.kidscantravel.com/familyvacationdestinations/berenice/funstuffkids/index.html

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Apron-a-rama!

March is a big birthday month amongst our toddler friends. So I took a little quilty break over the last week, and cut and sewed gifts instead. As I've mentioned before, this is the year of the apron.

For Daniel:

Daniel apron
For Stella:

Stella apron
For Mackenzie:

Mackenzie apron
I think this one is my favorite. I love the red/black/white combination (with kitties!).

For Paige:

Paige apron
You might not be able to tell from the picture, but the aqua fabric has little bunnies all over it. So cute!

Phew! I'm not generally a fan of production-line sewing, but it does help tone efficiency. These aprons went together very fast! I also tried really hard to use some stash as well, both to keep down cost as well as to just use some stash. Some of the combinations maybe aren't ideal, but I think the three-year-olds won't be too picky.

Now I can get back to some of the quilting I've been craving!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Jane Stickle Quilt: H-9

Jane Stickle block H-9Block number/name: H-9 “Snowflake Melt”

Date completed: March 2, 2010

Number of pieces: 20

Notes on block: I took this block to Little Gym today, so while my son was in class, I sat in the lobby and stitched. I learned that some of the other moms there are quilters too! It was a lot of fun getting to spend a little time chatting with them about our various projects. And I even managed to get more done on the block than I had expected I would. Then I was able to finish it up tonight. My only regret on this one is that I was feeling too lazy to go upstairs and find matching thread for my diamonds, so some of the stitches are more visible than I’d like them to be. But overall, I’m really happy with the block.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The party begins!

For my birthday, my husband gave me a gift certificate to a local quilt shop. I promptly went out and made use of it by purchasing fabrics for the Pinwheel Party quilt along hosted by the fabulous Anina.

fabrics for my Pinwheel Party quilt
I was in the mood for something happy and springy. I think these fit the bill pretty well!

Yesterday, Anina posted the first block in the quilt along. While the boy was in preschool this morning, I had a chance to put it together.

Pinwheel Party block 1
Can't wait for block 2!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Jane Stickle Quilt: J-10

Jane Stickle block J-10Block number/name: J-10 “Chieko’s Calla Lily”

Date completed: February 28, 2010

Number of pieces: 21

Notes on block: Too many melons! It felt like this block took a long time to prep and a long time to sew. I don’t know how long I spent prepping, but I know I spent 4 hours stitching it all together. It’s not perfect, but it is done. Yay!