Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Get in line

I'm kind of a compulsively organized person - or, as much as I can be, while parenting two toddlers and being married to a guy who is the very definition of "laid back" about most things.  But it makes me antsy to have too many projects going at once, so while some crafters have a thousand projects they start and then have in process indefinitely, I try not to do that much all at one time.

I do have a list of projects I want to attempt.  And lately I've had two quilts going at once.  I want to be able to sew whenever the mood strikes me, and it frustrates me when a project is stalled because I haven't bought backing fabric yet, or because I ran out of batting and haven't had time to go to the fabric store.

My two current projects are a log cabin quilt made out of scraps, and a quilt that I'm doing in a rail fence pattern.  I got this Moda jelly roll for Christmas and I'm already putting it to good use.  But the list of projects that I want to tackle is much longer.  After I finish my current projects, my plan is:

1.  A Roman stripe quilt for my husband
2.  A quilt for my mom (maybe half-square triangles?)
3.  A quilt for the wall in my bedroom
4.  A sampler quilt from The Farmer's Wife or Civil War Diary Quilt
5.  A quilt made of crazy quilt blocks or string blocks with scraps from the above projects

There's just so much I want to try...I have to keep reminding myself that I can keep quilting until I'm elderly, so there's no rush!

Sunday, December 25, 2011


My family is pretty happy that I have a hobby they can buy things for. It makes Christmas and birthdays so much easier! I also got fabric, presser feet, and quilting templates...I'm so excited to use them!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The machines

I have kind of a silly attachment to my sewing machines.  I think that's the one thing that prevents me from collecting vintage sewing makes me sad to see a sewing machine sitting idle.  Silly, but true.

My first sewing machine was a Kenmore that I got for my wedding.  My husband was actually the one who wanted it - I had absolutely no interest.  Obviously I took it up eventually.  My Kenmore was okay, but I wasn't crazy about it.  Then I saw this in a local thrift shop.
We bought it for five dollars.  It required a tune-up and some replacement parts, but it's up and running now.  It's a Brother XL-6562.  It comes with a lot of stitch functions that I never use, but still, I love it. 

I didn't want to keep my old Kenmore (remember, idle sewing machines make me irrationally sad) so I gave it to someone I knew from college.  I was so happy it went to a good home.

The only thing I regret about my Brother is that it doesn't have dropping feed dogs.  I knew that vintage machines did, so I kept an eye out and last week found this.

My beautiful Kenmore 52.  The model number is 158.523.  I tried a little free motion quilting on it, and it was going well until I bent my needle.  I can't wait to replace it. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Learning to use my new/old machine

This morning I had a chance to play a little with the Kenmore I got yesterday.  It's a model 52, and I'm still trying to dig up information about it.  It came from a local thrift shop.  I'm a shameless thrifter and I was so excited when I found it.  I bought it without really looking at it - for eight bucks, I was willing to take a chance - and when I got it home I was happy to see that it had dropping feed dogs.  I've been wanting to try free motion quilting but since my usual sewing machine doesn't have dropping feed dogs I couldn't.  But now...

I have to admit, I'm a sucker for old things.  I love anything with a sense of history.  I was pretty excited about using it.  And really, it was kind of neat to use.  Below are stitches I made with the Kenmore, and with my other machine, a Brother.  The Brother's stitches are in green, and the Kenmore's are in blue.
My first attempt at free-motion quilting was rough because I had the stitch length set on four (the maximum) instead of zero.  Whoops.
I tried again with the length on zero.  It was kind of fun!  I made some squiggles.
Then I tried to follow a heart I traced onto the flannel.  The right half went okay.  Then I got over-confident and kind of screwed up the left half.
The back is kind of jacked up.  I think it's because the tension is wrong, but I'm not going to count out user error.  I'm still learning.
I also found the Brother machine at that thrift shop (it cost five bucks, and even though it also needed a $130 tune-up I still feel like it was a good deal), and this machine.  I got it just for my son to play with while I sew.  He likes to pretend it works.  I think it's just so cool-looking. 

If I had more space vintage sewing machines would definitely become an addiction.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Year in Review

I started cutting square for my first quilt in June of this year.  I did it because I hated the comforter on my bed, and I wanted a replacement.  I felt guilty about buying a new one since we'd just purchased ours less than a year prior, so I figured I'd sew a quilt.  At the time I was learning to sew clothes, and I figured a quilt would be a fun one-time project.  Something big I could point to and say, "Look what I did!"  So I made this.

Little did I know how much I'd love quilting.  I work at a school and this year has been challenging in a number of ways.  Sewing has been a great stress reliever.  I find that I feel much more renewed after an evening of sewing than I do after an evening of watching TV.

Also, I get to make stuff for my son...

...and daughter.  They like their lap blankets, and my son refers to his as "my very own quilt."

I also finished this quilt for my mother-in-law.  I hope she likes it.

And this project isn't quite done yet, but it will be soon.  It's the front of a floor pillow I made for the kids.  It was made from a charm pack, so I didn't have to do as much cutting as usual.

I never knew how satisfying this hobby could be.  I'm so glad we had an ugly comforter, otherwise I'd never have started quilting.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A break from quilting

A scarf made from this tutorial.  I really like was a nice quick project.  It's fun to start and finish a project in one evening.  I love quilting, but it just takes so long.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I finally finished the quilting portion of my mother-in-law's quilt.  I ordered some fabric for the binding online since I wasn't brave enough to go to the craft store on Thanksgiving weekend.  I hope it comes soon so I can finish this up.
I did some echo quilting, which is the first time I've done anything but stitch in the ditch quilting.  I drew the lines in pencil, but I think it'll come out in the wash.
It's not entirely even.  Hopefully she won't notice.

I also spent the weekend re-covering a lampshade.  I couldn't find tutorials online for how to do a tapered lampshade like this, and after an hour of working with it I found out why...because re-covering a tapered lampshade is a GIANT PAIN.  Seriously, don't even bother. 
I do like how it turned out, though.  But next time I want to re-cover a lampshade I'm definitely going to hit the thrift store and pick  up a cheap drum shade.  This was awful.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Floor pillows

My house is small.  Tiny small.  It's so small that the two-bedroom apartment we lived in before had more square footage than our three-bedroom house.  It's SMALL.  However, I really don't mind.  It's definitely not as spacious as the houses featured on HGTV (even as their owners lament how little space they have), but it's cozy and I can take our living room from totally trashed to clean enough for my mother-in-law in no time flat.  As our kids get older it'll probably feel smaller, but for now it's nice.

However, it does mean that we have to use our space thoughtfully.  Our living room has an awkward little alcove that we weren't utilizing well.  We just parked a big blue recliner in front of it and stowed plastic totes of kids' toys behind the recliner.  This week I moved the recliner (and hopefully this weekend it'll be on the curb) and turned the space into a little reading nook.  The bookcase below shows a small portion of the kids' book collection, and an old school desk I picked up at a secondhand store. 

It needs something on the wall, though.  I'm debating between a huge, blown-up photo or a mobile.  It also needs a floor lamp because it's pretty dim back there.

Someday when the kids are bigger we'll probably get a beanbag chair, but for now I want to sew a few large floor pillows for the kids to sit on while they read.

Just as an aside, I often accuse my husband of buying toys for the kids that are really more for his own nostalgia.  All those toy trains and Legos?  Yeah, more for my husband than the kids.  So I'm being totally hypocritical in making this space because I would have LOVED a space like this when I was a kid.  However, since the kids have already spent time playing back there, I think they'll like it too.

Anyway, floor pillows.  I bought a charm pack of fabric a while back because it was on sale, not because I had any idea what I'd do with it.  I mean, one charm pack isn't enough to make a quilt.  But I think it'll be a nice-sized lounging pillow. 

Now I'm starting to understand why quilters have so many projects going simultaneously.  There's just so much to do! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Tonight I was working on quilting my mother-in-law's quilt, and I ran out of white thread.  Weird, huh?  Anyway, since I couldn't do any more work on her quilt I decided to do some work on my own personal project.  Lately I've felt guilty working on my project because I really do need to hustle on hers to get it done my Christmas, but this evening I was able to work guilt-free.

I really wanted to make a log cabin quilt in a barn raising arrangement out of scraps.  Just scraps.  And I actually pieced a block made half of colored scraps, half of white scraps.  But it just didn't seem right to me.  So instead, I decided to make a housetop-style quilt with all of my scraps (and some fat quarters, since I didn't have scraps in every color).

Here's what it looks like so far.

It's weird-looking.

However.  I do think that once I have more colors - purple and red and green - it'll look better.  I do wish that I had stayed with a narrower range of hues in each color, and I also wish I had skipped the white sections, but hey, it's a learning experience.  In any event it'll be really bright, and will be cozy on the rocking chair in my living room.

After Christmas I'm also going to start sewing some floor pillows for my kids' reading nook, and an ottoman for the rocking chair.  I'm going to get a lot of sewing and quilting stuff for Christmas so I'll definitely put my Christmas break to good use. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Quilting the star quilt

I've been busy lately - work has been crazy and my husband has been working shorter and fewer shifts, so he's around the house more.  More husband time = less quilting time.  Which isn't a bad thing, but it does make me a touch nervous about finishing my mother-in-law's quilt by Christmas.

Right now I'm at the quilting stage (no pictures, sorry).  Since this is a gift for someone else I'm trying to go slow and be careful, and it's turning out okay so far.  I've only worked on the white portions of the quilt.  I'm still debating about how to quilt inside the star.  We'll see.

I'm also getting ready for Black Friday, because I got some great coupons in the mail for my local Jo-Ann store.  I have a tough time finding quilting fabric I love at Jo-Ann.  I do buy flannel and fleece to sew things for the kids, but most of the quilting fabric isn't exactly my taste.  However, I have a couple of coupons for 40% off one item or 20% off your whole purchase, and I might use them to stock up on fiberfill, wide backing fabric, and other stuff that isn't as fun but is really necessary.  I love a deal.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Giant star quilt top

Let me tell you how much I love this quilt top.

Forgive the picture - it was a windy day.

It's big.  It's a pretty pattern.  The pinks and yellows all play together nicely, I think.  I wasn't so sure when I bought them.  And it's something that will be so bright and cheery for my mother-in-law, who will likely still be recovering from her surgery at Christmastime.

I'm not a talented or experienced quilter, so I'm almost embarrassed of being proud of something like this because I know it has its flaws.  But come's so PRETTY!

I'll be excited to quilt it up.  I can't wait to give it to her.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Topped off

I can't believe that just a week ago I was shopping for fabric for my MIL's quilt.  Tonight I finished piecing the quilt top.  Crazy!  It's amazing how fast a quilt can come together when the blocks are 17" across.  The person who posted the tutorial also commented on how fast it can be completed. 

I'm not posting a picture yet because it's pretty big, and I need to find a good place to hang it up to get a photo.  I think I'm going to take a break from it before I quilt it...I want to see if I can do free motion quilting with my machine.  It's not designed for that, but I heard you can tape an old credit card with a hole in it over the feed dogs and that might work.  We'll see.  But I definitely want to practice on some other things before I try her quilt.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Anatomy of a star

I'm done cutting out the pieces of fabric to build my blocks for the star quilt.  There will be four white blocks in the corners and I haven't cut those yet, but I will if I have a chance tomorrow night. 

This evening I laid out the colored parts of my quilt.  I wasn't sure all the pinks would play nicely together, but I think it's okay.  Also, as you can tell, I sewed one of the blocks together incorrectly...half of it is upside-down.  I'll have to rip it apart and re-sew it.

The yellow half of that incorrect square is actually pretty small - in some places, almost a half-inch too small.  I'm not sure if I'll try to make it work, if I'll trim all the blocks to match its size, or if I'll get another yellow fat quarter to replace it altogether. Getting replacement fabric would mean putting the entire project off until the weekend, which saddens me.  I'm still considering what to do.

Also these quilt blocks just seem so massive.  For comparison, I photographed my hand on one of the blocks.  And my hand is not small.

I'm excited.  Also, my mom called me this evening and requested my Christmas wish list, and she said she'd like to get me a bunch of quilting gifts!  That makes me excited too!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My daughter's quilt

I finished a lap quilt for my daughter.  It's small, but so is she.  It's only three feet by three feet, which is a good size for her to drag around.

Here's a close-up of some of the fabrics.  Half of them were from a Moda charm pack, and the rest were squares that I cut.  I especially love the lemon fabric.

And the whole thing, finished.  It's so bright and cheery.  I almost wish that I had made a bigger one for me to cuddle up with.
Yesterday I picked up fabric for my mother-in-law's quilt.  Damn that's a lot of pink.  It's like being hit in the face with joy.  I'm not a big fan of pink, but I think she'll like it.  And actually, I liked the print in the middle so much that I bought an extra one for myself.  So pretty!

I cut up the prints yesterday and today I hope to cut up the background fabric today.  Exciting!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Done with the quilting

This evening I started and finished the quilting portion of my daughter's lap quilt.  Since it was only a little over three feet across and consisted of eight rows of eight squares, it was really easy to follow the seams in the quilt top and zip through the quilting stage.  Next I just have binding, and since my husband works on Friday night I might be able to get it done.

That means I'd be able to concentrate entirely on my mother-in-law's Christmas gift quilt.  She was admitted to the hospital this evening for testing, and it looks like she might be heading toward surgery and a stay in a rehabilitation facility so she can do physical therapy.  I think having a quilt would make it feel more homey and brighter.  Plus, my husband thinks that she'd really like to have a quilt that I made.

My MIL's taste definitely leans more toward floral and cute than my taste does.  I do like a good floral print, but I like mine to be more modern while she prefers the traditional romantic look.  So, in search of a fabric we'll both like, I found this.  It's from the Fandango collection by Kate Spain for Moda.

I may actually have to buy double the yardage so I can make something for myself out of this.  I think it's so pretty.

And this is the quilt I'll be making.  I've never done half-square triangles, but it looks do-able.  Also, I probably won't do as many colors in the star.  I love that look, but this isn't a quilt for me. 

I love starting out a new project.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

All done!

I finished the quilt for my son.

The quilt top is made entirely from scraps, and I love that.  I think log cabin quilting was created as a way of using up scraps and getting the most use possible out of your fabric.  I really like that I'm still using it that way.

The finished quilt isn't large...about three and a half feet square.  But it's just the right size for my son to spread out over himself, toss over his head, or tote around, all of which he's done today. 

Now I'm working on a quilt top for my daughter, but next weekend I think that work will stop when I go shopping for fabric for my mother-in-law's quilt.  I was going to make her a quilt for Mother's Day and my husband wanted to buy her tickets to a dinner theater about two hours away.  Unfortunately she's had some health problems that make it difficult for her to get out of the house, let alone to a theater a couple of hours away.  I hope she's doing better by Christmas but if she isn't I don't want her to get a gift that will just remind her of what she can't do.  So I'm going to do my best to finish her quilt by Christmas.  We have opposite tastes in decor - she likes things that are floral and cutesy - so it might be a trick to find fabrics that she'll love and that I can tolerate looking at for two months.  We'll see.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

I like it better this way, anyway

My son's new quilt. I'm maybe halfway done with the top. I like it so much better.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

So much for that

Remember that log cabin quilt I was working so hard on?  The one I was working so hard on, even though I didn't care for the colors anymore, because I wanted to make a nice blanket for my son?

This quilt?

I was wondering and wondering why I couldn't figure out how to lay the squares in a barn raising arrangement.  I even broke down and tried mapping it out on graph paper, planning on another quilt where I'd be assembling blocks clockwise, counterclockwise, and with the light and dark logs in different orders.  I still couldn't figure it out.  So I Googled it, and then re-read the book I bought.  And it turns out that the arrangement is really easy.

When you assemble the blocks correctly.

It turns out that the top log and the right-side log are supposed to be one color, and the bottom and left-side logs are another color.  Mine are put together...backwards?  Sideways?  Not correctly, anyway.  And even though I know that they could still be put together to form a perfectly warm and cuddly quilt, I also know that it would bug me if I did that.  So, with 11 out of the necessary 25 blocks completed, I'm scrapping the project.  Instead, I'll use what's left of my fabric to make a housetop quilt, which is like one giant log cabin block.  It'll be too much work to disassemble all of my blocks to re-use the fabric, so I think I'll probably make them into potholders.  My brother is on the process of buying a condo, so, happy housewarming Rob! 

On the plus side, my daughter's quilt is coming together beautifully.  I'm halfway done with the quilt top.  It's nice that at least one project is working out.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Kids' quilts

Today I bought fabric for my daughter's lap quilt.  I got four fat quarters and one charm pack (Moda's City Weekend collection, if you feel like Googling).  And I have to say, charm packs are AMAZING.  Pre-cut squares?  I'm in love.  You can tell that the bottom row is from the fat quarters I picked out because they're so imperfectly cut.

It's just going to be basic patchwork squares, but I really like the mismatched nature of it.  Well, half of it will be coordinated nicely because it came from one collection, but the other half will be sort of random.  But when I think of a homemade patchwork quilt I just think of cheery colors, and that's what this will be.

I'm still forging ahead on my son's lap quilt.  I have five blocks done...twenty-five to go.  As always, Lucky Lou is part of the shot.

Both of the quilts will be son's will be about three and a half feet by four feet, and my daughter's will be slightly smaller.  I wanted them to be big enough to cover the kids, but small enough for them to drag around and spread out by themselves.  Also, I want to quilt these on my machine, and I might be able to since they're small.

I'm still not crazy about my log cabin quilt blocks, but I'm hoping that they'll "read" as a cohesive pattern once they're together.  We'll see.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Best-laid plans

So I know I planned on making two quilts...a barn raising log cabin quilt, and a housetop quilt for my kids.  But when my son saw my practice log cabin quilt squares he asked excitedly if it was his quilt, and I didn't have the heart to say no.  I still want to make a housetop quilt, but it will have to wait a while.

The other change is the pattern...that barn raising thing is HARD.  At least for me, it is. So I abandoned the idea of doing that, and laid out the squares like this instead.

Oh, the paw belongs to my sewing buddy, Lucky Lou.
Lucky likes to hang out in the basement, and I have all my sewing stuff in a little corner.  So when I sew he sometimes comes and annoys me keeps me company. 

So anyway, back to the squares.  I'm not crazy about the layout.  I tried a few others and didn't like them either.  I'm also not happy with the colors.  In fact, you can see that I messed up lower right square in the picture above, but I'm not sure I'll bother to go back and fix it.  At this point I'd be tempted to scrap the whole project, but my son is already attached to "his" quilt.  I just keep reminding myself that this is a learning process, and that the most important part of this is what I learn, not what I produce.  I have years, even decades to make the perfect barn raising log cabin quilt.  Turning out a less-than-ideal quilt is not a bad thing if I learn from it.

Still, I wish I'd picked better fabrics.  Damn.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Planning my next quilt

My husband works at a bookstore, and gets a pretty good employee discount.  Recently he bought me a book called Modern Log Cabin Quilting. I had kind of a soft spot for log cabin quilts because when I worked at a living history museum in college we were working on making a reproduction of a log cabin quilt from the 1800s.  At the time I hated the slow process of piecing each block by hand, but even then I thought the quilt was beautiful.  Now that I'm no longer afraid of my sewing machine and I've discovered how much fun machine quilting can be, I was eager to read about modern log cabin quilts.

After reading this book, I have to say, my love of log cabin has intensified.  There are so many beautiful variations and the blocks seem so versatile.  So in a couple weeks I'll start work on a pattern called a housetop quilt, which is just a big, simplified log cabin square.  I wanted to make a quilt for my kids to snuggle under in the living room while they read or watch TV.  However, they both seem to love the quilt on my bed and my son has repeatedly requested "a quilt of my very own," so I may wind up making one for each of them.  My son will pick out all the materials since it'll be his.  In the meantime I'm going to practice piecing traditional log cabin squares with my scrap fabric, and once I'm comfortable I'm going to start making a quilt in a barn raising arrangement.  I want to make it brown and green, and I figured I'd just use my own scraps and then pick up fat quarters of different brown and green fabrics that I like.  I think it'll look okay with different fabric patterns as long as I stick with just a few colors.

I'm excited, but slightly nervous.  When I made my first quilt I was winging it the entire time.  Now that I've read and learned more I feel like there's a "right way" and a "wrong way," and I don't want to screw up.  I'm not going to worry about it too much though...that'll suck the fun out of it.  And what's the point of pursuing this hobby if it's not fun?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Goodbye beading

The other day I was cleaning out my craft area while talking on the phone with a friend (I'm always multitasking) and I ran across my beading supplies.  I had lots of beads, wire, findings, and other stuff that I used to use to make bracelets and necklaces.  I always liked beading because the time it took to finish a project was relatively quick compared to some other hobbies I could name *cough*quilting*cough* and I ended up with something that I could use.  But I haven't used them in a long time. 

Part of it was that the beads just seem like choking hazards now that I have two little kids running around.  I was always nervous that a bead would disappear down a throat or up a nose.  But the other thing was that I just never clicked with beading.  Somehow I could buy beautiful beads but never be able to come up with anything to do with them but make bracelets and necklaces with stone beads and sterling silver beads alternating.  Sometimes I'd have a different idea, but I could just never seem to get the specific look I wanted.  There's definitely an art to selecting beads, combining them, and stringing them in a creative way, and I was just never very talented at it.  It never clicked the way sewing has...I'm not super-talented at sewing either, but I feel so much more inspired when I sew.

So, I packed up all of my beading supplies with the exception of a needle-nosed pliers and a bunch of jump rings - the idea of making linked-ring jewelry still intrigues me - and put it on my porch.  I listed my free beading supplies on Craigslist and within an hour it was gone.

I'm happy and I hope the supplies went to someone who can make something great, or at least enjoy playing around.  My experiences with beading has really made me appreciate the jewelry making process and the talented people who do it.  And now, I'm going to use the compartment boxes I used to store my beads to store my needles and bobbins.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hello and First Project

I decided to start a new blog because my personal blog was basically becoming all about sewing.  So I figured I should just start a blog devoted to that.

And this is a good time because I just finished my VERY.  FIRST.  QUILT.  And I can honestly say I'm prouder of this than I am of anything else I've ever made, with the possible exception of my two children.

The picture does not do the colors justice.  It does an incredible job of brightening up my bedroom which is covered with depressing gray fake wood paneling (previous homeowners, why did you do that?).  Plus our cat, Juneau, really enjoys it.

I'll be honest - it has a bout a hundred mistakes.  Very few of the seams between the blocks line up evenly.  I've seen patchwork quilts that are flawless grids, and this is far from that.  I also had some areas on the binding where it didn't quite catch the quilt top, so I had to go back and re-sew it together. 

I don't mind, though.  I used to work at a living history museum and at one point the employees were working on making a reproduction of a log cabin quilt.  One of the quilt squares on the original quilt had a log that was sewn from two little pieces of fabric instead of one long piece.  I always loved that because it showed that the quilt was sewn by a real person.  I'm not sure if my quilt will hold together for generations, but it makes me smile to think of my future granddaughter snuggling under my quilt and looking at my little bits of hand sewing and knowing it meant that it was made lovingly by a real person. 

I'm already planning my next quilt - a cozy, comfortable one for my kids to snuggle under while they're in the living room.  It's definitely going to be smaller than this one...making a queen-sized quilt was a huge undertaking and I'm hoping a smaller one will be easier.