Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sailing Along: WIP Progress

Two days off is barely enough time to recover before I am back to work. I spent the entire day Monday napping and still went to bed at 10! Despite spending much of my "weekend"asleep, I did manage to assemble the "Sail Away" quilt top this afternoon.

I elected to go without borders or corner-stones because the top was becoming larger than I wanted. Instead I just sashed it with more of the same natural-colored linen and used the HSTs on the back.  I have an embroidered panel for the back (detail of the embroidery in this post), so I made the HSTs into a border for it.  Worked out perfect!

I have the weekend off coming up, so hopefully I can get this basted by Monday.

 Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.

August do. Good Stitches String Blocks

Hello Good Stitchers! It's my month as quilter for the Nurture circle again.  I know I gave you guys a pretty easy, quick block back in May, so maybe you can forgive me for this month's block being a little more intense ;)  Honestly, I got my blocks done in a couple hours, so I don't think you'll have too much trouble.

I got so excited, I made 3 of them!
(Edit: See the finished quilt here!)

This month we are making scrap string blocks with blues, grey, yellow, and low volume fabrics.  I'm including another palette to give you color ideas, but unlike last time you don't need to worry about sticking really close to the particular hues, it's just to give you a jumping off point.

I'm so glad Louise introduced low volume fabrics to our group in last month's block (here's a handy link to her tutorial with explanation.)  I had already been planning to do this block and struggling with how to best explain them, and she did a great job!  Louise's post illustrates a technique for trialing your low volume fabrics using a camera. I talk about a few other techniques here. Whatever works for you, works for me!

So, step 1 for this block is to get into your strings and pull the colors you need.  Look at the blocks I made in the first picture on this page for a guide to your color selections.  For the "focus" strings we are going for all shades of blue and teal (minus super bright, primary color blue), a little bit of grey, and a little bit of yellow.  When choosing these fabrics please think of a more grown up, slightly "mellow" palette rather than a bright, juvenile one.  (I hope that makes sense.)  You'll also need low volume fabrics for the "background" strings.  Try to choose almost all prints, but you can throw in a few solids, too. 

Making a mess is the first step in scrap quilting

Get into your scraps and make a mess! "Strings" in quilting means a lot of different things to different people, but for purposes of this project a string is a piece of fabric that is between 0.75" and 2.5" wide and at least 4.5" long unfinished (but usually much longer).   When I pull fabrics for a scrap project I dump out the appropriate scrap container and sort it.  In this initial sort I am usually not too picky, pulling anything that looks like it might work. Then I can pick out the best fabrics when I get to sewing.

The white piece will need to be trimmed a bit, but the two together easily add up to 13" long.
Step 2 is to start sewing! Match colored and low volume strings of approximately the same width (you may have to trim one of them a bit), making sure that the combined length of the two strips will add up to at least 13", and sew them together along their short end.  Remember, scrap quilting is all about making do with what you have, so try to avoid cutting new strings for this project.  After sewing trim the new, combined string to about 13" (err to the side of too long, rather than too short).

Match strings of the same width and sew along the short end
Once you have sewn up a handful of strips take some time to iron them, pressing the seam toward the darker fabric.  You can start putting them up on the design wall at this point and playing with them.  The determine how many you need to make arrange the strings in a stack so that their edges just touch and measure the height.  Subtract 0.5" x the number of horizontal seams (one less than the total number of strings) to get the height that your block/column would be if you sewed them together.  Since I am asking for (2) 12.5" blocks you'll need to have a column of at least 25" finished.

Column of strings starting on the wall.  At this point the stack was 22" tall.  There are 12 horizontal seams (12*0.5"=6"). So sewn together these strings would make a blocks about 16" tall (22"-6"=16").  I need to make some more!
Step 3 is to step back and admire your work. Once you've sewn up a bunch of strings is a good time to take a break.  I like to leave these up on my design wall for a while so I can look at them throughout the day. Each time you see them is an opportunity for things that don't blend well to jump out at you. Since we're working for scraps it's likely that some of your fabrics just won't "go" with the rest of them once you see them all together. That's totally fine! Just pull them out and back in the scrap box they go.

Up close, scrap projects like this can look busy and messy. It's hard to see the design and nothing looks like it goes!  Getting some distance is a good way to see the big picture. Another thing I like to do is look at the wall with my glasses off.  Usually, the colors that don't belong immediately become obvious.  Since I know that everyone is not (ahem) blessed with being horribly near sighted I tweaked one of the pictures I took to show you what I see.

The nearsighted quilter's design wall :)
See that teal and grey string in the lower left that's jumping out in the pic above?  The grey is too dark, it's not reading as white.  The string group looked much better with that one gone, but I probably never would have noticed it if I hadn't done the glasses-off test.  (For those of you not blessed with myopia, my mother says you can get this same effect by crossing your eyes a little bit, kind of like how you do those Magic Eye illusions.)

Once you are happy with the colors of your strings step 4 is to start sewing them together, keeping the darks on one side and lights on the other.  Remember we are basically going for a random look, so don't stress too much about the order.  I recommend sewing all your strings into one long column and then cutting your 12.5" blocks from it.

You can press as you go if you feel like you need to, but I don't think it's necessary to press until you're done with this step. Also, please don't press the seams open. In this kind of quilt I worry that it will make the seams more likely to split. Don't stress about seams that aren't perfectly straight, trust me, it will look GREAT all together and you'll never notice.

Stay-stitched to keep the edges from unraveling
Step 5, you're practically done!  After ironing your column of strings, line up your ruler with the horizontal seams and cut (2) 12.5" blocks from it.  If your column was more than a couple inches too long, don't hesitate to send along the extra as well :)  To protect your blocks during shipping and assembly please sew a line of stay-stitching about 1/8" from the edge on the sides with many seams.  And that's it! Thank you for helping to make what I think will be a stunning quilt!

3 string blocks on the wall
(Edit: See the finished quilt here!)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sail Away on the Design Wall

Well, it's Monday again. Feels like Saturday to me since I worked all weekend. I can't wait to get busy putting this top together! I made these blocks last week based on a quilt I saw at Blue Elephant Stitches. The blocks need to be trimmed up and sashed and then I will need to settle on a border option to make use of my bonus HSTs :)

Happy Sewing! I am linking up to Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What I did on my day off...

Tomorrow starts a 3-day weekend of 12-hour shifts, so I had a long list of things I wanted to get to today before I headed back to work.  I have plenty of UFOs that need to be worked on, so what did I do? Started a new project, naturally!!

Chain piecing like the wind!
I decided to make a throw quilt based on this one at Blue Elephant Stitches.  The biggest change I made was to make the boat's hull out of one piece so that I could showcase some novelty fabrics.  These cute little sail boats will be perfect for two little boys :)

Brights fabric selections

I selected my fabrics and cut them last night.  I went with my usual method of making two HSTs at a time by cutting squares and sewing on either side of the center diagonal. (Method #2 here.)  Making the hull pieces yielded 2 bonus HSTs per boat. I am thinking about using these as corner stones in the sashing, or else on the back.

Hulls and HSTs

Each boat gets 6 little HST sails.

Lots of sewing, pressing, and cutting and at the end of the day I have a stack of 16 cute little boats!

Can't wait until Monday when I can get back to work on this one. I have promised myself that this will not become another UFO :/

Yesterday was my last day at the job I've had for over 2 years at the embroidery shop.  I took the opportunity to make a few more embroidered panels for quilt backs.  These feature a poem that's been on the side of our refrigerator my whole life.  I made 5 in various colors.

"Cleaning and scrubbing
can wait 'til tomorrow
for babies grow up
we've learned to our sorrow

So quiet down cobwebs
dust go to sleep
I'm rocking my baby
and babies don't keep" 
Wilson had a rough day

Speaking of babies, Wilson had a rough day. (His least favorite parts by far were my attempts to give him Benadryl.) I think he got stung by a wasp or a bee; his face was swollen up like a chipmunk. I was worried about his breathing with so much swelling around his airway, especially since he is always so congested with his allergies already and gets winded easily.

a better picture of the swelling
Fortunately, he seems to be fine and by dinner the swelling had started to go down.   So the kitty is well, the laundry is done, a new project is well on its way and I guess everything is ready for me to go back to work tomorrow :)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Tackling my oldest WIP

I finally have something on my design wall today.  It seems like it's been forever since I actually sewed for a quilt. Having a real job just saps all my energy.  But, this weekend I finally got motivated and inspired to put in some sewing time.

I saw the ad for the NYC Mod Guild's Double Wedding Ring Challenge and it reminded my of one of my earliest projects (the last post about it was in May 2010).  This quilt became something of a personal demon for me, but I have decided to try to tackle it again for entry into the modern, free-for-all category of the DWR challenge.  I have until December, so that should be plenty of time, right? (Hah!!) 

I called it "A Couple of Squares," a riff off the Double Wedding Ring, because I think the design is similar.  My first attempt (on top in the pic above) was so pitiful with seams not even close to matching I decided to just start completely over.  This time I am going to try for a rainbow color fade look, going from red at the upper left to purple and the lower right. I redrew the template larger and started to try again yesterday. 

Let's just say I quickly remember why I abandoned that particular project in the first place.

I haven't given up or changed my mind yet.  One block down, 15 to go!  If you haven't already checked out the DWR challenge you definitely should. There are 3 categories ranging from mini to full and traditional to modern, something for everyone!

Linking up to design wall Monday at Patchwork Times.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tie-ing and Dye-ing

The t-shirt I did for myself. An off center spiral dyed in pie sections.
So I tried something new this week. Tie-dye! I was inspired by the tutorials over at Jedi Craft Girl's blog. She just did a week of tie-dye tutorials that totally explained the methods of folding and dying in a way that made it make sense. I can't believe I got results this nice on my first dying attempt.  Major props to Amanda for her good teaching :)

L to R: Off center spiral dyed in pie sections; Starfish symmetrical design with pleats at the bottom; Pleats; Spiral dyed in spiderweb; Pleats; Spiral dyed in spiderweb style, different colors on the front and back
Personally I've never been a huge fan of wearing tie-dye. I don't know why, I guess it's just not something people do in my part of the country.  I had to make at least one shirt for myself (first pic in the page) but for the rest of them I did what I usually do and made baby stuff!  I got 2 packages of Carters plain white onesies. They are 100% cotton and took the dye just great.

I took closeups of a few of my favorite designs. This one is made by folding a spiral and then applying the dye in a spiral to create an effect Amanda calls "spiderweb."  The tutorial for this one is here.  You really have to go read the tutorials, she makes it so simple!

Of course, the great thing about tie-dying for babies is it just makes sense. Babies are messy and nothing disguises spit up quite as well and a bright, loud, busy design.

This one was done using the running stitch technique from Amanda's "Symmetry" tutorial.  I wasn't sure how well it was going to work until it was done, but I couldn't be happier. After folding the starfish I folded the bottom of the onesie in pleats to get the effect on the purple stripe.

L to R: Multicolor spiral dyed in pie sections; Double spiral with random dye; Symmetrical starfish with bulls-eyes around it; Symmetrical V done with running stitch; Spiral dyed in pie sections.
My friend who I am always making baby stuff for also has an almost-two-year-old so I bought a package of 2T/3T plain white T-shirts to dye.  Both these and the onesies are found in the baby section.

This one is probably too purple for a little boy, but I really like the way the double spiral came out.  I also like how this one has a lot more white. Dyeing such small shirts it is hard not to add too much dye, so most of mine didn't end up with much white space left.

The one was a spiral dyed in pie sections.  The lime and aqua are definitely my favorite color combo.  One of the interesting things I noticed is that the thread remained white after dying, in both the onesies and the shirts.  I suppose that's because it's synthetic? Still weird considering there doesn't seem to be much these dyes won't stick to.  I dyed out concrete porch, the wooden porch rail, the inside of our dryer, and my hands! (Don't do what I did, protect yourself and your surfaces from dye! I'm just a slow learner.)

This shirt was dyed the same as the starfish onesie, using the running stitch symmetry technique.

I did all these with a Tulip 5-color "Luau" dye kit. The kit comes with one refill for each color, so I still have enough to do at least this many again. They also sell individual colors, so I think I may add yellow to my set.  Amanda recommended to use soda ash to help the colors stay bright, but I wasn't able to find any locally.  I went on without it and was completely happy with the colors I got, but I am looking forward to trying this again with soda ash to see the difference.

I know I've said it several times, but you really must click over to Amanda's blog and see all the great designs she and her family made. It will inspire you to get busy and get dying, too!

Since wrapping up her Tie-Dye extravaganza, Amanda's next project is A Week of Quilt Tutorials July 22-27th.  I am thrilled to have been invited to participate in this one :)  Look for a revamp of my Simple Strips and Scrappy Herringbone baby quilts on the 24th and check in all week to see all the tutorials.

Linking up to Finish it Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Applique Onesie Tutorial

Unique applique onesie!
Since I have been showing quite a few of these appliqued onesies on the blog lately I wanted to put together a tutorial on how I make them.  They are super easy to make and always well received by mom!

Step one is to get your onesies.  I sometimes buy packs of plain white onesies from WalMart (prefer Carters brand) but I really like to hit up Goodwill, too. Their baby clothes are always 99 cents a piece and it's easy to find ones in good repair.  I think since babies usually have sooo many clothes, and grow so fast, they end up outgrowing their clothes before they can do much damage to them, making them ideal to buy second hand! 

Plain onesie in good repair from Goodwill
You need to decide on a design that you like. In this case, I wanted something that would go with the colors on the onesie (mostly brown) and would be wide enough to cover the label that was on the chest.  Google is a great place to start looking for ideas. In this case I chose a turtle. 

Design components sketched onto iron-on
Sketch the components of your design onto the paper side of lite iron-on adhesive.  No need to erase stray lines as the paper ends up getting thrown away anyway. For my turtle I needed a shell, head, 2 legs, and a tail.  I used a compass (like from geometry) to get the curves for my pieces.  I've noticed that almost anything looks more baby-ish if you exaggerate the roundness of it.  Bear in mind that if your design is directional it will end up reversed from your sketch.

Fabric selections from scraps
Cut out your pieces leaving about a 1/4" extra to the outside of the lines. For the large enough pieces, also cut out the inside about a 1/4" from the line. This cuts down on stiffness and weight in the final design.  For pieces that are all going to be in the same fabric (like my head, legs, and tail) there is no need to cut the individual pieces apart.  Next, dig into your scraps and find the perfect colors :)

Apply iron-on to wrong side of fabric
Following the package directions, iron the adhesive onto the wrong side of your fabrics.  Trim around the individual pieces.  This is why we didn't trim all the way down to the lines earlier, so now we can get a nice clean line with the adhesive going all the way to the edge.

Trim the individual components
Layout the components (mine are upside down above) and play with their placement until you are satisfied with the design.

Peel the papers away and iron the components in place
Peel away the backing papers and place the fabrics onto the onesie, overlapping slightly where necessary. Then, iron them in place according to the package directions of your adhesive.

Blanket stitch in a coordinating color to make everything secure
Finally, since babies can deal out a lot of abuse and baby clothes generally don't get washed on the 'gentle' cycle, I use my machine to blanket stitch everything in place with coordinating thread colors.  This is also a great time to add embellishments. Buttons are obviously a no-no, but ribbons can be a great addition.

All done, and much improved!
Wash the onesie before you give it away to make sure nothing moves and, ta-dah! All done!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pieced Badge Cover: Mid-week Project

I started my first nursing job this week.  A lot of nurses decorate their badge clips and I thought, why not a quilted badge?  I hope it will be a good conversation starter with some of my patients who may also be quilters or live with a quilter :)

I decided on a Dutchman's puzzle block and used paper and foundation piecing both to make it.  Obviously there are some wonkiness issues, but as the entire design measures just 1.5" I'm okay with that.   After piecing together the top I cut the piece to a circle and added elastic to make it wrap around the badge base.

Here's what my badge clip looks like from the back.  The fabric comes around the edges of the base and the elastic pulls it in close behind it.  I can't wait to wear it to work :)

Linking up to WIP Wednesday.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"It's a Girl!" baby gifts

My friends are having a girl!  I've been making embellished onesies, baby pants, and receiving blankets for expectant moms for a while now, but it seems like almost everyone is having boys.  That works well for me since I generally like boy stuff better, and my stash is full of boy fabrics, but it was fun to finally get to make some little girl things.

I made my usual set of 3 onesies. I buy plain white onesies and applique on them.  I like the Carters brand because they feel softer, thicker and generally better made than Gerbers.

 I usually get at least size 3-6 month because some babies and born already too large for newborn clothes, and this way they can wear them longer.

These are so easy to make, and turn out so cute!  [Edited to add, I decided to write a full tutorial for these. You can find it here.]  I start by sketching my design onto the paper side of Lite Iron-on adhesive.  I cut out the pieces about a quarter inch to either side of my lines, leaving the middle empty. This way there is only a strip of the iron-on along the edges of the design, making it lighter and more flexible.

I iron the adhesive onto fabric scraps, trim along the line to make it the right shape, then peel off the paper and iron it down to the onesie.  I use a machine blanket-stitch to secure everything so it will last through many washes.

I also made some more Big Butt Baby Pants. My first girly pair :)  I used a natural colored linen for the main piece of the pants and a cute, pink print with animals for the rear panel and ruffles.  The ruffles around the ankles give just the right girly touch and pink top-stitching finishes everything off perfectly.

I also made two quick receiving blankets from some white thermal knit and pink jersey sheet set.  I make these pillowcase-style and just top-stitch around the edge once they are flipped and closed.  A few stars or circles in the middle to hold the layers together and these generously sized blankets are all ready for baby.

Baby set: quilt, 2 receiving blankets, pants, 3 onesies

Of course, every baby needs a quilt. So, the Pink Lemonade scrap will also be going with this set to its new home.  Sewing for babies is SO much fun, and so are the babies themselves, except possibly for the cat of the house.  My friends' kitty is about to get a rude awakening, so I made up a quick-and-dirty cat toy to send along, too.  New babies are hard on kitties :/

This is a kitty who doesn't know a thing about babies and NOT being the center of mommy's attention
The sewing is all done, not we're ready to meet the sweet new little person!

You can find the full tutorial for the onesies here.

Linking up to Finish it Friday @ Crazy Mom Quilts.