Thursday, April 26, 2012

WIPs are progressing....

I turned in the very last of my last grades yesterday, and celebrated by making some more Bear Paw and Swoon blocks.

My dad does actually look at this blog, and with Father's Day approaching I am putting a moratorium on progress shots of his quilt.  He knows it's coming, he has seen the fabrics and the first set of blocks -- now I'm cutting him off!  No more sneak peeks for you, Pop!

But my Swoon quilt, on the other hand...that I can share.  I now have a total of 7 (of 9) giant blocks, and I love how it's shaping up.  It was far too windy to photograph these in my front yard, but I managed to get them to sit still on our tiny front porch.

Swoon 1, 2, and 3 Swoon 4, 5, 6, and 7

My favourite is one of the most recently pieced, and I think I'll place it at the very centre of the quilt: it's the one featuring the chocolate brown "bracelets" by Lizzy House and the gray "Prairie Rose" print from Hope Valley.

Ooooo, I love that one. That was fun!

But I'm going to have to face a reality check tomorrow, and get back to writing.

In the meantime, I hope all is well with you!  Bye for now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Ugly Truth

This morning Frida wore a new dress to school.

ModKids Maya, 1st attempt

The house is a bit messy, but neither the little bits of visible mess nor the blurry photo of a grinning girl in a decent homemade dress reveal anything about the state of mama's sewing last night. I made just about EVERY mistake possible, every sloppy manoeuvre imaginable. It is a MIRACLE that I ended up with a decent item at the end of it all.  In fact, Greg says that this is his favourite of all the dresses I have made for Frida.  Hey now!

Even as I type, I'm not sure I want to detail the ugly truth of last night's sewing misadventures...but I know that I always appreciate behind-the-scenes glimpses (and confessions) on sewing blogs, so maybe this will be useful (or reassuring) to someone out there! And it may be cathartic for me.

First off, last night was my first date with my new serger, a Janome Four-DLG that I had had on layaway for the past 7 months or so.  Not to worry: I got it at a great price, and it wasn't expensive as sergers go, but it took me a while to get it nevertheless.  This replaces my Brother serger, which was cheap and useful, but not fabulous, and whose presser foot lever snapped about a year ago.

About a month ago, I had cut out most of the pieces for a size 3T ModKid Maya dress -- using cotton interlock from my stashed garment fabrics.  When I decided to give the Four-DLG a whirl last night, I did so not with a bunch of scraps -- oh no, that would have been too prudent.  Instead, I dove right into assembly of a real clothing item.


My current sewing temperament is a bit reckless, and I find myself spending as much (often more) time restitching or dealing with sewing dilemmas-of-my-own making as just sewing.  I'm not always this way; there must be something in the air.

Here are some things I did, which I wouldn't recommend to others.

I eyeballed the positioning of the ruffles.  Of course, they all lean towards one side.  Hrumph.

I estimated the width of the neckband.  So now it is something like a turtleneck.  I guess that's okay.

This pattern has you attach the neckband to the top with just one shoulder seam sewn.  Once I did that I couldn't get the seams of the neckband to meet up nicely when closing up the second shoulder (they were way off), and I re-serged that seam about a dozen times, making the the pieces a wee bit smaller, and smaller, and smaller as I did so.  It still isn't right, but it's okay.  Next time I will close both shoulders, create a loop of neckband material and then attach, with the neckband seam at the back.  I have done this before, and I know I can do it. 

The neckband and ruffles actually look okay in this photo...but trust me, they're wonky.

I'm guessing that way back when I cut the skirt pieces, I did so on the cross-grain of the interlock (or maybe I did so on one of the pieces???).  Anyway, my first attempt at a scalloped rolled hem is a bit weird, curling in on one side and not at all consistent.  I need to be more careful about can be hard to tell which way the grain runs on a solid cotton interlock.  It can also be difficult to tell which is the right side, which the wrong side.  It just wants to curl everywhere.

I attached the skirt to the waistband beautifully!  Yay!

But I did it inside out.  Boooo.

I then had to slice it off with my rotary cutter and thought I would save time and the trouble of regathering by just using the process of serging to slice off the first seam, which was still attached to the skirt.  This made my serger VERY unhappy, and suddenly it wasn't looping at all.


I felt slightly panicked.  I sliced another inch off the now-mangled seam.  I did a google search, which was far from reassuring.  I watched the set-up DVD a couple of times.

I rethreaded the whole machine.  Three times.

Bingo!  I was back in business.

I decided that I did not care whether the dress ended up too short from all the slicing and dicing.  I figured that the waistband was probably going to be loose on Frida anyway -- it is meant to be tight and stretchy, giving the top some blousiness, but on a skinny marinny like Miss F I was guessing that it would just hang down straight.  And at this point I had nothing to lose.  So I regathered and reattached the skirt.


Feeling relieved but also frazzled, I started to clean up the mess I had created -- which was FORMIDABLE -- and which I did not want to document in any way...just wanted to pretend it had never happened!  But here I am, telling you all about it. And I'm glad it's behind me!

And I'm glad Frida has a new dress.  Just don't look too closely :)

  ModKids Maya, 1st attempt ModKids Maya, 1st attempt

Sunday, April 22, 2012

baby boy quilts and OAKSHOTT!

Greetings!  I'm low on blogging motivation these days...not sure why...just a lot on my plate, I suppose, so creative time and energy is spent elsewhere?  Anyway, I thought I would share a couple of small projects I finished this week -- a week that included a 48-hour-period that added two baby boys to our circle of friends & acquaintances.

The first is baby Lucas, born to our neighbour's son and his partner, and we couldn't be happier for them!  I sensed that they would probably want something undeniably boyish, so I used solids from the Poseidon Kona cotton FQ pack I had bought last year from Brenda at Pink Castle.  This is the first time I have made an all-solids quilt top...and I love it!!

Poseidan baby boy quilt

baby boy quilt 1, made with Poseidon Kona FQ pack

For the backing fabric, and to give baby Lucas something interesting to look at as he gets bigger, I used a black & white Timeless Treasures animal print that I bought on sale somewhere along the line...I think it's super cute, the kind of thing Jackson would have liked when he was little ("I still do like it," he retorted when I shared that with observation him yesterday).

back of Poseidan baby boy quilt

detail, Poseidan baby boy quilt

I bound it with a royal blue solid and used one of my "enchanted bobbin" labels, which I have been shy to add to projects...but there you go.

Baby Chester was born the next day, little brother to one of the kids who was in our baby group 3 years ago. Chester's mom is a fabric junkie, so I knew I wanted something unusual for Chester's quilt -- and I found it at City of Craft yesterday: a FQ designed by Johanna of Charlotte & Stewart, cutest jellyfish I have ever seen!  If you like creepy-cute, you must check out Johanna's dolls. I saw them in person at City of Craft, and they are beautifully made.  I especially like the wee little ones.

fat quarter designed by Charlotte & Stewart

I guess I was feeling inspired, because by the time I went to bed last night I had this second baby boy quilt pieced

night piecing

basted, quilted, and half bound. All that remained to do this morning was to hand sew the binding, and voila!

baby boy quilt 2

I used a deep blue solid for the back, plus some leftovers from the front. Having such a high contrast between front and back, I selected a deep variegated blue Aurifil 50 wt thread for the bobbin, white for the needle, and FMQ'ed some little waves and straight-line quilted the rest.

detail, jellyfish quilt

detail, jellyfish quilt

And in other news, during one of the sessions of the whole cloth quilting class at the workroom, my new pal Melinda and I decided we really needed to split an Oakshott Colour Box...and yesterday we met up for tea, City of Craft, and Oakshott fun.

Melinda had her great camera with her, but no memory card, so I took a couple of pictures on my phone -- not great, but I like this one because you get a sense of how giddy we were...neither of us could stop smiling, the fabrics are so gorgeous!

Colour Box

tea and oakshott!

I have an idea brewing for some of my share of the Oakshotts...more on that later.

Well, that was a much longer post than I anticipated. If you're still with me, thank you! I am currently sweaty from my second session of my new get-fit regime (inspired by a check-up last body has not fared so well from the return to work post-maternity leave), so I think it's time to clean up and move on.

Bye for now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Hello, my virtual friends (and my sweet husband, who will no doubt spot this new post! xxx).

I am newly arrived in Salt Lake City for a whirlwind of writing collaboration, guest lecture, and classroom visit.  It's great to get away from home and the usual routine, but of course I miss both already.

I have one little (fairly) recent project to share, and it gives me a chance to try the alternative mode for inserting photos to blog posts suggested by my wise pal Jan.  Live and learn...and I do have a lot to learn.

There won't be much sewing for me this week (I brought along my current little hand quilting/wholecloth project, but it may not see much action).  In the meantime, here is some simple embroidery made a couple of weeks ago by one-who-knows-little about embroidery (I just make it up as I go along), but I think the cuteness of the vintage transfer (from this book) carries the show!

vintage embroidery transfer on essex linen

Have a great week!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

our Sunday

Today we did what any mixed-heritage, completely secular family would do: we led our 3-year-old through an egg hunt in my parents' garden and then settled down to a brunch of matzo brei and fruit salad. It was great fun for little Frida, who was delighted by the discovery of little plastic eggs filled with raisins (which the adults ate), peanuts, bunny-shaped cheese crackers, and gummy bears (her favourite).  We weren't completely virtuous: she also found a little paper bunny encasing a very nice milk chocolate, which was she appreciated greatly! None of this is documented in photos, but perhaps it is etched in her toddler memory bank.

The next 48 hours promises to be very busy, with my son's birthday fast approaching, on Tuesday -- it will be his 18th, which is very, very, very hard for me to comprehend.  Anyway, he has a Calculus exam on his birthday (how could they?!), and since the schools here are on break through tomorrow (Easter Monday), we are going to celebrate one day early.  (I am also flying out to Salt Lake City at the crack-of-dawn on Tuesday...practically 18 years-to-the-hour of when I first gave birth...sigh....)

So where's the stitchery in all this?  Yes, there is some.

Back in September Jackson requested a quilt, something with a punch of colour, and together we selected a range of greens from my stash.  He even chose the solid (Prairie Green) from my Moda Bella colour card.  It wouldn't have been my choice, but it has grown on me!

I pieced the top -- a second adaptation of Kim Brackett's "Paddle Wheel" from Scrapbasket Sensations -- and then it languished, part of a growing stack of TBQs (to-be-quilteds) in the upstairs hallway.

I finally, finally, not-a-moment-too-soon, got it done (today!) -- after a little border wrangling that I won't detail here since it would overshadow the very good intentions I had in getting this done for Jackson's birthday.  I will explore my border-sewing woes and solutions another day.

For now, I am content in the knowledge that he will have a quilt to take with him to university. This is a HUGE birthday, for the boy and his mama.

It's so nice to have daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth in early April; everything is blooming earlier than usual this year.

I had cut one block a wee bit too small, and embroidered a little message and the date in the extra sashing space.

Oops.  Blogger has just informed me that I'm out of photo storage space and cannot add any more photos until I shell out $5/year.  Hmmm.  Well, I'll tell you that the backing fabric is a green-and-yellow crosshatch-y type print from Moda Origins.  I used all my remaining black and white Alexander Henry Heath for the binding, filling in with some b & w hexagons for the last 10 inches or so.  The quilting was minimalist (hey, at least it's done!), using a variegated green Aurifil 50 wt thread to stitch in the ditch of each block, with intersecting figure 8s (like a four-petalled flower) free-motion quilted in each block, and 2 lines of straight line quilting at each edge of each border. 

It looks really cool from the back...and you'll have to trust me on that one!

Oooohhhh, this is a big week, in so many ways. I am reeling a bit, I must admit.

I hope everyone has had a lovely holiday, whatever you celebrate and however you do so!

Monday, April 2, 2012

In for a pound

This is the last week of classes at my university, so it is generally a happy week around these parts.  There's plenty of work coming up this month, but most of it can be done on my own schedule and from home -- so the worst most intense part of my work year is just about over! Hallelujah!

I am in the middle of grading writing from my fourth-year undergrad seminar, which has been great fun (I'm happy to report!), but I started my Monday morning by assembling four new Farmer's Wife blocks, the pieces for which I cut (from the templates) last night.

block 59, Noon [oops!] Night & Day

block 60 Noon & Light

block 76, Sawtooth

block83, Spider Web
These new blocks bring my FW total to 84...which means that it is time to face the fact that I am indeed going to keep on going with this project. My name is Jennifer, I am addicted to this sampler quilt, and I can't stop at 83.

111 blocks is looking like a pretty realistic goal. I have been learning so much from making these traditional blocks -- many of which I never would have made (they wouldn't have appealed to me, at first glance)...if not for the challenge of this project. So on I go.

I am almost embarrassed to admit that I also finished my second little "whole cloth" project for my Saturday hand quilting class at the workroom. Once I start, I just can't stop!

This one is also destined to be a pillow, and this time I worked with some of the perle cotton (one rich tangerine, and one variegated tangerine) acquired last year.

...please excuse the slapdash thread basting.
My first go at this design included some contrast colours -- some green in the leaves, some brown in the acorns -- but it looked awful, too strangely colourful and also lacking in definition.  I ended up using the solid tangerine and a backstitch for the acorns and the leaf-spines, simply to make them "read" in the overall design.  I'm not sure if there was an alternative, but I'll ask Carolanne's opinion next Saturday.  For now, I am happy with this -- it was fun to do, but I discovered that I find the 30 wt hand quilting thread more pleasurable to work with than perle cotton. Huh!

Good thing my order arrived today from Tristan threads!!!!

I am giddy over these beauties: grab bags of Aurifil cotton in 28 wt (close in feel to the Valdani thread I worked with last week) and 12 wt.  I can hardly wait to start something new. But wait I must.

Have a wonderful day!