Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell 2011!!

2011 wasn't the best year of my life -- it was quite productive for me, workwise and also in terms of sewing -- but it was actually one of the most stressful and unbalanced years of my life, although I don't think one would get a strong sense of that from this  10-month-old blog...that's not really the function of stitchy blog, is it?  The generosity of those of you who have read and commented is truly one of the bright lights of my 2011.  Thank you so much for your kindness. 

I threw together a mosaic of some of the things I made this year.

1. DW's brown bear quilt, 2. FMQ experiment, back, 3. 9-patch baby quilt, 4. Spring baby quilt, 5. Baby "I" on her quilt!, 6. wedding quilt, finis!, 7. the big one, 8. orange string quilt, 9. "Links", 10. Ms. H's quilt, 11. In Bloom, for my mother, 12. In Bloom, back, 13. [gray geese] over the rainbow, 14. Garden Fence quilt, finis!!, 15. Sweet Pea Quilt, 16. sneak peek of Little Apples quilt, 17. sneak peek of Little Apples quilt, 18. a little knitting, 19. gnome pillow, 20. a well-loved gnome pillow, 21. M5882 dress...first try, 22. ModKid "Frida" dress #2, 23. naturally dyed wool, 24. natural dyes, 25. shibori experiment 1, 26. Penelope and the new pillow

Now I'm happy to move forward to a new year and a fresh start.

I have lots of resolutions in mind, including some that are very important to me personally, but are not craft-related. In a first draft of this post I detailed all the things I wanted to revive and reintroduce to my life.  While it was productive to put all those things in words, I don't want to weigh down this forum with too much of that stuff.  Suffice it to say that  I'm hoping that 2012 is the year I finally emerge from the (most recent) fog of pregnancy-babyhood-toddlerhood. I remember this process from the last time here we go again!

I actually do have some sewing goals in mind...probably more than I can accomplish this year, realistically.  But why not aim high?  Here are the ones at the front of my mind right now.

*experiment with my quilting: the geometric wonders in Charlotte Warr Andersen's One Line at a Time, Encore, more play with my free motion quilting, more hand quilting.

*design in EQ7.  I finally watched the video tutorials, and am very excited by what this program can do.  Yay.

*design and make my father a king-sized quilt. Queen-sized is the largest I have made (start to finish) to date.

*finish my "Farmer's Wife" blocks.

*finish my Mystery Quilt.

*finish my hexagon projects.

*make one of the beauties from String Quilt Revival.

*get my new serger (still on layaway) and whip up a bunch of knit dresses for Frida.

*make some summer dresses for myself.

Whatever your experience of the past year has been, 
and whatever your hopes for 2012, 
I wish you a very sweet new year's eve and the best for the coming year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

good mail day! and a good sale!


While I was very sad to see the online retailer Z & S Fabrics dissolve -- I bought fabric for my very first quilt from them! -- they did have a wonderful sale in their final days, back in November, which softened the blow for customers, if not the owners.  (I wish them well!  I had nothing but good experiences with Z & S.) 

I knew when I placed my order for 1/2 price Kona solids that I would have to wait quite a while to actually receive the order, but solids are always useful, right?  Right.

And now here they are!!  And looking quite pretty together, I might add.  I may need to make an all solids quilt soon.

Finally, I can't keep news of a great sale at a small online shop to myself: if you get excited by fabric bargains, as I do, you should take a look at This-n-That where they're clearing out current inventory -- some modern, some repro -- with lots of lovely prints in the $3 - $4 range.  Pretty tempting!


Jane market totes...and some not-so-modern fabric

Any creative thought I can muster today has to be directed to course design -- I am in the process of drafting a new course, a senior seminar on Victorian women's ghost stories (I do love my job!), and the clock is I'll keep this brief.

I just wanted to share the two versions of Alicia Paulson's "Jane" market bag I whipped up yesterday.  These were fun and quick makes, perfect for hauling piles of books and exams to and from work, so I think there will be more of these in my future.

The first is a gift, and hopefully  the recipient is not working her way through her Google reader today! I really do think I'm safe in sharing this one, so here it goes: I bought the Kokka (oops) Echino camera fabric over 18 months ago, with this friend in mind, so it's great to finally use some of this stash of Japanese cotton-linen prints.  I lined the bag in a cotton solid that I dyed a soft purple-gray, with logwood, (during the "natural dyeing" workshop I took last August at the workroom), gave it some structure by using fusible Pellon interfacing, and matched the Echino prints with a deep plum Kona cotton (the front panel and straps).

With the construction steps fresh in my mind, I made myself one of these market totes from a small stash of 19th c. reproduction fabrics (combined with some natural Essex linen for the front panel and lining) that -- I must admit -- I love.

I added one step to the construction for this second version of the tote: I created bottom edge seams to give the bottom of the bag more definition (and to keep things in the two exterior pockets from slipping down too far).  I imagine others have done this as well, since it seams an obvious addition to the pattern -- if I had more time, I would tour around the "Jane's market tote" flickr pool -- but I just thought I'd mention it :)

My taste pulls me in a few different directions, exemplified in yesterday's output: I am drawn to modern fabrics (they got me into sewing to begin with) but I also love feedsack reproductions, 30s fabrics, and yes, even some of what have come to be known as "civil war" fabrics.  I think all of these can co-exist harmoniously in my stash cabinet.  Anyway, the 19th c. repros made for a very grown-up bag, one I can certainly use at work. 


Now back to the ghost stories.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

stockings for a complicated but very merry holiday

Yesterday I finished making stockings for each of my three children, and for the sake of my sewing buddies Tong and Sheila -- in whose company I drafted the pattern and got 3/4 of the way through construction -- here are some preliminary shots of the finished objects.

I will try to get better shots tonight or tomorrow morning, once we have devised a way of hanging these along the bannister (no fireplace in this house!).  And hopefully I will have our point-and-shoot back in circulation by then; these phone photos leave a lot to be desired, and make the Coolpix seem like a sophisticated piece of photographic equipment.

For now, here is Chloe's (she chose something classy rather than cute):

And Jackson's (who had no strong preference, so I chose something wintery):

And finally Frida's, a celebration of holiday baking more elaborate than anything likely to happen in our kitchen:

So the kids will have stockings to fill tonight, for the first time in many years.

I should explain that our holidays are fairly complicated: our completely-secular-but-holiday-loving blended family celebrates Hanukkah, although nothing elaborate, and generally without nightly presents; we have developed our own invented version of St. Nicholas day (when the tree magically appears overnight); and then there's Christmas -- which my older two kids split between our household and their dad's (about an hour away).

So the plan tonight and tomorrow morning is to keep the presents meaningful but minimal (as always), to explore the stockings and a gift each together tomorrow morning with Grandma and Grandpa (who are only minutes away!!), and then Jackson and Chloe will be heading out of town for about a  week.  Back here we'll have a big breakfast and then Frida can finish up the present un-wrapping.  I think this should work well, since she needs a lot of time to digest each and every present.

Whatever you and your family are doing tonight and tomorrow, I hope it is joyful for all.  I was just rereading some old posts and comments last night, and it reminded me of how generous-spirited my readers are.  Thank you so much for reading all of this at all (it still amazes me!), and for your kind comments and wise suggestions.  I truly appreciate it.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

bags, bags, bags...and a sneak peek

Quick little post today about some quick stitching (and a sneak peek at a recent finish on a larger scale).

There have been lined drawstring bags, using Jeni's great tutorial (now gone viral!).  The first I made is the one on the left, which Frida uses for her beloved "pre-ballet" gear.  I also made a "Paris Cats" and raspberry oval elements bag of this kind for one for her little classmates, but failed to get a photo of it (it was cute, trust me!).  The remaining two are for Christmas presents, and I have a couple of larger ones in process for use as knitting bags.

There have been super-simple gift bags, made from some red and gold ticking stripe material, which I didn't realize was metallic when I bought it (online) -- but looks very season-appropriate now:

And I have a bigger finish, for which I'll get a proper photo soon.  For now, here are a few peeks:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Modern Drunk: a finish!

I'm not quite done with grading -- I have marked 40 exams so far today, but still have 18 of the 115 total to grade before tomorrow, grrr -- but I couldn't face the sea of papers first thing this morning.

So before today's grading marathon I basted and quilted my "drunken" pillow top from yesterday:

That went I kept going, cutting a back from yardage of David Textiles/Victoria and Albert "Venice" fabric, adding an invisible zipper (not perfectly, but it will do!)...and before I knew it, I had a pillow!  Yay!

(Venice has a special place in my heart, as it was the highlight of the last overseas trip I made before getting pregnant with Frida -- the tail end of a 5-year-stretch of time, when my two [older] children were old enough for me to travel, and I did, quite a bit.  As sweet as my domestic life has been over the past few years, it's healthy for me to remember the larger world out there, and that a time will come again when my sweet husband and I can travel together!)

Thanks to Sheila for calling this "modern drunk."  I like it.

Penelope quickly signaled her approval:

But at the other end of the sofa, Ramone didn't understand what all the fuss was about...he feels that an old pillow and some yardage are perfectly comfy:

Finally, I would like to offer a positive review of (and link to) the Curve Master foot -- which made the pinless sewing of the drunkard's path blocks very easy.  Hooray, hooray!  I don't have a clue why the foot works, but it does.  This video shows how the foot is used.

I should note that even though I didn't use tweezers for the final few stitches (as in the video), and even though many of my blocks need some serious trimming -- not everything lined up perfectly (as they do in the video) -- I think the blocks came out really well (my inner perfectionist is satisfied!).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

drunken pillow-in-progress

It was while trimming some "drunkard's path" blocks that I had my recent rotary cutter accident -- and it feels like vindication to actually assemble the pillow-top that I had been making when that happened.

It's a relatively small accomplishment, and please forgive the photo taken with my phone, but here it is (quilting and backing still to do):

Yay!  This is the first thing I have brought close to completion using my "CurveMaster" foot and Elsie's Backporch Drunkard's Path templates.  Not a drop of blood was spilled during sewing time today, and that is something to celebrate. 

Safe stitching to all!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I haven't been very good at documenting my craftiness lately -- and there has been a little bit achieved in that realm, despite the end-of-semester craziness (not yet over) AND despite my Little Mishap last week: a nasty -- yes, nasty -- accident with the rotary cutter.  I was exhausted one afternoon, after teaching, and thought I would take a little "me" time to indulge in sewing...obviously this was a big mistake!  I was too quick in my release of the ruler when trimming some Drunkard's Path blocks, and as I swept my left hand up and out I crossed paths with the Deadly Blade.  Ouch.  My sweet cat Ramone stayed with me the whole long afternoon, I didn't get a drop of blood on the quilting things (?!), and for the first time in my life I understood the rationale behind and usefulness of a Stiff Drink to dampen pain.

I would very much like this to be my LAST rotary cutter mistake.  It hurt.  It is definitely on the mend, but because the wound is on the ring-finger-sided tip of my middle finger, I have slammed it repeatedly on all manner of things (tapped, really, but under the circumstances it FEELS like a slam). My two accidents have not happened because I was holding the cutter improperly (which, I gather, is the root of many RC accidents) or from failing to retract the blade (I do that automatically, after every cut), but because I am moving too quickly and thinking about a million things at once.

So my promise to myself is to be MINDFUL and SLOW.

On a cheerier note, since my last post I have made another Oliver + S Playdate dress for Miss F plus several lined drawstring bags from Jeni/In Color Order's great tutorial.  I will try to document these at some point!

Last week we had a lovely visit to my in-laws' "down south," where Frida threw sticks in the lake and met Santa Claus.

Today we had a belated St. Nicholas day -- a family tradition, in which St. Nick delivers our tree overnight, fully decorated, his horse munches the carrot we left out for him, and little presents appear in the kids' shoes.  The buntings and treeskirt I made last December have made another appearance, and this morning I finally bound the tree skirt so we wouldn't have to use it rough-edged again this year (!). We followed up the excitement with a breakfast of french toast and bangers, and then my daughters and I made some whole wheat butter cookies.

Unfortunately I have a pile of grading to do before I give an exam tomorrow, so I leave you with some pic's of our house in as clean and as festive state as it is likely to be seen!

Happy Sunday to all :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

a little progress: the return of the Mystery Quilt and the "dead simple" Little Apples quilt

We are having the most beautiful, extended fall in recent memory, and this week I took advantage of the mild weather to document -- outdoors -- some recent progress in ongoing sewing projects.

First off, I took a little break from lecture prep to make the "week 7" (really fortnight 7) blocks for the Mystery Quilt project by Bluepatch Quilter (Sheila).  I was off to such a good start with this fun quiltalong, blogged here, here, and here, but that was months ago -- May, to be exact! Yikes.  And so now, after a long hiatus, I finally seem to be back on track with this one.

Sheila had us make two Friendship blocks.  Here's one:

 We also made two strips of plaiting, used to link one of the new blocks and one from earlier weeks:

Finally, this cluster of blocks was joined to a couple more blocks from previous weeks.

I rethought my choice of the light pink Alexander Henry "Heath" fabric used as filler (above), and wanting more contrast I substituted more of the AMH dots that I have been using as my (unlikely) background fabric throughout the project.

Okay dokey.

Since the mystery of the Mystery Quilt's final design has already been revealed (I am that far behind!), I know that I have a few more piecing adventures ahead of me.  I love the fact that this project has pushed me to do new things.

Yesterday happened to be a very good mail day: not only did I receive my new Gutentags-made labels (more on that in a future post!), but I also received the Little Apples yardage and gorgeous red flannel for my simple patchwork nap quilt (inspired by Lynne's "Dead Simple" QAL).  You'd better believe that I cut into the LA yardage straight away, and now -- ta da! -- here is the completed quilt top, on my leaf-strewn, overgrown lawn:

This is such a crazy-easy quilt, but I adore it.  The colours in the aqua Little Apples print look so much more rich and vibrant than I expected.  Sometimes a small swatch -- like the charm squares of this print, already in my possession and already part of the quilt -- fails to capture the appeal of a print. That's definitely the case here.

The central panel in this quilt is made from one charm pack of Aneela Hooey's "Little Apples" combined with 5" squares of a variety of prints and solids from my stash (bringing the total number of "charms" used to 81, arranged 9 x 9).  I surrounded that panel with a 1.5" strip of white sashing (finishing to 1") and then an 8" border of the Little Apples print (I had 1.5 yards, and now have some nice sized scraps left over).

This quilt top is special because the stash fabrics were chosen with the assistance of my littlest one: she was really and truly helped, and expressed opinions, and that makes it all the more beautiful to me.

I have a sewing day scheduled with my quilty friends Tong, Sheila, and Sylvia -- and maybe I'll make some progress on quilting this one.  My sewing time is still so precious that I am trying to avoid feeling any pressure to finish this or that project: whatever I feel like making or doing is what I will make or do.  So there!

In the meantime, I would love to find a name for this new quilt.  It isn't constructed ONLY from "Little Apples" fabric, and it wasn't STRICTLY following the quilt-along, and yet it is awfully simple so its name really shouldn't be anything too elaborate...any ideas?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

the sewing scramble

There's news around here!

(1) book manuscript: submitted!  Yay!  This is, of course, the biggest news of all :)

(2) Janome: working again!  It didn't need a repair, after all -- just some skillful adjustments by my sewing machine dealer.  This is very good news in terms of work-life-craft balance and general sanity.

(3) sewing: lots of it! I have had a couple of evening of frenzied sewing, making up for lost time.

First off, I made little Frida two pairs of much-needed school pants, neither of which I can show here since one pair -- light blue twill, flannel lined, with Kokka print patch pockets -- is in the wash, and the other -- periwinkle corduroy -- is currently in use.  I will try to document these soon.

I also finished up my third version of the ModKids "Frida" dress (have to love that name!), which had been languishing in a half-assembled state for several months. This probably won't enter wardrobe rotation until springtime, but here it is, made from Jennifer Paganelli's "Loopy Vintage Floral" with Kaffe Fassett shot cotton for the bodice lining, side ties, and skirt trim.

Buoyed by my finishes, the first in ages, I whipped up a little scarf for myself -- following last winter's tutorial on Twin Fibers, and finally dipping into my stash of Little Folks voile. 

This was probably the quickest sewing project I have ever had -- and I have a feeling that I will be getting a lot of wear out of it.  Please excuse the reflected clutter; I think it's about time to retire the Halloween buntings and birthday balloons!

I finished assembling and trimming the blocks for my son's new quilt, which I hadn't touched since September 30 (thank you, blogger archive).

Honestly, I'm a bit tired of green -- but these fabrics were my son's choices, so on I go!  I have yardage of the stripey/cross-hatch print (Moda "Origins") in shades of yellow and green for the quilt back, but I do wish that I had bought a flannel instead.  Hmmm.

And finally, a little time spent organizing my pattern box revealed some forgotten treasures, like this drunkard's path template set.

These are great: they are really hard acrylic with a kind of papery-textured back (very little slipping), it's easy to manoeuvre the rotary cutter around them, and they are also perfect for charm squares.  What a nice discovery!

I cut up a charm pack of Oliver + S "City Weekend" (again, something that has been sitting in my stash for quite a while)...and I will pair these up with DP pieces in kona snow: I have a plan!

And along the way I will a chance to try out my Curvemaster sewing machine foot, which I have also had for a few months, without having had the time to use it.


Now off to care for my feverish -- but very cheerful -- littlest one.

I hope November is off to a good start for all of you!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Farewell October!

Fresh Sewing Day

It's Fresh Sewing Day at Lily's Quilts and time for a fresh start chez Bobbin.

I'm happy to say goodbye to October: it was a hectic, busy, stressful month...and in just a few days time my book manuscript will be out of my hands. I can hardly wait!! November promises to be a happy month.

Today is a day of what did I stitch up in October? Not nearly as much as I would have liked, and certainly no big finishes, but a few little things nevertheless.

I started (another) handsewing/English paper piecing project, perfect for the conference travel we had to do at the beginning of the month:

I'm up to 15 hexagons in this project, and I am going to keep working (slowly) on it...on those rare evening when my hubby and I can watch television!

In October I made a few blocks for the Farmer's Wife QAL, imperfectly pieced on my 1947 Singer Featherweight, but cheerful nonetheless:

And finally, a few days ago I jumped into Lynne's Dead Simple QAL by piecing a Little Apples charm pack with a few coodinating stash fabrics:

I have some Little Apples yardage and Riley Blake red patterned flannel on  order for a border and backing fabric, respectively.  The end product will be a nap quilt for the littlest one.

Now to some gratuitous Halloween cuteness (October ended with a bang!).

Here is Frida as a pink bunny rabbit:

Her Daddy was a magician:

And her best friend dressed as Ramone (our black cat):

I hope November brings us all peace, joy and creativity!