Friday, July 25, 2014

I'm Back!!

I cannot believe it's been 7 months since my last post. Man, the time have flown!!! So much has gone on, I hardly know where to begin.

First, I continue to sew, but my sewing has taken a different route. Most of my sewing time in the past has been spent sewing for others--mostly my two daughters. They are grown, married, and out of the nest. I've tried sewing for myself, but it's not the same. I can't seem to master fitting issues and don't stick with a sewing plan that allows me to perfect a core set of patterns that would make a functional wardrobe. So, as a result, I have ventured into a different realm:  quilting.

Quilting began for me as a labor of love when my oldest daughter was pregnant with the first grandson. She wanted to decorate the nursery in a woodlands theme with the focus animal being owls. I hand appliqued and quilted an owl quilt to hang on the wall. Somewhere between the first and millioneth stitch, I became hooked. Since then, I've made half a dozen baby quilts and am still going strong.

Also, I am coming to terms with being a middle aged woman. Boy, this transition time is not what I expected. I guess I thought aging was a process that occurred slowly and methodically. Don't ask me where I got that crazy notion--it's anything but true (at least for me). I really feel like Rip Van Winkle who woke up from a nap only to find himself 20 years into the future.  That's me! I woke up one day only to find myself 50+. It's not the wrinkles or shifting sand that distresses me; it's the "feeling old" that slaps me right across the face. I think, act, and move differently than I did 10 or 20 years ago. Life isn't so rushed and the formerly important things that took so much of my time and energy isn't so important any more. I enjoy my quiet time where I contemplate my world and my small little sphere of influence. I think more, pray more, and relish the small little pleasures that are important only to me.

I spend more time in the Bible, listening to God's messages to my heart. I am so blessed to have a peaceful soul. All the fuss and chaos going on around me doesn't impact me like it used to, because I really do know and believe God is in control and has the details covered. I worry and fret very little these days--replacing that negative use of the precious time I have with prayer to a Heavenly Father who not only listens but has the power to change situations and circumstances.

Enough contemplation. Time to get back to my quilt. I'll post pictures later.

Enjoy the day,


Sunday, December 15, 2013

2 Weeks of Busy

Today is the last day of my vacation. For the past two weeks, I have indulged myself senseless; tomorrow, I return to reality. Though I do look forward to going back to work, I am ever so thankful for the respite, because I Had A Ball!! I spent 3 days in Clovis, NM visiting my youngest daughter and her husband, then drove to Oklahoma to visit the oldest daughter and her family. My bottom half was not used to so much sitting, but the visit was sooooo worth the horrendous drive. Got home the day before the major ice fest that hit the Dallas Metroplex, which forced me to stay home, stay inside, enjoy the fire in the fireplace, and sew. I have been a busy bee these past 10 days, and I want to take a minute to share my creations.

I begin with a fun and colorful crib quilt:

I found the fabric on the markdown table at Joann's and thought this would be a stunning, eye-popping baby quilt or lap quilt. The blocks are 5" in a 9 Patch Pattern with black sashing to picture frame the colors and make them "pop".
Here's another shot from further away:

The backing will be a medium shade of purple solid. I bought some quilting fabric online with the last Hancock's sale that may work for the border. It's a black and purple batik done in wavy stripes. I plan to wait until the quilt is quilted to make my final selection since the wavy may be too much and detract from the simplicity of the quilt pattern and the fun of the colors. We shall see. Anyway, this was project number 1--my completed quilt top.

 Next, I wanted to try a tutorial for wine bottle gift bags. I found a super easy tutorial online (darn it, I can't find it right this second but promise to post when I do). I have tons of scraps that need to become something--anything. This pattern doesn't take much time or fabric, but the results are good. Here, I used some old cotton scraps with a knit for the contrast at the handle. I think it turned out pretty cute:

 As always, I shared with my neighbor across the street who immediately loved the style. She had a baby shower coming up and wanted to put French wine in a Paris themed wine bag. So she chose this fabric:

And here are the results:

I think they are great, though on hindsight, I wish I had quilted the one on the right like I did the one on the left. The trimmed handles are a black cotton out of my stash. It takes about an hour and a half per wine bag (including the cutting). Not bad for a personalized gift. I think the addition of a monogram or machine embroidery design would be super-fun, functional, and highly appreciated. The neighbor loved the set, which is always the most important aspect for me.

Last, I began the dimension quilt that will be a surprise gift for my youngest daughter. She HATES homemade, homespun, and anything that even vaguely smells of country chic. Enter:  Hello Handsome; a quilt I found in Quilty magazine back in the spring:

I love the dimensional appearance of the quilt and decided it would be a fabulous wall hanging for her office. So off to Joann's I trotted to buy fabric. I got 1 yard each of cream (very light and almost white), light gray, dark gray, and 1 1/2 yards of black, Kona cotton.

This is a picture I took of the magazine photo:

And here are my strips stretched across the couch cushions:

Isn't the contrast absolutely stunning. And LOOK:  my corners are lined up pretty well. I am so proud since this is my second pieced quilt and only the 6th quilt I've ever done. I think she will like it.

Well, time to get back to work. I plan to finish the Hello Handsome top before the end of the day today.

I'll keep you posted,


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Can I be a quilter? Let's find out.

Most of my life I have been a garment sewer. I sewed primarily for my daughters until they were grown and gone. I never had any interest in quilting. Instead, I knitted, crocheted, and tried my hand at counted cross stitch. Then I hit middle age. Somehow, sewing for myself isn't very much fun. I have trouble fitting patterns by myself and recently, I find myself not overly pleased with my final projects. So, I started looking at other options.

I went back to knitting for awhile, but that didn't seem to give me the creative joy that sewing does. So I began looking at quilting. I have written before about the owl quilt for my daughter and ballet quilt for the neighbor. Now, I've decided to play with quilting and see what shakes out.

Earlier this week, I started my first pieced quilt. I began with a simple 9 Patch. I am really intrigued with the Hidden 9 Patch, but I settled on a simple 9 patch as a beginner quilt. Here are my fabrics:

I found these 18x22" bundles 1/2 price at Joanne's Fabrics. There are 2 packs of batiks and 3 of bright solids. I coordinated a black, pantweight fabric to make the strips between the blocks.

I cut 5" squares from the fabrics, then arranged them to my liking:

I had so much fun moving the squares around!!

Then, I added the black border from the pantweight. I wanted to use a super-dark navy that had been scraps in my closet for months, but wouldn't you know, I couldn't find them when I needed them. I think I tossed them last week when we were emptying closets and moving stuff around in preparation for the new carpet installation. I was really angry at myself, but that doesn't fix anything and certainly doesn't bring the fabric back. So back to J's I went. Fortunately, the pantweight was on sale, so I didn't feel too bad about having to make an unexpected purchase. Here are my squares with the strips attached:

Let me get back to sewing the strips together. Will post more when I'm done.

 Happy Sewing!!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Ballerina Quilt - Final Step

Once the hand quilting was finished, I found myself in a dilemma:  how to I secure the layers? More hand quilting? Free motion machine quilting? Tied with ribbons or embroidery floss? There are pro's and con's with each choice. To decide, I "tested" each option by making an impression in the quilt top with my finger. Machine quilting seemed like the best idea, but I wanted to keep the design simple. I measured 2 1/2 inches from the edge and placed pins. The more I pinned, the better I liked it. Once the pinning was complete on all four sides, I machine sewed following the pins.

I liked the look so well, I did a second line 2 1/2 inches from the first:

And here's the final project. First, the quilt top:
And here's the back:
The hand quilting came out so pretty on the back, though you can't really see it in the photo. The baby girls have arrived and their quilt is waiting for them when they come home. Though this one took me several days to complete because I made up the pattern as I went, I think this would be a weekend project at best.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ballerina Quilt Day 2

Welcome back!! We are now on day 2 of the ballerina quilt instructions. Last time, I cut the quilt top, backing, and ruffle; sewed the ruffle to the quilt top, then sewed the quilt top to the backing, turned it right side out to make sure I liked the look, cut the batting to fit, and turned the quilt right side out again and sewed the turning hole closed. After choosing a drawing of toe shoes tied together with a bow from the Internet, I printed the picture and had Staples enlarge the picture 3x the size. Then, the fun began!!! Here's how it looked:

I purchased a water soluble marking pen from Joann's Fabrics to mark my fabric with. I know the directions say to test first, and of course I didn't. However, the ink does come out after multiple applications of water. Next time, I will use a fine point rather than a regular point. Once I had the design perfectly positioned on the quilt top, I perforated the paper pattern with my long handled tweezers used to grab the thread on my serger. Here's me, poking the holes:

And the finished product looks like this.
  The tip of the marking pen fits perfectly in the holes and transfers the design perfectly and easily onto the fabric.
Here's a picture of the marked fabric. The blue marks are my guidelines for hand quilting the design, though it could be machine quilted. I prefer to hand quilt on a design that serves as the focal point, making my stitches as even as I can and using a contrasting thread. I did think about using embroidery cotton, but was afraid I wouldn't be able to pull the knots through on the back side as easily. In the past, I have hand quilted with polyester serger thread, but I only had one cone of very light pink thread. I opted to purchase (with a coupon from Joann's) a spool of hand quilting cotton since it is pre-treated and doesn't knot up when you are sewing. Of course, bee's wax prevents that, too, but my bee's wax has run away with my applique scissors--I can't find either of them anywhere.

 Polyester fabric has a tendency to snag very easily. Thus, I had to hold my quilt "sandwich" (backing, batting, and quilt top) together with fine straight pins. I stitched along with a fairly small needle and a single thread. With the blue dots still in place, the quilting doesn't look very pretty. I did consider sewing with a double thread, but again, the knots have to pull through the backing and bury themselves into the batting. I thought a single thread since the color was distinct would work.

Here's a picture of the quilting with and without the marking lines. When the fabric is still damp, the blue is completely invisible. Once dry, the blue lightly re-appears. I dampened the quilt a dozen or more times to get all the faint blue completely removed. I could have immersed the quilt in water, but I had all day to wet, dry, wet, dry, wet, and dry. Next time, I'll just immerse in clean water. The directions do warn against washing since some of the soap components can set the dye and leave permanent mark on the finished product.

Here's my hand quilted quilt top. I think it's very nice. If you look closely, you'll see on the left upper corner I missed the second side of the ribbon. I did catch that mistake and added it in before moving on with the machine quilting.

OK, tomorrow we pick up the final steps in finishing the ballerina quilt. Hope I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and try something new that looks fabulous and is super easy.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ballerina Baby Quilt

It never ceases to amaze me how often someone asks me to make something that sounds relatively simple. However, when they buy their fabric, I find out that it's not really designed for the project OR I get totally carried away and make something HUGE out of a simple quick project. In this instance, the ballerina quilt fits somewhere in between. It was a simple project that I think is very classic yet beautiful and functional in a nursery. This is the story of the ballerina quilt:

It began as a baby gift from a neighbor. Together we went to the fabric store, and I expected to make a simple quilt from flannel. However, the mother-to-be had already purchased her sheets and bumper pads and wanted something unique and feminine for her soon-to-be-born twin daughters. She wanted cream and pink to coordinate with the ballerina design on the bumper pads. We chose a cream polyester with woven glitter (not the glued kind that pops off) and a matching pink ruffle also made from the same polyester. The backing was cotton flannel with pink toes shoes on a cream background with just a hint of grey. The final size was to be 28 x 52.

I started with the backing and cut a single piece 29 x 48". I had to settle for 48 since the fabric was not cut straight, and I lost 6 inches due to the sales girl's laziness. Then, I cut the top the same size. To make up the length, I cut the ruffle 5" wide and 5 times the width of the fabric. This ended up to be too much, but I'd rather have more fabric than needed when gathering is involved. I attached the ruffle to the quilt top then sewed the top to the bottom, leaving a 10" opening at the bottom to pull the quilt through. Then, I spray basted the batting to the flannel, placed the batting on top of the wrong side of the flannel smoothing out all the wrinkles, and trimmed off the excess. I made sure the batting was sufficiently placed to make the edges of the quilt soft and cuddly before cutting. Then, I turned the quilt right sides out. Last, I hand stitched the opening closed, using small, almost hidden stitches.

Once the quilt top and batting were sewn together, I made my template for the ballerina toe shoes. I initially tried to draw them myself, but the final result was not exactly the look I was going for. Fortunately, I found a drawing online of a pair of toe shoes tied together with a ribbon that I printed out. I thought I could enlarge the drawing using the printer, but I was limited by the size of my paper. So, I compared the paper image to my quilt:
Proportionately, the drawing looked good and measured 5"x9". Using the tape measure, I realized that an enlargement 3x this size would fit the quilt top perfectly. So, grabbing my quilt and my paper drawing, off to Staples I ran. Thanks to the Staples photocopying lady for her patience and kindness. Within 15 minutes, I had my enlarged template and was back on the road home.

Tomorrow, I share the next step in my ballerina quilt.

Happy sewing, All.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Too many projects. Too little time.

I am a good person. I am organized, thrifty, and very, very busy. I, also, have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. I make a list of projects that require more time than I really have available; then I get behind; and then something (like illness) gets ahold of me and I go farther and farther behind. That's where I have been so far this year. I had a lot of projects planned for others that became sidetracked when the grandbaby came. Before I knew it, January was gone. The list carried over to February, and I got sick. Before I knew it, February was gone. Now we are into March. Hopefully, I will stay well and productive. That's the plan, anyway.

My little sewing business is chugging along. I don't sew to make an income, I sew for others because I like to sew. Non-sewers don't realize what it takes to sew bags or quilts, and they often have ideas that I really don't know how to do. Thank God for the Internet and the thousands of people out there who are smarter and more talented than I. I can search their brains through their blogs and come up with fabulous end results. Thank you, All.

Currently, I am caught up. I just delivered the two wine bags yesterday:
 I made them different since the ladies who ordered them work in the same department; I didn't want them to be confusing. One of the women requested a car bag to hold receipts, trash, etc. I used the scraps to create this:

The gaping pocket is for receipts. I put pockets on both sides:  one is for pens and the other is a small pocket for the cell phone, change purse, sunglasses, etc. I think it's very functional and a good use of scraps. There is no interfacing for stiffness. Instead, I made 2 layers with the inner lining 5/8" seams and the outer layer 1/4" seams. By using the two sizes for the seaming, the inner lining pulls the outside up and inward and makes it stand up straight. The black trim is the edge flipped twice and sewn down. I did use a denim needle in my machine to prevent needle breakage. The cotton duck is very stiff when turned twice and sewn, so again I have a stiff edge to keep the bag open and functional. A tissue box and plastic grocery bag (as a trash bag) fits perfectly into the center pocket. and is very functional. My next order requested Velcro on the bottom to enable the bag to "stick" to the floor mats. I think that's a great idea and can't wait to see if it will work.

Now, back to sewing and quilting. I need to start another baby quilt in a ballet theme. I've decided to trim it with hand quilted ballet shoes. Should be fabulous!! Also, I need to cut and sew tops for work. I can never complain it's boring in my sewing room.