Thursday, August 13, 2015

my #newsstand tote

Pattern testing is one of my new favorite things. Talented pattern designers often head to instagram to find people willing to test out new patterns and I've been volunteering often lately. It's fun to choose fabrics for a project I wouldn't otherwise get to make, and this bag is my favorite of them all! It's the Newsstand Tote by Felice Regina and it features elasticized side pockets and an interior slip pocket, but you could easily customize it. I think if I made another I would add a key fob, maybe a zippered pocket in the lining, and use leather handles. This bag is going to be a workhorse for me so I think these pretty yellow handles are going to take a beating.

The construction of the bag was straightforward and simple. Felice writes great patterns and this one is pretty easy to follow, even for a novice bag maker. I've made a bunch of bags before but I don't often use very advanced techniques so sometimes I'm challenged by things like gussets or zipper installation, but this pattern was smooth sailing for me!

I love the exterior side pockets. They're a must for me on any bag because I like being able to carry the boys' water bottles in my bag without the risk of them spilling inside. It makes it easy for them to grab them, too. Then they're not fishing around in my bag and inadvertently finding the snacks I'm trying to save for later.

I used an Alison Glass Handcrafted print (plus in teal) for the main exterior, and Cotton + Steel for the pockets (from August), handles (one of the basics), and binding (from Mesa). The lining is a fun Alexander Henry print that I'm obsessed with lately. I've used it for three linings and put some of it in a quilt!

It's a good size for toting around anything I need for an outing with the boys - my wallet, keys, and phone, of course, along with diapers and wipes, a change of clothes for Finn, some snacks, Finn's epi pens, and lots of other purse detritus. I made a couple other pouches to corral my belongings - that pouch with the blue zip on top there is a Noodlehead open wide pouch and it holds a lip balm, diaper cream, hand sanitizer, and an Ava Anderson boo boo stick. There's a kitty wristlet in there, too, and I use it to hold my phone and keys if I'm leaving the diaper bag somewhere like at my parents' house or Matt's parents' house when they're watching the boys. Now I just need to make myself a wallet to replace my old and threadbare Vera Bradley one!

Be sure to check out all the other bags Felice's pattern testers made... I love the fabrics on them all! And as always, I have to thank Matt for the photos! He always says yes when I ask him to take some pictures for me, even when he has a backlog of weddings to edit and more scheduled for the coming weekend. Also, if I could wear jeans and a gray t shirt every day it would be great.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Home is... | a mini quilt for the Wassons

I've had a backlog of projects to share for a while now, and I figured it's time to dust the ol' blog off! I've been pro-craft-inating (perhaps you're familiar with this - similar to procrastinating but occurs when one is actively doing crafts - like fabric covered buttons to make into magnets and needleminders and zip pouches and appliqued kitty wristlets and cloth napkins and a tote bag and a mug rug and fabric baskets and lavender sachets - to avoid doing other crafts) because I have two large-ish quilts to complete but I'm stuck on both of them. One needs to be finished in a couple weeks (it's a wedding gift) and the other is sort of past due (it's for a baby who has already been born!). I've been agonizing over the back of the wedding quilt because I just could not motivate myself to piece it (it was really a double-sided quilt which I regret) and yesterday I gave myself permission to abandon my plans for the back and I bought yardage of this pretty Katarina Roccella print from Llama Fabrics. Problem solved! And I know Chio will have it shipped tomorrow or the day after so I'll be able to get to work again really soon. Now I'm excited about it again and can't wait to finish it. In the meantime I'll continue piecing the baby quilt. It's taking me a while because it's all equilateral triangles and there are no shortcuts I can take. The end result should be really pretty though so I'm looking forward to the finish! I also have a couple other quilts in the works as well as some dresses and bags... I don't usually have this many works in progress but it's time I cut down the list a bit!

Anyway, while I work on these various projects I wanted to share some older ones that never made it to the blog. This little quilt was the first mini quilt that I made. It was for friends who bought a home and then shortly thereafter celebrated their tenth anniversary with a vow renewal in their new backyard. I used fabrics my friend had picked out to make a quilt of her own years ago, but I ended up with the fabrics because she decided against making it at the time. Long story, I know, and you can read more about it here, if you're interested. I don't think the quilt is so lopsided in real life, but I haven't seen it since I gave it to her so I don't remember - maybe it is! I hope not! I really love the embroidery though, and want to add more special details to quilts in the future. Stay tuned for a couple more projects on the blog this week!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

put a bow on it | a quilt for Norah

I made another quilt from start to finish in less than a week, immediately after giving the pinwheel quilt to Sage. I told Matt that I feel like a machine lately, and I don't know if that's a good thing or not. On one hand, I like being productive and prolific, but on the other hand I've found that I'm working so quickly lately that some of the enjoyment is lost. I've been trying to meet self-imposed deadlines (baby's birthdays, mostly) but I haven't been getting any quilts done "on time" anyway. I think it's time to slow down a bit, so I can concentrate on my work and the process rather than the end result. Anyway, this quilt is for yet another baby, the daughter of our friends John and Rachel. I made a quilt for their first child, Elliott, who was born just a couple months after Finn, and they loved it and appreciated it so much that I started planning one for their second child pretty much the moment I found out Rachel was pregnant. Originally I planned on making a giant saw tooth star block, but I've wanted to make a bow quilt since I saw this one from Piece at Last and to be honest, I felt like I needed to make something quick after the pinwheel quilt. Plus I have a few other designs in process and in my mind that I need to get working on, so this simple design was a great fit for this project. The original design can be found in The It's Okay If You Sit On My Quilt Book, but I just sketched out the bow and figured out how many squares and half square triangles I needed. I'm curious, what are your thoughts on making a quilt like that? I copied the design of another quilter though I didn't buy her book. I'm not profiting off of this quilt in any way though, so I think it's okay. Just wondering how others feel about this issue. It tends to come up a lot in conversations about handmade goods. 
Back to the quilt! I've had the fabric picked out for this quilt ever since I knew Rachel was having a girl. Rachel told me the baby's room would probably be decorated in coral and gold tones, and I know that Rachel appreciates vintage grandma style so I selected another of my quilter's quarters bundles by Denyse Schmidt for Joann. I was lucky to have been given one by my mom (she's nice like that) and I purchased a second one when I found it at Joann unwrapped and therefore discounted! And I confess to purchasing a third bundle on etsy as I was working on this quilt because I realized how much I really like these fabrics, though they aren't my usual style, and I didn't want to be without them. I didn't intend on making a scrappy background, but I decided against using solid white because I had some low volume fat quarters that coordinated with the Denyse Schmidt prints nicely and I'm trying to sew my stash this year. After the bow and background were pieced I decided to add a patchwork border because the quilt was going to finish on the small side, only 35" square, so I dug into my stash to find some more low volume prints. I don't have that many so there are a bunch of repeats and I think they kind of distract from the bow but I still like the way the quilt came out. The little animal faces print redeems the border for me, though you can't see them in the photos, I don't think. For the back I used a large cut of a sweet and subtle polka dot and ladybug print along with another DS print, and the binding is scrappy ladybug and DS, too. I had a lot of fun quilting this one. I attempted some more free motion and tried my hand at a large orange peel design. I did three rows freehand and then realized I did one section facing the wrong direction which was really annoying, but I tend to just go with my mistakes and wasn't going to fix it. Then my mom came over and I pointed it out and she said two things - 1. I should mark the quilting lines so the orange peels look better (subtext: your quilting looks terrible. Thanks, Mom! ), and 2. Did I want her to rip out the stitches that were going the wrong way? I sighed and then accepted her offer, and I did mark the rest of my lines and the quilting started looking much better. In fact, the original row of quilting looks terrible in comparison to the rest. Sorry, Norah! Mother does know best ;)
I tried to think of somewhere vintage-y to take pictures and I thought of this old church near our house, so the next time we went out I asked Matt to bring his camera and we stopped on the way home from Lowes one day last week. The front door is really pretty and the side of the building has old fashioned white wooden siding with stained glass windows, but as you can see, he only took two pictures because Ezra was yelling from inside the car (which was less than ten feet away from where I was standing on the steps) that he wanted to get out, again. Needless to say, we wrapped up the shoot pretty quickly. Next time I think I'll pick a quilt photo shoot location that's not on a main road or near water so we don't have to worry about the boys :) 

I'm going to quote a fellow quilter, Astrid, again today - "The problem with making stuff for other people is that one day you actually have to say goodbye to these things you've poured a whole lot of yourself into. Things you've fallen a bit in love with, in the process. But that's the point, right? To pour out, over and over, in order to make space for new inspiration. To share the bits of ourselves that perhaps others are in need of. And if it doesn't hurt a bit to give it up, maybe there wasn't enough of us in it." Norah, I hope this quilt keeps you warm and brings you comfort! My love and prayers for you are stitched right into it. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

spinning pinwheels | a quilt for Sage

Yesterday I delivered another baby quilt, this one to the new daughter of a dear friend. I'm really happy with the way it came out for so many different reasons. Just ask Matt - he was sitting nearby when I was trimming threads and I kept bragging on myself :)

When I asked Ari if she had any ideas for what kind of quilt she might like for the baby she suggested a pinwheel quilt and gave me a stack of fabrics from a quilt she had started for her older daughter. I admit that inwardly I was dreading it a little bit because I don't love working with half square triangles. I don't like trimming them and I always lose too many points, but I was up for the challenge and grateful for the chance to improve my skills.

I went fabric shopping in my stash for some coordinating prints and I bought yardage of firefly from Bonnie Christine's line, Hello Bear, which I love. The rest of the fabrics are a mix of lots of pretty colors and prints - some of Heather Bailey's True Colors, Winged by Bonnie Christine, a random polka dot, some Cotton + Steel, one by Lotta Jansdotter, and I think the cute little ducks are by Tasha Noel. Even the back is beautiful - one big piece of Heather Ross's unicorns and some of her double gauze snails from Far Far Away along with some polka dots and a solid lavender.

I was inspired by this quilt by Allison of Cluck Cluck Sew to add the polka dots instead of using plain white for the pinwheels. I've had it pinned to my quilt board on pinterest (you can follow me here, if you'd like!) since she posted it about a year ago, and I would have loved to be able to make the black and white low volume sections scrappy, but I don't have a very big scrap stash so I went with the firefly print instead. I love the contrast the creamy white provides for the bright and bold prints. I used this Missouri Quilt Co. tutorial to make the HSTs which made them go pretty quickly, although I confess I didn't use starch and they still turned out alright.

I mentioned earlier that I was happy with how this quilt turned out for many different reasons, so let me tell you about them all :) First of all, I love all the prints and colors and gleefully exclaimed over them as I was cutting and piecing. My points are all soooo good, which never happens for me. I admit that I tend to rush and that leads to inaccurate seam allowances but I really took my time with this one and it paid off. I sound like a rookie; you'd never think I've been quilting for about seven years.

I also learned how to spin my seams to make them lie flatter. I've made one other quilt with all half square triangles and I felt terrible for my nephew who received it because the centers are so bulky and I just couldn't imagine his tiny baby self comfortably lying on it, but I didn't know any better. This time I thought to myself that there must be a better way so I looked it up and sure enough there was. It added another step to the process but I didn't mind because it was totally worth it.

I haven't done a lot of free motion quilting, just some simple loop and wave designs that were large and loose, but I decided to really go for it with this one. Since it's a pinwheel quilt I wanted to make the quilting look like wind but I'm not sure I achieved that. I quilted uneven kind of long swirls but they ended up looking just like swirls and not like wind. But I like them anyway and it made the quilt crinkle up perfectly. This was the first time I quilted an all over design this densely and I'm excited to work on my free motion quilting skills more soon.

Now on to the binding. Ever since I first saw this print by Sarah Watts from her first collection for Cotton + Steel I've wanted to use it as a binding and this quilt was the perfect one for it. The colors were all just right and I love the way it almost looks like a stripe. I can't remember if I've written about my labels before, but I love them! I think I've used them on probably less than ten quilts and there are a couple things I'd change about them (they're a tiny bit too small and I sometimes think about coming up with a name other than Tara Celeste Quilts) but I love them and am so glad I have them. They're printed by inked papers with a design I created on paper and Matt translated to the computer. Next time I'll have to get a picture of the reverse side which features a cute heart and an outline of Rhode Island :)

As you can see, Finn broke the quilt in a bit before we brought it over to the new baby. He and Ezra make it impossible to get the kind of quilt pictures I have in mind, but I think the way they came out is kind of perfect. Sure, the quilt is billowing like a sail (why do I always think it's a good idea to take pictures near the water?) and there are children grabbing at it and rolling around in it, but I love that we got a few cute candids of the boys out of my quilt shoot. As always, thanks to Matt for being willing to take some photos on his time off! He doesn't have much of it so I always appreciate that he doesn't mind taking out his camera and then editing some pictures for me. It's always nice to have a little family outing during the week since Matt is so busy on the weekends. On this day we tagged along on a commercial shoot he was doing for a realtor and then we had a picnic lunch from the Beehive Cafe (the roasted chickpeas!) at Independence Park in Bristol. If I could live in Bristol and never have to leave I think life would be great. It's so adorable there.

Anyway, I hope this quilt brings much comfort and warmth to sweet baby Sage. I've been thinking a lot lately about what a quilt can be because I really love making them and hope they're as special to the recipients as they are to me. A quilt can be something you snuggle under, something that keeps you warm, something that dries your tears. It can become part of a fort or be a picnic blanket. It might be used as a photo prop, or just be in lots of family photos by accident because it's a fixture in your home. A quilt can be woven into your childhood memories because of all the ways you can use it, and I do hope my quilts get used. A fellow quilter who I know on instagram, Astrid, writes a lot about quilts and their importance, and I'd like to quote a recent post of hers: "A friend asked me recently, "How do you want people to use your quilts?" and it took me by surprise, because I'd never thought of an answer beyond "however you want." But really, I want them to get worn out. Lived in. Lived on. Lived under. I want them to be dirty from picnics outside, and stained from orange juice spills, and for the colours to fade and the patterns to wear off. I want them to be handed back, in tatters, for fixing. I want them to grow threadbare from a hundred little feet trampling on them." 

Suffice it to say, a lot of love and prayers went into this quilt and I hope it is well loved :)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

across the pond | a quilt for Henry

As I write this post I'm actually wrapped up in this quilt. It's my favorite! I know, I say that every time, but I'm really digging this one for some reason. I've always wanted to make a Union Jack quilt and had the perfect opportunity recently when my friend Keri found out she was expecting a second baby boy. I started collecting blue and red fabrics, and when I say collecting I really mean rummaging through my mom's stash. I have a pretty strong dislike for red (though I'm trying to change that!) so I don't have any red fabric at all, and when I was pulling reds off my mom's shelves I came across a bundle of quilter's quarters from Joann by Denyse Schmidt - score! Keri loves Denyse's designs and they were the prettiest shades of blue which were perfect for the quilt I had in mind. They're out of print and impossible to find now, but my mom is generous like that. Thanks, Mom!

I used this tutorial from Lily's Quilts to make four of the block she calls a "double fat jack" and sashed them with white. I was pairing prints as I sewed, and now I wish I had put more thought into the fabric combinations ahead of time because the value pairings could be better (both of the dark reds are on the bottom), but I still like how it came out. I just hope it's not too feminine for Henry! There are a quite a few florals there, but I figure Henry will sort of be a proper British chap so he'll be familiar with tea parties and cricket and fancy hats and the Queen Mum so a few florals in his baby quilt won't hurt.

I ordered a fun London novelty print by Kokka for the back and added another Denyse Schmidt print and some domino dot by Violet Craft to make it big enough. I thought the London print would be just about the right size but my original plans for the quilt (one large Union Jack) changed and the size grew quite a bit! Lucky baby :) I quilted down the middle of all the white fabric, echoing the lines of the Union Jack flags and the sashing which I think is just enough. I made a scrappy binding out of some leftover red strips from the flags and a long length of polka dot binding I had made a while ago for my Deep Waters quilt that I didn't end up using. I added my label and another cute little tag that says 'P.S. I love you' just because it matched :) And dare I say my machine binding is getting pretty good! After a wash and some thread trimming I finally have it ready to gift, and little Henry isn't even two weeks old. One last thing - thanks to my friend Karissa for snapping the top two pictures with my phone when I was at her house last week! The boys and I had plans to visit so Ezra could go fishing with her older son (they're 4 1/2 and 3 - fishing was funny and scary!) and the night before we went I had a stroke of genius - I would call the quilt "across the pond" as a reference to the location of the United Kingdom being on the other side of the Atlantic, and I would photograph the quilt at a pond, Johnson's Pond, where Karissa lives. Brilliant, am I right? That's how I felt, anyway, because I can never come up with clever names for my quilts, but this was perfect.


I'll be sad to see this quilt go, but I know it's going to a home where it will be used and loved! And I can visit it occasionally if I need to ;)
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