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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 ;)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

my patchwork heart | a quilt for Eleanore

I began working on this quilt a couple months ago with no particular recipient in mind which is unusual for me. I almost always know who I'm making a quilt for, and that knowledge informs my design choices, but not this time. The fabric I used to make the patchwork heart is all from Riley Blake, from the current Modern Quilt Guild fabric challenge. We were instructed to do something new, to experiment with a style or technique we hadn't tried before. I had been wanting to make a pixel heart quilt for a while so I decided to use a technique in which one uses fusible interfacing to line up the fabric squares which ensures accurate piecing. I used Elizabeth Hartman's tutorial and found that it worked well, although I think the interfacing I used may have been a bit too heavy. The quilt didn't turn out as soft and crinkly as I would have liked it to, but it isn't terribly stiff. Just a bit stiff. I hope with use, love, and repeated washing that it will soften up! The back is mainly a piece from Heather Bailey's True Colors line along with a piece of fabric from last year's challenge, which is the same fabric I used on the front at the top and bottom. It's quilted with diagonal lines and the binding is scrappy and I love it. I don't usually like to make a quilt with the same pattern twice, but I'll definitely be making a pixel heart again!


Anyway, I ended up cheating on the fabric challenge a bit, and I feel badly about it, though I have a good reason. I found out that a woman I know (who is very sick and has been hospitalized for about the past three months) was about to have her baby six weeks early and it just felt right to give this quilt to them. Since the mother's illness is so serious I needed to finish the quilt soon if I wanted to be able to give it to her. With no time to order more of the Riley Blake fabric, I decided to use fabric from my stash and since it's not approved for the challenge I'm disqualified.


I hope that this quilt brings some measure of comfort to the family as they endure the pain of life's trials, and I pray that it reminds them of the strength of this mother's love for her daughter.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

deep waters | a quilt for the Woodward family

This quilt is another really special one (though I'm a firm believer that all the quilts I make are special) that has been in the works since October. My friend Jackie loved the anchor quilt I made and gifted to a mutual friend last year and expressed interest in a quilt for herself, so we talked about a few quilty details at the time but I told her I wouldn't be ready to start something for her for a while. However, in the back of my mind I was already scheming. I knew she liked the anchor quilt because it was nautical - she and her husband Mike (who's one of our pastors as well as a friend) are transplants to RI from New York and New Jersey respectively and they love it here, so I wanted to include lots of nautical elements. I pieced together a bunch of fabrics very soon after my conversation with Jackie last fall, creating the quilt top above. Then I got to work designing the back. I treated it like a puzzle, fitting together scraps from the anchor quilt and another nautical quilt I made, and then planned on filling in the space with some special blocks.














They're hard to see because this photo was taken under duress (Ezra was strapped into his car seat in the car just a few steps away, screaming to be let out at the top of his lungs, threatening that I could never take quilt pictures again if he couldn't get out of the car) so I didn't make Matt take any detail shots, but if you look closely you can make them out. There's a sailboat block, a star, the anchor, the word HOPE, two cats to represent the family pets (off to the right; their faces are cut off because it was super windy. This was actually quilt photo shoot attempt two of the day because the wind at the other location, closer to the water, was impossibly windy. The quilt was billowing. Anyway - ), and a book block that is supposed to be the Bible onto which I embroidered the words "The Sacred Writings" because that's one of the ways Mike refers to the Scriptures.

I gave the quilt to Mike and Jackie a couple weeks ago, but today is the day that I actually wanted to present it to them. You see, tonight Mike is being ordained as co-pastor at our church, which is quite an important event in his life and for their family. We have been on vacation on the Cape this week, but we decided to come back a couple days early because we really want to be there for his ordination. If I had known we were going to cut our vacation short to be able to attend I would have waited to give them the quilt tonight. Well, anyway, they already have it and it's being well loved! On the day I gave it to them Mike told me it was "enchanted" and that he was going to wrap up in it every morning when he prays. I'm sure he will, too, because he appreciates ritual in the spiritual. 


My friend Emily snapped this picture with her phone one night when she was over recently. I was looking the quilt over, checking for loose threads, and contemplating what to write on the label. Usually I have a hard time naming the quilts that I make, but this one came easily - I called it "Deep Waters" because serving God in full time ministry is a sacrifice that not many families choose to make, and I'm sure they will go through some deep waters because of their choice to serve Him, but I know that God will reward them for it. As I was making this quilt I often listened to Hillsong's Oceans, which has always reminded me of Isaiah 43:2. I don't know if the songwriters had that verse in mind as they were writing, but I decided it was the perfect verse for this nautical quilt so I included it on the label. The verse says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." That is my prayer for the Woodward family - as they walk down this path of service to God and ministry to us, His people, that He will always be with them no matter the circumstances. I know that He will. 
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