Monday, December 28, 2015

a quilt for Penelope

Like many quilters, whenever I find out a good friend is pregnant I immediately start thinking about what kind of quilt to make. Olga sews and makes quilts, too, so I asked if she had a plan for the nursery or any preference for fabrics or patterns. She asked if I would use a collection of fabric that she had called Sweet as Honey, and I knew she liked hexagons after she sent me screenshots of several vintage quilts that were made of teeny tiny hand sewn hexies. I regretfully told Olga that I wasn't up for hand sewing, but that I would try to make something she would like. I sent her a few ideas and one of them was for this triangle star quilt block. Once I got the go ahead from her I started cutting, using my regular rectangular ruler and the 60° line which took a little getting used to, but eventually I got all 250+ triangles cut out. I sewed two rows together and lost steam because the triangles were hurting my brain. My rows kept getting skewed because I wasn't lining the triangles up right so I gave up for a while. They stayed on my design wall for ages, falling down in the humidity of the summer and early fall and getting kicked around by Matt and the boys, ending up in the hallway and wedged in the door jamb. Amazingly, I didn't lose any and finally started sewing again after the baby was born. Penelope didn't mind though, and I finished up at the end of September, if I remember correctly, only a couple months after she was born.
The back is a few Kona blues that I had on hand along with some of the Sweet as Honey fabric that Olga provided me with. I love scrappy backs and this one is no exception. I can't even remember how I quilted it, but I think it's free motion random loops which are very forgiving for a novice free motion quilter like me. The binding is scrappy, too, made from two different fabrics from the Sweet as Honey line. Sometimes it's nice not to have to make a lot of decisions about a quilt, and using one collection definitely simplifies things. Hopefully this quilt will help keep Penelope warm and cozy this winter!

Monday, December 7, 2015

double the plus | a quilt for Bryce

I'm playing catch up once again here on the ol' blog... I made this quilt lickety split in just a couple days to get it done in time for a baby shower I was cohosting. Our good friends Matt and Kayla are expecting their first baby in February and when my instagram friend Emily put out a call for pattern testers I knew it would make a perfect baby quilt for him. The pattern is called Double the Plus and would be great for an experienced beginner! Emily's cutting instructions are clear and easy to follow, and the quilt comes together really quickly, even if you're not hustling like I was! Make sure you check out the #doubletheplus hashtag for more classic examples of the pattern as mine is a bit unorthodox... I've put myself on a fabric diet and went for a very scrappy look with this quilt! In fact, you can only just barely make out the plus signs, but I like the effect. I used a combination of Tokyo Train Ride by Sarah Watts for Cotton + Steel to make the plus signs and I used various Kona solids for the background.
Since I had a looming deadline I decided not to make the quilt double sided and instead used another Cotton + Steel print, Mesa by Alexia Abegg, for the backing. The binding is more C+S, some scraps of Cookie Book and another print I can't remember the name of for the life of me.
Finn wanted to sit on the quilt in the worst way so once Matt was done taking the couple of pictures I wanted I laid it down on the grass for him. I hope Bryce likes his quilt as much as Finn did! I think he was sad to see it go :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Harris Road | a mini quilt for the Gamble family

I've been meaning to write about this little wall quilt I made just so I don't forget about it! We have friends who own a small amount of land and they put it to good use with a huge garden in the summer, blueberry bushes, and even a section of Christmas trees. Last year they let us choose our tree from their land and we had a great time trekking through the muddy woods to get to the area where they're planted. I wanted to do something to thank them and originally thought I would make them a little quilted ornament of some kind. I thought it would be cute to make a tiny house that looked like their actual house, but as I pulled fabrics and started cutting it started to get out of control and I knew there was no way it could pass as an ornament. I'm not sure how they use it, if they hung it up or use it as a table topper (or stuck it in a drawer, ha!), but I'm happy with how this little house turned out and I had a lot of fun putting it together. Pieces with meaning and purpose are always the most fun to work on.

P.S. Excuse the low quality photo! This is the only one I have of it, and I took it with my phone.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

little state love | a quilt for Jess & Chad

Back to blogging again... I just can't seem to stay consistent here! Honestly, I just prefer to spend my time at my sewing machine rather than at the computer, but I do like to keep track of all my quilts here so I'll continue on regardless of how sporadic my posts are. So, the quilt! I made this one for friends of ours, Jess and Chad, who just got married earlier this month. Jess used to be one of the lead photographers for Blueflash but this season was her last because she's living back in Michigan, her home state, now. If it weren't for Chad anchoring here there I would venture to say that Jess would still be living in Little Rhody, in Newport, her home away from home, so I made them a Rhode Island quilt. I have to say that it didn't come out exactly as I planned, but I still really like it. I like it so much that I think I'll make another one, and I hardly ever do that. I drew out a map of RI on grid paper to get the shape right and then I determined how many squares or "pixels" I would need for the land and water. (And just in case this is confusing any non-locals, no, Rhode Island is not actually an island!) I decided to use shades of gray for the land and shades of blue for the water, and after two separate trips to Joann and two orders from Fat Quarter Shop I still didn't really have the exact colors I wanted, but I pressed onward anyway. I was running out of time and didn't want to keep spending money on solids I didn't want and probably wouldn't use later. Next time I'll make sure the land and water have more value contrast so they don't blend together so much. I tried to make them more distinct with the quilting, but you can't really see it in the photos. The water has waves quilted in each strip, and the shape of Rhode Island is quilted with what turned out to be concentric rectangles, kind of... I outlined the shape and then continued to echo it until I reached the approximate center. There are over thirty islands that are part of Rhode Island, and I added the most important ones - Aquidneck Island, where Jess lived when she was a Rhode Island resident, Conanicut Island, where one of her favorite spots (Beavertail) is, and Block Island, where she and Chad got engaged. They got the concentric rectangle/square quilting treatment, too.  
Since I wasn't absolutely thrilled with how the front came out and I wasn't even sure it was recognizable as Rhode Island (in fact, I don't think it is. I think it only looks like Rhode Island if you know what Rhode Island looks like and if I point out that it is supposed to look like Rhode Island. Alas.), I wanted to make sure that Jess liked the back for sure. That way if she thought the front was hideous and didn't make any sense then they could just turn it over and forget it exists and use the back exclusively. So I picked out four or five prints that I liked that would coordinate with the front in some way and sent them to Jess, telling her I was working on a project and wanted to know her favorite of the bunch. As I sent the email I wondered if she suspected what I was making... she had asked once, half joking, I think, if I would make her and Chad a quilt and I said no, explaining how I don't make large quilts because my attention span is too short and I enjoy smaller projects better. Then, tragically, Jess's sister passed away just before she was to return to Rhode Island to shoot weddings for the 2015 season. It was then that I decided I had to make her one. Anyway, out of the handful of options I sent to Jess, she picked this print by Katarina Roccella from her Skopelos line, and I think it's the perfect complement to the front. I love the bright floral against the blue and white stripes. I think that they're very Newport - the stripes give it a nautical feel and the flowers add some drama and glam, much like the City by the Sea.

I have to share a little mishap I had when quilting, just because I don't want to forget - I was almost finished quilting and only had some interior sections to complete so I decided I was going to attach the binding and then finish quilting. I was tired of quilting and needed a break, and I thought binding would make me feel closer to the finish line, so I used my clover clips to attach the binding to the edges. Then I realized I would have to change my thread (I was using Sulky to quilt and wanted to switch back to my usual Gutterman for the binding), so I decided to just go ahead and finish the quilting. About an hour went by and I was almost done, just had maybe twelve to eighteen inches left of quilting when I realized that it felt kind of bulky around the needle. I lifted up the quilt to check underneath it and was horrified to realize that I had quilted the loose binding tails to the back in several places! Ughhhhh! I was so mad at myself. I could not believe that I had to pick out so much quilting when I was so close to finishing. I spent the next thirty minutes sitting on the floor with the quilt and my stitch ripper, undoing most of what I had spent the past hour doing! All the while sighing and shaking my head. Thankfully, it was smooth sailing (ha! Unintentional Newport pun!) from then on, and I finished quilting and binding without any more issues. I won't be prematurely attaching binding with clover clips to my quilts anymore, I can tell you that.

Anyway, we took these photos in Newport when we were there for a shoot just before Matt left for the wedding. Ezra, Finn, and I like to tag along sometimes, if we can find a playground nearby and especially if we can score dinner or lunch somewhere close. This time we went with Matt to shoot a couple properties (he does commercial work, too, not just weddings) in Portsmouth, ate the best burgers and dogs in Rhode Island at Mission (if you're on the island, go! It's a must), and then took a few quick shots at Perrotti Park on America's Cup Ave.

Matt flew to Michigan to shoot the wedding over Labor Day weekend and since I couldn't attend I sent the quilt along in his backpack which, other than his gear case, was his only piece of luggage. I insisted he bring it so he could hand deliver it and we weren't sure it would fit but he made it work. I'm pretty sure he wore the same thing all weekend! A few days after the wedding Jess sent me a picture of her and Chad snuggled up under their new quilt! It's always nice to see my quilts in use, and I'm glad it made it safely from Rhode Island to their new home in Michigan. Cheers, Jess and Chad! We miss you here in Little Rhody.

Monday, September 28, 2015

+bound+ staple dress and a giveaway! | 30 Days of Sewing with Art Gallery Fabrics

Hello and welcome to any new readers that have come over from Art Gallery Fabrics! As you probably know by now, September is National Sewing Month and when Art Gallery asked me to create something to help them celebrate I said sure! I decided to step outside of my comfort zone in the spirit of learning new ways to sew. I've made a couple garments in the past but they've always been out of quilting cotton and once out of a home dec weight fabric, so I selected a knit fabric and a pattern that I've been wanting to make for myself for a while, the Staple Dress by April Rhodes. The fabric is coincidentally by April Rhodes, too - the print is called painting morale and it's from her new collection for Art Gallery called +bound+. I've loved everything April has designed since her first collection, Arizona, and this collection is just as beautiful. I love the muted colors and organic, nature inspired designs.

After reading through the pattern I decided to enlist someone to hold my hand throughout the garment making process. With my limited experience with sewing clothing I didn't want to ruin this beautiful fabric! So I got in touch with my friend and sewing teacher Lorraine, and she agreed to help me one night a few weeks ago. I was familiar with Art Gallery quilting cottons already and I love them - they feel soft and luxurious compared to lots of other quilting cottons, and I fell in love with this knit, too. I cut and sewed up the whole thing in one night, albeit a very late night, with Lorraine's help along the way ;) The dress is so comfortable and easy to wear, and I think it's a great transition piece as we head into fall here in New England. I've worn it with sandals, these flats, and I plan to wear it with tall brown boots, too!


The winner is instagram usedr @tinkerellen!

I love learning new methods of sewing, techniques, and how to use different materials and tools and this project helped educate me in many ways. I sewed with knit fabric to make a garment for the first time, and I used elastic thread to create the shirring at the waist which was really fun! For a chance to win some Art Gallery knit fabric of your own, tell me your what you'd like to learn about sewing! Let me know in the comments section (here or on my instagram post about this giveaway) to enter to win 3 yards of Katarina Roccella's Morse Dot Blue in knit from her Imprints collection so you can make your own Staple Dress, courtesy of Art Gallery Fabrics.  Make sure you check out the Art Gallery Fabrics app (available for android and IOS) for ideas on what to make, too! Giveaway ends Thursday, October 1st at midnight; a winner will be selected randomly and announced here and on instagram on Friday morning. Anonymous comments will be disregarded so please make sure you include your email so I can contact you. The winner must respond within three days or an alternate will be chosen. Open to US residents.

This blog post is sponsored by Art Gallery Fabrics; all opinions are my own. Thanks also to Lorraine for sharing her time and knowledge of sewing, and to my husband Matt for taking these pictures!

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 ;)

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. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

a t shirt quilt for Brendan, or how to spend almost the entire night sewing to meet a self-imposed deadline

My brother recently moved out of my parents' house and I wanted to do something to help spruce up his new apartment, and of course, being a quilter, the first idea that came to mind was to make him a quilt. But, with all the baby quilts I'm making over the next couple of months, I didn't think a larger quilt would be possible for a while and I wanted to make something soon. Then I had the brilliant idea of making him a t shirt quilt. Normally I would do anything to avoid making a t shirt quilt because I think they're ugly and I don't like working with knits, but my brother is a hoarder and could stand to part with some shirts, specifically the ones he's been saving (and wearing!) since, oh, elementary school. So I figured this would be a way to help him clean out his closet and provide him with a little apartment warming gift, both figuratively and literally. He gave me a giant stack of shirts a few weeks ago and they sat in a pile while I finished up some other projects at the sewing machine. His birthday was last weekend so I thought it would be nice to finish it up in time to give to him then. It was Saturday, the night before his birthday, and I don't know what got into me but I decided to I was going to have the quilt done on time! I had about fifteen hours to complete it, and that was if I stayed up all night which, for my own health and sanity, I knew I should not do. So at about 6:00 pm I took the boys outside to play in the backyard and I brought my cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter out onto the patio table. I cut into the shirts outside for about an hour and then took a break to bring the boys in so they could eat a quick dinner, take a bath, and get to bed. They were asleep by 8:30 so I continued cutting and worked on the layout on the dining room floor as I cut.

Once I was done cutting I started piecing the quilt top, joining sections together until I only had a few places that had partial seams. I was psyched to be able to finish it up, and after it was done I trimmed a twin size fleece blanket to the right size and sandwiched the two pieces right sides together, but Finn woke up so I decided to call it a night, hoping I would have enough time to finish before church in the morning. It was 3:00 am at this point so I really couldn't stay up much longer anyway! Like I said earlier, I really don't know what go into me. It's over a week later and I think I'm still paying for that late night! Anyway, I went to bed and prayed the boys didn't wake up too early. I slept like a rock! I don't think it was until around 8:00 that we all woke up, and back to the sewing machine I went. I stitched along the edges, leaving an opening for turning (so it's not a true quilt as there is no batting or binding), and then I stitched along the edge of the quilt to finish it, closing the opening as well. I didn't even trim the loose threads! I just stuffed it into a gift bag, got us all dressed, and handed the boys granola bars as I hurried them into the car so we wouldn't be late for church. We made it there with ten minutes to spare!

After church we headed to my brother's apartment where we all had lunch together, and Ezra gave him the quilt. His words were, "This looks even better than I thought it would!" Ha! I'll take it :) I think it took me about eight hours in total. I always try to keep track of the time it takes me to make things but with all the interruptions (child care, bathroom breaks, chocolate chip cookie breaks, etc.) I tend to forget to do it. Making this blanket in such a short span of time cut down on that so it was pretty easy to keep track! Now hopefully I won't have to make another t shirt quilt in my life, but if I do I know it won't take me too long ;)

If anyone is interested in making a t shirt quilt with a layout like this, you simply cut everything to be divisible by any one dimension (the sides of my "blocks" are all divisible by four - 4x4, 4x8, 4x16, 8x8, 8x12, etc.) and then fit all the pieces together like a puzzle. I like to save some t shirt scraps in case I need to fill in any gaps in the quilt top. I used a few sleeve pieces and some blank areas to fill this one out.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

pink lemonade | a quilt for Caroline

Recently I was able to check another baby quilt off my list, though there are six more to finish before the end of the summer! My friend Hillary is expecting her second daughter soon so I asked her for some inspiration for a quilt. She sent me a few photos, one of the curtains she's using in the baby's room and one of a simple nine patch quilt. The curtains looked like a classic Laura Ashley or Waverly print - vintage red floral on a creamy white background, so as usual I went to my stash to find some fabrics. Unfortunately, I didn't have any red and my low volume prints were lacking, too. I ended up finding a scrap of fabric (the subtle yellow, gray, pink, and red floral - I think it's by Momo) that felt like a good jumping off point and then added a bunch of yellow polka dot scraps and some white seersucker. I still needed some red so my mom and my aunt were kind enough to let me shop their stashes. I found a red polka dot by Denyse Schmidt in my mom's stash and I got some red gingham from my aunt. The border is a print from Lizzy House's Guising collection. 

I posted the picture Hillary had sent me of the inspiration quilt to the Rhode Island Modern Quilt Guild member facebook page to ask everyone what they thought the pattern might be. The consensus was a nine patch, and since I'm a new-ish quilter and mostly self-taught/internet-taught, I wasn't familiar with the way to construct one. Lucky for me, my friend Tina from the guild helped me with the pattern - she designed the simple nine patch using EQ7 and included all the fabric measurements and cutting instructions which made it super easy to construct. She saved me so much time because if I had done it my way I would have been piecing the squares individually! Strip piecing was much quicker and more efficient. Unfortunately, I goofed when I was cutting my strips so the effect isn't quite the same as the quilt I was using as inspiration. Oh well! Since I was using scraps I couldn't cut more, so I just had to make it work. I used a large cut of one of Heather Bailey's True Colors prints and then added a bunch of scraps from the front to make the back big enough. I have a love/hate relationship with piecing quilt backs - I love to use up scraps, but I hate to spend so much time on the back! It's so much quicker to use one piece of fabric for the back, but more often than not I end up piecing. It does make it more fun to look at, and the owner of the shop where I learned how to long arm, Mad About Quilts, told me that a pieced back adds value to a quilt, which makes sense because it certainly takes more time and effort!

I quilted diagonal lines in a crosshatch pattern across the quilt and then bound it with scraps from the top. I think the red polka dot is my favorite piece :) Oh, and I have to give credit for the name of the quilt, Pink Lemonade, to an instagram friend, @tinkerellen - thanks, Cheri! I packed up the quilt along with a set of ladybug beanbags for Big Sister, popped them in the mail, and Hillary received it a couple weeks ago. I was happy to hear that she likes it, and I look forward to seeing a picture or two of the baby snuggled up in her quilt once she's born!

P.S. Here's the quilt I made for Hillary's older daughter a couple years ago - a quilt for Audrey

Saturday, May 2, 2015

my #matsuribag

This year I promised myself that I would expand my skills beyond quilt making. I wanted to learn how to install a zipper, do English paper piecing, and comfortably use interfacing in projects. I'd like to make a few garments, too. I've done a few of these things before with my friend, Lorraine, who taught me to sew, but I hadn't done any of them on my own. So recently, after making a few open wide pouches for swaps and some laptop sleeves for friends, I decided to volunteer as a tester for Felice who was working on her Matsuri Bag pattern. I knew it would be a challenge in some ways but I was confident I could do it! The Matsuri bag is a backpack that converts to a crossbody and I had commented that I had been looking for a backpack to use when I'm out with the boys because it's so much easier to have both hands free. I was so excited when Felice emailed me say that I was chosen as a tester that I started picking out fabrics immediately!

I considered a couple Cotton + Steel prints (all the states and scattered), but then I remembered that my mom had given me some of the Midas Kisses (the cat fabric which is out of print and hard to find, but it looks like Pink Castle might have some in white!) along with some of Ellen Baker's half rounds from her Charms collection for Kokka, and I knew they would be perfect for what I had already dubbed the world's cutest backpack. I ordered some of the half round fabric in charcoal to use as the lining and spent way too much time comparing purse hardware on etsy. I ended up choosing an antique brass finish for the hardware and then I found the perfect metal zipper. So perfect, in fact, that I bought five.

Anyway, even though I was comfortable installing a zipper and using interfacing by this point, I was still intimidated by this bag because of all the pieces! However, Felice's instructions were very clear and easy to follow, and she includes helpful diagrams along the way. I did make a few simple modifications, including flipping the side pockets over because I decided I liked my lining fabric better as an exterior contrast fabric, so please note that the gathers would look a little different if I had followed the pattern exactly.

Though I haven't used the bag as a crossbody yet, I can say that I love the look of it!


This bag easily holds everything I need for Finn - his epi pens, a couple diapers and wipes, a couple small snacks, and a change of clothes. I can fit a few other things, too, like a book, some small toys, and another set of clothes if necessary, but the bag does start to lose it's shape if I jam too many things inside, like any bag would. The exterior pockets are the perfect size for the boys' water bottles which is major for me. I love having a dedicated spot for the water bottles in my bag! As you can see here, I added a lined interior pocket (not included in the pattern) so I can easily keep my things separate from the boys' things. I have enough room inside the pocket for my wallet, phone, keys, a pen, and my checkbook. I don't even know why I carry my checkbook other than that it's inside a cute Hello Kitty Liberty fabric wallet that I made and I like to admire it, ha!

I would definitely recommend this pattern to anyone who's looking for a cute and functional backpack! I'm completely in love with mine and want to coordinate all my outfits around it from now on. Head over to Sew Scatterbrained to purchase the pattern (release date is May 2!) and support Felice! And check out the #matsuribag hashtag on instagram to be inspired by all the bags the other testers made... there are some gorgeous fabric combinations there! I'll be happy to answer any questions about the pattern and my personal experience making the Matsuri Bag. Let me know if you make one - I'd love to see it! Oh, and thanks to Matt for taking these photos for me!

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