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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