Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lone Star

This week's quilt block  ran the entire range of sewing emotions, from *&^#^$^$&&#&# this stupid thing!! to OMG I love it!! And believe me - no one was more surprised than me at the turnaround. I started out by trying everything I could think of (but obviously not the correct thing) to get the diamond points to match up reasonably well. I think I picked out each seam at least once, but once I figured it out they all ended up perfect enough for my taste. And then the inset seams that I wanted to punch in their stupid y-shaped faces last time worked out OK. I could feel myself getting giddy that I might actually piece a difficult block that wasn't a hot mess. And I really think I did it. It's not perfect, but the little quirks are so minor they'll quilt right out so they're not even really quirks. Ready to see it?

Haha. that's the back. I just thought the back was pretty too. The geographical center of this block is quite seam-a-licious. OK, here's the front:

I am quite proud of this block and actually--dare I say--enJOYed making it! Apparently the right playlist on iTunes is pretty key to successful sewing. Fun coincidence: as I was doing the final press on this the song 'Lone Star' by Norah Jones came on. What timing! Anyway, there is no WAY I'd be making this one in bulk. I don't think, anyway. Maybe when I'm old and retired and have endless bits of time. Or young and retired. One should aim high.

I can't believe there are only 3 blocks left in this quilt along and then the year-long adventure is done. Next month's theme is "I'll never be able to make that block!" My heart is a little afraid, but I'm nice and confident now that I feel like I aced this one.

In just the right fabrics this would be a really cute block for a Christmas pillow. I have lots of Christmas scraps. I'll have to see what I can do.

I think I'm going to go work on my rainbow ripple afghan a little bit. It was neglected for several months and I'm enjoying getting back to it in odd little snippets of time here and there.

Happy Friday! Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day, Indeed

This past Sunday we had our annual Memorial Day picnic. People come from near and far (far being New Jersey :) to score some major eats, play some wiffle ball, drink some drinks, and make some memories. We've had crazy beautiful weekends recently, so it should go without saying that Sunday was so hot and humid you could sweat just standing still. Here's the temp at around 10 a.m.:

At least the sun stayed in bed all day so it wasn't unbearable. I think it was in the 90s by mid-afternoon. With the increased backyard size since the pool came down, the groundskeepers (my dad and cousin Joe) decided to slightly rotate and greatly expand the playing field. Never mind that laundry poles are now smack in the middle of the field...

This is where left field (right field? let's just say outfield) was last year.

And here it is this year:

And of course you'd have picnic seating just off the foul line. That tree the table is under is the one I always thought would be a perfect reading tree for a younger me. I'll have to pretend it was one, because there's no way current me is climbing up there :)

Isn't that a great picnic tree? You see that giant blue sign on the fence in the back? We have several from different places (you can see in the pics above). The groundskeepers like to pretend they're creating a genuine ball field with sponsors and all that jazz.

When we had our 25th anniversary "celebration" of Memory Field, my brother and sisters and Dad had interviews with people, and we took a ton of pictures in addition to the eleventy-million we've accumulated over the years. My dad put together a slideshow of sorts, setting twenty-five years of memories to music. They set up a TV and speakers outside and gathered everyone around to watch.

 (side note: that's what the side of our house looked like before we added the porch)

Everyone had a nice chuckle at their horrible clothes and hairstyles from yesteryear, and sat there
with silly grins, just remembering.

Of course he had to throw in an 'in memoriam' segment, which had everyone sniffling and quiet. But most of the memories were happy ones. My sister will flip on some level when she sees I posted her big old baby belly online. But that just means one thing. Pretty soon there'll be another set of these to kiss and tickle:

You know I loves me some iddy biddy baby feet!

I didn't take nearly as many pictures as I would have liked, but I think that's because we've had 27 years worth of these events. Some things never change. And that's not always a bad thing.

OK, must trot. All I've got to do is finish up some bag handles and that order is done! Plus I've got my quilt block to get crackin' on. See you soon!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I like orange. And plaid.

One of my oldest friends (in length of time of said friendship, not in actual years because, as she will remind me, I'm older than her :) asked me to make her a bag. I printed off a few pictures and she selected one of the simplest patterns to construct. But then she told me the colors she liked and I thought "Hmmm...not sure how this will play out...," especially since she threw in "I looooooove plaids, but flowers are good too." I'm all for yellow and green and orange--nice and citrus-summer, but I didn't know what I would find. I found a few florals that weren't quite hitting the mark and was getting a bit discouraged. And then, just like that, Lucy's Crab Shack by Sweetwater for Moda, was released. With an orange and green plaid. My brain wiring leads me to believe such things are meant to be. We found a matching green dotty print right away for the lining, they were delivered like whoosh, and now it's all done.

I often wonder if I am the only person alive who cannot tie an adequate bow. This isn't even a bow, so much as a knot, which makes matters worse. But it takes the bag from a little plain to pretty cute (especially with those wood rings!). 

See? The wooden rings add such a different look than metal ones do. They're actually sold as wooden curtain rings, but I don't know how you'd get curtains on them (unless they're tab curtains), but I digress. A few quick coats of satin poly-u and they were ready.

This whole bag is just so summery and casual to me, so grab and go, so unfussy. I've made this bag once before (altering the construction a bit) and decided I would make myself one (but never did). Maybe if I say it this time it'll happen. I'm going to make myself one. There. Let's see if that does it.

The inside is an apple green dot print that matches just right. I like edging the inside pockets in a contrasting fabric--that little detail just adds something fun. The other side of the bag has a zip pocket. I could probably get a zipper into this bag for the closure, but it might be a bit restrictive. It's a deeper bag though, so a mag snap should be secure enough.

The details:
Outside fabric:  Lucy's Crab Shack Beach Blanket in Orange and Green Apple by Sweetwater for Moda
Lining fabric: Reunion Ava's Apron in Green Apple by Sweetwater for Moda (I bought both at the Fat Quarter Shop).
Wooden rings: found on eBay, but they also have them here
The pattern: found here, but altered a bit.

Linking up here this week:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

My Grandpa, Elijah Garrett, on the left. Somewhere in Europe, sometime during WWII. I stole this from my aunt's FB page, so I have no details (thanks for the pic, Aunt Kristie!).

I have so much to share with you from a very busy weekend. But not today. Today is a day for remembering what was given, so we can celebrate what we have. Happy Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Delighted Jelly Roll Quilt Top

I love pre-cuts. I love the neat little squares and rolls they come in, all tied with a cute ribbon. Every time I buy one I feel a little ripped off, but I buy them anyway. I'm all about easy quilts, and it doesn't get much easier than all the cutting being done for you.

A few weeks (months? probably months ago--where is the year going, by the way? It's almost June!) I saw some sweet fabric over on Katie's blog. I bugged her for the details, and she informed me it was an older line called 'Delighted' by Riley Blake. Why do I always get turned onto wonderful fabric lines when they're almost gone forever? Luckily I was able to find a couple jelly rolls (they're the half-sized rolls where you get 21 strips instead of the usual 42) and I promptly snagged those. I have always wanted to try one of those jelly roll quilts like Kris made here, so on Monday night I had at it. Three hours of stitch time later (plus a bit for ironing) I had the top complete.

I trimmed the selvages and cut 18 inches off the first strip, and then just sewed and sewed. Due to there being duplicates of each print there isn't as much variation as you'd see with a full-sized roll, but I adore the fresh and sunny, yet vintagey, colors and the way they all bounce off each other.

Even from the back the colors are still so rich and fun! I stuck the strips into a plastic bag and just kept reaching in and sewing them together. It'd be close to impossible for anyone to figure out where the strips are going to ultimately end up (or that could be me and my lack of a functioning math part of my brain). If I could have predicted it, I certainly wouldn't have had all this pink hanging out together:

But then the happy accident of this--

--and this--

--might not have happened. They're my favorite sections, by the way :)

This ended up being a nicely sized quilt top--not big enough for a bed (maybe a smaller kid bed?) but perfect as a decent sized throw. I think I'm going to do simple straight-line quilting on this one, but I'm going to give cotton batting a whirl (I usually use polyester). That will have to wait a bit, but I'm just so happy I finally got this stitched together. Those jelly rolls have been taunting my sub-conscious.

I needed that quick, bright interlude after miles of aqua and brown, and all those red cushions on the porch. This was just what my soul was craving.

It was back to the cutting board tonight, and I was happily slicing into a few fabrics that were delivered this afternoon:

It's for a good friend of mine--I felt like I hit the jackpot when she said she liked orange and plaid, and the fabric on the left hit stores this week. Serendipitous, indeed. I've already got the outside of the bag finished, and it's looking pretty sweet! I'll be showing you this one this weekend for sure :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I came home from work Friday night, ate a big salad, and went and got a new tattoo (here's my first). What, that's not a totally normal sequence of events? I know ink isn't for everyone, and after looking at samples and the actual work on the artists themselves I can understand why it can be viewed in a more negative light. But I also think that carefully chosen pieces, done well, and with meaning behind them can be very nice. So here's my latest--

I didn't create the phrase, but it struck a chord within me when I first ran across it. I knew I wanted another tattoo, but I didn't know of what. I was going to do a rose. Then I was going to ask Aneela Hoey if she'd mind if I tattooed her girl on a swing (from the fabric) onto my leg. But neither one stuck. I woke up last weekend with this image in my head and thought "That's it." And it stayed that way. I figure that's how you know it's the one--no second-guessing or any of that. They say that butterflies are messengers from heaven...maybe that's where this came from. Ooo!! Maybe my friend Peg shot me this idea--it's how she dealt with her illness, and not a bad reminder of a good philosophy on life. I'm going with that :)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Eighty-seven Miles of Table Runners

...or at least that's how it felt. I am infinitely happy that my last big project has been scratched off the list with a vengeance. Months ago (maybe December? But definitely January) my ol' pal Lisa asked me for a few runners for her living room. One would be 10 feet and the other about 6. Sure, no problem, I said. Oy. If I only knew.

Now I don't really know what my whole problem was with these things. Maybe because I started off with the longer one, and had to crawl around on the floor for a night pinning and lining everything up. Maybe because I didn't want to write on the fabric with an actual marker (sometimes the marks don't want to come out for me) so I taped out the lines individually. Maybe because it was ten flippin' feet long! Maybe all of the above.

The first one took me months to do. Literally. To be honest I was very busy in-between with bag orders, but it still took me a crazy long time to quilt in a grid. And then a few weeks ago, when I was on Amazon and needed $4.22 to get free shipping, I saw "you may also like..." and there was a Clover hera marker. I head-slapped myself and muttered "You moron!" Into the basket it went. And it was the best money I've spent in a long time for this, a wee piece of plastic:

A hera marker adds a very slight crease to your fabric, marking the stitching lines without leaving a trace. It's hard to see unless it's right under the machine needle, but I tried to get you an ok pic:

It looks like nothing, but it meant the world to me. No more trying to line up a shifty ruler with a piece of tape that only wanted to stick to everything else. No more having to stitch sloooooowly so I wouldn't go through the tape and have another mess. No more sewing through the tape and having to try to pick it from the stitches. Just a quick line (and 5 at a time instead of 1!) and then whoosh through the machine. I finished the second half of the looong one in an evening (yes it took me months to not even finish one!) and cut, pinned, and stitched the shorter one on Saturday. ONE Saturday. I couldn't believe it.

So enough of the yakkety-yak--here's my latest, already packaged to head to work with me tomorrow:

Even the binding went quickly. I thought I wouldn't have enough, but I have a ton extra for a fall project I have in mind (yes, I know, it's May, but just like in retail one must plan ahead :) Instead of pinning the binding and hoping for the best, I folded it towards the back and pressed the bejeesus out of it. It stayed in place really nice while I was sewing it down (the only hiccups are slight and where the seams are, so next time I'll know). Doing it this way definitely beats pinning in my opinion.

I used two different threads--brown on the black and aqua on the front (even though this is technically reversible). The aqua blends right in, the brown not so much so it's two slightly different looks. And on one I measured the angles to create a square grid (above) and on the other I did the angles to create a diamond:

And just to give you an idea of how much longer one is than the other:

The one on the left is folded in half--I wouldn't have been able to get it all in the photo. I wonder how long it would have taken with the hera marker in hand--definitely not as long as my measure-and-tape method, that's darn tootin' :)

I've already got another list going, but they're for fairly simple bags in fun summery colors--can't wait to show you as I turn them out :)

Linking here this week:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sexy Hexy

I'm a night early with my quilt block but I'm excited to share... Let's get the geek confession out of the way, though. The whole time I was making the flower for this block I kept thinking of the words sexy hexy. Which would then morph into "Where's sexy Rexy?" in Eddie's voice from Empire Records. Have you ever seen that flick, circa 1995? I was obsessed with that movie then, and I'm still in love with it. Still. Like even today after two evenings of "where's sexy Rexy?" running through my head I want to reallllly watch it.

So I guess it won't surprise you, then, to learn that I had to make hexagons this week. I have admired them from afar for some time, but never made any. I don't care for hand-sewing so I was content to let them be. I kept thinking there had to be a way to make them by machine, but after last week's inset seams I was fine with making them by hand (which is what we had to do, anyway). I was so heart skippingly happy with my little flower I wanted to just keep adding to it. But I restrained myself.

I honestly sat at my kitchen table grinning while I was stitching this together. We used English paper piecing, where you cut your fabric larger than the template and fold it under, basting it in place. When your pieces are stitched you pull out the paper. I thought this would be entirely too difficult so I never tried that either, but it was so easy and so fun.

My hand-stitching was pretty dang tight, so I'll have to loosen up next time. I only developed a low level of angst after I zigged these down to the backing fabric. My stitching is terrible (I hardly ever use the zig-zag setting so I'm not at all proficient with it) and the cherry fabric puckered a bit. That fabric is a bit thinner than the others and I'm thinking that's where the issue lies with that.

The next time I would not use a zig stitch. I'd probably pop on the even-feed foot and straight-stitch. Other than that I have not one shred of angst about this block. I get why people love making hexies. I can see me stitching up eleventy million of these with no real purpose in mind, they're THAT fun. But I'm trying not to do those pointless sorts of things anymore, so I'll have to see what I can whip up with a few.

I knew I was smitten when we were doing the relaxation phase in yoga the other night and I couldn't wait to get home to hand sew. Even with the template cutting and basting and all that jazz, this block can be done in an evening (it took me two as I had some other stuff I was doing), and at a relaxed pace at that.

If you've been wanting to try this I heartily think you should. The tutorial I used in the sew along was great, and the tut over at KandiPandi's is really nice too. What a great portable project, too. Must go dig through some scraps.....

Bye for now!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Have a Seat!

What a delightful weekend! The sun was shining. I got a lot done. My mother looooooves the gift we all gave her for Mother's Day (happy Mother's Day to all of you, by the way!!). And I don't feel that "Ugh, Monday" feeling coming on like I usually do around this time Sunday night.

For a few months now half of my project box has been dominated by yards and yards of outdoor fabric, just waiting to be made into new cushion covers. My mother kept saying "Don't make yourself crazy, whenever you get to it is fine." And she means it, but I make myself feel guilty that my mother, who asks for nothing and does anything for anyone, has been back-burnered. So last weekend I made new cushion covers for this wicker sofa on the porch that she scored for $20 at a thrift shop. And this weekend I stitched up a new cover for the swing cushion, plus a few other bits. It feels so good to have so much done!

Normally the porch is done in bright springy colors--pinks, yellows, greens and the like. But this year my mother went with something a bit warmer--reds and oranges and yellows and greens at just the right level of brightness. I love how it all came together in the end after a weekend of cleaning, sewing, and rearranging.

First up is the wicker couch--here's a shot of the old covers (I don't have a full before--plus you get to see my favorite shoes again :)

And now here's the after:

The yellow pillow covers were made from left-overs. Alicia promptly curled up and plunked her face on one for a nap so I'm guessing they're fine :) After carefully measuring several times, the covers for the seat cushions came out just right. But we then realized that there were large gaps on either side and that these might not have been the original cushions for this piece. Turning the cushions left a large gap in the front that looked worse, so I stitched up a few bolsters to shove in the gaps on the sides. They're squishy as they're stuffed with fiber-fill, but nobody will be sitting directly on these so they're just fine for filling in the weird gap, and visually they blend in.

They all zip on and off so they can be easily washed or replaced. For the seat cushions I stitched the zippers to pieces as I would a change purse, and then trimmed them to match the width of the gusset. I then added some large fabric tabs for a little extra length.

The gussets made me say bad words as they're not my favorite thing to do, but they worked out. The corners tried to sass me, but I made a cute little pleat in each corner so that extra little bit of fabric in the corner wouldn't look funny.

For the back cushions (I almost had fun with these :) I sewed big rectangles and boxed the corners, just as I would for a tote bag. I've never boxed the corners where the zippers are, but they were easy-breezy. I've tried to do it on something like a change purse, but there was a lot of bulk and it wasn't a big enough "box" to work properly.

I was quite proud of myself for these as I've never done something like this before. Now, I have recovered the porch swing cushion a few times. The first time was the best I could do as I had only been sewing for a few months. The second one is what you see in the background of this shot, but much much much more faded:

 And here's what it is now:

There were several colors to choose from in the dandelion fabric, but this was the favorite. If it was quilt-weight instead of home dec I may have splurged and bought some of each. I have just enough left over to whip up a simple tote. I put the zipper in this one the way I would a visible zipper in a skirt--I sewed the seam but with big stitches where the zip would go, laid it face down, and stitched the tape down. I opened up the stitches and there was the zipper, nice and tidy. I think I lost about 7 pounds trying to get the cushion back into the cover, though. I felt like I was wrestling an alligator, but without anything sharp, or snarling, or biting. The pillows are simple envelope-style covers over pillow forms (easy to remove for washing).

The final thing was a mother-daughter staple gun smack-down sort of affair. We have four chairs with metal frames and detachable cushions. The cushions are covered in boring old vinyl (but they're so sturdy we leave that on and cover them in new fabric every few years). We had to remove the cushions and pull out all the staples tacking down the old fabric and the backing. Then we cut and stapled the new fabric to the cushions. Well....I pulled the fabric nice and tight and my mom stapled because I'm afraid of the staple gun. I know, it's weird, but when I try to use it I squeeze my eyes and turn my head and get someone else to do it. We're old pros at this routine, so they took hardly any time at all.

Our porch is pretty big, and we have plenty of places to sit, so there were 2 chairs left. Alicia grabbed a few limey-green cushions at Target for those, and they just pulled everything together (no pics of those, but there will be at some point). It was a joy to sit outside this evening and see all the bright colors and the fresh new fabrics.

Oooooooo, I just LOVE a feeling of accomplishment!

Linking here this week:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cactus Flower

You know what's deceiving? Y seams. They're all "Oh, you just don't sew to the edge, and we fit together like PB and J." Psh. Please, y seams. You lie. This week's quilt block was called 'Cactus Flower' and used y-seams to put most of it together. I looked up a few tutorials and was feeling quite confident about the whole thing. I carefully cut and marked my pieces, and it all went together ok, no major issues or anything. But I ended up with the flowery part being a little off. The overall block is pretty (though there might be a touch too much red to it), and I am quite proud of it for a first shot at a totally new skill.

Even though I didn't use green for the leaves and stem I still think it looks quite pretty. My points got a little munched, but that's old news by now. I stitched the entire center part together before I pressed anything. I was slightly nervous it wouldn't press flat, but it did. That was a happy surprise--I thought I was going to be in a rage and hunting for the spray starch but no, it was good enough.

The triangles are a little uneven, and the square isn't a square, but when you look at the whole block it's not crazy obvious.

You know what, though? Now that I'm looking at this picture it doesn't look like the off-shapes are quite so off, but almost meant to be that way. So really the only problem is the munched points. It's all in how you spin it :)

I actually really like it. I don't know if I would do a whole quilt of this block as it was a little too slow for my taste, but it would make a pretty pillow or table runner.

Other than this block I feel like I've been chained to my machine sewing new cushion covers for some of the chairs on the porch. I'm not complaining--they were what my mom wanted for her birthday. Two months ago. Good thing the weather has been too chilly to sit outside, and that my mumsy is made of patience. I'm almost all done, but after working with red-toned fabrics for the past week I think I need some more color...must search the project box to see what I can find.

Back soon! Happy Friday!


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