Friday, April 29, 2016

The Big Kahuna!

The one big project I haven't posted about yet is my largest quilt ever - 102 x 102, designed for a king bed. The quilt is actually a commission for my friend. I don't do commissions - ever - but she told me she wanted something with cats on it and she was willing to go with literally anything I wanted. So I said sure! We mulled ideas for several months, I wasn't sure if it was going to really happen or not, and then I sent her this photo that I had seen on instagram.

Now I don't know why this Cat Lady quilt hasn't gotten more play on the interwebs, but it's totally adorable! And Free! So on Superbowl Sunday, we sat down and agreed to make this quilt happen.

My first step was deciding how to enlarge the pattern to king size. I scaled up the squares from 5" finished to 6" finished and added several rows.

To add some flavor I decided to randomly intersperse New York Beauty blocks throughout the top. NYB's are an item on my bucket list, so I could check them off by sneaking them in here. I figured it would work with the kitty bodies, which are basically modified NYB blocks themselves.

Now for color scheme, I tried a lot which I'm not going to bother showing you, until I came up with this one:

I really liked the ombre idea, and my friend was game, so I dove right in! After a lengthy shopping expedition, I ended up with the following array of fabrics:

Conveniently, they match my trash can ;)

I then proceeded to take over our bedroom floor, the only space big enough to hold this thing. Aaaand that space has been taken over for the past two month.

Pepper is modeling the current state of the quilt. The top is about halfway pieced. I went into several weeks of not working on it because I felt the colors were too disjointed. So I said what the heck and tossed several pieces of fabric into a vat of blue dye.

Drying the fabric out.

The before and after of my test dye batch. The actual dye batch came out a lot darker.

I really think dying the fabric helped a lot with the top - or maybe it's all in my head, but it got me going again. Here are some closeups of the various NYB's. There are little ones and big ones - for the big ones I am doing no two designs alike.

After some wonky blocks, I tried the "six minute circle" method, which you can see in the block on the left. The block on the right is traditional curved piecing. I decided that even though my curves have wibble wobbles, the traditional piecing looks better than the six minute circle method.

So that's where we are at today! I continue to chug along and I'm hopeful to have the top done by the end of May.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Rosemaling in Baltimore

Every year I try to do one block of the month. It's fun, easy, and has an air of instant gratification. The year my BOM is the free Rosemaling in Baltimore quilt offered by AQS. It's technically a mystery BOM since they have no photo of the finished product.

I happen to LOVE Baltimore applique. Here is an example of a Baltimore quilt from one of my visits to PIQF:

I'm not very good at describing what makes a Baltimore - but you know it when you see it! What's cool about classical Baltimore quilts is that each block had symbolism and indicated something personal to the maker. That's why they are known as Baltimore Album quilts - because the finished quilt was an album of your life.

Here's one more Baltimore from PIQF. I just love them.

Why do I love them? I appreciate the intricate details and the dynamic layout. Each block is a unique joy to explore. Each one has hidden treasures. Plus there are lots of fun bright colors!

One of my favorite applique designers is Pearl Pereira who has made several fun modern quilt designers in the Baltimore style, including a Baltimore Halloween, spring, autumn, Christmas, and more! I have bought her Baltimore state blocks for Alaska and California but have yet to tackle them.

So anyways, back to Rosemaling in Balitmore. The idea of the quilt is to combine Rosemaling motifs in a Baltimore layout. I looked up Rosemaling (I had never heard of it), and it is a traditional folk art from Norway often featuring painted stylized flowers.

Here are some Rosemaling snaps:

Pretty stuff, right? I have been greatly enjoying working on the quilt so far. I intentionally chose colors well outside of my usual bright comfort zone.

These were based on a Joel Dewberry bundle I won at my guild sew-in. Unfortunately a lot of the fabrics in the bundle have big, bold prints which don't work well with tiny applique pieces. But hey, let's try it anyways! It's my challenge to myself and my attempt to somewhat modernize the pattern with my fabric choices.

I also tried to be a bit modern with my background fabric. I picked a fun geometric print to offset all of the curves in the applique.

So, as you may recall, I taught an applique class in October. For the class I bought a TON of different applique supplies, with the intent that my students try them all out. Well, they didn't really try them all out, which left me with a lifetime supply of fusible web.  So I decided to try it out on this project For my first block, I used Heat N Bond Featherlite.
This is a new product from  Heat N Bond that is supposed to be lighter than their other fusible webs. Heat N Bond lite is my favorite fusible but I will admit that it is a little stiff. So I was very hopeful about the Featherlite.

Verdict: a massive disappointment. Do not buy. I had nothing but headaches with it. It's hard to describe how many thing went wrong. The webbing is certainly light - too light. I couldn't get anything to stick. On one fabric, the paper accidentally peeled off and I couldn't even get it to stick back onto the webbing. Nothing stuck. I had to use my Roxanne glue baste it to glue everything in place on my background. And while it was noticeably softer than Heat N Bond lite, it flat out couldn't get the job done (and it was no mistyfuse!)

You can see from this angled picture I took that literally nothing is sticking down. It's only held in place by inertia and positive thinking.
After this block I actually gave away my remaining Heat N Bond Featherlite at my guild freebie table.

But the block came out fine in the end anyways:

For the second block, I used Steam a Seam 2 Lite.

This stuff is super popular, but it's noticeably more expensive than other brands and Joann's (where do I a lot of my notions shopping) doesn't stock it. I had never tried it.

The verdict: Love it. I found the double paper annoying but I loved the tackiness. The hook of steam a seam is that it is super tacky so you can lay it in place on you background and it will stay. For this block, with tons of tiny pieces that needed to be positioned just so, it was perfect. I laid everything out, rearranged until I loved it, and only then ironed it in place. I had no trouble with fraying edges (like I get with Pellon), and the finished product was surprisingly still soft. I may have a new favorite brand!

Here are my finished blocks 1 and 2:

This is definitely my fun, "anything goes" quilt. I have another project I am working on (to be posted soon!) where I do a lot of agonizing. I always seem to have one of those, so it's important to have something fun and easy to offset that. Block 3 just got released, so I am off to work on that! This time I will try Pellon EZ Steam. Verdict coming soon!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Kitty Kennel Quilt

What's that? A new post? Yes, a new post! Friends, now that all of my quilting photos are at my blogging fingertips, I can blog whenever I'm bored without jumping through a million steps to get my photos! Woohoo!

Today I wanted to share a fun small quilt I made in February. You may have seen Bernina's "Quilts for Furry Friends" Contest. I got dreams in my head of winning it big and I made a quilt to enter into it!

You had to submit a photo with your pet on the quilt, and yes, I am aware, you can't see much of the quilt here. But isn't the cat pretty?

The pattern is from Make Modern Issue 5. It's a cute paper pieced kitty. Oh, I have a pro tip for you. As previously mentioned, once I used freezer paper for paper piecing, I was hooked. I wanted to use freezer paper for this one. And conveniently, I have a stash of "quilter's freezer paper" that I bought for my applique class last October.
This freezer paper is thinner than the storebought kind and comes in printer sheets. At first I thought that was dumb because I'd rather have a big roll, but now I see the advantage. You see, I was able to successfully print out the pattern onto my freezer paper sheets!

You might be wondering why this is a big deal. They are made to be printed on! The reason is that I have a laserjet printer, and everything online says DO NOT PUT THESE THROUGH YOUR LASERJET PRINTER!! Well, guess what? I did, and the world did not end, and they worked great! Woohoo! Look at all those pretty pieces!

This came together quickly and it was fun to dig through all my orange scraps while making it.

It was just the right size for quick and easy quilting. I did angular echo quilting around the inner pieces and my favorite, spirals, in the background.

No word on whether I've won yet (odds are slim), but I enjoyed the process either way. :)

And now, here are a ton of outtakes of my cat on the quilt.

Oh, I forgot the best part - I donated it to Tenth Life for their annual trivia night, and my good friend Pat won it in the raffle! I am actually making a cat quilt for Pat - more on that in a future post!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Finishes! Spring Edition

Even though I haven't posted in quite a long time, I've actually been doing a ton of sewing. It's been a GREAT sewing year!

You have already seen my Bonnie Hunter Allietare mystery quilt, that was a ton of fun to make and started the year off right. It still needs to be quilted, as does my Grand Illusion mystery top from the year before.

I started off the year determined to get UFO's off my plate. I started with this paper pieced Hawaiian top. This top belonged to my mom. She got about 80% done on it and then called me because the seams weren't matching up correctly. We determined that she had not been leaving a 1/4" seam allowance around each unit. (In her defense, the pattern didn't make that very clear. I think paper piecing patterns should always have those dotted lines indicating the seam allowance around units because that's such an easy mistake to make.)

Here's basically what I started with:

So I got work assembling this guy. The pattern came printed onto freezer paper. Now that I know how great it is to use freezer paper for paper piecing, I'm never going back!

Even with all of the mismatches, it came together pretty nicely. I really think the errors aren't that noticeable.

The biggest downside was all that paper to rip off...and yes, it took several hours. I know there's some snazzy new method of paper piecing where you never actually sew through the paper, but I like this trusty old method. Even if it means a lot of paper ripping.

Here's an in-progress quilting shot. The quilting really worked wonders at smoothing out the lumps and bumps.

The finished product!

Here's a quilting close-up. I went angular on the flowers and leaves, and then did a wavy design for the sky.

Here's a sky close-up. Inspired by a quilting photo I saw on pinterest while searching "sky quilt designs."

And here's a shot of my brand-new quilt labels. I ordered them on Etsy and I LOVE them. It's great that they include the year and location. And they are cool looking to boot!

The moral here is if you are frustrated on a project, there's always a way to make it work. And if you just hate it, there's always someone else who will be interested in picking up your UFO and continuing it. And the mistakes are never as obvious if you step back a few feet!

So after that I started on another project for my mom: a second professional tote. You may remember my original quilted tote:

I love this thing. It's my go-to airline carry-on bag, I bring it to business meetings, it's basically the greatest bag ever. It also had COMPLETELY FANTASTIC instructions. Like seriously, some of the best written instructions I've seen. She includes little labels for you to pin to each piece of fabric to keep the pieces straight, and she includes diagrams of your fabric to show you how to cut out all of the piece most efficiently. I don't do a lot of non-quilt sewing, so it's important to me to have clear instructions or I will easily get confused. And these fit the bill! By they way, the pattern is from the Creative Thimble and it is the "professional tote." I also have to add that they have utterly amazing customer service. For this latest tote, I ordered a few notions from their website, on a Sunday, and received shipping notification the very same day! They arrived two days later. Wow!

So anyways, I was happy for the change to use this pattern again and make another tote. Here's the new tote:

I will confess to have strong feeling about this fabric. It was from my stash, and I love it for a quilt, but I didn't think it was very professional for a tote. I almost revolted and refused to use it. But I showed it to my quilting friends and they said it was pretty so I went ahead and used it. The finished tote is still not quite my style but I think it is pretty.

For this one I used a faux leather on the bottom and added those rectangular rings to the straps to make them look cooler. It also has little purse feet on the bottom.

Here's the inside. I left out the computer sleeve and the tote is no worse off for it. Very spacious, with several cool pockets on the inside. And one fun tidbit is that I have seen that button (near the bottom of the photo) at Joann's for years and have wanted an excuse to buy it. And I finally got my excuse!! 

I almost forgot - way back in January I FINALLY finished my christmas mug quilt!

I started quilting in back in August or September, then got completely sidetracked by several projects. It was partially quilted enough that I was able to include it as a backdrop in our Christmas photo:

And then since I had it down we just used it as a quilt throughout the holidays even though it wasn't quite done. So in January I finally sat down and finished it for good.

Here's a shot of the backing. Fleece from Joann's, no batting. This is one of my favorite ways to finish a quilt. It's easy to quilt through and is super snuggly and soft. Plus the fleece actually shows the quilting stitches quite nicely. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect backing if I had designed it myself. Not only is it Christmas mugs, but the light blue perfectly matched the light blue used on the front of the quilt!

Here are a few shots of the borders. For the innermost border (and sashing), I did a design that alternated between a holly leave and a swirl. For the middle border, I made a little template out of paper and traced it on with a frixion pen. For the outer border, I used a roll of "borders made easy."

I really loved the borders made easy. I think the finished border looks really professional and I'm way too lazy to trace all of that down. Using the border roll worked like a charm.

Here's a shot of the roll being attached:

 Basically it's like paper piecing, you just stitch through the paper. And yes, there was a bunch of paper ripping after it was all done. But I LOVE the finished border.  And now, here are a million close-ups of the mugs!

Each mug was stitched in metallic silver thread with a different Christmas motif. The one below has two mittens.

For the background, I quilted steam coming out of the mugs and then some random swirls. You can see the one downside of putting the fleece on the back with no batting between is that in this case the fleece showed through the white backing. Oops!

As you can see, my kitty was doing her best to get in the way of every photo.


This one has two reindeer although they are hard to spot.

Aaaand one more shot of the finished product.

Okay I actually have several more finishes but this post is already too long, so we will stop there for now.  I've recently switched to google photos which I believe will make adding photos to blog posts much easier, and as a result will enable me to blog more frequently. Yay!