colorwaves quilt

announcing the machine quilting blog hop!

Would you like to join me and some other bloggers as we  quilt our way through The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–piecing is my favorite part of the quilting process. And over the last couple of years, I’ve put in the effort and practice to become quite a bit more accurate. I smile every single time that I get some perfect points on my blocks. But the quilting part. That’s a different story.

machine quilting

walking foot quilting

I’ve simply just never practiced enough free motion quilting to feel confident and proficient at it. I’m sure I’m capable of it–I just need to put in the time. In the last year or so, I’ve kind of fallen in love with straight line/walking foot quilting. And I’ve finished at least a half a dozen quilts with various forms of walking foot quilting. But I want to have the skills to free motion decently when I think the quilt calls for it.

Enter the book The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting by Angela Walters and Christa Watson–two of the reigning queens of machine quilting. As a sort of challenge to myself, I hatched this plan of working my way through the book practicing the free motions designs. In the book, Angela does longarm designs and Christa’s designs are for a sit-down domestic machine. So I will be following along with Christa. There are actual quilts in each chapter that are specifically designed to practice the motifs–but I will just be putting together practice pieces to work on. The real point of this is just to practice. I have a couple baby quilt tops sitting on a shelf, and I may try a couple of the designs to those to finish them up.

I fully expect the first few weeks to show how unskilled I actually am at free motion quilting–but at the end of ten weeks (ten chapters=ten weeks), I hope to see some significant progress in my skills.

And to add to the fun–three of my blogger friends are joinging in as well! Each Monday, we will each post our thoughts and adventures as we work our way through this wonderful resource.

HollyAnne at String and Story

Vicki at My Creative Corner3

Jen at Quiltin’Jenny

We are kicking off on May 1 and would love it if you would like to pick up a copy of the book and join us! If you do–be sure to show us your work on Instagram with this hastag: #machinequiltingbloghop.

 

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these actually are your grandmother’s quilts

handmade antique quilts

The phrase, “Not your grandmother’s quilt” is so prevalent in articles about quilts these days–as if our grandmother’s quilts are somehow “less than” what we are creating today. I could not disagree more.

So today, I’d like to introduce you to three quilts made by my husband’s grandmother, Lettie Maude. As is the way it goes, his mother did not inherit the sewing gene and sadly had little information about them. But he remembers them on the beds in the house all throughout  his childhood. And then he brought them with him when we got married. Even though they were threadbare even then, we continued to use them for many years. I just noticed them in the linen cabinet recently and pulled them out to appreciate them with new eyes.

We don’t really know when they were made, but I’m guessing the 1930s and 40s. I’m no expert, but the fabrics seem consistent with that and it makes sense with her age as well. They are all utilitarian scrap quilts and my husband says that he actually remembers some of the fabrics coming from his grandmother’s dresses. Though the are meant for use and using up bits of old clothes and bits of fabric–each quilt has a unique design that prevents it from being to chaotic.

This little gem was on my daughter’s bed until she left for college last fall. And while it is clearly scrappy–I love how the light and dark purples really give it pattern and structure.

antique quilt

It is worn through in many places, but this didn’t actually stop us from using it until recently.

All three quilts are all machine quilted, but the stitch length on the piecing leads me to believe that these were all hand pieced. The quilter definitely wasn’t worried about points either!

This totally cracks me up. Three of the four corners are curved, but that fourth one is totally squared off as if to say, “I’m done with this already!” This one is machine bound with a crazy zig-zag stitch–another sign that this quilt was meant to be used.

This next one is a very simple scrappy Nine Patch. The design is calmed down by a couple of factors. One is the white snowball block that alternates with the nine patches. But the other I found really interesting. Every nine patch has either green or yellow patches in the corners and center square. This provides a unifying color scheme. Now, our quilter did not arrange these green and yellow blocks in any order–they are totally random–which I find totally charming, but not at all anything I could ever do. And, do you see that hole?

This one is also machine quilted and the design is so uniform that for a moment I wondered if it was computer generated–but obviously not! I guess the quilter just had made these designs so many times that they are amazingly uniform.  And I know I said that every block was either green or yellow–but can you spot that rogue yellow square in what was supposed to be a green block? A humility block, perhaps? Or ore likely, she just ran out of green fabric.

It’s fun to look at the quilting pattern–I remember asking my mother-in-law how they were done. I was not a quilter yet and had no idea about free motion quilting. Achieving this shape on a domestic sewing machine seemed impossible to me. All she said was, “She sent them away to be quilted.” So, I have no idea if they were done on a longarm or a domestic machine–but the designs seem to be in long columns, so I’m thinking a longarm–which was called a “quilting machine” in those days.

Here is the last one. While also a scrap quilt, the design really unifies the scrappiness..

I actually love the way that fabric on this one is just literally wearing away in a swiss cheese fashion.

And there is that same quilting pattern!

antique quilt pattern

All three of these quilts have been retired from active use and are now happily folded on a bench in our family room to appreciate in a new way. I would like to think that Lettie Maude would be happy to know that these labors of love have been in use for the last 80 or so years. And we continue to appreciate them to this day.

I am actually thinking about remaking one of them in contemporary fabrics–but I haven’t decided which one yet. Which one would you choose?

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fifteen minutes of creativity a day

What can you accomplish in fifteen minutes a day?

In the spirit of “little things add up to big things”, a piece of wisdom imparted by my best friend in college, I’ve been participating in something called Marchalong this month. All this means is that you to commit to setting aside fifteen minutes a day for creativity. That’s it. Fifteen minutes. But if you do it–how many hours of creativity does that add up to by the end of the month? Actually, I’m terrible at math, but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot.

I’ve tried this “fifteen minutes a day” idea before with cleaning and decluttering–and honestly, it has never stuck for the whole month. But doing something fun and creative? I think I can make that happen for fifteen minutes a day.

So, how have I been spending my few minutes of creativity so far? First, I finished up my February hand sewing project that I am doing along with the Fat Quarter Shop. I am really loving hand piecing these blocks–I’m almost sorry when I’ve finished the six for the month. But the March blocks will be coming out soon, so I don’t have long to wait. I’ve been stitching away on these in the evenings while we watch Grace and Frankie and This is Us. I’m all caught up now with This is Us and it is agony to wait a week between episodes. I clearly need to find a new British drama to become obsessed with–any suggestions?

patchwork quiltalong, fat quarter shop, hand pieced quilt blocks

In the meantime, I cast on some shorty socks. I got a little obsessed with knitting socks over the summer, but have not cast on a pair in months.  It was clearly time to do so. I cast these on while listening to The Off-Kilter Quilt podcast–which is my favorite quilty podcast. Frances is charming and chatty and just plain entertaining. It’s a great way to spend your fifteen minutes.

knitting, knit picks, knitting project bags, podcasts, tea

Don’t you love this knitting project bag? My friend Minki made it for my birthday last year and I smile every time I reach for it.  People went a little nuts over it on Instagram the other day, but I can’t take any credit for it, except for the little pink knitted patch on the front.

I’m also working on a new quilt design–and honestly the jury is still out on how I feel about this one. I am in absolute love with the fabric line, Sundrops by Cory Yoder. That fact is not in doubt. However, I have rearranged the blocks in a million different ways and I hope I landed on the best one. Stay tuned.

sundrops, moda fabrics, quilting, alphabitties

I like having a few different projects at hand–because sometimes I just don’t feel like sitting down in front of the sewing machine. Or the only way that I’m going to get my fifteen minutes in is in the waiting room at the doctor’s office–so I’m glad that I can pack a sock to knit. But one thing is sure, I’m always amazed at how quickly a project progresses when you actually work on it! Even for just fifteen minutes a day.

What’s for dinner?

Because thinking about what’s for dinner is never far from any woman’s mind, I thought I would share that we are having Jonah’s favorite: Chicken Piccata Pasta Toss. You should try it 🙂 What are you having?

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Interview on String & Story

quilt blogs

 The delightful HollyAnne of String and Story sent me a few questions to answer for her FriYAY Friends post. Pop on over to learn a bit more about my creative journey and where I find inspiration. You can read it here.

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Your precious handmades. Do you use them?

tea, tea pot, handmade coaster

It all started with this coaster. I was having coffee with my friend Minki the other day and as always, we talking about sewing and the things we love to make. Then she said the nicest thing to me.

“I learned from you to actually use the things I make. Not just take a picture of them and then put them on the shelf.” Aww. To think that I have had an influence on a talent like Minki’s was a nice moment for me. But then I had to confess.

“I’m kind of having trouble with that now. You know that hand embroidered coaster you gave me a couple of years ago? I do use it. And it’s a bit of a stained mess now and I feel bad about it.” I didn’t tell her that sometimes I actually tuck it away in a drawer when she is coming over, so that she won’t see what has become of her hard work.

Then she told me, “I actually think that stained linen is beautiful.”

hand made coaster, Minki Kim

And you know what, she’s right. (This coaster actually looks worse in real life, for some reason.)

That got me thinking about all the handmade, everyday use items I have around that house. Knitted dishcloths are my absolute favorite, but I am always a little sad when one starts to come unraveled. I actually usually merely move it to the rag drawer until it is nothing but a pile of string.

grandma's dishcloth

These are the coasters we use every, single day. They are about eight years old and I hope that I have learned to sew a gap together better than I did in those days. But this illustrates my point exactly. When you use things–you use them up. And sometimes that’s fine, but sometimes its hard–like not saving your fancy china for that dinner party you’ll never actually have.

quilted coasters

I’ve spent countless hours embroidering these tea towels, and they are stained and faded and have holes in them. I will never be able to bring myself to throw them away–so I’m already starting to think about what I can do with them when their useful lives as tea towels is over. Any ideas? What I need to do is start planning for that day now and simply make some more. That’s what we makers do, right? It’s just an excuse to make some more.

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My favorite table runner has definitely seen better days

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And so has my favorite tea cozy. Okay, maybe a trip through the wash might help this one.

high tea fabrics, lecien

And even my first quilt, only eight years old, is already looking like this. But this is the most loved quilt in the house. It is exactly the right weight for our warm southern California weather and is the first thing that every family member grabs from the quilt basket each morning. It gets washed because I pick it up from the floor a dozen times a day and it comforts the child with the flu. And over Christmas it cradled my dying cat. So, I’m looking at those frayed edges a little differently now.

French General quilt

So, what to do? I think the only thing to do here is to embrace the beauty of the well-loved and worn. There is a story behind every handmade item. A story about the person who made it and what was happening in their life as they sewed each stitch. There are the stories of the everyday life of the people who are blessed to use it daily. To wash the dishes after a regular, weeknight dinner. To wrap the child reading a book. To set the morning coffee cup on, before dawn everyday.

And if they are not as perfect and pristine as they once were–it’s because they bear the marks of an everyday life well-lived. And I can live with that.

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Just a few heart quilt blocks

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I’ve been a bit between quilting projects lately. Actually, I’m very impatiently awaiting a fabric delivery, but the UPS truck seems to have lost its way. So when I saw that HollyAnne of String and Story was making and collecting charity blocks for Smiley for Kylie, it seemed a perfect opportunity to rifle through my stash and spend a fun evening or two sewing up some blocks for a good cause. And, as a cancer survivor myself—I know what a handmade blanket means for a person during chemo. I actually took a knitted blanket that my sister-in-law had made for my then 2-year old son to my chemo treatments. I felt both wrapped in love and reminded of what I was fighting for at the same time.

quilt blocks

The heart blocks are supposed to be yellow, navy, and or white, 10” blocks using the Cluck Cluck Sew pattern (there is also a tutorial). It turns out that I have very little yellow and virtually no navy blue in my stash—but I pulled out what I had and was able to sew up a quick six blocks. It was totally fun sewing and I enjoyed every minute of it. And I was able to pop them in the mail to HollyAnne the next day. But then what?

As it turns out, if you use the construction technique that Cluck Cluck Sew recommends, you can simply sew one extra seam and end up with some spare, rather large half square triangles. I learned this trick when I made my Swoon quilt several years ago (and I have yet to do anything with that bag of HSTs, but let’s not talk about that). Determined not to let these HSTs suffer the same, stuck in a baggie fate, and since staring out the window was not making the UPS guy appear with my fabric order—I started to play around with the leftover HSTs.

trimming half square triangles

I tried many layouts and landed on one that looks like flying geese, but it’s not. It’s HSTs–I swear.

I decided to turn these “free” blocks into a quilting practice piece and ultimately a dish drying mat. We hand wash a lot of dishes in this house and you can never have too many dish mats. And since most of mine are ratty 10-year old towels, this was a definite improvement. Except that it’s a little small. I guess I should have made twelve charity blocks instead. Next time.

I used some leftover Warm and Natural batting and terrycloth for the backing. Then I pulled out Walk by Jacquie Gering, a Christmas gift that I was excited to put to use. It was a tough choice, but I decided on organic waves for the quilting. The book is filled with fun designs–I’m looking forward to exploring it more.

walking foot quilting

I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun quilting. I make no bones about the fact that my happy place is piecing—not quilting. But I’m trying to make friends with quilting. This motif is so fun and easy and I love the results! I can’t wait to try this design out on a full quilt; I can totally picture relaxing and getting into the zen of it, instead of my shoulders all tensed up to my ears, which is my usual quilting posture.

walking foot quilting

I have recently begun experimenting with leaving 1/4″ of batting when I trim up a quilt. It results in a nice plump, filled binding.

trimming quilt tops

So that’s it—the tale of some charity blocks scraps that made their way into our kitchen to live out their useful life. As it should be.

handmade dish drying mat

Now, where is that UPS guy?

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My favorite hand piecing tools

patchwork-along-blocks

Six blocks down for the Fat Quarter Shop’s Patchwork Quilt Along. I finished them in about a week and a half and I can only hope that I can maintain that pace for a whole year. I am actually a bit sad that they are done and I don’t get the next pattern until next month. My hands feel so idle in the evenings now, while we have our family TV time. Yes, I have things to knit–but I’m a little obsessed with hand sewing right now.

As I mentioned in my last post–I made just about every mistake you could make with the first few blocks. As I continued with the next three, I’ve been experimenting with a few things (especially needles) and I have arrived at a few of my favorite tools.

hand-piecing-tools

Perhaps most importantly, I have found what I think is the perfect needle: Piecemakers Hand Applique Sharp size 12. It is thin enough to have little to no drag on the fabric, an eye that is not impossible to thread (though I do use a very simple needle threader–the red square in the picture), and is a very nice length. I also like the Betweens from the same maker, but I find them a bit short–they don’t hit my thimble in the right place.

Speaking of thimbles, I’ve had this one for forever. I’ve tried all kinds of thimbles and this simple metal one that you can buy at any craft store (probably Dritz brand) is my favorite. Fun fact: I like this size now, but I have a smaller one that works better when I’m a bit thinner.

After making all the marking mistakes early on, I am now marking with a thin, mechanical pencil using the Jinny Beyer Perfect Piecer. Yes, you can use any old ruler, but this one has all the right markings and one day I hope to graduate to just being able to mark the dots and not the whole line–and this one has perfect little holes for that.

Everything else is pretty self-explanitory: my favorite Aurifil 2311 50 wt. thread, a small pair of sharp scissors, some nice thin pins, and the ever present red Clover clips to keep things together and organized.

patchwork-blocks

I keep all of this in a little zipper pouch that a wonderful friend made me and I am ready to make the most of “found” moments throughout my day. Most recently, I did a bit of hand piecing in a hotel hallway, waiting for my son to perform with his Jazz Honor Band. Small moments, big results.

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is this crazy? a handpieced quilt project

hand-pieced-quilt-blocks

This may be crazy. And I may totally fail. But I hope not.

Ever since I learned to quilt, about seven years ago, I’ve wanted to make a hand pieced quilt. It seems so portable and charming and fun and a little bit crazy. I’ve hand pieced coasters and mug rugs, but have always been on the lookout for the quilt project that seemed just right. Enter the Fat Quarter Shop Patchwork Quilt Along.

full-quilt

I really had no idea it was going to lead to this, but I love the simple patchwork blocks and clean lines of this quilt and decided, very last minute, to jump on the bandwagon. This pattern has the awesome side benefit of raising money for charity–and I was happy to donate to Make a Wish.

hand-pieced-block

I really didn’t want to buy fabric (but I did), so I started out with some Bonnie and Camille fabric from my stash. I downloaded the pattern, made my donation, and started cutting. These pieces are small! Like 1″ finished squares! I was pondering how careful and accurate I needed to be as I sat down at my sewing machine. Now, my accuracy has been improving steadily these last couple of years, but still. It was then that I realized that this would be a perfect hand piecing project! It ‘s much easier to be accurate when sewing by hand.

hand-pieced-quilt-blocks-2

The blocks are only 5″ and fairly simple. So I stepped away from the machine and got out the needle and thread. I confess, it has been awhile since I did any hand piecing and my skills were quite rusty. Let’s just say I made a few mistakes early on.

The first was that I only marked the seam allowance on the one edge of the fabric that I was going to sew first. Mistake. You are eventually going to sew all four sides of the fabric, so go ahead and mark them all while it is a nice, flat piece of fabric and not all lumpy and bumpy from being sewn to other tiny pieces of fabric.

The second mistake was that I used a Frixion pen to mark the seam allowances. This seemed like a good idea at first, but now that I’ve ironed them, all the marks are gone, and I will want them back when I sew these blocks together. (Forehead smack.)

The third was that I forgot how to get really neat points and corners. The first two blocks are off a bit, but I pulled out my  Quiltmaking by Hand book from hand sewing guru Jinny Beyer, and read up on it. The last block, the red one, came out much better. Progress! I thought about redoing the first two blocks, but they aren’t horrible, and I decided to look at this quilt as my journey in hand piecing. It will be a visible record of my improvement.

I decided that I wanted to use a variety of Bonnie and Camille fabrics for this project, and my stash was not adequate, so I ordered a layer cake of Bonnie and Camille Basics to get a bit more variety. As a matter of fact, I am (im)patiently waiting for the UPS man right now, so that I can get back to it.

To stay up with the Patchwork Quilt Along, you only need to make six blocks a month. It seems pretty do-able–even by hand! I plan to just tackle it one month at a time. It’s amazing how many “found” moments there are in a day to sew a quick seam. It is a goal of mine to use my time more effectively, and using these small moments to stop and hand sew for a bit makes me unreasonably happy.

Anyone else sewing along? I’d love to hear about it!

colorwaves quilt

pretty playtime quilts :: borders

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[photos by Minki Kim}
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It’s finally here! My turn on the Pretty Playtime Quiltalong Blog Tour! I was so thrilled to be asked to be a part of this quilt along for Elea Lutz’s adorable book Pretty Playtime Quilts. There are so many things to love about this book. As you have seen throughout this quilt along–it is filled adorable blocks! Whether you choose to do the sampler quilt, like I did, one of the other five quilts that stick with a single block style–you can’t go wrong. And although this quilt would be precious in any number of fabrics, Elea’s Strawberry Biscuit is just perfect for it.

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I enjoyed piecing these borders (I see them as hearts–do you?). I think they are the perfect complement to the rest of the blocks in the quilt. Here’s a secret: I often skip putting borders on quilts, but there was no way I would skip these! And I can totally envision using these border blocks on other quilts as well.

I love getting into the zen of chain piecing, so these came together quickly over a few nights of sewing, tea, and Netflix. I love that Elea often oversizes the blocks (like these ones) and has you trim them to the perfect size at the end. There was a time that I would have balked at that extra step, but I have learned that taking the time to trim blocks perfectly helps them to go together perfectly. And there is nothing better than that.

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I couldn’t resist making a couple extra of these adorable heart blocks and turning them into coasters with a little hand stitching. I think a stack of these would be a wonderful gift.

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I made quite a few of the blocks during this quilt along–I wanted to make them all, but you know–life! I thought it would be fun to show you a few of my favorites before we wrap this tour up. I am looking forward to stitching all of these (and more) together with the borders to create a quilt that I know will be treasured.

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It’s never too late to grab a copy of Pretty Playtime Quilts and get started on your own treasure. And thanks to the Fat Quarter Shop for hosting this quilt along! It’s been a blast!

 

 

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high tea blog tour :: let’s have a tea party!

high tea blog tour image

Welcome to my High Tea party! I was thrilled to be asked to play with this beautiful line by Jera Brandvig of Quilting in the Rain. I am a total Anglophile (lover of All Things British), so a line called High Tea, well, it’s just my thing. And I knew Jera from her wonderful book Quilt-as-You-Go Made Modern, so I knew I was in for a treat.

First of all, let’s talk about the color palette of this line! I love the  soft pinks, blues, greens, and yellows and the muted reds. And I especially love it when a fabric line includes some grays! It has adorable strawberry prints and doily motifs, but it’s the tiny florals that have my heart.

There is nothing better than a good tea party and this was a perfect excuse to create this new table setting–a new table topper, tea cozy, and tea mat. I brewed up some loose leaf English Breakfast tea, set out some macarons and invited a friend over for tea and a chat.

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I can’t get enough of half square triangles these days, so that was the place to start for this mini quilt. I used a charm pack of High Tea, and another charm pack of a slight off-white and these blocks came together almost by themselves. I’ve been wanting to play around with both this block arrangement and this wavy quilting forever–so this project was a pleasure from start to finish.

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My favorite blue teapot needed a new cozy, and I thought that the teapot print was a perfect choice. That red floral just peeking out along the bottom is my absolute favorite print (if I had to choose one, which I’m glad I don’t). If you don’t use a tea cozy on your teapot, I encourage you to make one–it’s a quick and easy project. And it really does keep the tea in the pot warm, leaving you to enjoy your macrons and sparkling conversation a little bit longer.

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And no tea party setting would be complete with out individual tea mats. This tea cup pattern is from my new book with Minki Kim, Sew Illustrated. Again, how darling are those strawberries?!

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{photos by Minki Kim}

I enjoyed every moment of working with these gorgeous fabrics. And I know I’m not the only one! I look forward to seeing the creative projects each one of these designers comes up with as I’ve been following along this High Tea Party. I hope you’re following along too!

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