echo plumes machine quilting

Just a few heart quilt blocks

quilt blocks

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.

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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.

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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?

echo plumes machine quilting

My favorite hand piecing tools

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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.

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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.

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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.

echo plumes machine quilting

is this crazy? a handpieced quilt project

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

echo plumes machine quilting

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!

 

 

echo plumes machine quilting

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

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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!

HighTeaBlogTour2016s

 

echo plumes machine quilting

you are invited to a high tea party

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You have probably already seen lots of sneak peeks at Jera Brandig’s new line of fabric from Lecien, called High Tea. It has the most gorgeous muted color palette with tiny florals, strawberries, and doily motifs. And teapots and teacups, of course!

I was honored to be asked to make a project for this Blog/Instagram Tour, which starts today! I can’t wait to see the wonderful makes from these talented designers.

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I hope you will join us and be inspired!

echo plumes machine quilting

pretty playtime quilts :: butterfly block

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Back to the sewing room for this fun block. Again, I’m amazed at the clever construction of the blocks that Elea has created! As usual, I stitched this beauty up Sunday afternoon, just in time to catch the last of the light to photograph it. One of these days I’ll have my block done early and be able to photograph it in some decent light!

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This quilt along has been so much fun! It’s been really good for my skills and I look forward to making these blocks every week. And this Strawberry Biscuit fabric is so sweet. My favorite print is the little bouquets above.

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Check out Heidi from Fabric Mutt this week. She is one of my favorite makers. And as always, stop by the Fat Quarter Shop to pick up a copy of Pretty Playtime Quilts.
Week 2 – Erin from Why Not Sew?
Week 3 – Wynn from Zakka Art
Week 4 – Anorina from Samelia’s Mum
Week 5 – Amy from Diary of a Quilter
Week 6 – Renee from Sewn with Grace
Week 7 – Jemima from Tied with a Ribbon
Week 8 – Amanda from Jedi Craft Girl
Week 9 – Debbie from Happy Little Cottage
Week 10 – Tina from Emily Ann’s Kloset
Week 11 – Erica from Kitchen Table Quilting
Week 12 – Kristyne from Pretty by Hand
Week 13 – Heidi from Fabric Mutt
Week 14 – Brigitte from The Family Hearth
Week 15 – Lorrie from Sew Mod Designs
Week 16 – Kristin from They Grow Up Too Fast
echo plumes machine quilting

slow stitching

 

photo credit: Minki Kim
{photo credit: Minki Kim}

Have you heard of the Slow Stitching Movement? It’s all about process over product. Take your time and enjoy–there’s no finish line. It’s a frame of mind that I have to remind myself to be in–today’s world is so rush, rush, rush! But our sewing doesn’t have to be that way. (deep breath) It’s not even just about sewing–it can be knitting, crochet, anything creative pursuit really.

Today, C&T Publishing ran a blog post about slow stitching featuring Sew Illustrated! We talk a lot about sewing being a way of life in the book. Take time to sit down with your cup of coffee and stitch for a few minutes–and reap the rewards for that self-care for the rest of the day.

Here’s a website devoted to it, and here is a good blog post about it.

Enjoy the process friends.

 

echo plumes machine quilting

pretty playtime quilts :: pinwheel block

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Hey there! I was so glad to get back to the sewing machine this weekend to sew up this adorable pinwheel block. Half square triangles are totally my jam these days, so it was a breeze to make.

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I can’t help but stop here to sing the praises of my Bloc Loc ruler. I’m not kidding when I say it has changed my life!IMG_9258 (1024x683)

One of the things I wanted to challenge myself with on this quilt is to improve my accuracy. There are a lot of blocks with tiny pieces–and accuracy matters! Half square triangles are hard to sew accurately and they get stretched out of shape very easily. So, now I just make them a tad bigger and trim them to perfection with the Bloc Loc ruler. And they go together with perfect points (most of the time). There was a time that I would have thought that whole trimming thing would take too long. But now, at my age, in all my wisdom, I realize that quilting is as much about process as product–so what is a few extra minutes trimming when it improves the end product so much? I need to put the Flying Geese version on my Christmas list.

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Back to the pinwheel block–I cut it out and sewed it up on one afternoon. Boom. Done. I love the colors and the simplicity of the block. I think it would make a very cute pillow, but this one is going in the quilt.

Check out Erica’s block over at Kitchen Table Quilting. It’s still not too late to grab yourself a copy of Pretty Playtime Quilts from the Fat Quarter Shop.

Week 2 – Erin from Why Not Sew?
Week 3 – Wynn from Zakka Art
Week 4 – Anorina from Samelia’s Mum
Week 5 – Amy from Diary of a Quilter
Week 6 – Renee from Sewn with Grace
Week 7 – Jemima from Tied with a Ribbon
Week 8 – Amanda from Jedi Craft Girl
Week 9 – Debbie from Happy Little Cottage
Week 10 – Tina from Emily Ann’s Kloset
Week 11 – Erica from Kitchen Table Quilting
Week 12 – Kristyne from Pretty by Hand
Week 13 – Heidi from Fabric Mutt
Week 14 – Brigitte from The Family Hearth
Week 15 – Lorrie from Sew Mod Designs
Week 16 – Kristin from They Grow Up Too Fast\
P.S. In other news, my book with designer Minki Kim comes out one week from today! Make sure to check back next Monday, August 1!
Sew Illustrated

 

echo plumes machine quilting

pretty playtime quilts :: strawberry block


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IMG_9159 (2) (1024x758)Oh my gosh guys! How cute is this strawberry block? I have to admit that the part with the leaves looked a little fussy–but actually was not problem at all. I have to say it again: the instructions in this book are so clear!

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I am using Elea’s Strawberry Biscuit fabric–which is the same fabric that she uses in the book. Up until this block, I’ve been doing my own thing–making my own fabric choices. But on this block, I have to admit that I used the exact same fabric that she did. Because–strawberries! I mean, how could you not use this adorable strawberry fabric on the strawberry block? In fact, I’m in danger of running out of this fabric, because I think I’ve used it on every block.

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This is Debbie’s week on the blog hop. Pop on over to her blog to see what she has done with this block. Are you sewing along? It’s not too late! You can pick up the book and fabric from the Fat Quarter Shop.

Week 2 – Erin from Why Not Sew?
Week 3 – Wynn from Zakka Art
Week 4 – Anorina from Samelia’s Mum
Week 5 – Amy from Diary of a Quilter
Week 6 – Renee from Sewn with Grace
Week 7 – Jemima from Tied with a Ribbon
Week 8 – Amanda from Jedi Craft Girl
Week 9 – Debbie from Happy Little Cottage
Week 10 – Tina from Emily Ann’s Kloset
Week 11 – Erica from Kitchen Table Quilting
Week 12 – Kristyne from Pretty by Hand
Week 13 – Heidi from Fabric Mutt
Week 14 – Brigitte from The Family Hearth
Week 15 – Lorrie from Sew Mod Designs
Week 16 – Kristin from They Grow Up Too Fast