Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Learning with Block Party

The twelve dancing princesses / talented quilters from Block Party are not only holding a fabulous giveaway, they're also charting the development of online quilting bees and providing both instruction and inspiration for us all. I only discovered Handmade by Alissa in the summer, and via Alissa's blog, I came to know about online bees, her involvement with Block Party, and to see some of their lovely quilts. A book about the quilting bee and online community is in process, guided by Alissa. I can't imagine a better way to research the modern quilt phenomenon than to get the online quilters to participate in the making and compilation of information and documented projects. Reaching out to all of us who are connected by a love of fabric, colour and design, the book will contain photographs of the quilt squares we piece over the next year.

...one of the fat-quarter giveaway packs...

I'm just excited by the prospect of witnessing all the different ideas and varying approaches to a given design or tutorial. There will be a lot of learning and happy sewing!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Little Houses for Quilter Bee Anna

These are the houses I made for the October member of my online quilting bee group, "Quilter Bees". I'm so glad I joined the bee, since I'm learning a lot but in very manageable snippets of productivity. If only so much of my time wasn't devoted to pastry school these days!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Measley Mouth the Puppet

My boyfriend's nephew is turning 2 this month. He calls me "Aunty BB" because he can't pronounce my name yet, and he knows I have a horse although he's been too shy to come for a ride. In lieu of the real thing, at least for a little while, I decided to make him a puppet. I found some convenient scraps and crafty bits at a local thrift shop, and set to work.

I think Measley Mouth turned out pretty well! I'd love to make some more animals.

"Do you have any apples for me?" Asked Mr Measley Mouth.

"Look at my fine shaggy coat, perfect for winter camouflage!" The old horse neighed.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Branching Out

I've started piecing a queen top - my biggest yet. It's for my mum and dad, hopefully in time for Christmas. Gleaning some improvisational tips from other bloggers, the style is "chopsticks". Since my parents live in a temperate rain forest, and there bedroom windows look out onto tree branches that include deciduous as well as coniferous trees, I decided that my version of the block is called "branches". Especially with the fabrics chosen, there is a leafy, foresty feel to the quilt already!

(The green tape doesn't do much for the aesthetics right now, I know. My design wall needs white tape that won't mar the paint.)

Monday, August 31, 2009

New Book: Great Lakes, Great Quilts

I was in Gibsons this weekend and found a great quilt book at the local mall's sale book stand. On Friday I walked away from it, thinking "you don't need that" but then on Sunday I was still thinking about it so out came the $7.99!

Great Lakes, Great Quilts
has 12 patterns inspired by heritage quilts in the collection of the Michigan State University Museum. The first half of the book speaks about the collection, providing an historical perspective for modern quilters. I found it fascinating to read of women who had immigrated to the USA from Britain, bringing their quilting traditions, as well as the story-telling appliques of the First Nations and African-American people. There are pictures of quilts made entirely of cigar ribbons, quilts that have been in families for 100 years, and quilts from an international collection that showcase things like poisonous insects from China!

I am most excited about trying the Stove Eye pattern. The String Plate project is also cool looking, and comes with detailed sewing tips. It's very useful to have a book in hand with instructions on technique and piecing methods.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Friendship Bag Fun

I made my friendship bag, for the swap, last night. It's all pieced from scraps, and even part of an old collared shirt. Although I don't sew at my best after 10pm, I stayed up until midnight to put the last top stitch on the wee bag. I like finishing something all in one go!

Do you think my swap friend will like it? She's into green, and seems like a cheerful, feminine lady.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stipple Dipple Dapple Cat

I got a free motion foot for the Bernina yesterday, technically a #15 embroidery foot, and tried it out today. It seemed a good idea to practice stippling, but a waste to practice on something that would get discarded, so I made a hot mat. Or maybe it's a pot holder. Whatever it is, it's alright. The cheery red and white polka dot print is fun. I liked the wide, lazy, curvy lines I quilted at first. Then I thought I should practice loop-de-loops and wee turns. I'm less keen on those, although they have their place aesthetically.

The free motion foot and no feed dogs is a totally new sewing sensation. One has to be so careful not too pull or push the fabric too much, because then the stitch length gets all weird. I had to go pretty slow in order to make relatively even stitches, but they are certainly far from perfect. Practice practice, I suppose. Knowing me, I'll practice on a genuine quilt. I'm way too impatient to spend hours on things I don't really want to make. On the other hand, when I have an opportunity to take cute cat pictures, it all seems well worthwhile.

Christopher Robin looking super sweet.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My First Finish, Learning with Bernina

My mum bought a Bernina Activa 130 about 12 years ago. It's basic and deluxe at the same time, and really has all the features I could ever ask for in a machine. The tension is always dreamy, the motor is quiet, the feed dogs drop down at the press of a button (I just learned that) and it memorizes the first button-hole you sew and then makes them all the same size after that. It is super sweet of mum to let me borrow her Bernina for weeks on end, but I still mourn the days when I have to return it. My machine is a 1990s Singer that refuses to cooperate even with the simplest task. It balks at seams longer than five inches, creates a tangle when put in reverse, has sloppy tension no matter how carefully one checks and adjusts, and the thread breaks all the time. I do remember when it was working fine. I was in elementary school and then junior high, and I was allowed to mend horse blankets with it. Probably I killed it with that treatment. Horse blankets weigh about 100lbs (well, maybe 15lbs), use cordura nylon, wool, batting and thick webbing straps, and always smell even when they're clean. Poor Singer. No wonder you hate me now.

This is my first quilty finish ever. "Peachy"

I did a little strip of piecing on the back. I almost like it better than the front.

The binding was a labour of late nights, but worth the effort.

I'm hoping to get a free motion quilting foot for Bernina this week, when the parts man is back on deck at my local sewing machine store. With my first finish, the Peachy coin quilt, I didn't know how to lower the feed dogs and had the regular presser foot on. The end result is fine, but it was one of the most arduous sewing tasks ever, and of course there are little puckers that caused frustration. Hopefully quilting the Cats & Birds quilt I've pieced for my boyfriend's sister will go much more smoothly.

My arduous quilting adventure turned out OK, but I don't recommend right angled turns.

The top of the second quilt. I'm calling it "Cats and Birds" and I imagine that they're in a garden with a lattice fence.

The back is quite plain, but does have a 1/2 yard piece of super cute owl fabric. "Spotted Owls" by Alexander Henry.

Just some close-ups of 2 blocks.

Fabricland eked a good deal of money out of me this weekend as they had a 50% off everything sale. I have "Warm and Natural" batting for 3 queen size quilts, bamboo stuffing for the making of fun little creatures, fabric for two dress patterns I bought in the spring (some at $1/metre!) and some really fabulous solids and prints to round out the fancy fabrics I got online this summer when my quilting frenzy started. I'm even a proud quilter with real olfa tools now too, which were also 50% off! How cool is that. No more painful scissoring!

After getting all this pink, I need a girlie girl to sew for! The top fabric is an espresso brown, not black.

The ice blue didn't come out that well in the photo, but it's very pretty.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Set That Red Dye

RED: it can run, leak, tint and destroy. I blithely made a simple quilt with red velvet on the top and a natural pin-striped cotton on the bottom. The red leaked out the first time I washed it, so now I have what I call the strawberry shortcake blanket. The velvet is still lovely, but the natural cotton is pink. Very pink. The pink that whipped cream becomes when strawberry juice soaks into it.

So how do you prevent this mishap? Forethought, of course, and either a mother or Google for research. When I wanted to set the dye in some fabric I had just purchased for a baby quilt, I used the computer to help me out.

To make a fabric colour-fast, put it to simmer for 15 minutes in a large pot of water, vinegar and salt. Use 1 cup of vinegar and 1/4 cup salt for 4L water.

When you pour out the water, it will likely be pink. Crisis averted! White t-shirts saved. Now you can safely launder the red fabric as per usual. I would still pre-wash it to remove the salt and vinegar before sewing. A garment, though, could just go in the regular colour wash cycle. I wash everything with cold water, as it keeps the fabrics brighter and saves energy.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fantastic Fabrics & Itchy Fingers

I feel like I've dived into quilt land in one big headfirst plunge. Zero to 60 in 3 seconds or something. Researching fabrics, pouring over blogs, ogling quilts on Flickr. I can look at people's projects and say, "Oh yeah, that's Alexander Henry's Bird Seed in pink." Two days ago I had no idea who or what Alexander Henry was. Maybe quilting is a disease. I've certainly caught the bug.

Even though I have yet to finish my baby coin quilt, I have multiple ideas sketched out and fabrics chosen (and some ordered, scary & thrilling) for projects two through five. I've converted my best friend to the idea of admiring and wanting a contemporary quilt, and suggested I make said number as her wedding gift. (She's getting married next July, so I think a year is enough time to make a queen size.) Because I just can't wait to get started, but have to for numerous reasons, I thought I'd put some pictures of the fabrics I've chosen up here.

These three (plus others yet to be determined) will go in a child's quilt, square in square, with the brown lattice as sashing so it becomes a "fence" around the gardens.

I adore this Alexander Henry print, Step By Step. It will go in the wedding quilt.

Calico Cats are so happy and joyful, who can resist? It will be a shame to cut them up, so I think they'll go on the back of a "peek-a-boo porthole" baby quilt.

To be honest, I don't have a plan for 2D Zoo. I love it. Mod animals, including an anteater! It will get saved for something special, and I guess this means I've officially started a stash. Oh dear.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Peachy" Coin Quilt Is So Much Fun!

I've just become someone who makes quilts. No, not a quilter. Not yet. Having not quite finished my first ever quilt, a crib sized coin quilt, I can't assume the title of quilter just yet. I have to confess that I've never really liked quilts. I mean, the craftsmanship and artistry of a beautifully pieced project was always evident, but in general quilts were too full of crazy colours and calico prints and seemed to reek of all the things I don't like about the "country" style. I'm into minimalism and the mid-century modern look, so blue willow teapots quilted onto my bed linen hasn't been on my radar. Somehow, though, I've discovered that modern design and quilting can actually go together beautifully.

About a week ago I googled "modern quilts". Who knows why, or what whisper of interest sparked my search, but there it was. The Flickr group "Fresh Modern Quilts" hailed with gorgeous photos. I was hooked. I wanted to make my own. I'm on holiday in Toronto with no sewing machine and no pins and no iron, but these were not major hurdles. If I found the quilts on Sunday, then by Wednesday I had my fabric, basic acoutrements, and an older machine from Craigslist. A new creative activity was underway.

As a relatively competent sewer, embarking on a quilt with no prior experience, no class, and no mentor has been fine. I've scoured the internet for blogs and sites to give me inspiration and advice, and discovered that I share much with many other fabulous ladies out there who are also into designing lovely, fresh quilt canvases. Thank you all, for taking the time to write about your projects. I hope I can eventually have a "finished quilts" section too!