Monday, 30 April 2012

Colour Block of the Month: Yellow

The theme for this month's Colour My World Challenge was yellow. This is probably the only time I'll ever use this many shades of yellow all in one place.

Each block so far has been the product of a different improvisational technique, and I keep coming up with new ideas for this faster than I can try them. This time I wanted to try to converge two blocks. There is a nearly limitless number of ways to do this, and I got my inspiration from Convergence Quilts by Ricky Tims (I didn't like the fabrics used in this book, but it has lots of great ideas).

I started out with two solid blocks of yellow fabric, laid them on top of each other, and cut out the middle at a random angle. I reattached each middle to the opposite fabric.

I laid them on top of each other again and made vertical cuts, starting small at the point and getting wider with each new piece. Those pieces were rearranged to overlap.

Looking at all those little vertical strips on my table, they didn't make much sense together. Would the two shapes actually converge or would it just be random chunks of yellow all over the place?

After having sewn them together, I think you actually do get the sense of two triangles merging a bit. It might have worked better if the triangles were perpendicular or facing away from each other, but I do like the way it turned out. I added a solid yellow border, and now have the completed fourth block of my colour quilt.

Here's an update on the mismatched improv blocks so far this year. I don't know if I can pick a favourite. They're sure gonna look interesting together in a quilt (perhaps also a little schizophrenic).

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Musical Olives Place Setting Mat

This is an extra large place-mat made by request. Its final size is 23.5" by 17.5". The idea behind this project is to cover not just the area around the plate, but the entire place setting, where crumbs and drips are likely to land. I used a combination of Olive Grove fabric from Moda (passed on to me by Alli during the fugly fabric party!) and a Timeless Treasures sheet music print.

I decided to go with the 'disappearing nine patch' technique that I had been wanting to try. It was fun to put a quilt together this way because it changed completely at every step of construction.

I started with striped blocks

which became checker blocks

and got cut into little bordered blocks

then reorganized into something more fun

I had an annoyingly hard time quilting this because the filaments of my thread were coming apart all over the place. It turned out that the bad quality was due to my roll of thread being the end piece of a giant factory spool. Surely the people at Gutermann could afford to throw away a few hundred feet of thread instead of tying a big ol' knot to jam up a customer's sewing machine? Not impressed.

On the bright side, my stitching is looking really good! I used the sharp stippling design that I leaned this week. It shows up nice and clearly on the dark backing.

The finished place-mat is bright, fun, and kitcheny thanks to the olive fabric:

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Sharp Stippling for Animal Rescue

This week's Free Motion Quilting Project exercise was to master sharp stippling, a pointy design with that creates a flame effect. This was the perfect thing to practice on a kitty rescue blanket, inspired by the Snuggles Project.

I chose these two flannels for this blanket. The navy blue was sent to me by Kris and Duke and it's an excellent contrast to all of the printed fabrics I've been using.

I started off with very simple points on the first row and gradually started experimenting with different pointy shapes. I have to admit that I thought this design was pretty ugly while I was stitching it. The shapes were awkward and wasn't sure there was any way it would end up looking in any way 'flamey'. But lo and behold, once I had fit a few rows together it started looking just right. I really like how it turned out!

The is the finished blanket. You can see my awkward start on the left side develop into some pretty cool rows of flame by the middle. I will definitely use this again when I need to add a manly touch to something quilted.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Liebster Award Time

The awesome Danielle at Fresh off the Spool was kind enough to award me the Liebster Award this week. Liebster, in German, translates to 'kind', 'likeable', or 'favourite' and this award is designed to point readers towards new blogs (pre-200 followers) that you may not yet know about.

I started this blog back in November as a way to share all of the fun stuff I was up to after moving to a new city where I didn't know many people. This coincided with my learning to quilt, and I think the blog has been a fantastic tool to connect to the online crafty community which is full of great ideas and motivation to create fun things. I've learned a ton in the past six months and had a great time doing it.

The rules for the Liebster award are the following:
1. Thank your award presenter and link back to him/her (Thanks! You can see what Danielle has been up to here!)
2. Post the award info on your blog
3. Present the Liebster Award to 5 blogs that you think deserve to be recognized
4. Let them know by leaving a comment on their blog
5. Have faith that your follower will spread the love too !

I am passing on the love by telling you about these five blogs from the crafty community that I've discovered recently and have been enjoying:

April's Homemaking - April's 52 Weeks of Fairy Tales series includes information about the stories, as well as related crafts. I've been enjoying reminiscing about these tales and discovering new versions from the ones I know.

Duke Says Sew What - Check out the adventures of Kris and her doggie Duke. What's better than pictures of a cool quilt? A cool quilt with an adorable (and often captioned) dog!

Mama's Crafts - Some really cute projects being made right here in my corner of the prairie.

Live, Laugh, Love... Sew - In the short time since she started blogging, Marika has been sewing up a storm in lots of bright colours.

Soggy Bottoms Baby Duds - Whether it's a craft, a rant, food, or adorable animal pictures, Robin's posts are always good for a laugh.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Introducing: Spotted Dinosaurs

Baby blankets are possibly my favourite thing to sew because of all the adorable printed fabrics that are available. I've made some out of flannel before, but this is the first time I take on a quilted one. Since this is a boy's blanket, I knew from the beginning that I wanted dinosaurs, so off I went to the quilt shop to find some.

Dinosaurs are from the Urban Zoologie collection by Anne Kelle
Brown spots are from Mixxmaser Fizz by Patrick Lose
Little green animals are from Baby Safari by Carina Gardner
The blue spotted Cuddle Print is a nice thick flannel from Fabri-Quilt

I needed a design that would be simple enough to let the print stand out. A baby is bound to be more interested in dinosaurs than in small pieces of dinosaurs arranged geometrically. I wanted it to have more personality than just a checker board pattern though. This is the design I came up with to satisfy both requirements.

After 4 months of learning along with the Free Motion Quilting Project, I finally feel confident enough to give this blanket a go in free motion. I cut and pieced the fabrics according to my pattern and laid safety pins out in a grid that I can easily follow to quilt in rows.

I'm not sure how even my stitching is, but it has all been going very smoothly so far. I'm really happy that this is soon going to be ready for cuddling! If all goes well, there will be pictures of the finished blanket soon.

Also, I thought I would share my total piecing fail with you guys... Below is the centre square of the blanket. It's supposed to be a star.

I sewed one piece in sideways and didn't notice until the block was finished. Sadly, I did this TWICE. After much thread ripping, it did eventually become a star and all was well. This one block took me more time than the entire rest of the quilt.

Monday, 16 April 2012

How to Make a Design Wall in Ten Minutes, for Two Dollars

Lots of quilters have a sticky wall on which to arrange their fabric blocks. After using the ones at my local quilt shop, I can see many advantages to having this kind of setup. It gives you a chance to see your full quilt laid out before you sew it together so you can come up with the best possible arrangement. It also saves time because you always know exactly where each piece goes and how it interacts with its neighbours.

I've seen many examples of quilt design walls. The ones at the quilt shop are made of fabric covered plywood. Soundboard wrapped in batting is really popular as well. For my sewing room, I wanted something equivalent that was cheap, removable, and took up very little space. My solution was a vinyl tablecloth with a flannel back.

You can usually find these at the dollar store for a dollar or two. I picked this one because it was bright and modern, but it doesn't actually matter what's on the front of it, since the part you will be using is the back. The one important thing to remember when you are looking for this type of tablecloth is that they come in two shapes, round or rectangular. For this, you need a rectangular one (or two, depending on the size of wall you want to cover).

I started out with this blank wall in front of my sewing machine:

Using thumb tacks all the way around, I attached the table cloth horizontally to cover the area between the ceiling and the table. The vinyl front of the table cloth is facing the wall and the flannel back is facing outwards. I found out the hard way that you want to use flat push pins for this, not the type that stick out. If they stick out, they will eventually get caught in your clothing and tear a hole in your drywall. Bad.

If I had wanted a bigger sticky area, I could have turned the table cloth the other way and attached a second one next to it with the sides overlapping. This size is enough for me at the moment.

Now that I had a design wall, I started testing. Fabric sticks really well to the tablecloth, no pins needed. Static holds everything solidly where you put it, with no chance of detaching. I think this actually works better than the set up at the quilt shop.

Here it is with all of the blocks of my current project arranged and ready to be sewn together! Every time I sew a block, I can stick it back up on the wall in its place. I no longer have to stop and try to figure out what goes where at every step.

I am super happy with this solution, and it has been great to watch the quilt come together piece by piece instead of just having a bigger and bigger pile of rectangles on the table. If I ever want to upgrade for a bigger quilt, all I'll need to do is add on another table cloth.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Spirals and Butterflies for Animal Rescue

This week I got a chance to try out Don Linn's Free Motion Quilting Challenge technique for making stencils. I chose a design from Don's book Free-Motion Machine Quilting, which is filled with great quilting designs, and transferred it to some see through fabric with a sharpie. Here is my stencil:

In order to practice my free motion quilting this year, I've been creating a series of security blankets for rescued cats, inspired by the Snuggles Project. All of the blankets will be donated to a local animal rescue organization at the end of the year. These are the flannels I put together for this blanket:

I transferred the butterfly design to the blanket with a water soluble marker. Some of the permanent ink transferred as well, since I didn't heat seal my stencil with an iron, but that's not tragic. (My iron shattered when my lovely kitty pushed it off the ironing board a few days before. *sigh*) I quilted the butterflies in black thread to make them stand out and hide the black ink underneath. It worked pretty well.

I filled the area around the butterflies with some spirals from last month's challenge, and used spiral flowers over the rest of the blanket.

spiral flowers
I think this turned out really cute, but I'll have to revisit the stencil technique now that the iron situation is resolved. Drawing spirals used a lot more thread than I was expecting. If I ever use these on a large size project, I will space them out a lot more.

Here is the finished blanket, ready to provide kitty comfort!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Loving My Wholecloth Quilt

When I first started this project, I thought that microstippling would be a great way to improve my quilting skills, but I didn't think that it was something I would want to use much in future projects. I was surprised to find out during this exercise that I actually do like it. Once I got the speed thing figured out and no longer had to stop for thread breaks it was actually quite a zen activity. This is a sure sign that Leah Day is an excellent teacher.

The first step for finishing this up was to soak the quilt in water and stretch it out to dry. I was really happy to see the blue ink from the water soluble marker (that I forgot to test) come off completely, and the starch stains too. 

This is my setup for drying: one Ikea end table, lots of elastic, some pins and clips. These are the clips that my mom used for attaching our mittens to our sleeves so they didn't get lost. They are absolutely perfect for blocking quilts. Thanks Mom! 

Here are some close-ups where you can see how nice and puffy the design got once it had dried:


Here it is finally bound! Don't forget to check out all the other finished quilts at the bottom of this page.

I wanted to sew little dashes inside the lines so that they'd look like roads, a really cool idea from Danielle but my hand quilting was looking too uneven and pulling up filaments of batting for some reason. I am thinking of trying it with yellow thread on the black binding instead. I was all gung ho about attaching the binding and completely forgot to add little triangles on the back for hanging it up. Oops. So my question this week is: What is the best way to make a small quilt into a wall hanging?

Thanks Leah for all your work taking us through this great project! At some point, I would like to make another small urban quilt to match. Design ideas so far include fire hydrants (with ladders, and fire hoses) or traffic lights with crosswalks.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Tagged! Some Stuff about Me

A while back, I was tagged by the awesome Pat at Color Me Quilty with some questions to answer. Pat sews beautiful quilts, including embroidery, free motion quilting, and most recently some fabric painting. She is also a gardener whose place has a beautiful view. I look forward to seeing it in full bloom this summer.

1.) What is your favorite dish/dinner meal?
This is really hard! I will have to go with my dad's spare ribs and Sam's stews.

2.) Is your favorite color used in most of your quilts?
Orange doesn't show up in most of my quilts, not sure why. I did use it recently in my rainbow star quilt, and my current wholecloth project is 100% orange.

3.) Do you live near where you grew up?
Until six months ago, I did live in my hometown. In August we entrusted all of our worldly possessions to a moving company and flew to a new home several thousand kilometres away, bringing only two suitcases and one cat. For a few weeks, it was like camping indoors. Then our moving truck arrived in mid September and we were able to settle in. So far, I've been enjoying life on the Prairie. Looking forward to my first summer here!

4.) What would be your dream job and are you doing it?
At some point I realized that I was officially too old to become an astronaut. That was a sad day. Being a housewife turns out to be pretty awesome though! (Seriously, according to the census worker who came to the door last week, I am a "homemaker", and not "unemployed". She wrote it on her clipboard and everything.) I have no idea what I will be doing next, but look forward to finding out.

5.) Do you have any pets?
We found a starving emaciated kitten one Thanksgiving day and won his heart with pork chops. Sigmund is now a healthy, slightly spoiled, 5 year old cat.

Best kitty ever

6.) Do you have a nickname?
'Slair' as the banner at the top of the page indicates. The grade 3 bullies thought they were being very witty combining my first and last name. It used to make me cry. My high school friends, on the other hand, thought it was pretty cool, so it stuck.

7.) What hobbies (other than sewing/quilting) do you have?
Reading, walking, drawing, painting. This year, for the first time ever, I plan to try gardening. There will be pictures, whether I succeed or fail. I'm really grateful for the snow storm that's allowed me to put the whole thing off for another week. 

Front lawn, three days ago

8.) What would be your dream vacation?
I would spend a month wandering around South America to see the Pampas, the big cities, and the ruins left behind by native civilizations.

9.) What is your favorite time of day?
Eleven in the morning is the best time of day. The tedious morning routine is done with, you're wide awake and at your most productive, plus it's time to start thinking about lunch.

10.) Do you buy fabric without having a project in mind?
In the past I did, but this led to owning a lot of fabric that I didn't like anymore by the time a project came up. Now I buy only what I need, to the inch... even if it means I get home and kick myself over something I wasn't sure I needed, and then have to return to the store.

11.) What is the last book you read?
For 2012, I've joined The Proust Society of Edmonton. Our reading group focusing on Marcel Proust's modern oeuvre 'A la recherche du temps perdu'. We've just finished 'A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs' and started the third of seven volumes 'Le Cote de Guermantes'. Also, currently on my nightstand is Alan Moore's 'V for Vendetta', and on my laptop is the audio version of John Banville's 'The Sea'. I'm definitely a book geek.

I am not super good at following rules, as you may know, however I would love to hear more about you all, especially where you live, what makes you happy, and your books and hobbies of choice. Consider yourself tagged!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

I Dream of Stipple

I think my experience from last week's microstippling exercise is best expressed in the form of a Memebase comic. (If you're not familiar with the 'All the Things!' meme, see more examples here.) I made this after waking from a dream that involved running around a stipple maze with no exit. The lesson here: don't drink and stipple before bed.

The goal was to finish my wholecloth quilt for the Free Motion Project Quilt Along by filling in all of the white space with tiny little stippling. This may not seem like much, since my practice quilt is the size of a place-mat, but the same amount of stitching on a bigger scale could probably cover a queen size bedspread. I spent about an hour a day stippling, and each hour's work filled a few square inches.

With each day of practice, I was able to stitch smaller and more smoothly. The difference is really noticeable when you look at my starting point in the middle. At the time, that was the smallest stitching I could manage, but as I got better I started having the opposite problem and had to be careful to keep the stitching big enough to match the rest of the quilt. I also figured out that using longer lines very close together amounted to less work than shorter very squiggly lines.

My stitching is still jagged and irregular. Luckily the best way to make ugly stitches look good is to put a lot of them very close together. There are way too many lines here for the eye to detect a problem with any particular one. My next stippling goal will be to make rounder and more regular shapes. I will be referring to the beautiful stippling shapes of Philippa Naylor for inspiration.

There are just a few finishing touches before this little quilt is fully finished and ready to hang on the wall next week!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Big Felt Eyes Make Everything Cuter

My last couple of posts have been very quilt heavy, but I've been working on other crafty projects too. I thought I would change things up by showing you some of the little felt figures I've made lately. 

These shamrocks went all the way to Montreal to party with friends on St-Patrick's Day.

I killed some time during a plane ride making these two little felt houses to match the Natalie Lymer Woodland fabric in the middle. I think I'm going to use these to make something for the bathroom.

And then there are these figures that I made just for the sake of cuteness. I haven't decided what to do with them yet. They would make a great mobile, or maybe a garland for my sewing room. I could also applique them onto a blanket. So many possibilities! There will be a little cloud with eyes joining this set shortly, and then maybe a dinosaur. Stay tuned to see the next wave of felt cuteness.