Friday, April 7, 2017

Austen's Garden

Baby quilts are the best. That may seem like a big generalization, but hear me out.
Sewing and quilting a small quilt for a bundle of baby goodness means:
  1. They are quick to complete! Okay, quick-ish. Considering I have a queen size WIP that would be in middle school if it were a kid, a 7 month turnaround seems like sewing-hyperspeed!
  2. They don’t require stretching and cardio workouts to be able to wrangle under a domestic machine.  This = fewer sore back muscles and less cussing = win.
  3. They get to go live and have adventures with little kids. Is it tummy time?  Afternoon tea 
  4. party? Sick day? Grab a quilt!

Convinced yet? Well, either way,  I would like to introduce a newly finished baby quit, “Austen’s Garden.”

She was such fun to sew (the top was started before we knew gender, so it was a fun challenge to keep it gender neutral).

The backing fabric makes me smile every time I see it.

The quilting was quite an adventure! I vowed to try new techniques for both skill building and to branch out creatively. I quilted the majority of this at “Quilt Camp” – a 3 day retreat style sewing event.  Side note- I was in quilty heaven guys, and I cannot believe it took me so long to give something like that a try! 3 days of happy chatter, humming machines, chocolate, and show and tells. Heaven, I tell ya….

But back to the quilt... the intense quilt marathon session was what I needed to overcome the challenge of starting/ stopping and getting distracted while I try a new design.
Every row is a new-to-me free motion motif:  city skylines, stars, candy ribbon, lines and pearls, and swirls.

Then there’s that border…
Let’s talk about the border…
all 3.5 inches of intimidating solid color (wont hide wonky stitches) border.  I was stuck.

I took a few minutes to explore the quilt store and stretch and stumbled on to Free-Motion Machine Quilting 1-2-3 by Lori Kennedy. I flipped through the book half-heartedly but as soon as I saw the flower design I knew that’s what the border needed. Sure that’s what it needed, but could I DO it?  Let me be a testimate to Lori’s amazing teaching skills, the steps were easy to follow, directions clear, and she breaks it into manageable pieces.  I practiced for a few minutes on a scrap sandwich and then dove in head first. After just a few flowers I got into a groove, liked how it looked, and dare I say.. had FUN free motion quilting! I used a variegated thread on the border, which has less contrast than white would have had, and that did make my newbie stitching a little more forgiving.

I finished quilting the border, happy danced, and immediately walked up to the register to purchase the book. I’m already excited to try more designs from it on the next quilt.

So there it is, Austen’s Garden in all her finished glory. It seemed fitting to take it out to my company’s garden for a farewell photo shoot.

I sent it home to give hugs and love to a sweet little girl, and I hope she (and her mom, my wonderful friend) have many comforting and fun moments together.

Name: Austen's Garden
Size: 38"x 46"
Fabrics:  Stash, Michael Miller Petal Pinwheels,Alison Glass Sticks and Twine, Robert Kaufman Bluberry Park
Backing: Michael Miller's Pride in Candy from the "Origami Oasis" Collection
Patternmy own
Quilting: Free Motion Quilting on my domestic machine
Completed: April 2017

Monday, August 29, 2016

Quilt Planner & WIP Tracker

In my never ending quest to clean up my sewing act and organize my quilt projects, I realized I needed to get a handle on my WIPs. I created a one-stop-shop for me to write down all those things that I swear I can remember, and usually forget the moment the project hits the shelf. 

Where did I leave off on this? How many blocks should I have? I'm sure I'm not the only one who asks these questions every time I unearth a work in progress, right?  

To download:

Right click the picture (PNG) and click "save image as" to save the image to your computer.

Open the file, and click, "File" then  "Print".

To make sure it prints properly, make sure your print settings are set to print at 100% scale

Feel free to Pin and share to your hearts content, but do not repost on your own sites. Thank ya'll, enjoy!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Paper piecing is for the birds

I have some blocks to share with you today, yay!

The CAMQG has member-led lessons and workshops throughout the year. I can't say how much I love them. The knowledge sharing and humor makes the guild meetings so special. As much as I love me a good online tutorial, there is something so energizing and inspiring about being the same room with folks who love the same stuff as you. Don't you think?

Alright, gushy stuff aside. One of our members, JJ, held a little workshop on paper piecing back in May. It was a good introduction for first timers, and included some tips and tricks for people who were more experienced. 

She chose this simple star block, and led the group through the process. 
As always, it was fun to see how everyone's fabric choices translated into the block.

Some people used scraps, some people strategically chose prints. I sort of cheated and just grabbed a fat quarter bundle that my mom had gifted me on the way out the door. It worked well though, since there was a variety of values and sizes in the bundle.  Plus, those birds are adorable and need to be in the spotlight. 

I completed one block during our workshop in May and set aside the leftover fabric until this week.

My sewing space is still not set up after our move, butI started going through serious project withdrawal I tell you! My quick fix was to take over the kitchen table and dig a small WIP project out of the boxes.

It only took 3 months, but hey, now I have two blocks done!

If you'd like to brush up on your own paperpiecing, 
grab the free printable template and instructions here.

I honestly wasn't familar with Carol Doak (the block designer) before the workshop, but I've spent some time on her website since, and WOW there are bunches of free patterns and resources there.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Prescription: Orange Peels

Well, I don't tons of fun quilty updates to share with you today. But I do have a photo from of this week's work in progress!

Confession time: I've been sewing while on drugs.  Fortunately mine would be of the lightweight prescription painkiller variety.  In my defense,  the Rx says I shouldn't drive or operate heavy machinery, but it said nothing about operating a sewing machine!
Anyway, the meds are working well, and I'm bouncing back quickly from my minor surgery.  But the drugs do make me a little drowsy and unfocused, so when I got a creative itch, I needed a simple repetitive block to work on.
Enter, orange peels.

I'm seriously in LOVE with these orange peel quilts, both feature scrappy low volume backgrounds and fun bright peels: Emily's Rainbow Orange Peels and Jessica's Scatter Quilt. I just saw that Jessica lives and quilts not to far from where I grew up, in NJ. She doesn't know it yet, but I am pretty sure we need to be best friends. Just sayin'.

I'm using the fusible interfacing technique from this tutorial by Emily.

Apologies for the slightly unfocused fuzzy cell phone photos. Let's go ahead and call that an intentional sneak peek into my foggy state of mind. 

So, the bad news is I technically started a new project but the good news is that it's scrap friendly, there's no deadline and I don't have to worry about messing up if I'm a little loopy.

Let's call this one a win.

Linking up:
WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Romeo, oh Romeo!

Have you ever had an idea, and jumped in head first with no solid plan?
That kind of happened with this quilt, and somehow it all worked out.

Our wonderful volunteers pieced 14 quilt tops at the inaugural Caring Star Quilts sewing day this spring. 

It was a truly inspiring day (read more here)

There were a few more quilt tops that needed to be sewn after the fact, so a few core volunteers started work on additional tops before the big presentation to our local ill, injured and wounded veterans. 

I was one of them, and I knew right away that I wanted to play off of the improv squares we had placed into the border of the Team Juliet quilt.

I gathered up scraps from the sewing day and got additional scraps, large and small, from the project coordinator, Meg. 
The plan (if you could call it that) was to make improv pieced blocks and to ‘float’ them on the background.
So I started with these, and just kind of kept going. 

And I kept going.

And then I did some math. Kind of….

Just enough to make sure the final quilt was close to the required 60" x 70" dimension for Caring Star Quilts.

Okay, I really didnt do any math. Basically, I moved my design wall boards to the floor. It was a highly technical, advanced approach, that went something like this:

  1. Lay design boards on floor.
  2. Measure.
  3. Cover ‘extra’ design board with the first blanket I could lay my hands on.
  4. Grab blocks, toss on floor.
  5. Stand back, squint, rearrange. Repeat.
I cut the background fabric, trimmed it down and squared as I went.
Here you can see (if you look carefully) that the white background is growing!

By the third photo there, my energy was low, it was late, I had no daylight, and the growing top was getting more and more difficult to wrestle under my machine.

I started to get cranky…. not gonna lie. Hubby asked if I was alright, and I responded that the quilt and I were having some growing pains. In that moment, I realized that the counterpart, to Juliet, was Romeo.

Finally, miraculously, I fudged seams and straight lines until all of it was pieced.

And I handed Romeo off to get quilted. 
I may be partial, but I think Romeo is a handsome fellow. Just look at the quilting! The volunteer who long-armed Romeo, chose just the right modern grid pattern to accentuate his wonky square awesomeness. 

Despite the growing pains and tight deadline I am so happy with how this quilt came out. It is made (with the exception of the Kona Snow yardage background) entirely from scraps. 
The scraps are the not quite big enough, not quite square enough, not quite right cast-off scraps that would otherwise be considered trash, or waste.

I may be over analyzing here, but consider that the motivation behind this project is to bring comfort and love to wounded ill injured, and to their caregivers. To bring hope and support to the unsung heroes who care for our veterans who feel broken, and maybe even a little cast-off.  There is a strong symbolism to turning these ‘scraps’ into something unique, and beautiful.

I can’t say that I’d make this quilt again.

Another improve quilt? Absolutely, but another one just like this? Nope.

 It is a one-of-a-kind. There won’t be another in the world like it, one that has been touched by so many people who care, and gifted to one who is so deserving of their support.

Once again I am honored to be part of the caring Star Quilts volunteers.
So, Romeo, even though we only spent a short time together, you will always hold a very special place in my heart.

Linking Romeo up to these fine parties:
I Quilt @ Pretty Bobbins  Needle and Thread Thursday 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Label me, baby!

Who's excited to receive her order of  custom woven quilt labels??
This girl!! posted the fresh-off-the-press photo teaser today....
Hurry postman!!

I've got to get my labelin' on!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Caring Star Quilts

I believe that as quilters, our ability to create something that is both beautiful and useful sets our craft apart. If you know any quilters, you know many of them (myself included) are frequently sewing for charitable organizations.  

I'd like to share with you today, a very special group...

Meg Martin is the woman who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to turn the Caring Star vision into a reality. 

(Meg M, my sister Jessie, and me)

She's a fellow CAMQG member and a dear friend. Perhaps is it her magnetic personality, or the grassroots opportunity, but this cause has a very special place in my heart.  

This group is unlike any I have seen before, here is a little background:
The Caring Star Quilts project was conceived in 2013. This ongoing mission begins with creating and presenting pairs of quilts to honor the two-way bond of service and sacrifice between wounded, ill and injured veterans and their caregivers.  
Behind every wounded, ill and injured soldier... there's an unsung hero of a caregiver. 
Our sewing machines will sing... a song of warm appreciation for unsung heroes.

The Sewing day includes piecing quilt tops with music, laughter and hourly door prizes. Morning refreshments, luncheon and a guest speaker were included, too. Pre-cut fabrics and most supplies were even provided, making it a breeze to get right to the fun part, sewing!! Every team had an experienced quilter on hand as instructor -- so even first time quilters were able to get on board! 

(Jessie and me)

I don't think my words could ever do justice to the positive energy that was felt throughout the Kick-off sewing day in April. I was especially exited to be able to share the sewing day with my sister and mom, who drove 2+ hours to PA from NJ for the event.

The three of us, with Sheryl (another CAMQG'er) were Team Juliet!   Our team was assigned a modern cross block.

Once we got up and running, were given freedom to 'have fun' designing with the border. And we did! I was the only one of the group who had previously improv pieced, but they gave it all a shot and were hooked!

By the end of the day, 45+ volunteers had completed 14 quilt tops!

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of quilting, binding, and final touches.

The quilts were presented, "with love and pride" to 12 Caregivers of Veterans and the Veterans they each care for in May.  More than 100  people shared a warm appreciation for unsung heroes, and our nation's Caregivers that day.

The success of the inaugural sewing day and presentation day have driven Meg to raise the bar for the second event, to be held this Fall. Knowing her creativity and tenacity, I have no doubt that the reach and impact of this amazing cause will be far reach long and far throughout Pennsylvania.  I am so honored to have a hand in the project, it is a blessing and an inspiration at every step of the process. 

Keep your eyes open! Over the next few posts, I will share with you some of the quilts that I was lucky enough to help sew for CSQ, after the big sewing day. I'll also be giving you a sneak peek into preparation for the Fall 2014 the sewing day!

Team Juliet with our finished top
I hope you enjoy reading about and seeing the efforts of Caring Star Quilts, as much as I have enjoyed my journey with them so far.