First Bag

>> Sunday, July 27, 2008

I expanded my craft repertoire into bags this summer, by which I mean I made one (left) and gave it to my sister for her birthday.

I had been scoping out tutorials online, and because I'm not good at looking at just one option, I combined several to make this bag (that may not be the most brilliant idea for a first time project, but it basically worked). Unfortunately because I did this a couple weeks ago, I can't remember exactly which tutorials I consulted. But I'm doing my best to recall some of the ones I looked at.

I remember checking out
this basic tote tutorial (click the sidebar for the pdf), but I also sought out tutorials with more pictures such as this one from Creative Little Daisy and this one from Chocolate on my Cranium. I manipulated the size and interfacing materials based on what I had at home on a random weekday evening.

The Sew, Mama, Sew blog provided several helpful tutorials: Go here for a guide to various interfacing options. I used this lining tutorial (scroll down for the unstructured bag variety) and consulted this tutorial to learn more about making straps.

More than any other sewing project, bag-making has demonstrated to me that I need both written and pictorial instructions. Usually I can follow written directions quite well, but I really needed to be able to visualize how to attach the lining to the outside before doing it.

As it's my birthday today, I'm thinking about making a bag for myself as a treat. If I get up and extricate myself from the computer, that is.


Brown and Blue

>> Thursday, July 24, 2008

One of my college teammates and friends is getting married in September, but because I can't be on both coasts at the same time for two weddings (I know, my lack of superpowers is an annoyance), I unfortunately can't attend hers. After checking her registry and seeing that she selected these plates (called "West End" for those keeping track),

I decided to make Cristin and Mike a matching table runner, drawing on the ice blue, chocolate brown, and white in the plates. Here it is:

I thought the interlocking rings suited a wedding gift quite well, and I added a pieced backing that makes the table runner reversible. A view of both sides draped across my table:


Summer Gift Making

My summer crafting tasks included making gifts for two people who did a lot for me in the past year. Having started, finished, and mailed/dropped off the presents, I think I can cross that item off the to-do list. One gift was this challah cover:

When I've never been to someone's house and therefore know little about their decor preferences, I usually work off colors I've seen the person wear. In this case, an orange t-shirt stuck in my mind, hence the heavy use of orange. I used a zig-zag stitch in between each border that makes up the bigger square, which made it a little more interesting than stitch-in-the-ditch quilting would have been.

Moving on to a completely different color palette, the other gift was this wall-hanging (or, table mat). Either way, it's the first time I've pieced something that was neither a quilt nor a challah cover.

Among the other tasks I set for myself this summer was designing projects around several fabrics that have resided in my stash for a while. The blue-ish gray print kept staring at me, asking me to use it, but I had a hard time figuring out what other fabric would work well with it. I like how it works with the intersecting pinwheels in part because I think it conveys a sense of motion in the background. And here's a closer view:



>> Monday, July 21, 2008

It all started with a black belt, or rather the lack thereof. It is remarkably difficult to find a non-leather black belt. I searched and searched. When ribbon belts became fashionable a couple years ago, I thought that I would be able to find a black belt. I could find ribbon belts with black in them, but none that were primarily black. This winter I finally decided it was time to make my own black belt. I looked at the belts I own, and did my best to mentally unmake them to determine their component parts (why I didn't immediately look for a tutorial online is beyond me). Then I tried making one, and it worked pretty well:

I used a black-on-black fabric backed with black grosgrain ribbon. I like the pattern as the black (or dark gray) sunflowers give it a little texture without making it look like anything but a black belt from afar.

Since the experiment was successful, I played with other fabric and ribbon combinations, most of which I've given away as birthday presents.

As I continue to make belts, I'll also work on how to best photograph them. If you're interested in experimenting with belts, Creative Little Daisy offers a tutorial on patchwork belts while J Caroline Creative provides instruction for double-sided grosgrain belts. My first belts would have been much quicker to make had I followed these instructions! But trial and error has its value too.


Community Books

Another peek into past crafty activities...

A couple months ago, my current roommate mused out loud that for someone who is not a baby person, I'm pretty good at making gifts for them when they are born and remembering to give something to the older siblings as well. As for the latter, I can thank my mom, as she was always good at remembering the other children (that may be a function of being the oldest, as I too remember wanting to open presents when my younger siblings got things they couldn't even unwrap themselves). As for the former, baby quilts are fun to make precisely because they are small and relatively quick. They are very doable quilting projects, ones for which the path does not seem to wind its way through never-never land.

Yet as grateful as I know new parents are for baby gifts, it has always seemed to me that the parents are left out. After all, it's their life that changes most dramatically the instant they have a live baby for whom to care. I wanted to find a way to give them a gift, one that would aid them with the transition and also (this is the selfish part) keep them planted in my friend-group as people who still have adult, childless/free friends.

My solution was something I call "community books." These books hold small cards that serve as IOUs for things like dinners delivered to their house, babysitting, movie night at their convenience, help with laundry or other household chores. They also contain gift certificates -- to movies, restaurants, and other outings as well as for a massage for the new mom. For the two I've created thus far, I rounded up about 15 other people to contribute one service and $10 per person.

I know it's hard to see in the pictures, but the second page includes a note that explains the book and the last page has an index with all of the services and gift certificates. The recipients of the first book asked if they had to give the IOU coupon back to the giver, and my answer was "of course not." The giver knows what he or she has donated, and all the recipients need to do is call or email. The book's coupons just facilitate the process.


For My Mother

>> Friday, July 18, 2008

My mom, as I wrote on the label of this quilt, taught me how to read and how to sew. She retired this June after 39 years as a reading teacher, and I decided to make her a quilt as a gift. Now that she'll have time to do her own pleasure reading, she (and the cats) will have a quilt to use.

As she loves yellow, I knew I wanted to use yellow in her quilt (and as the very soft fleece backing). I chose the other colors by thinking about what colors she wears -- bright green, royal blue, turquoise, various shades of purple. In addition, I had a lighter blue fabric in my stash with flowers in green, blue, purple, and yellow, and I figured it would tie all the prints together (you can see it in the bottom picture). It's also the last border strip before the purple binding.

I've seen quilts that use this bento box pattern, often with light and dark shades of one color. I went with light and dark shades of 4 colors. I have to confess that along the way I got worried as the individual pieces didn't look as great as I expected. But my roommate's dad, who happened to be in town the weekend I pieced, backed, quilted, and bound the quilt, remained confident that it would look fantastic together. His confidence bore out, as I really like the big quilt (a good-sized lap quilt, about 60" x 70"). It may be hard to see in the pictures, but I free-motion-quilted the top, playing with the intersection of rolling curves.


Spring Baby Quilts

Spring brought its share of births and baby quilts:

I was in Chicago in the fall when Dan and Anita told me they were expecting and happened to be in Chicago again in the spring when Anita went into labor with Zachary. In between, their friend threw a shower for them, and while I couldn't make the party, I did send this quilt. I used many of the same fabrics I used for Eytan's quilt but arranged the blocks differently. I used a soft plaid navy flannel as the quilt backing.

I thought of Jonah's quilt as a representation of 4 windows. Like with Zachary's quilt (above), I played with fabrics I had used in Josh and Liba's chuppah. For this quilt, I created 4 blocks separated them with blue sashing and added a white border.

The final spring baby quilt was made of squares cut from a 9-square block divided into four. The dominant background fabric is cream with blue hatching and dark pink roses. The blue rectangles create a ladder pattern intersected with green rectangles and reddish-pink squares. I backed the quilt with a white and green patterned fabric, using a layer of flannel as batting.


Through the Trees: A Chuppah

>> Sunday, July 13, 2008

I met Josh over ten years ago and was acquainted with Josh's interest in Liba before they started dating. Knowing that Jewish rituals are important to Josh and knowing that Josh and Liba sought to create a wedding ceremony that reflected who they are as individuals and as a couple, I offered to make their chuppah.

After getting drenched by the California winter rain, we met for lunch in late December to talk about their ideas for their chuppah. As both of them love being outside, it didn't surprise me that their wedding would take place among the redwoods; they wanted their chuppah to represent looking at the sky through the trees, preferably with lots of blue and yellows.

I imagined the blue squares as the bits of sky apparent through leaves, and the yellows, whites, and greens as the trunks, branches, and leaves through which one would gaze. The background blue fabric (the triangles and border) has small butterflies -- the closest I could get to birds and other flying animals -- and gold flecks. One of the neat things about using a quilt as a chuppah is that if it is backed with a light material (light yellow flannel in this case), it looks like stained glass from underneath (the couple's view during the ceremony).


Winter 2008 Quilting

The long and snowy midwest winter offered an excellent reason to stay inside and quilt. I was lucky in that my (amazing--thank you former pdx roommates) antique sewing machine desk with its 1911 telegram inside and sewing machine sat in the sunroom so I could look at the piles of snow while working. I challenged myself to try new designs and, for the first time ever, make a "true" quilt with a quilt top, batting, and a fabric backing.

I gave the quilt on the left to the new son of a colleague. I had made pinwheels before, but opted to play with crazy pinwheels. I really like the look of the pinwheels, though if I were making the quilt again, I would stick piecing it together with the pinwheels all of one color, like the blue and orange ones, rather than the mixed red-and-purple ones. Also, while the purple matches the purple bugs in the background fabric well, it's not as bright as the other colors and I probably would choose a different fabric. I made the binding from scrappy strips of the pinwheel fabric.

I made the quilt on the right for Shefa, whose sister received this quilt two-and-a-half years ago. My scrap bag contained several small pieces of fabric that I wanted to use and I designed this "windows" quilt around those fabrics, supplementing with more fabric from my stash. I love the array of colors unified by squares, and this competes with Eytan's quilt as my favorite baby quilt design (though I probably won't make more like it for a while since I like trying new patterns).


An Autumn Quilt for an Autumn Wedding

Ok, maybe I didn't finish it by the October wedding, but I designed it with the season in mind. Torie and Todd's wedding took place at a winery on a beautiful fall day, and I wanted to make them a quilt that would remind them of their wedding day.

I used vivid batik fabric (greens, browns, oranges, and yellows) I found at a fabric store in Bozeman, MT while driving cross-country last summer and combined it with a couple of white-on-white fabrics. Though hard to see in the pictures, vines and grapes wind their way through the border fabric (top middle photo). I like this fabric not only because it evokes the setting of the wedding and matches the other fabrics, but also because it's one of the few realistic floral-fruity fabrics that I've seen that doesn't look like it came out of one's great-grandmother's trunk of pillowcases. I backed the quilt with soft green and brown striped velour. I was happy to find this fabric as Torie loves green and I thought the quilt needed a little more green it.

I gave Torie and Todd their quilt when I visited them after New Years (but they received their other presents before their wedding...yes, multiple gifts. They were the first recipients of my bonus reward scheme for couples in which the woman does not take her husband's last name.)


Starry Night Chuppah

>> Monday, July 7, 2008

For years I had told Rebecca I would make her chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy) when she got married. When she told me she was engaged to Nir, one of her first comments was that she was ready to take me up on my long-standing offer. I was excited to try my hand at chuppah-making, and I like the result:
Rebecca requested two things: purple and a night sky. I therefore designed the chuppah using purple as the background to represent the night sky. The pinwheels create a star effect (one of the purple fabrics has silver stars on it as well). The triple border -- white, purple, white -- suggests the border of a traditional white and blue tallit (prayer shawl, often used as a chuppah).

I finished the quilt in June 2007, right as I was moving out of my apartment in California. The movers arrived to take my roommate's kitchen table just as I finished the quilt sandwich. I sewed on the binding and packed it in one of those plastic pouches in which sheets are sold. It stayed with me in my car as I drove cross-country. Here are a couple of photos of the chuppah in action (October 2007). The florist provided the stand and hung the chuppah on it.



>> Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fun frog prints are readily available and are quite useful for gender-neutral quilts. For Eytan's quilt, I modified the size and color scheme of Evelyn Sloppy's "Spring Fling" pattern in her book, 40 Fabulous Quick-Cut Quilts.

The white background fabric has white elephants printed on it. I used two frog fabrics, one all green one and one with frogs and dragonflys on a blue background. I chose other green, blue, and yellow fabrics to coordinate. Of all the quilts, I've made, this is one of my favorite patterns because it plays tricks with the viewer's eyes which makes me want to look at it even more!

I backed the quilt with soft blue flannel which makes it an ideal quilt for strollers/car seats as well as for playing on the floor as it makes cold floors a little warmer.

I finished the quilt during the week between Eytan's birth and naming ceremony. While I was pretty sure I knew what his full name would be (and, indeed, I guessed correctly!), I wasn't confident enough to write it in indelible ink on the message on the back. But I think everyone who needs to knows to whom it belongs.


Fancy Borders

This is one of the only quilts I've made with a "fancy" border. The sides have triangles rather than plain strips of fabric. It's backed with orange fleece. Josh, the recipient, models his quilt (right).


All About Orange

>> Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I made each of my siblings a quilt for their respective 20th birthdays. I made my sister's in the pre-digital camera era, but hopefully I can grab a picture of it the next time I'm at her apartment. My brother patiently waited for his, as he received it about 2 months before he turned 21. He loves orange and so I wanted to make him a predominantly orange quilt. I based the design on a quilt I saw hanging in the Stonemountain & Daughter Fabric Shop in Berkeley, CA (a great store, by the by).

I strip-pieced various orange fabrics with a limited amount of yellow and turquoise fabric and then cut the strips into squares. I was aiming for a random look so I tried to turn the squares in such a way that there wasn't a repetitive pattern. I think that worked. I backed this quilt with a soft tweedy-grey wool that I found on the remnant table at G-Street Fabrics in Falls Church, VA. I love the remnant table; you have to sift through a lot but every so often you can find some great gems.


Primary Colors

Red, yellow, and blue, with a dash of orange and green.

I thought it would be fun to play with a couple different block designs, so I did the two star blocks with blue star/moon fabric and the two bowties with red shooting star fabric. I think this was the first quilt I made with three borders. I backed it with soft red fleece.



Two versions of pinwheels with the same fabric: I gave the challah cover on the left to Katie and Orie for their wedding and the challah cover on the right to Beth as a housewarming gift.



I tend to buy fabric that catches my eye when I see it, even if I don't have an immediate need for it. That's how I came by several yards of this fun bug fabric (colored lady-bug type bugs on black). One of the reasons I like it for baby quilts is that it's gender-neutral, so I've used it in quilts for girls and boys. I made this quilt for Sophia, the daughter of a friend living in Massachusetts. I like backing quilts with soft flannel or fleece, because they are soft and warm, and they eliminate the need for batting. I had some soft orange fleece that found its way to the back of this quilt. As for the quilting part, this was pure "stitch-in-the-ditch," which until fairly recently was the form of quilting with which I was most comfortable.

I've included this close-up to give a better picture of the bug fabric even though I know the fabric doesn't lie flat. I've found, however, that even when imperfections bother me, the recipients don't seem to notice :)


Challah Covers #2 & #3

This challah cover, with the blue and green batik fabric, was a wedding present for Avigael and Josh. I had a small piece of the fabric and selected colors that complemented it. I like using "2s" in challah covers that are wedding gifts, hence the two pinwheels. I made a similar one for Dina and Eliav but I'm still looking for a picture of it...

Likewise, in the navy and turquoise challah cover for Emily and Binya, I played with 2s in a different way: 2 navy squares and 2 patchwork squares. As an aside, I found making challah covers helped my binding skills immensely as I could experiment with new techniques on smaller pieces.


Challah Cover #1

I made my first foray into challah covers in Fall 2005. At the annual Palo Alto L'Chaim festival, I saw several people selling challah covers for a lot of money, and I thought if I could make quilts, I could make challah covers. Here is one of my early efforts.

The challah cover above was an experiment with blues and with wavy stitching along the edges. The backing is one of my favorite pieces of fabric from the second quilt I ever made. It was a wedding gift for Yona and Tzvi in January 2006.


Fish & Frogs

I made this quilt for Ananya, who arrived earlier than expected.

I had planned to make her a quilt, but had to spring into action more quickly than anticipated. I had the fish fabric from the first baby quilt I made (the previous spring) and had found the frog print over the summer. Frogs and fish seemed like a good combination for a baby quilt, so I looked through my stash for other fabrics to match. I opted for a simple design so that I could make the quilt quickly. This was also the first quilt I made in California, after getting my (awesome) antique sewing machine desk (with its telegram from 1911 in a drawer) delivered from Portland. This was also the first quilt I made on the sewing machine my grandma gave me, so a simple design gave me a chance to figure out how the machine works. I try to include a message on the back of baby quilts, in this case wishing Ani a life full of creativity and discovery.


Starting This Blog

I've (finally) set up a blog to post various craft projects. To get it up to speed, I'll start with posts of already completed projects. Alas I don't have digital pictures of quilts I made prior to 2005, but if I get them (most of those quilts reside with other people), I'll post them.


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