2010 in Quilts

>> Friday, December 31, 2010

It's been quite a year of quilting and experimenting with new designs, new techniques, and new color schemes. There are 23 quilts in the above mosaic and, there are 5 more quilts that I've completed but I can't yet post, bringing the 2010 total to 28. Only one of those -- the zig zag challah cover -- resides with me. The others were gifts and donation quilts. I say this every year, but one goal for next year is making a quilt for me. We'll see what 2011 brings.

2010 also led me into bag-making, which has been really fun. I paused my quiltng yesterday to make some Lickety Split bags, and if it stops raining (45 degrees and rainy on December 31 in SE Michigan!), I'll grab a few images of them. If not in 2010, then 2011 will do...

Happy 2011!



>> Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sometimes the back of a quilt is as neat as the front. I've been working on this double-hourglass quilt for a couple days now (those triangles are small!) and today I sewed all of my hourglass squares together.

I realized that the back is as cool -- if not cooler -- than the front. There's something about those seams...

...all nested together that produces a rather neat visual. I followed Allison's tutorial, but, like Kelli,  used a honeybun (1.5" strips) instead of 2.25" strips. This yielded 4" (when trimmed up) square double-hourglass shapes. I must say that while I love the effect and the end result, if I ever make double hourglass blocks again, I'm using wider strips and thus bigger blocks!


Kandinsky Squares Complete

>> Monday, December 27, 2010

This may be my new favorite quilt. I'm loving the solids and the precision. If you're interested in making a similar quilt, I started with 4" squares, then used 1.5", 2", 1.25", and 2.25" strips. I squared the blocks up between each strip addition, and the final blocks were about 12 1/8".

I backed the quilt with a piece of flannel from my stash. The quilt started with the backing as I wanted to use it, and selected the front solids based on the back. The one flaw in this plan was not prewashing the backing; I've never had a problem with cotton fabrics bleeding, but the flannel produced some problems. Stain stick and another washing later took care of the problem, for the most part...

The circle quilting + crinkling makes me very pleased. I learned that I'm pretty good freehanding small circles, but the larger the spiral became the more I needed to pause and shift the quilt to keep it moving.

One of the pleasant surprises in this quilt was realizing that the blocks using pastels are my favorites. I am not a pastel person. I had a little pink and a little blue in my solid bin -- to be honest, I'm not totally sure how they got there as those aren't colors I regularly use or buy. Yet the middle two blocks in the quilts are the ones I love the most, perhaps because they make the purple pop.

This was a fun experiment. It ended up about 35" x 47" and I bound it in white as I didn't want to take anything away from the design itself. And I think more quilts like this are in my future. There's something about the raw simplicity that I find captivating to look at, again and again.


Half-and-Half, Or Thoughts on Confidence

>> Friday, December 24, 2010

I pieced this quilt top yesterday, and started quilting it last night. I resumed quilting what I'm calling "Kandinsky Squares" this morning. I decided to quilt large circles -- a first for me -- and that reminded me of Kandinsky's painting Farbstudie Quadrate (1913). I confess that I didn't know the name of the painting until just now; it was a common dorm room poster while I was in college, and I've seen it elsewhere since, but the name had escaped my attention or recollection.

I paused in the middle of quilting because I was listening to this talk by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, on "Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders." A friend had posted the link on, where else, facebook, and I like to listen to podcasts or watch internet TV while quilting. But Sandberg really got me thinking -- about my own education, about quilting, and about how I talk about both. And I had to pause, to record the thoughts that I knew would dissipate if I waited too long (PSA: listen to the talk. Regardless of whether you are pursuing a career or want to be an executive. It's an important message for everyone, female and male, to hear. The information is not new, but it's a well-packaged and funny 15 minute distillation of ideas in circulation).

Sandberg relays an anecdote from a college course that she took with a friend and her younger brother. While she and her friend walked out of the final exam lamenting what they hadn't achieved, her brother -- who she noted, had read all of one book and attended merely a few lectures -- announced that he would receive the highest grade in the class. He passed, he said, with flying colors. Whether he simply claimed that or actually believed it is not totally clear (and I could hear my younger brother, with whom I've never taken a class, make a similar statement). But that's not the point. The point is, of course, confidence.

While on break in college about a decade ago, I returned to my high school while my siblings were still there. My sister desperately wanted to leave and I was still chatting with a few people. A teacher I'd had in 7th grade and again in 11th grade laughed and recalled that my 7th grade self would never be casually talking to people for fun: I was silent in 7th grade, he had no idea if I knew anything until I did well on the first exam. Indeed, 7th grade Bible class terrified me; it was taught in Hebrew, I was less than confident in my Hebrew skills and shy to boot. By 11th grade, I was much more comfortable with language and speaking. Indeed, the academic realm now makes me quite comfortable. It's far easier for me to walk into a classroom and teach 25 students I've never met than walk into a party and converse comfrotably with 25 people I've never met.

How does this relate to quilting and blogging? While listening and guiding the quilt through my machine, I realized that I had been thinking about all the imperfections I would talk about in a blog post. It's easy to do: the circles are imperfect. And the imprecise circles are simply one flaw among others. But if Sandberg's brother (or my own) were to have made this quilt and then blog about it, they'd say it's awesome.

Because it is awesome.

I always have doubts about the quilts I make midway through the process. I stand at my ironing board and wonder, "Are these blocks really going to come together? Did I choose the right colors? Maybe I should have left that fabric out?" But in the end, I like what I make. The doubts are part of the process. From a blogging perspective, I think it's important to acknowledge those imperfections. Or to tell you that I don't baste my quilts every 2 inches, and I leave loose threads hanging out until I remove them later. Because I'm not a textbook quilter or a perfect one. But that's not the whole story.

Rae has organized a fantastic SE Michigan Crafters Meetup. Each time I've gone, I've been inspired by other people's work and learned some tricks of the trade. Each time people have complimented the work I do. Last time, someone asked me if I sold my quilts. Thus far, the answer has been no. I make them as gifts or donate them. But I've been thinking about selling some. And to sell effectively -- whether it's selling a product or an idea -- confidence is key. I want my work to be high quality, but maybe the imperfect circles are part of the design. Look back at Kandinsky: his painting has graced the walls of museums but also dorm rooms and waiting rooms. His circles were intentionally impressionistic, not precise. It worked for him, and it can work for me. Honesty matters and self-critique has a role. But both need to be productive, not destructive.


Back in the Workshop

>> Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I spent last night talking to friends and quilting -- a delightful combination. The semester has ended and I've reclaimed crafting time. I have a pile of quilts ready, or almost ready, to be bound, a number of projects in the cutting and piecing stage, and even more in my head. I'm going to spend the next week or so immersed in fabric, and I'm thrilled.

I remained in town over winter break last year and will do so again this year, albeit for different reasons. I don't celebrate Christmas so there's no rush home for me (and that can be truly a rush here as finals go through December 23 and some of my friends will administer exams tomorrow and then dash home while grading). This year, I'm gearing up for a temporary, albeit somewhat long, move back to the East Coast. I'll be doing research in DC, Philly, and NY over the next half year or thereabouts. This will be the first time I'll live in the DC area again since I left home for college, and my first sustained time on the East Coast since I graduated from college. I'm looking forward to this time but I also wanted time to decompress from the semester, to pack without pressure, and to take some true time off to refresh my brain before ramping up my work again.

I'll be taking my sewing machine with me, but I figured I should reduce the fabric stash a wee bit too. Time to dig in!

And if I don't post again before Friday, Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it.


Giveaway Winner

>> Friday, December 17, 2010

Wow, 393 entries! I'm sorry I can't send a little something to everyone, but please check out the tutorial for the loop bag. The random number generator pulled up #322, which corresponds to Kelly Sas. Congratulations Kelly! I'll send you an email to get your address.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!


Tutorial: Loop Bag

>> Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Loop Bag Tutorial

I was so pleased to hear how many of you are looking forward to this tutorial! It took me a little over an hour to make this while taking pictures and writing down steps, so it should be a quick bag for you to make. I've included detailed instructions and lots of pictures below in order to make this tutorial accessible for beginning sewers. More advanced sewers should be able to read through the steps quickly and probably won't need the pictures as a guide. I've provided the instructions for the basic bag, but there are innumerable ways to modify it -- different materials, contrast handles, embellishments such as trims or ric-rac, decorative stitching, etc. Have fun!

**This tutorial is for personal use ONLY.** 

The bag measures ~ 10.5"x7"x3".

Fabric Requirements:
1/3 yard quilting weight cotton (you'll have a bit left over)
11.5"x12.5" lightweight denim
lightweight interfacing (~20": wait to cut until step 5)
coordinating thread

*Note: I use a 1/4" inch seam except where noted otherwise.*

Cut your fabric
Take your 1/3 yard of fabric, trim the selvages, and cut it into the following pieces: 
(1) 12" x 18.5" (lining)
(2) 11.5" x 3.5" (exterior)
(1) 8"x 5" (short handle)
(1) 17" x 5" (long handle)
To maximize your fabric, first cut the 12" x 18.5" piece and set it aside. Cut the rest of the pieces out of the remaining fabric as follows:
Cut the 3.5" strip on the left first and then cut it in half. If it's not exactly 11.5", it's fine. You'll trim everything in a few steps. Then cut the 5" x 8" rectangle from the top, and then the 5" x 17" rectangle from the middle. These will become your handles.

Sew the bag exterior.
Sew the 11.5" x 3.5" fabric strips to both 11.5" sides of the denim panel.

Press the seams open.

Trim up your rectangle and measure it. 

It should be about 11.5" x 18.5". If it's a little bigger or smaller, that's fine. I suggest waiting to cut the interfacing so that you can make it the correct size for your rectangle.

Interface your bag exterior and handles.
Cut 3 pieces of interfacing: (1) 4.5" x 7.5"; (1) 4.5" x 16.5"; (1) 11" x 18" (or 1/2" less than the dimensions of your big rectangle).
Iron your interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric.

Make the handles. 
First fold the handle rectangles in half lengthwise and iron a crease.

Fold each edge toward the center and iron.

Fold both edges to the center and iron the strip -- it should be about 1.25" wide.

Finally, sew 1/8" from each side to hold the 1.25" strip in place.

Your handles, 1 short and 1 long, should look like this. Set them aside.

Sew the bag exterior and exteriors. 
Fold the exterior rectangle (denim + fabric) and lining rectangle in half with the short sides matching. 

Make sure to match the seams of the exterior rectangle.

Sew the sides of both the exterior and lining. Leave the top open.

Box the bottoms of the bag exterior and lining. 
There are many ways to do this, so feel free to use our preferred method. I make 1.75" boxes by marking 1.75" in from each side, drawing a line, and then sewing along that line. (The pictures show you the triangle from the perspective of the side seam; because there is no bottom seam, I like to sew with the side seam visible. However, box your corners in whatever way you prefer.)

I sew along the line twice to make it sturdier. Once you've sewn along the line, trim the outer triangles off (cut about 1/4" from the sewn line).
You should now have a boxed exterior and a boxed lining.

Put the bag together.
Take the exterior bag, and mark the center and 1" away from the center on each side. These marks will help you place the handles. (Ignore the numbers below: measure your bag and mark its center.)

Turn the lining right side out. Place the lining right side out into the exterior (which should stll be wrong side out). In other words, place the lining in the exterior right sides together. Match the side seams and pin them.

Place your handles in the bag (between the exterior and lining). Make a "U" with the handle to ensure it won't be twisted.
 Use the marks you've made on the exterior as a guide. Put the inside edge of respective left and right side of the handle at the marks 1" offset from the center. Pin the handles in place and pin the rest of the bag exterior to the lining.
Sew the exterior, lining, and handles together using a 1/2" seam allowance. You'll need to leave a gap through which to turn the bag. I usually start right before a handle and end just beyond the seam, leaving a 2" or so gap (the picture may illustrate this better).

Pull the lining, exterior, and handles through the gap.

You should now have a bag (make sure to place the lining inside the exterior). You're almost done. I like to press the top edge of the bag before top-stitching the bag closed.

Top stitch the top edge with a 1/8" seam allowance (on my sewing machine, I use the opening in my regular 1/4" foot as a guide).

Trim the thread and you've got yourself a lovely loop bag!


SMS Giveaway Day!

>> Sunday, December 12, 2010

In my last post, I showed you my new bags. What I didn't say was that I made a new one that matches the one on the right above, with the green Laura Gunn fabric! I opted not to take a picture in the snow, but this new bag + fun fabric scraps can be yours!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post. Please let me know if you're interested in fabric scraps and, if so, what your favorite colors are. If the bag winner isn't a sewer and doesn't want the fabric scraps, I'll hold another drawing for the fabric.

The fine prnt:
*One comment (entry) per person. Please make sure I can contact you via email.
*This giveaway is open to everyone; I will ship internationally.
*The giveaway will remain open until Friday, December 17 at 4 pm.
*The winner will be selected randomly.

I will be posting a tutorial for the bag soon, so stay tuned (and come back) if you want to make one yourself.   The tutorial is here.


Early to Rise

>> Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I blame the 2 cups of coffee I decided to consume yesterday afternoon. I've long known that I can't drink coffee after about 2 pm if I want to sleep at night, but coffee was calling my name yesterday afternoon. And it was quite helpful in making me more alert and thus helping get some work done. I even fell asleep. But I also woke up at 6 am, which is much earlier than I need to be up. And I really prefer to be sleeping. But I'm not, so I figured it was time for a blog post.

I've been waiting to post about these bags until I had a tutorial written up. I devised these fun little bags earlier this fall and have been making prototypes gifts out of them. The one above, for example, made its way into my friend Amanda's hands for he birthday. I've learned a lot from the generosity of other people's tutorials and want to give back. Consider this post a preview of a tutorial to come.

I made the scarf for my friend Claire last spring. I intended to make a coordinating bag then too, but somehow did not. So she received a very late birthday present, but it had two components. I do love this Amy Butler print.

See that magenta and orange fabric sticking out in the back? That bag now lives in lovely Vermont, with my friend Leah. And that front bag? I made it for myself. I finally cut into my Laura Gunn fabric stash. I admit I've been hoarding it, afraid to apply the wonders of rotary cutting lest I mess up. But I waded in, and love the fabric, especially next to the deep blue denim.

The bag intentionally has 2 different size handles, thus allowing the longer one to feed through the shorter one and "close" the bag. I've been using it for a month or so now, and rather like this feature. Also the bag can swing from your wrist, which I find enticing.

Sew Mama Sew's Annual Giveaway Day is next week, Monday, December 13 to be precise. There might just be a bag waiting for you. Perhaps some fabric too. Stay tuned!


Pop Quiz

>> Monday, December 6, 2010

In the week since I last posted, I have:
a) coughed my way through every day
b) worked until the wee hours of the morning
c) almost completed a quilt
d) consumed more latkes than one should
e) all of the above

I suppose I should have added "taken weird pictures, like the one above." The answer is, of course, e -- all of the above. I returned from Thanksgiving with a cold, which was an unfortunate way to start off December. The cold is gone, but the cough lingers. Last week also represented crunch time vis a vis schoolwork; the necessary work occurred, though not without some rather late nights/early mornings. I thought I was done with those about a decade ago when I was a newspaper editor in college, but I was wrong. I hope that I am asleep at 3 am for the foreseeable future.

Despite my coughing fits and work duties, I also plowed my way to an almost completed quilt over the past week. After living without access to my sewing machine and fabric stash, I needed to make something when I got back, and I had committed to the "100 Quilts for Christmas" project, so it was time to dig in and get started. I opted for a strip quilt, quite frankly because they come together easily.

I plunged into the (trendy) red + aqua combo. I had some moments of doubt, as it laid on my living room floor, mocking me as I stepped over it to close the curtains at night, but not getting much sewing done. Finally, this weekend I was able to spend real time with it, and transform it from a bunch of fabric strips into a quilt.

It's not quite done yet -- these pictures are intentionally misleading since I need to finish quilting about 1/3 of it. I had to pause yesterday to make and eat many many latkes (the 5th night of Chanukah and all). Also, I had to make and eat chocolate-y goodness (no relation to Chanukah). But holidays present opportunities and rationales for making bad-for-you-but-so-tasty treats like oreo (or, in my case, TJ's Joe-Joe) truffles. Make them: they're easy, delicious, and everyone will think you're a master chef/baker/culinary artist.

About that quilting, well, I hope to finish this one this week. It's a bigger quilt, for a bigger kid since I've read that there's often a need for items and gifts for older kids.


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