Pincushions!

One of the many fun things we do at the Modern Quilt Guild is swaps; everyone makes a small project, puts it in a paper bag, and puts it on a table. Then everyone picks a random bag so that they end up with someone else’s project. It’s fun to see what everyone comes up with, and you end up with something cute to take home! This month’s swap was pincushions, and I had a lot of fun following Yellow Spool‘s tutorial for this one with a cute embroidery hoop:

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The fabric is from a Michael Miller line called Just My Type (in “Letterpress”). I am somewhat obsessed with these prints at the moment; my love for Michael Miller’s cottons is well documented, and the colors are fantastic. I used a bunch of them for the hexie quilt (coincidentally they were just the colors I needed!) and have plans to make some modern baby quilts out of them soon – luckily my local fabric store has most of the prints in stock still. A fat quarter was more than enough to make this little guy, with enough left over for probably one more if I’m lucky. I was really tempted to keep it, but I’m glad I decided to swap, because I got the cutest strawberry!

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It was made by the lovely and talented Kam (she blogs over at http://www.needleplusthread.com and you should go visit). I just got my strawberry patch in a few days ago, so it was good timing! I also love that it’s hanging; I have a little row of hooks that sits just to my left when I sew, and this is perfect to hang off of one of them for easy pin access.

While I was at it, I made a second pincushion that goes over the wrist, to wear when I hand sew. I wasn’t sure if this was a thing other people would want or need, so I didn’t want to make one to swap until I’ve tested it out. I’ve been doing a lot of hand sewing lately, and have a really bad habit of sticking needles and pins into the arm of the couch. Not only is this bad for the couch, but not too long ago I managed to get a needle puncture to the wrist after bringing my hand down in the wrong spot. I’ve been trying to keep them in a bowl since then, but it’s a pain to have to reach over every time I need a pin or a place to put my needle temporarily. I’m pretty much constantly finding needles in the laundry that have fallen off of shirts I’ve stuck them into, so I’m hoping this eliminates that problem!

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This print is a fabulous one from Timeless Treasures called Adult Novelty (in Sewing Machines). It has a bunch of sewing machines from different decades, in really bright colors; this one is one of the 1930s ones. It was pretty simple to make, although I think next time I’ll put some cardboard in the bottom to make sure nothing sharp gets through. I’ve been using it for a couple of days though, and so far no puncture wounds for either me or the couch :P.

If you’re curious about what goes on at the guild (or want to join!), you can see more over at the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild’s Instagram feed or visit the blog, where there’s lots of pictures and information!

MQG Name Tag!

At our last meeting, I got my official Modern Quilt Guild membership card (yay!). I also got a scrap of logo fabric and a pin, to make my very own name tag out of. I would love to claim that this was all I was waiting for to get started on this project…but I think everyone knows me better than that by now. Our next meeting is next week, though, so I thought I should probably get cracking, and this is what I came up with:

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I didn’t really have any idea what this was going to look like when I sat down to do it, and I started pulling scraps, since it’s a small project. While I was digging around in my drawers, I came across the jelly roll of Comma (by Zen Chic for Moda) that I’ve been hoarding since Christmas, waiting for the perfect project. Obviously, this was not going to take the whole jelly roll, unless I wanted a name tag that would also keep me warm, but I pulled some of my favorite colors. Rita over at Red Pepper Quilts posted a good run down of this line, and informs me that the green on cream fabric is called Swinging. The green with the commas is called, weirdly enough, Commmas, and the gray on cream is called Asteriks. I’m not sure if this line is still available, but I love the bold colors and graphics – perfect for modern quilters.

For the bottom part, I used a paper piecing pattern from a new book called Vintage Quilt Revival. This book is fantastic; every block is really pretty, and I want to make all the projects at some point. I think the sampler quilt from the front is destined to live on our guest bed someday. I used just two of the Geometric Star pattern, and printed it at 60% size so my tag wouldn’t be too big.

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For the back I used a bit of navy fabric I had left over from the Hexie quilt, which I’m almost positive is from Riley Blake. The letters in my name and the randomly added purple octopus (which is there for absolutely no reason other than to make me happy) are from the book Doodle Stitching: The Motif Collection. Most of you probably already know who Aimee Ray is, but if you’ve never seen her patterns, get over to her website right away. One of the things I love about both of these books is that they came with CDs to load the patterns onto your computer, which makes it really easy to combine patterns and resize things.

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When it came to the lanyard part, I made it up as I went, mostly because I didn’t want to get up and search for a pattern. It’s made of the leftover strips of fabric, sewn into a tube, turned right side out, and seamed on both sides. I just sewed it to the back; I don’t have a ton of need for a lanyard in my daily life and it’s unlikely to leave my tag anyway, so it didn’t really need to be removable.

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And for the last piece…my MQG pin!

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The only downside is that now I have to wait five whole days to wear it and show off my handiwork…I may just wear it around the house in the meantime :P.

Buried Treasure

I’ve finally unpacked the last of my craft room boxes (it only took 8 months!) and I found some buried treasure that I thought I’d share. First up, a couple of really special quilt tops:

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My grandmother was a quilter, and this is one of a few quilt tops that she gave me several years ago. She had largely stopped quilting at that point, and I had just started. I had them out in my room for a while, but felt much too intimidated to even know were to start quilting them, and eventually they got put away for space reasons. This one is all hand turned and appliquéd, with beautiful golden birds and indigo clouds.

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It’s quite long, and I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to keep it tapestry length, or cut it into two pieces to make a blanket. It would be the perfect size for a baby blanket, and as my grandmother is no longer with us, I like the idea of making our (eventual) baby something that she started.

The other quilt top from her is more of a lap size:

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Again, it’s all hand quilted patchwork. I think when I do quilt these, I’ll hand quilt them, maybe with a bit of machine stitching in the ditch to stabilize it. I’m just now, some 5 or 6 years later, feeling confident enough in both of these skills to feel like I’ll do them justice.  I’m really glad that I didn’t just use these as practice projects, and I think they’ll be beautiful with some careful planning.

Next up is an apron that I bought on sale right after my husband and I moved in together. It seemed like a good idea to have a cute apron for our brand new kitchen, and this one had a cupcake already drawn onto it (it was a kit, I think from Martha Stewart), so it seemed like an easy project. And it was…3 years later. I found it in the boxes and finally stitched it up, which took about an hour and made me feel really dumb for not just doing it sooner!

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I also found a baby bunting that I made from a Debbie Bliss pattern:

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This was one of my first knitting projects, and you can tell that I wasn’t so good at seams yet. It’s also made out of wool, which is not exactly the most practical yarn for a baby garment, but at least it’s warm! I think I’ll redo the seams and add snaps in the enclosure rather than velcro, but then it can go to a new home.

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And last but not least, not something I made, but treasure all the same:

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This was made for me when I was a baby, and was in my room for my whole childhood. It came with me when I moved out on my own, and has lived in whatever space I used for sewing for the last few years.  It’s looking a little worse for the wear, admittedly, but I still love it, and it’s been restored to it’s proper place above my craft desk.

So there you have it, my version of buried treasure! Pretty sure I would have been an excellent pirate :P.

Chicken Update 2!

It’s been a while since I posted a chicken update, and I know you’re all dying to know how they are, so I thought it was about time for some pictures. Our ladies are 7 months old next week, and they’ve all officially started laying.

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Cleo, the Ameraucana, lays the tealy/green eggs. Here she is, caught in the act:

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She has the prettiest feather coloring, but is definitely the most skittish of the three. She was the first to start laying, at right about six months.

Bea, the Rhode Island Red, was the second to start laying. Hers are the light pink (yes, pink!) eggs. She’s having  little drink right here; chickens drink by taking up a bit of water, then tilting their heads back and moving their beaks to get the water down their throats.

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Addie, the Buff Orpington, was the runt of the litter and the last to start laying, but is making up for lost time. She’s now the fluffiest, and the most vocal after she lays.

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They’re not shy about letting me know if I’m taking too long to let them out in the coop, and they’ll squawk and peck at the door until I open it. Then it’s on to say good morning to the bunny! They do this every morning – cruise right by the coop, give her a little sniff and coo, and then continue on to checking the yard for anything new.

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We’ve been getting the garden ready for new planting, so there’s lots of turned soil in the yard right now, and their new favorite activity is digging holes and hunting for worms.

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Right now it’s working in our favor; they’re helping turn the soil and fertilizing away, so I should have very nice planting dirt. Once we actually put things in, though, we’ll have to put up netting to keep them out of the beds. We’ve already learned the lesson the hard way, as they totally destroyed a raspberry bush we put in.

I never expected to have so much fun raising chickens, but they are incredibly entertaining and surprisingly sweet. They’re very attached to me, so whenever I’m in the yard, they follow me around, and recently Bea and Addie have started letting us pick them up. In fact, most times I go outside, if I don’t pick Bea up or at least pet her to say hello, she will holler at me until I give in!

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They do a funny thing that I’ve been calling “getting ready for liftoff” where when they see you coming, they squat low to the ground and stick their wings out a bit, then let you pet them or pick them up. I thought it was just a weird thing our chickens did, but after some googling, I found out that this is actually a really common behavior. Apparently, once hens start laying, they start the squatting thing as a submissive behavior – basically telling you you’re the boss (normally they would be doing this for a rooster, but we don’t have one, so they’ll do it for whoever they see as the leader of their flock).

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The only problem we have now is that we’re now getting a dozen or more eggs in a week, which is way more than we can possibly hope to eat!

Couch Pillow from a button down shirt

Sorry for the lack of postings last week; my husband and I both came down with a slight plague and not much got done around here. I’m still recovering, but I did get a project done that’s been on my table for a while:

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This pillow started out life as a men’s button down shirt:

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The shirt is basically synthetic fabric, so I wasn’t wild about making it into something to wear, but I really loved the color. We also recently upgraded our bedroom pillows, so we have a bunch of extra pillows hanging out, and I decided to turn one of them and the shirt it into another couch pillow.

For some reason I always think it’s easier to not measure anything (this inevitably leads to having to redo stuff, but I always manage to forget that), so I just traced the pillow I was using with some tailor’s chalk, keeping the buttons in the middle (I had previously removed the pocket, since I thought it would look weird sideways).

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This pillow is slightly smaller and more dense than a regular head pillow; since it was being repurposed from the bedroom to the couch, I packed the feathers a little more tightly and re-sewed one end. Once I had it marked, I just sewed four straight seams and cut away the rest of the shirt.

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Now, you may notice that the corners bow out quite a bit; after trying it on the pillow, it made the corners too pointy, so I ended up going back and making the lines more straight. I could have avoided this by measuring or following a pattern, but it didn’t end up taking too long to fix, so I can’t really complain that much. The nice thing about keeping the buttons is that it’s a built in place to insert the pillow, so no envelope opening or zippers needed.

It was an easy, quick update, matches the decor in our living room, and looks great with the existing pillows (I am obsessed with the purple and teal color combo, as my husband will attest). If you’ve got old clothes you’ve been saving, this is a great way to use them up!

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Polka dots and flannel baby quilt

Today I have a quick little project that turned out great:

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The brown fabric was a heavy cotton that’s been in my stash for a while; originally it was going to be a skirt, but there wasn’t quite enough of it to go around. The flannel baby print was a remnant that I picked up on sale somewhere. I’ve been trying to evaluate my fabric stash and use up the odds and ends to make room, and I have no idea why I didn’t see that these two would be perfect together sooner.

I wanted a quick project and didn’t particularly want to hand bind (I’m hand stitching a lot of the Hexie quilt so I’m a bit on overload as far as hand sewing goes), so I just sewed the pieces together with the right sides together and quilt batting on one side, then turned it right side out through a little gap.  I topstitched with Mettler thread in a dark chocolate color, and I’m really happy with how even and straight my walking foot is getting my stitches these days.

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Here’s the part I’m really excited about, though: I’ve been practicing my free motioning (I’ve been doing a bunch of tutorials from Leah Day over at the Free Motion Quilting Project, but I haven’t been brave enough to show any yet!) and I decided to free form letters on this one. I used my darning foot to write “love” in cursive a few times, and it turned out really cute.

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It’s harder to see in this one, but this is how it looks full length.

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You can’t really see it at all on the back, but that’s okay since the writing would be backwards :P.

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I think next time I’ll do smaller writing closer together, so that it’s a little more densely quilted, but it worked out well for an experiment! If you like it, this quilt is available in my Etsy store :).

And since it’s been a while, here’s Penny the bunny hopping over to give it her sniff of approval :).

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Riley Blake Challenge Quilt (“Aquatic”)

I mentioned a little while ago that I was doing another challenge with the Modern Quilt Guild, and I finally finished it with a day to spare on the deadline! The challenge was to use different Riley Blake “basic” cotton fabrics (provided by Riley Blake and distributed by the guild) to make anything you wanted, as long as it was quilted. You could add in any other Riley Blake print, or any other solid (by any company) that you wanted. This is what I came up with:

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I got a Quick Curve ruler for Christmas, and after procrastinating for way too long, I decided to put it to use. I sewed strips of each fabric together, then used the Quick Curve to cut the crescents. Let me just say, I love this ruler. I got it for a wedding ring pattern I’m doing (more to come on that), but it’s incredibly versatile for other patterns and I’ll definitely be experimenting with it more.

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After each crescent was cut, I used the appliqué method from my Binary Rain Quilt to hand stitch them into a sort of trail. The background fabric is just one big piece of cotton. For the quilting, I traced the trail in lines that got progressively further apart; this was my husband’s suggestion and it turned out great. It’s very different from my usual impulse to quilt things really densely, and I think it looks like waves or ripples. 

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I used my new walking foot (which I finally figured out how to install correctly) to quilt the curves, and I was pleasantly surprised with how even the stitches turned out…I guess it deserves all that hype! The thread is Mettler Silk Finish, which I think may be my favorite to quilt with. It makes such smooth stitches and is really pretty all by itself. I even love how the back turned out.

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The binding is a dark navy satin. I’ve never bound a quilt in satin and I’m not sure how I feel about it on this particular quilt, but I think it would be nice on a baby quilt. I may change the binding at some point if it really starts to bother me, but overall I’m really happy with it. I’m calling it “Aquatic” because the trail reminds me of the path that our aquarium snail makes when he wanders around on the side of the tank, and for the ripple effect of the quilting. You can see some examples of other great things made out of these same fabrics over at the Modern Quilt Guild blog, or by searching twitter for #mqgrileyblakechallenge, and if you must have the one that I made, it’s for sale over at my Etsy shop!

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Fabric bins

I’ve had this tutorial from Birch Fabrics on my “to do” list for a while now, and I decided that my mother-in-law’s birthday was the perfect opportunity to try it out. Leslie is an artist, and I figured those of us who make things always need ways to store our supplies. I think they came out pretty well, although they don’t look much like the original!

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They’re super easy to make; you cut out two of each template in both your outside and lining fabrics (there’s also an option to make it in a continuous piece). For my outside lining I used some teal cotton broadcloth, and for the lining I used some of my precious stash of Stella Dot.

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In between the lining and the outside, there’s some decor weight interfacing. I’ve only ever used apparel interfacing, so I was a little skeptical about how well they would actually stand up, but I was pleasantly surprised by how sturdy they turned out. Then you just sew some seams and turn down the tops, and you’re done!

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They even stack well, in case you need to store them to save some space.

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This was a great project; I highly recommend it and will be making some more for me!

Glassblowing!

My husband is incredibly difficult to buy presents for. He’s the kind of person that buys things he’s interested in when they come out, so Christmas and birthdays are always tough. This last birthday was no exception, but a couple of weeks before, Groupon had a deal for an introductory glassblowing lesson. We used to live right next to the place offering it, Seattle Glassblowing, and for the whole year we lived there, we swore up and down we were going to take one of the classes…but it never actually happened. So, we bought one for his birthday and finally scheduled the class right before Christmas, and we loved it so much we’re going back as soon as we can!

Kyle made an ornament (which he gave to his mom) and I made a bowl (which we kept), and I thought I’d share some of the photos. I apologize for the quality on some of them; I forgot to bring my actual camera so we were using cell phones. This was a really hands on lesson – the instructor gathered the base glass and supervised, but we were allowed to control most of the process. Once he handed the pipe over, we got to gather the color.  Kyle did a red, white, and green swirl, and mine was purple.

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The thing that surprised me the most was that the pipe was really heavy; in hindsight I should have seen that coming, since the thing is made out of lead. In any case, I needed a little help with getting the color even on mine, because I had a hard time getting it up high enough to get the color on the bottom. Then it was into the fire to start melting the glass. The heat in the furnace at this point is about 2,000 °F, so there’s a shield that you sort of step behind, but you still get quite a lot of that heat coming at you.

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You gather color and reheat a few times, and then it’s on to the actual blowing part of glassblowing. The pipe is hollow, and the instructor described it to us as being like blowing a bubble when you chew gum. You don’t have to blow hard, it’s more about being steady. The instructor rolled the pipe for us while we blew, since it takes a lot of coordination to do both. This photo is the ornament; you can see that he’s using the giant tweezers (I’m very sure that there’s an actual name for these, but I don’t know what it is) to shape the top of it.

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The piece is reheated a few times during this process to keep the glass malleable. Mine had an extra step, since my bowl was made by sinking the middle (you’ll see in later pictures); I had to suck a little bit of air in to collapse the middle. At the very end, he takes an iron stick that sits in a bucket of cold water to make little perforations at the top of the piece, almost like when you get a paper bill that you tear off, and the lead pipe is hit really hard to get the glass off of it. Then the instructor added the holder at the top that will enable it to hang – you can see that the glass is starting to cool and the colors are getting darker.

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After this, they go into a different furnace that gradually cools the pieces. If they cool to quickly, the glass will break – in fact, they tell you when you sign up that there’s a possibility that they will break even with the gradual cooling. Luckily, this didn’t happen to us, and a few days later we picked up our beautiful projects. I forgot to get a good picture of the finished ornament, but here’s the bowl I made:

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It’s the perfect size to hold pins and things on my side table (the paperclips are from my hexie project).

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We’re lucky enough to have a lot of glassblowing studios near us (Seattle is the home of Dale Chihuly and many other amazing glass artists), so it may be a bit tougher to find where you live, but it’s so worth it and I highly recommend it!

Feathernest Raglan

Remember the Simply Marilyn sweater? Let me refresh your memory:

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Well…it’s been frogged. You see, it was already a bit big to begin with, and I’ve lost some weight in the last few months, so a bit big turned into a lot big. This particular pattern is difficult to alter after the sweater is all done, so I either had to frog it and redo the same sweater, or frog it and use the yarn for a different sweater. After wearing this one for a few months, I had a couple of issues with it; one, the neckline tends to slip way too far down. I think this is partly a function of how big it was on me, but I think it was also partly the way that the cowl part is knit. The other issue was that it was just too warm! We don’t get super cold winters here in Seattle to begin with, and it seems like it’s been warmer than normal lately, so doubling up the yarn was maybe not the best choice.

I made my one of my sisters in law the Feathernest Raglan for Christmas, and I loved this pattern. I made hers in a green (this is obviously an in progress shot).

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I was really happy with how her sweater turned out; the short row collar is genius, and the shaping is very subtle but makes sure it drapes beautifully. I’ve been meaning to make one for me, and I really do love the wine color of this yarn, so I decided that the frogged yarn will now be a Feathernest for me!

This is my progress after a couple of days (it’s knit from the top down).

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The yarn is pretty crinkly, but that should block out. The pattern is easy to get down once you’ve done a few rounds, but the short row collar takes some effort, and working the increased stitches into the pattern is tricky, so that’s something to keep in mind if you’re wanting a simple knit.

And…I’ll probably have enough yarn for two sweaters :P.