To be a bit cliché, this shoemaker is a professional Web Developer and her child is this blog, but it was past time to launch what I have of a new design. All the content is still here, everything else is a work in progress (kind of like most of my sewing projects)!
There are days I’m incredibly grateful that my first attempts at quilting didn’t scare me off forever. Case in point, my very first ever quilt project. I decided to make up my own bed-sized pattern using two different versions of the Altar Steps block that are both pretty fiddly (one had set-in seams, people. I don’t even like those now!), using fabric purchased from a box-store that shifted all over the place. It was a recipe for disaster.
Somehow, I managed to complete 10 blocks (nine of one, one of the other), although there’s about a 1″ difference in size between them all. I clearly hadn’t read about chain piecing, judging by thread tails. I cut things incorrectly but still used them. I really have no idea what I was thinking. At some point, I came to my senses and moved on to a different project.
In my effort to clear out old works in progress (for fear of being that quilter who has 20-year-old unfinished projects hoarded away in corners of their home—not that there’s anything wrong with that if you’re so inclined, it’s just not a good thing for me, personally—, I pulled out the blocks and decided to do something with it all. My self-imposed restraints: use up as much of the uncut yardage as possible, use all ten blocks, and don’t purchase any new supplies (no quilting thread, no batting, no backing—all stash).
I knew from the start that there was no way I’d actually make the originally planned quilt—not with these cheap, poorly cut, questionably coordinating fabrics. I also knew that I wanted to do something fast so that I could move on to a project I was in love with, not just in love with the idea of getting out of my sewing and head space.
With wide sashing and overly large borders, I managed to use up most of the yardage, a small chunk of pieces that had been cut out (mostly the flowered 5″ squares and yellow strips), and nine of the blocks. The remaining yardage, block, and a few additional scraps made it onto the back and into the binding. The quilt finished at 54″ x 68″—a very respectable throw size, considering what I was working with.
I backed it with the second sheet of the set I used when making the Bird’s Nest quilt, plus a strip of piecing. I used 80/20 batting, since that’s what would work from my stash (I only had to piece it once). This is the first time I’ve gone directly from quilting 100% cotton to 80/20 the next day, and I did notice a pretty clear difference in loft while quilting: the 80/20 is not nearly as flat. I think I would have preferred 100% cotton for this particular quilt, but it washed up beautifully in the end.
It’s quilted using a blown-up, much less well-controlled version of the “Flourish” design from the book Step-by-Step Free Motion Quilting by Christina Cameli (thanks Mom). The center is quilted using two similar light yellow cotton threads (because I didn’t have enough of one for the whole thing), while the borders (roughly) are quilted using a light blue (I had about 18″ left on the spool when I finished—talk about cutting it close). The bobbins are a mix of yellow and whatever light beige I had on hand in quantity. I used up the last of the yellow blender and a few more cut pieces as binding, finished by machine.
Five years and 36 other quilts later, it feels great to have a finished project made from those very first blocks along with a stash that is three yards of fabric (that aren’t my style) and a sheet lighter. A part of me looks at this and asks “could I have done something more edgy, more modern, more creative, more my style,” but another part is happy to have something that went from boxed in pieces to pieced and basted in under a week. There will always be another project to be more innovative with.
Now to decide if the quilt needs a home or should stay at mine.
For a time in 2011, I took Flamenco lessons. I’m mostly uncoordinated and soon decided to devote more time to my other fledgling hobby (quilting!), but was inspired to design this quilt. The design and fabric went hand-in-hand: I found the border print and designed the quilt around it. After building it out in Illustrator, I decided it needed ruffles—a decision that stymied immediate progress as I debated buying a ruffling foot or doing it all by hand.
Fast forward to 2015: the fabrics were tucked away in a box, I’d since bought a ruffling foot for other projects, and my quilting aesthetic has shifted away from the quilt design and the style of the fabrics. I decided to make the quilt anyway, mostly to play with ruffles and to mark one more unfinished project off the list (and reduce my stash at the same time).
The center medallion piecing is all straightforward pinwheels and flying geese, with a bit of machine applique added to the sashing (raw-edge via Steam-a-Seam 2 Lite, sewn with a ‘hand look’ applique stitch on my machine) . Instead of a plain inner border, however, there’s a ruffle—because what is a Flamenco-inspired anything without ruffles?
To make the 3″ ruffled inner border, I cut 3.75″ x width-of-fabric strips, sewed two strips together with a flat-felled seam, used a rolled-hem foot to finish one side, then gathered it all with the ruffling foot using a standard stitch length (2.5 on my machine) and a tuck every 6 stitches. Once ruffled, I pressed it all to keep the pleats in place, then sewed the ruffle and a 3.5″ strip of background fabric to the medallion. Because ruffles are a bit hard to predict length for, I made sure mine were longer than I needed and used the exactly-cut background fabric (35.5″ long) to measure and gauge length as I sewed the seam. I mitered the corners of the inner border, trapping the ruffles there, mostly because it was an easy solution to handling the corners and I liked how it looked.
The outer border uses strips of a border print, finished with mitered corners. I planned on adding another ruffle after the printed border just like the inner one with a background strip below, and then a final binding ruffle. But, when I attached the first side of this outer riffle, I found that the cheap border print fabric bunched and pulled far too much, so modified my plan to just use a ruffle on the binding. It worked out fine, and saved me having to purchase another 1.5yds of black for the second ruffle (they sure do eat up fabric!).
The back is pieced together from leftover border print. I must have purchased what I did with that plan in mind, as I had the perfect amount. The quilting is a mix of Gutermann 100% Cotton thread in black and white, with Pellon Eco 70/30 as batting. I free motion quilted a mix of pebbles, stitches in ditches, vines and leaves based off the center square motif, little loops, and echoed the printed design in the outer border. It’s bound in the leftovers of the fabric I used to fussy cut the center square, and has a 6″ ruffle attached.
At 47″ square (+ 12″ of ruffle), this can either be a large wall-hanging or a kid quilt. I don’t know where it’ll end up, yet, but it feels great to cross another unfinished project off the list.
Known fabric list: Michael Miller Fairy Frost and Rouge et Noir Petals; Windham Toni Floral Toss; Springs Creative Saroya Lace Stripe and Saroya Abstract; Free Spirit Black Solid.
We’re heading off on a week and a half-long vacation, first delivering this quilt in NY and visiting Carl’s family, then on to MO to visit my family. Forgive the photos, as we took them the night before leaving on our trip. Hope you’re having a wonderful time celebrating the holidays!
If I’m going to stick to a formulaic fabric selection, I thought I should at least mix up the shapes I’m using. However, a condensed timeline dictated simplicity, so I stuck with squares and rectangles. This stack of six fat quarters from Daisy Cottage; fat quarters of a generic pink solid, Kona Sunflower, and Fairy Frost in snow; and a yard of Essex Yarn Dyed in Flax went together quickly, but the values in the fabrics didn’t work out as well as the stack of blues and greens for the layout I used in Mustang Summing, so I mixed up the layout.
The result is a message to our new niece spelled out in Morse code, with the yarn dyed serving as spacers between letters and words. The whole thing is built on a 4″ finished grid, as I started with 4.5″ strips cut down into squares, 8.5″ rectangles, and 12.5″ rectangles. It finishes at 48″x56″.
I feel bad admitting this, since the quilt became a gift (sorry, V!), but I had such a hard time focusing on this quilt. I cut the fabric into strips soon after finishing Mustang Summing, but kept procrastinating on starting. Originally, I was going to make an equilateral triangle quilt. Then we found out a new niece was being added to the family, so it became her quilt. It took until the day she was born for the idea of Morse code to inspire me. Maybe I was just holding out for the spark.
The back is nice and soft, courtesy Minky in the Dynasty pattern, oyster color (although the quilting hides the pattern). There’s low-loft cotton in the middle, as usual. I quilted it in an all-over swirl using Aurifil thread that I picked up from the local quilt shop. I forgot how much my machine loves this thread. The binding is a print from Brambleberry Ridge by Violet Craft.
Since I didn’t expect to finish any more quilts in 2014, I didn’t have any labels to put on this one. For now, there’s a handwritten one on the front. Perhaps I’ll have to add another in the coming months once I order more.
I hope the size of this can grow with her and keep her warm for years. Now I need to get started on quilts for her siblings!
Two things burrowed their way into my subconscious during six months of not quilting this year: all the plus quilts floating around blogland / Pinterest and the new kids on the fabric block, Cotton+Steel. It shouldn’t surprise me that I brought home a fat quarter pack from the local quilt shop comprising prints from Cotton+Steel (and coordinating solids, a coordinating Cloud9 print), nor that my brain immediately thought “plus quilt”! Add in a yard of Olive Essex Yarn Dyed linen/cotton blend, et voilà: Mustang Summing.
I sketched out the layout in Illustrator, aiming for something in the 50″ range on each side, moving things around until I was happy. The arrangement that looked right used 4.5″ unfinished squares, making the quilt 48″x56″. In hindsight, I could have used 5″ squares with the fabric I had, but I have a serious problem about miscalculating the number of squares from fat quarters.
In software engineering, we say that good programmers are lazy programmers—good code doesn’t have tedious, repetitive sections because we generalize things to save typing, and automate anything we can. In quilting, I often think the adage is inverse—a good quilter is masochistic and likes using as many small pieces as possible in repetitive ways. More often than not, the engineer in me wins out. I used two 4.5″ squares and a 12.5″ rectangle for each plus rather than make them entirely from squares (except for the three that I cut wrong, which are five squares). Less cutting and less seaming makes piecing more efficient. If only I could automate the cutting with technology I have at home.
I love the warm brown/olive tone in the Essex Yarn Dyed (and how it blends into a warm gray from a distance), and let that guide my choice of quilting threads—a heavyweight russet Gutermann poly thread. I kept the quilting simple, echoing the seams, with Nature’s Touch White batting in the middle.
It took a while to solve the problem of backing and binding. The first backing yardage I purchased was too cool, the scraps from the top too few, and nothing in my stash inspired me. I finally settled on another yard dyed linen, mixed with a column of strips leftover from the top. I settled on a plain blue solid (Kona Nightfall) from the stash to bind it.
With this finish, I’ve completed more quilts this year than I did in 2013, despite not quilting for six months. Things go so much more quickly when I actually complete everything I start! As of now, the only unfinished project I’ve started this year is a corset that I spent a few hours on back in May. Not too shabby.
“Mustang Sally” was stuck in my head the entire time I worked on this quilt. Thus the name, if you can make the same mental leap I seemed to do.
Thine arms are ever warm,
Thine arms are ever warm.
Memory still shall close enfold,
Bringing us joys of days of yore;
Faith shall thy constant fame uphold,
While years, Carissima, grow cold.
We love thee evermore, We love thee evermore.
Like most residential college students, I lived in school t-shirts while pursuing my undergrad degree. Then, as I moved along in my professional career, I found myself wearing them less often (hastened by the fact that I lived a mere 15 minutes away from my alma mater). When we packed for our move to Vermont (downsizing in the process), I refused to move the bag of shirts yet again so, I spent some time one afternoon fusing on interfacing and cutting the shirts into future quilt pieces. Those took up far less room in packing boxes.
Now—eighteen months later—it took just a single evening to piece them into a quilt top. All told there are 21 shirts represented (some with multiple squares depending on their print design).
It’s a partially-complete capsule of my four years—music, dorms, publications, social justice, just plain social, and a summer internship that set me on the road to my career. I even designed a couple of the shirts (and countless posters, event invitations, and publication layouts). It’s oddly lacking in reference to my major (I still wear our hoodie) or the on-campus internship that ate up over 20 hours of every week (and a few summers).
For backing, I spray-basted two layers of fleece in the school colors (“buff & blue”, or in this case Joann Fabrics Anti-Pill Fleece in Camel and Navy Blue Tartan), then sewed the outline of an ‘H’ shaped after the official logotype. After cutting out the top layer inside the ‘H’, I zig-zag stitched around the cut out to secure it before basting the top to the two layers of fleece. Eagle-eyed readers will notice it’s slightly narrower than square; I trimmed off an inch from both sides so that I didn’t need to piece the 58″-wide backing fleece.
I chose to hand tie the quilt rather than machine quilt it for no reason other than wanting to tie a quilt. Again, I went with the school colors, using embroidery floss I had at home (DMC colors 842 and 823, inherited from my grandma). It was not easy pulling two full-thickness strands of embroidery floss through the layers, but a few TV marathon sessions (a habit started in college) and a few large tapestry needles got me through.
In my haste to finish it, I made a rookie mistake of using unwashed cotton binding (Moda Bella Solid Royal), which shrank in the wash. It’s usually not an issue—I don’t prewash fabrics so they all shrink together, but well-worn t-shirts are another matter. The result is a slightly rumpled edge and corners that like to turn up. It just adds more character in a memento of four years full of it. I’m looking forward to cozying up with this during my second Vermont winter. With two layers of fleece, it’s quite warm!
I hope you’ll forgive me for delaying this post for a couple weeks for photo purposes. It seemed fitting to wait until we drove back to Utica for a weekend, giving us a chance to take photos on “The Hill” where it all started. The weather didn’t cooperate, but it certainly brought back memories. Also, there’s no small amount of irony that the Dark Side tee anchors the quilt (as well it should, considering my dorm choices for three years), yet we took all of the photos on the light side of campus. It fits.
Early in my quilting adventures, I was guilty of starting many more projects than I finished. Case in point: this quilt started life in April 2011, but a block disappeared as I was piecing them into rows and I quickly moved on to newer, shinier projects. In the 43 months between then and now, the almost-completed top and its scrap fabric have migrated from box to bin to box, apartment to house to apartment. So consigned to oblivion, it wasn’t even mentioned in the unfinished projects lists in my yearly review posts of 2012 and 2013.
I started the top shortly after buying a Jellie roll and the book Two from One Jelly Roll Quilts by Pam and Nicky Lintott. It’s made from alternating 6″ nine patches and snowball blocks, using 2.5″ strips and a background fabric for the snowball (in this case a Target cotton sheet set clearance buy). After one of the blocks went missing, I bought a charm pack of the fabric with which to recreate the stray block, but never followed through on piecing it.
The host of unfinished projects in my sewing closet has lately become mental as well as physical clutter, demanding commitment. I unboxed this one while considering co-opting the backing fabric for another quilt you’ll see soon. Instead, I finished piecing it while waiting for a different fabric to ship for the other quilt. When I opened the box, the missing block was there on top—found and again forgotten at some point over the years. A few seams, two borders (most of which were already pieced), and it was done in the span of an hour. I’m glad it was a simple quilt design; I de-stashed the book a year or two ago.
To fit the bird nest theme, I used a stashed embroidery quilting bird motif to quilt some of the snowball blocks and two of the corners. The rest of the blocks are quilted with an all-over swirl design, the borders feathered. The sheeting fabric was somewhat difficult to quilt as it didn’t glide over my machine like quilter’s cotton does, but my free-motion skills aren’t perfect anyhow. All the free motion made for quick work—it went from basted to quilted in a single evening.
And so my sixth quilt start became my thirty-second quilt finish. Working with the older piecing, I could tell how my skills have improved—small betterments became a substantial change that I hadn’t otherwise noticed. There’s also something to be said for ease of working with high-quality fabric instead of the cheap stuff this is made of.
In the end, I didn’t need that charm pack at all, although a few charms made it into the binding when I found myself short on the brown texture. Perhaps I’ll make a pillow or two to match—I still have an entire twin sheet plus scraps of the background and backing fabric. Regardless of its future, it feels great to recover the storage space and knock another unfinished project off the list.
In the realm of quilting, this is hardly an “old” project to finally finish. What’s the oldest project you’ve ever dug out of a box and finished up?
In 2012, I participated in a monthly sampler group at one of the quilt shops in Utica. I kept up with the block piecing during the course of the sampler, but they’ve been languishing in a box ever since. I lost track of both the number of times I’ve sketched layouts for the twelve blocks and the layouts I liked, so the blocks sat unset and out of mind. Then, a need to carve out sewing time amidst wedding planning grew, culminating in a strike of inspiration for a simple layout for these blocks. So, out they came!
Although the layout eluded me, I knew I wanted to riff off the idea of road trips and asphalt. I gathered additional fabric for the quilt as I traveled that year, picking up the grey texture from Downtown (Windham Fabrics) along with white and yellow batiks to fit the road markings and asphalt idea. I realized later that there wasn’t nearly enough of the grey texture, so I purchased a length of Crackle (also Windham Fabrics).
The final layout mixes those two grays and a third mottled gray fat quarter from my stash in an arbitrary arrangement pieced to get the lengths needed from the fabric I had on hand. The chunks of different shades remind me of the patched roads in central Missouri that I spent so many hours on during summers of my childhood. While some kids played the “don’t step on the black tiles of checkerboard floors” game, I played the “don’t let my feet touch the floorboard over the clay-red road sections” game to amuse myself when the four of us were packed in the back seat of a Honda Prelude en route from Kansas City to the Lake of the Ozarks.
It took another few months before I had a chance to quilt it. The quilting is a mix of stitch in the ditch and free motion. I took inspiration from rumble strips for the road markings, tire tracks in the open spaces, some filler “cracks”, and free-motioned lines to fill in the rest of the space. The blocks are stitched in the ditch to not obscure the colors with the dark gray quilting thread (don’t look closely at my attempts to free motion stitch in the ditch with contrast thread, please!). Fairfield Quilters 80/20 batting provided a good quilting surface (and was the only thing I had to go out and purchase in 2014 to complete the quilt).
The backing started life as an XL twin duvet cover that I bought on clearance at Target a few years ago. I was disappointed when I unpackaged it and found that it had a gray back rather than the print on both sides. Even with the accompanying sham, there wasn’t enough printed fabric to piece the full back, so I left one of the seams in the duvet and called it good enough. Its origin seems quite fitting to the theme considering that I now have to road trip to shop there (oh how I miss thee, my clean, organized, red and white homie). Of course, the print fits too, considering the reliance on cassette tapes if one planned to have any music on those central MO trips.
It’s bound in a white batik that I bought intending to use in one of the other possible top layouts. I tried a new method of machine binding (sew to back, flip to front, secure), and am insanely happy with how it turned out. It’s almost perfect.
The final piece was a custom label I designed as we worked on the blocks and printed on one of my Spoonflower label orders last year. Throughout the course of the sampler, I found the community of quilters in Utica that I was so sad to leave. I hope I can find one here in Burlington soon. Just don’t tell them that the duvet cover backing is polyester (another thing I didn’t realize when I purchased it). That should stay our little secret.
One of my earliest stash purchases was a Rolie Polie of Indian Summer that I’ve been holding on to for the perfect project. Its day in the sun (or perhaps clouds, based on recent weather) has finally come in the form of a quilt for a newborn girl.
Because the Rolie Polie only had 23 strips, I had to add in one of a coordinating dot from my stash to finish up the strip sets needed for the 8″ blocks. To personalize the quilt, I did a reverse raw-edge applique of her first initial in one corner. The pale pink solid (exact type unknown) doesn’t stand out as much as I’d hoped in the curly, light typeface I used, but that’s okay. You can also see in that corner that I was one block short of the 25 needed for the quilt, so the very last one is pieced from two strip sets.
The piecing was a breeze but the quilting was not. I decided to try a new FMQ design (don’t scrutinize my sloppy first attempt!), so I used leftovers from the top to make a doll quilt/FMQ tester. The tension left something to be desired, but was good enough. Moving on to the quilt, I broke two needles. Then, my darning foot broke! I was able to finish up the quilting with my floating embroidery foot, but it was rather obnoxious and puts a kink in the progress of other projects.
The back is a Minky that came from my stash (actually, the result of an incorrect shipment when I ordered the paisley backing for the Peter Rabbit quilts. Thank you, Fabric.com for your great customer service). In between is a low-loft cotton, likely Pellon Nature’s Touch White or Warm & White—possibly even both, as it’s joined stashed pieces. The quilting was done with a Gutermann brown-to-cream variegated thread. It’s bound in a lime solid from stash.
A Minky giraffe made with backing leftovers completes the shipment. I tried something new with this round of Simplicity 2613 giraffe-making: the ossicones and neck-hair details are made with pinked fabric from the quilt. The ossicones especially worked out so well that I might continue using fabric in the future. As it was, it was a great way of eating up more scraps.
I hear that the Impressions Baby Quilt and stuffie that I sent her sister are well-loved possessions, so I hope that the baby comes to love her own set just as well.
It’s probably a bit gauche to mention this when the result is a gift, but this project was entirely from stash—fabric, batting, thread, giraffe eyes and stuffing, … everything. Go go gadget stash busting in 2014!
“There is something delicious about making the first stitches of a quilt. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” — Beatrix Quilter
When one must make two quilts in the same approximate timeframe as typically takes one, simplicity is key. At least, this is what I kept reminding myself when I felt that the basic layout I’d planned for these two quilts was too plain. I worked a bit outside of my comfort zone in terms of palette and style, but the parents chose to go with a Peter Rabbit theme for their nursery, and once I found a Beatrix Potter panel for sale, it seemed like a good idea to go with it. While basic, it’s also a more traditional layout than I’m used to.
“Thank goodness I was never sent to quilt school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.” — Beatrix Quilter
Of course, I couldn’t restrain myself and keep it entirely simple; it’s hard to tell in the photographs, but the brown strips surrounding the panel strips are gathered, giving them a bit of texture. It may have been better to make them wider (so it was more obvious), but I was limited in the amount of fabric I had to work with. That, actually, explains many of the design choices. I fabric shopped before deciding on the design (or perhaps you could say that I changed the design after fabric shopping), so there was a lot of give and take when I went to create the quilts.
“It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is soporific. With luck, the same cannot be said of quilting.” — Beatrix Quilter
The quilts are backed in paisley Minky, and have a layer of low-loft 80/20 batting inside (from stash scraps, so I’m not positive about the brand). The quilting is very basic—stitches in the ditches for the panel and brown strips, simple meander on the block sections—in a poly/cotton beige Gutermann thread. I am always amazed at how fast free-motion quilting goes; it took about the same amount of time to do all of the FMQ as it did the 12 straight lines across each quilt.
“No more twist binding!“ — Beatrix Quilter
Due in part to my aforementioned fabric conundrums and a desire to make the quilts ever a bit larger, I decided to try out a new binding technique and use the backing as self-binding. By cutting the batting 3.5″ larger than the top, I was able to support a thicker binding and gain an extra 1.75″ on each side of the quilt. Plus, it gives the front even more texture. The somewhat sparse quilting density kept the batting from shrinking all that much, and everything went together pretty well.
“Now run along, and do get into mischief.” — Beatrix Quilter
The two quilts have been shipped off to the twins, who were born in December. I hope they don’t get into too much mischief for now, but I bet their parents will be kept quite busy! Now off to get in more mischief myself, as I have another baby quilt to finish by next Friday.
When I made “Disappearing Seven Wonders” last year, I purchased far more fabric than I needed for that top—including prints from the green and orange colorways. When it came time to whip up something for my nephew’s 13th birthday, it was the perfect stack to pull out of my stash.
In the past, I’ve always precisely planned out my quilts. When I set out to do so with this one, I realized that while I needed to aim for a certain final dimension and thus height of the individual strips, the actual piecing didn’t have to be precise. So, I branched out in a new direction and played with impromptu piecing. I worked with 2.5″, 3.5″, and 5″ WOF strips and pieced the different sections without much planning at all. It was a fun exercise.
Sometimes I had to chop a bit off, or add a bit more to a strip, because they weren’t the right width for the quilt.
Because 2.5″ + 3.5″ is greater than 5″, I was able to trim down different sizes and mix up seams for an even more arbitrary layout. It all ended up creating a fun flow to the quilt, and a more interesting layout than my original thought of simple floating strips.
The backing is pieced from a Ty Pennington Impressions home dec print and leftovers from the front.
Although this home dec fabric is lighter and finer than the backing on my last quilt (Thorny Patchwork), I chose to stick with straight-line quilting on this one to avoid more annoyances with broken needles. It’s slightly less dense than most of my recent projects, but still has a nice drape thanks to the low-loft cotton batting (Warm & White or Nature’s Touch White—possibly both—since I pieced it together from scraps in my stash).
I wanted to make sure it was in his hands by his birthday (I’m notoriously late in sending birthday cards, but managed to send his two sisters’ quilts on time last fall), so I machine bound this. It’s not perfect, but it is secure and looks fine from the front.
Now it’s time to focus on a handful of baby quilts for recent births and others due soon!