Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Gifts for Safelight

I was just finishing a project this past week when a little squirrel jumped out at me. It was the perfect time. I'm not even sure you can call this a squirrel because I wasn't interrupting anything to chase it. But it became an obsession, so yes, a squirrel. I was reading Needle and Foot and saw the cute cosmetic bag and sunglass case that Bernie made for a collection that Carole from My Carolina Home is gathering for Safelight, a residential shelter for victims of domestic violence. 

I don't often make bags. I like the idea of making them, but they tend to be too fiddly for me. But when I saw the pattern for these, I knew I could make them. They are so simple, but so CUTE! 

I knew almost immediately that I wanted to make a set from a Wonderlust fabric (Tapestry in Multi Olive by Paula Nadelstern) I had won a few weeks ago through a giveaway by Sandra of mmm! quilts. I chose a solid black for the linings.These went together very quickly. I spent the most time figuring out how to center the fabrics so there would be symmetry in each piece. I'm thrilled with how they turned out. 

I had so much fun, I just had to make another set. I dithered awhile over what fabric to use but kept coming back to a leftover piece of my favorite Amy Butler fabric (Lark Dreamer Heirloom Blue Sky--that's a mouthful). I had used it to make a phone case, a wallet and a few other items a few years ago. 

There was just enough. I paired it with a light green Hoffman Internationals print from way back in my past.

I used a scrap of Hobbs Heirloom Premium 80/20 batting for all of the bags and quilted them with random threads and my walking foot, just eyeballing along lines in the prints. Lately, I've been trying more to do straight lines this way. I try to focus my eyes about 2 inches ahead of my needle. I'm starting to feel comfortable with it, and a tiny project like this is just right for practice. 

I'm not great at sharp corners when I make bags, but I have decided that if I can't make them sharp, it's good enough if they all look pretty much like each other. I did lock stitches to make sure they were sturdy. 

I like these so much, I may need to make some for myself! If you would like a fun, quick project that might bring a spark of joy to someone going through a rough time, I highly  recommend this one for Carole. Check out her site to see how she's using these to fill gift bags and to see some other options you might like for helping with her project. If you look around, you'll find her pattern as well as photos of the contents of the gifts and some of the bags other people have made. 

I'm linking up this week with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social and crazy mom quilts for Finish It Up Friday. And on the 28th, I'll link up with mmm! quilts for Sandra's DrEAMi linky party. 

So whether you're a bag maker or not, I hope your quilty week is going great. 

(I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products or services, I'm just documenting what I used or liked.)

Friday, April 6, 2018

Between the Lines Quilt

A finish to share--yippee! This one has taken a little longer than I thought it would but it's been a fun project. (I did take several days off from quilting so my husband and I could take care of our grandson while his parents were "at the airport." A super fun reason to take a break.) It all started quite awhile ago when my daughter asked if I would make a quilt that she and our son-in-law could use on their bed. She knew that I was no longer interested in making big quilts (queen size or larger), but she wanted a quilt that could be used as a runner over their bed quilt (whole cloth with gray quilting) and then pulled up for extra warmth in the winter. We both cruised the internet looking for possibilities. She really liked string quilts, but the ones she looked at had really small strings and would have been heavy not to mention bulky for quilting on a domestic machine. (Never mind that I am now making tiny string blocks for my RSC project this year--they'll be in smaller quilts, though.) Then I found a pattern that had fairly wide strings and lattice strips: Between the Lines by Denyse Schmidt (I'm not affiliated with any businesses, just telling you what we used). My daughter loved it. The next step was gathering fabric. She collected batches here and there and brought me the bundle during a visit in late February. So let's take a peek at what it all turned into, and then I'll tell more about it. 

We decided to make the twin size with one change. The pattern calls for an extra wide border on the pillow end of the quilt. We made the borders all the same size reducing the length by about 8 inches. Well, maybe another change: we went a little more scrappy/random, but not much.

Here is the fabric bundle we started with:

To plan the fabric placement (we used all of the fabrics except the yellow you see on the lower left), we chose the most highly patterned pieces for the largest strips and the lightest ones for the little triangles that meet in the corners. After she returned home, we continued making decisions by phone messages. What a fun way to plan! First, I cut the big strips, sewed the white strips that went with them, and tried them out on the design wall.  Then I'd snap a picture to get feedback. This is an early layout of some of those strips. (Sorry about the hazy photos--poor winter lighting.)

Next I laid out the corner triangles:
It was much easier to do this to figure out color, pattern, and directional balance than to try to lay out whole blocks. Sometime during all the layouts, we decided that the gray fabrics would be used to surround the triangles to give the eye a place to rest. (I don't have a photo of that step.) Finally, I laid out the middle strips. 

The whole time, I was in touch with my daughter by phone. 

I did some of the final planning on the wall but also quite a bit with my quilt design app (It's just easier than moving strips around). Eventually we got to this layout. If you look closely, you will see that there is a bit of symmetry: in the top two and bottom two rows of blocks, the biggest strips are placed in "reverse mirror" images of each other except for two strips. That seemed the best way to balance out colors and patterns while still keeping the look random. I loved how the neat pattern emerged out all the chaos of the strips when I started sewing the strips and adding in the lattice strips.  

I really like how the blocks are constructed in this quilt. Instead of piecing to a foundation, the strips are cut generously, joined by matching the centers, and then trimmed to size. There is a template included with the pattern, and I taped it to one of my rulers so that trimming was a snap. All I had to do was line up the template lines with my seams.

I didn't think of it at the time, but having the lattice strips makes joining the blocks so easy--no bulky seams or seam matching. And no extra fabric in the quilt or paper to tear off.

I used leftover fabric from the front of the quilt for the back--using only the lighter fabrics so that nothing showed through the white on the front. I cut rectangles as large as I could based on the smallest piece of fabric I had left. I bought extra of one of the fabrics to fill in the area on each side of a central strip. 

The last decision was how to do the quilting. My daughter liked the look of the quilting that was suggested in the pattern. I liked it, too, even though I knew that concentric squares would mean lots of quilt turning. 

My sewing machine just happens to be in the best adjustment it has ever been in for walking foot quilting, so the work went really smoothly. I used a ruler and hera marker to extend lines onto the lattice strips and borders. Most of the quilting was in the ditch (Ha, in my case, near the ditch). I limited myself to working on just a few parts of the quilt a day to keep myself from getting too tired from quilt wrangling, but by the end I was quilting pretty fast. I had figured out the most efficient directions to turn the quilt to keep the bulk down. My first impulse had been to keep turning the quilt in one direction for each side of the square, but I found that it worked better to turn the quilt in one direction twice and then in the other direction to complete a square. Hard to explain, but it worked well. My favorite part of the quilting is the ghost quilting in the borders that repeats the in-the-ditch quilting on the blocks. 

The pattern also suggested quilting in the ditch around each block, but I left that part out. I baste like crazy before quilting, so I don't need in-the-ditch quilting to stabilize and didn't think the quilt needed it as a design element. 

So here are the finished back and some close ups of the front and back. I had to take all of these pictures inside as a spring snow storm was raging outside. Luckily the snow did brighten the lighting a bit (and soften shadows), so the colors are true. I did figure out how to extend the curtain rod on my design "wall" so that I could hang the quilt from it with skirt hangers. I don't know why I didn't think of that before instead of fighting the breeze and my neighbor's fence. (Lighting can be tricky, though.)

Early on, my daughter picked the binding from one of the quilt fabrics. I think it's perfect for quietly framing the quilt. It will look great against the gray quilting on their bedspread.

How about those sloths?! They show up in three of the fabrics. I love their whimsy. But I had to be vigilant about making them hang properly from their branches. In fact, I referred to one fabric as hedge hogs when talking with my daughter and she reminded me that they were sloths. Made a big difference in how I positioned them!

Relaxing on our bed after washing and drying
Here are the stats:
Pattern: Front: Between the Lines by Denyse Schmidt; Back: Improv pieced
Fabrics: A variety chosen by my daughter. I don't have the specifics. Many of them did not have enough selvage on them to know. The background and borders are Kona white.
Batting: Warm and White 
Thread: All Superior: Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; King Tut in Temple for quilting; Treasure in Old Lace for hand sewing on binding.
Binding: Cut 2 1/2 inches wide and folded in half; 3/8 inch finished. 
Size: Quilt: 66 by 80 inches pieced; 65 1/2 inches by 79 1/2 inches quilted (almost no shrinkage); 63 1/4 by 76 1/2 inches after washing.  
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 Treadle for walking foot quilting.  

I'm linking up with crazy mom quilts for Finish it up Friday, Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop Whoop and Celtic Thistle Stitches for TGIFF.

I hope you are having a great quilting week, whether you are quilting in collaboration or solo.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

TBT Quilt Edition: Ottoman quilt

Today I was planning to start sharing quilts that I worked on long ago during a little stint as a "professional" hand quilter, but I did not get around to sorting and scanning my old photos. While I was bummed out about that last night mulling over what to do for my TBT post, my eyes fell on a quilt that was literally right in front of me on our family room ottoman. Aha! An undocumented quilt. How about that? 

In the fall of 2012 (There are photos to verify this--I don't remember dates well at all), we took a little trip up north to Indian River, a tiny town with Mom and Pop motels and restaurants, two awesome lakes, a river, and a long bike trail passing through. We stayed at an adorable Mom and Pop motel, complete with a huge hosta garden, hiking trails in the woods behind and free-range chickens. And a few hundred feet down and across the road was a quilt shop!! How perfect can a vacation get? 

I decided right away that my souvenir from the vacation would be some fabric from that little shop. I had a vague idea of making a tiny quilt to cover an ottoman that we always propped our feet on along with computers, books and magazines. The quilt would keep it clean and add a pop of color. Beyond that, I did not have a plan. Unusual for me, as I tend to have a sketch and fairly rigorous measurements and yardage requirements when I buy fabric. (Boring, I know, but that's the way it is.) So, of course, I was overwhelmed when I entered The Quilt House--literally a house made into a quilt shop. The owners greeted me warmly and showed me around. I seem to remember that one of them had originally lived in my part of the state, but I'm not entirely sure about that now. I had no idea what to buy or how much. Panic! The owners made a few suggestions and gave me space to wander and ponder. Then I spied a whole collection of fabric blenders that had all the colors of my family room. (I just researched online and found it--isn't the internet wonderful? Robert Kaufman Fusions tone-on-tone leaf prints. I'm sure you will recognize it.) I grabbed a bunch of colors and had small bits (quarters? fat quarters? I don't know) cut of each. I was a little worried that using the same fabric pattern throughout a whole quilt would be dull, but they read as pretty much solid with texture, and I've never regretted that decision.

I had been intrigued by photos of a quilt I had seen somewhere. I don't know who designed it, so if you know, please tell me so I can give proper credit. What I liked about it was the simplicity and the little inserted strip of color in each piece. I cut little rectangles and inserted a 1-inch strip (to finish at 1/2 inch) of a contrasting color. I'm not sure how big the rectangles were. After multiple washings, they measure about 3 1/2 inches by a little over 2 3/4 inches finished. What I like about using 1-inch inserts, is that they don't alter the original measurements of the block.  

I arranged the blocks in a 12 by 8 layout without too much planning of color placement, and I think I waited to press seams until I had it all laid out so that I could nest the areas where the inserts were for ease of alignment and sewing.

To make the back, I improv pieced using leftovers from the front as well as a butterscotch print that shows up in other quilts in my living and family rooms. (I also used that print for the very wide binding.) It was probably the trimmings from a back of one of those quilts.

This quilt was made before I had the means to machine quilt, so it is hand quilted. And by hand quilted, I mean HAND QUILTED. First, I stitched in the ditch around every piece of fabric. I think that might have been my original quilting plan, and it was more than enough, but it wasn't enough for me, so I quilted a little leaf in the larger parts of the rectangles. That gives a nice texture even though it only shows up well on the darker fabrics. This really didn't take very long to do. The whole quilt is only 34 1/4 by 28 1/4 inches (after multiple washings, of course.)

During the cooler months, the quilt is front side up on the ottoman, but in the summer, I flip it over so the lighter back shows. 

I love this little quilt because it always reminds me of that little vacation. It's the perfect souvenir. We had a fantastic time. We were only there a few days, but we did a lot! We roamed around town, hiked some trails behind our motel, picked up fish dinners at the local fish joint and ate them by one of the lakes, visited lighthouses and the Mackinac Bridge a little farther up the highway, visited an International Dark Sky preserve, and spent some time exploring a state park. But our main reason for going was to ride the North Central trail from Indian River to Cheboygan, about 17 1/2 miles to the north. That part of the trail runs through tiny towns and about 10 miles along Mullet Lake. 

Isn't this cute?? Rail station turned town library--on the trail right by the lake.

Our ride was more adventurous than we bargained for. The trip north was lovely, but while we were having lunch in Cheboygan, a sudden wind storm blew up with winds of 50 miles an hour. We had to fight against the wind on our way back. The trees along the trail helped block it a bit, but it was really hard riding. We didn't realize how bad it was until we were stopped several times by downed trees across the path. 

Photo credits for this and other photos to my husband

We were able to climb and lift our bikes through them but worried about what we would do if we came across one that was too big. 

For much of the north end of the trail, there was just wilderness--no roads to hike around the trail. We made it back okay, but that was the hardest 17 1/2 miles of bicycling I've ever done and for a time I seriously thought I wouldn't make it. I guess the trip was memorable just for that ride alone. I really don't need a quilt to remind me of it, but it is still nice to have a quilt made with fabric bought on that vacation. 

We returned to Indian River a few years ago to ride the south end of the trail. The motel had changed hands but was still a charming little place. 

The quilt store was still there, but I don't think I bought anything. It seems to me that it was closed for a quilt retreat in the next town over on the day I stopped by. Both places are still there, though and just loading these photos makes me itch to go back. I'm sure we'll go back again for more adventures--but preferably not a windstorm.

Thanks for taking a look at my little ottoman quilt and for coming along on my reminiscence of a little riding adventure. What souvenirs have you quilted up? 

Ha ha, I just realized that I'm a week early with this post. Oh, well, that's okay. It was about time I did a post again. I'll link this up on Sandra's Throwback Thursday post on mmm! quilts next week, April 5. (How did I get off by a whole week?  As I said above, I don't remember dates well at all. At least I know it's Thursday today.) I need to put these dates in my calendar. In the meantime, I need to get back to my long term quilting project, which is getting very near completion, so hopefully that will be my next post. 

Have a good weekend, and if you celebrate Easter, Happy Easter! Oh, one more thing, please take a few minutes to take a look at Preeti's blog Sew Preeti Quilts here, here and here and read about how she turned grief into service (and joy). There is a way you can help (and a giveaway, although that is not why I'm sharing this). 

Saturday, March 17, 2018


I've been all wrapped up (sometimes quite literally) in another project the last couple of weeks, so I haven't been blogging. I'll try to share some of that next week, but I can share these little RSC18 gems this week.
Hey, they're green! (Like those little daffodil shoots coming up in my garden)

So, Happy Saint Patrick's Day! 

I don't make much of this holiday, and sadly, don't even have anything green to wear today even though it's one of my favorite colors. That's odd. You'd think my wardrobe would be full of green. Nope, this seems to be the year of black (always!) and mostly gray, teal and burgundy. Hmm. 

These are so fun to sew in the evenings while I watch TV. 
Now that I look at the photos, some of those corners are a bit bigger than I'd like. I could easily fix that by sewing one more little strip. We'll see. 
It's a blast to see how they all look together and then to rearrange them with the squares from the other months. 
But wow, does this ever make the year go fast. Not sure how I feel about that. Well, that's it for today. I'm linking up with Angela at soscrappy for Scraphappy Saturday and with  Cynthia at Quilting is More Fun Than Housework for Oh Scrap (on Sunday). 

Okay, back to the treadle for another quilting session. (That's my version of March Madness, as I'm not all that into the basketball tourneys on TV.) Have a fun weekend, whether you celebrate the wearin' o' the green and basketball or not.