Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunny swoon

Yesterday I took a free motion quilting class, my first real attempt. You really have to throw out the window everything you know about sewing (I can go in any direction?!) and just try to be loose and have fun. Maybe I'll share photos of my fledgling attempts. I did get pretty good at pebbles and swirls, but the rest is a bit dodgy.

While at my favourite neighbourhood fabric shop, I picked up the Swoon pattern. I have lovely muted red, purple and grey fabric I picked up a couple years ago in Italy and this block will be perfect.

But I'm not quite ready to dive into yet another big quilting project (I've already got too many things on the go), so I thought I'd start with one Swoon block to make a wall hanging. I'm thinking it would be nice to decorate my front porch this summer. I pulled this orange bicycle fabric from my stash, orange polka dots and a light purple for the background instead of white. All the half square triangles and flying geese looked so lovely in the low afternoon sun.

Off to sew

I picked up this awesome sewing machine tea towel by Poppy Treffry at Anthropologie (aka the fancy knob store) on a shopping afternoon with friends. Immediately I hatched the plan to embellish the bunting. How freaking cute is this hanging on my craft room door?

I made the bunting, then (after some trial and error) tacked it down and next sewed on the lace trim with a zigzag stitch. I love it!

Now I just have to resist singing every time I head into my craft room. 'Hey ho, hey ho, it's off to sew I go ..."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

HST factory

This long Easter weekend I sewed up a storm. Except when I was out for long bike rides! I'm so happy to be cycling outdoors again - the countryside definitely offers much better views than my basement.

I finally finished the quilt top from my quilting retreat earlier this month. Hmm. I guess the "finally" isn't called for since the project really hasn't been languishing that long.

Then I got started on the back. And again wondered what I was thinking when my simple plan turned out to be quite time consuming. I wanted something that went with the square-in-square blocks on the front, when I saw this napkin pattern I recently got that had a broken dishes block. So I got to cutting half-square triangles. All 156 of them, it turned out.

I got a few blocks together, but many more to go as you can see from the HST stacks. The binding will be orange, which picks up flowers in the focal fabric. I think the most tedious part of HST is squaring them up, as evidenced by the giant pile of teeny strips in the bottom right.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Full disclosure

I hesitate to even share this, but it was such a sight I had to stop and get a photo of the insanity. Normally when I'm sewing I'm not neurotic with the pinning. Just a few to keep everything in place. But sewing together the blocks from my retreat project is a bit of a nightmare. Lots of diagonal seams to match, sewing on the bias, white fabric butting up with points. And boy would a wonky seam pop out from the white. Argh. So, yes, I got a little crazy with the pinning as my perfectionism took over. I think I was a little shy of using the whole box of pins to get these sets of three blocks together.

But, in the end, all the points are nearly perfect. I would have taken a photo of that, but before I could press the seam my iron decided to spit out a bunch of gross gunk. Thankfully not on my fabric. So now it's in a time-out. I think I need a time-out too from my OCD pinning.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A few tweaks

I took this block apart at the centre because I had the thick stripe in the wrong spot. Hand to god, I sewed it back together in exactly the same way! You can be sure I paid more attention the second time.

Then I conferred with my partner in the 100 block challenge and we agreed two do-overs were allowed for blocks that just don't work. Cue Block #60 for me.

Before (an experiment in combining busy fabrics gone wrong):

Then after, and much better:

I didn't want to just toss that fugly block aside, so I actually took it apart and promised the herringbone bits I would use them in other blocks. Looking at the revamped block now, I'm wondering if the solid green would have been better. Ah, what a slippery piecing slope.

This one doesn't count as a do-over. I just swapped the top strip of herringbone for solid green. That herringbone is a tricky creature - sometimes it looks great in a block, other times an eyesore.

Blocks of stripes

Here's the stripes chapter of Tula Pink's City Sampler. I skipped ahead because I figured the triangles chapter required more concentration and I wasn't sure I'd have that in the middle of a busy quilting retreat. I'll pick that chapter up next.

My least favourite block. Much too busy. Hmm. Should I scrap it and have another try?

Oops! I just noticed I put this one together wrong. I guess I'll have to fix that.

I'm not sure about this block. Tula's in the shades of green looks nice. Is the dramatic difference from the top and bottom of mine too drastic? Or neat? I guess I was trying to bring out the azure centre of the flower.

When you sew together a bunch of one-inch strips, they become wee accordions that need some pretty dedicated ironing.

I love this block. It has a real spring feel.

What to do with that pesky Block #60?

Rectangle roundup

Here are all the blocks from the rectangle chapter of Tula Pink's City Sampler book. Just about every time I make a block I think it's my new favourite. Only one so far did I think was a flop (#60). But I decided not to remake it because I'd be left with one sad little orphan block.

I'm really happy with how they're turning out. Although, I must admit that when I saw this quilter's blocks made with Tula's fabric, I wanted to start all over. They're so lovely, too!

For some reason I keep pairing the crazy pink with the birds.

Huh, subconsciously I almost made the same coloured block as in the book.

I'm not a huge fan of the herringbone, but as you can see I'm really making an effort to use it. Especially since I have it in three colours. Now that I'm half done the 100 block challenge, I'm pretty confident I won't run out of the prints. So maybe I can lay off the herringbone a bit.

This one earns a 'meh.'

After getting through some pretty complicated blocks, it's almost a disappointment to turn the page to one like this with only seven pieces.

I love this orange flower bud peeking out.

Warning: get out your sunglasses for this one.

Sometimes I use a print where Tula has a solid, but I think the effect here is quite nice.

The bird fabric is perfect for fussy cuts.

I really like this one:

Next up are the stripes.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Concentrated crafting fun

Boy is it amazing how much sewing you can get done when all the chores of daily living disappear and you're entirely focused on the sewing machine. I returned home today from my first sewing retreat at a lovely B&B on Lake Huron and I'm pretty amazed at all I accomplished. We got there a day early, giving a day and a half of concentrated sewing before the retreat officially kicked off.

Jumping right in as soon as we arrived, I pulled out my stack of Laura Gunn fabric and Tula Pink's City Sampler book and got cutting. I worked out a good system, cutting at least 10 and then lining up the stack of pieces for each block on my long ruler to make it easy to bring back to my little station. Then I sat down and got sewing.

I finished 35 blocks, and both the rectangles and stripes chapters. (Stay tuned for lotsa photos!)

Then on Saturday I got started on the retreat project, learning a few new things along the way thanks to our super helpful and encouraging teacher Deb Beirnes. Before brunch on Sunday I finished the twelve blocks. Now I need to square them up, sew them together and add a few borders. I really like how the three prints of Chirp Chirp fabric I picked worked together. "Like a picnic" was an expression many of the fellow retreat sewers used. It's so bright and cheery with the green florals and pop of orange, which will be picked up in the binding.

Even better than putting together these nifty blocks, the teacher taught us a neat trick to eliminate waste while producing a whole whack of ready-to-go blocks. I love the wee triangle in the middle of the bigger blocks. And there's plenty for a good-sized project.

I'm kicking myself that I didn't get photos of the blocks made by the other three women (including my mom who kindly invited me to join her retreat group as a pinch quilter). They were all so very different, even though they were all the same block. Mine looked very modern, while others looked elegantly traditional. But thinking now the oversight is not too surprising when I think of another moment in the retreat. On Saturday night there was a brilliantly red sunset shining on the lake's calm frozen waters. Truly a rare sight. Someone mentioned it and everyone looked up from their sewing machines, marvelling for a few moments before returning to the task at hand. Beautiful sunset, yes, but there was sewing to be done!

The retreat was an amazing experience, meeting so many quilters with a wealth of experience and knowledge and seeing such an array of projects and fabrics. I realized just what a novice quilter I am, but it's inspired me that much more to keep quilting. Even after long days of sewing into the early hours of the morning, I can't wait to get back in front of my sewing machine.