Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A couple surprises

Today I was quite happy to give away two surprise gifts. The only thing better as a crafter than giving a handmade gift is when someone is really surprised.

The first was a wee quilted pink heart. Full confession - I meant to make it twice this size, but I've been using so many 1.5" squares lately in different projects I went into autopilot at the cutting table. It was only after I had the strips all ready to sew together that I looked at it and thought, "Hmm. This looks small." So instead of a wall-hanging, it became a mat for a teapot. Which actually worked out perfectly because it was for the lovely ladies that own the bakery and cafe next to my workplace. They kindly offered to host a high tea for a friend and co-worker who is soon going on maternity leave, along with me and another co-worker who are all addicted to their coffee and baking. The heart went under the pretty floral teapot as we enjoyed our finger sandwiches, cookies and then a scone topped with jam and cream. Yummy!

I knew I had the perfect fabric for the back - a bright pink with floral panels that turned out to be just the right size. Here I am assisted by a kitty who decided to stand in as Vanna White:

The mini looks a bit wonky in the picture, but it was quite square. Honest. And look at how perfectly the binding matched in one spot. You couldn't do that if you tried!

The next gift was for the high tea's guest of honour, who is soon having her second baby. I made her a sock monkey rag quilt that she insisted she buy the fabric for, so I still wanted to sew something as a real gift. She told me the baby room theme was safari, so I was thrilled when I looked in my stash and found a bright bundle with elephants, giraffes and polka dots. I picked up a couple more polka dots in different colours for the needed yardage, and white with multi-coloured dots for the back. The result is such a wonderfully bright and cheery quilt good for a girl or boy.

I quilted simple straight lines on both sides of the seams in bright yellow and used every last scrap on the back. I wasn't sure about using a predominately white fabric for the back, but I love it!

The binding was done by machine because I thought that would be more sturdy for a baby quilt that will be washed often and really handled. That's starting to go a bit better for me now after a bit of practice. This time I also pressed the binding toward the front, which I think was a real help. I don't know why I never thought to do that before.

Today I also hit 3,400 kilometres on my bike - thankfully a rain-free ride after getting drenched yesterday. Although the weather is iffy now that fall has truly settled in, I'm trying to get in as much cycling as I can. Autumn is my favourite season and I just love riding through the countryside and soaking in the fall colours, the moody October sky and the farmers busy harvesting the last crops.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Trials and tribulations

This should have been a quick and simple border on my mini medallion. Just strips of alternating squares. Easy peasy, right? I knew right away I wanted to pair up the gold Netorious print from Cotton + Steel and teal and gold from Carolyn Friedlander's Botanics collection because they looked so nice together where I used them in the medallion centre.

I hesitated for a moment because both prints are favourites, making me oh so reluctant to cut into the precious FQs. But cut I did. Nine 1.5" strips according to the instructions. And here's where the wheels fell off. And then the wreckage caught fire and became a raging inferno. Well, maybe that's a bit too dramatic. But I sure did have that panic sweat only a sewing problem can induce.

Right now I am working with a borrowed machine since mine seems to be stuck forever at the repair shop. Mine has a special setting for a scant quarter inch you use with the quarter-inch foot, the borrowed machine does not and so I had to adjust the seam allowance myself. Apparently it was a bit too scant because when I sewed together the first strip of 28 squares it was 3/4 too long! Boy that difference adds up quickly with a bunch of wee blocks. What to do? Thankfully, I thought, at least I don't have to rip out all that stitching. I can just change the setting and sew right alongside the first line. Well, guess what? That made it almost a half-inch too short. Really!?!

Then things got more desperate. I ripped out the original sewing so I could press all the seams open because pressing to the side shrinks it a bit. That brilliant idea gave me about a 1/16" more. Sewing rage rising. What happened to my quick and easy border!?! Look at the two seams in the photo below. Who would guess such a teeny difference would add up to such a gigantic headache?

I ended up blending the too scant and too wide seams on each strip, sewing a few and then ironing and measuring until it was the right length. I was so relieved to finally get this border sewn on. I was not going to let it defeat me!

Oh, and as I was resewing all the seams, I realized the instructions told you to cut double what you needed. DOUBLE. So half my seam allowance aggravation was totally unnecessary. Plus now I have all these orphan bits with seams of various widths to remind me of the experience. But my medallion sure is looking pretty!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Crafty like a fox

Do you have any fabric in your stash, just a few FQs from a collection, waiting for the perfect project to come along? I've been holding onto this cute fox and quail fabric from Birch for some time now. Just look at this fabulous little fellow sitting in tufts of long grass:

Finally the perfect project appeared this week. A friend's relative is going through a tough time, and I asked what were her favourite colours with the thought of sewing up a little cheer. Orange! And what peeked out of my stash, but these foxes and quails in orange and blue. I knew I wanted to fussy cut the foxes and I settled on a simple patchwork pillow. I picked up a lovely shiny orange thread to quilt simple straight lines. (The first photo most accurately shows the colour.)

On the back I used a bright zig zag fabric with a bit of orange and blue, and the orange thread appears again.

I'm really happy with how it turned out. Quilted pillows are so nice - soft but reassuringly sturdy at the same time. (I couldn't help but pat it every time I walked by.) I hope it will bring some cheer and comfort to its new home.