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Maine Quilt Shop Hop 2014: Z Fabrics

photo 2 (8)Ah! It is so good to be home! While it’s not the hot, full-blown spring of New Jersey, there are only small patches of snow left here in Maine, which means spring is upon us. We arrived home after dark, but this morning the kids and I went out in search of flowers that have bravely burst through the mud. The greens are working their way up, but no flowers yet!

With two small children, many stops are required along the 450 mile drive between New Jersey and Maine. This particular trip took 13 hours and required eight stops! Before you run and hide in horror, let me tell you about a quilt shop I visited while passing through southern Maine! My fabulous husband agreed to have a playground stop in Portland so that the kids could run around and I could hop over to a quilt shop as part of the Maine Quilt Shop Hop.

Z Fabrics Portland, Maine

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Z Fabrics is a cute little shop with a good variety of modern fabrics, notions, patterns & books, Brother sewing machines, and a large selection of gorgeous laminates. The fabric selection reminds me a lot of Fiddlehead Artisan Supply store, so you know how happy that makes me! Z Fabrics has an entire shelf of Lotta Jansdotter fabrics!

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I spoke with Lillian while I was there, and she was very friendly and helpful, even though I chatted her ear off–after a long drive with two little kids, it was great to talk with another adult about all things fabric. She agreed that the shop’s primary customers make adorable clothing, bags, etc. since the fabrics are the contemporary prints with more bold patterns rather than tone on tone or blender quilt fabrics. To me, it’s a store full of feature fabrics for modern quilts-to-be. I picked up a few fat quarters while I was there, again adding to my grey scale stash: Kyoto Garden Koi by Lori Mason for Andover Fabrics in colors yang and grey, and a fabulous black and grey tone on tone fabric, the name and designer info for which I can’t remember. Do any of you recognize it? Let me know if you do; I’d love to know! One big plus: you can buy fat quarters off the bolt at Z Fabrics!

I would definitely stop by Z Fabric again the next time I’m in Portland. Here’s a look around the shop:

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Z Fabrics at a Glance

Location? Z Fabrics is located right in downtown Portland, in the center of the action. The address is on Congress Street, which threw me for a loop at first, but as soon as I checked the website I saw that the storefront was on Preble Street. Found in a flash! There is plenty of street parking, especially on Preble Street. I paid 50 cents to park for a half an hour. If I were to go and spend time actually shopping for specific fabrics, that would definitely be at least $1, but still reasonable. During your shopping trip, there are plenty of other shops, restaurants, bars, and even the Children’s Discovery Museum within close walking distance. This is definitely a great shop to hit up during a day trip to Portland!

Sells? Modern fabrics, cotton laminates, notions, Brother sewing machines, patterns and books, and offers classes.

Modern or traditional? Definitely modern.

Swag? 5″ charm square of Shop Hop Theme fabric and good conversation.

Kid friendly? Yes. While Z Fabrics doesn’t have a bucket of toys and books (I asked since I didn’t see one!), it is a fairly small store with lots of open space. There are not too many racks of notions or items a toddler could swipe to the floor in one pass, and the area by the front window has a big poof and ample space in which kids can play while Mommy shops.

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You can follow my quilt shop hopping by following @nightquilter on Twitter #maineshophop2014

 

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Beauteous, Bountiful, Botanical Blue!

Today is our last day in New Jersey before heading back home to thawing Maine. I’ve heard from friends that the snow is disappearing, grass is finally showing in spots, and the flowers are even beginning to pop up out of the cold earth, but I’m still thoroughly enjoying my last moments in the peak of hot New Jersey spring. It’s been especially hot and sunny this week, which has been a special treat. I admire the flowers every day, especially the growing sea of Siberian Squill in my mom’s garden.

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Yesterday I noticed that one of my travel knitting projects perfectly matches the beauteous, bountiful, botanical blue of the Siberian Squill sea. I just couldn’t resist a photo shoot.

2014-04-12 18.45.41This is the Julian Vest by Raya Budrevich knitted in size 4 for my son. I’m using Cascade 220 Wool dye lot 9603 Country Blue Yarn for this project. I’m SO close to finishing this vest; I only need to pick up stitches to do the finishing around the neck and arm holes. Novice knitter as I am, I forgot to bring my double pointed needles. The finishing will have to wait. In the meantime, feast your eyes on this beauty! Nature and knitting in perfect harmony:

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A Note on Lighting

One of my goals as a blogger is to continuously improve my photographs. I am so drawn to aesthetics, I feel like clear and artistically taken photographs are key to having a beautiful blog that begs to be read (or at least gazed upon). I’ve often heard that cloudy days are better for photography than sunny days, but haven’t ever been in a position to test it out. After yesterday’s experiment, I’m convinced that photographing in shade or on cloudy days is best for color! Yesterday, I noticed the jiving nature-to-knitting colors in the bright sun of morning and did my first impromptu photo shoot:

Beautiful blue in the bright sun.
Beautiful blue in the bright sun.

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Later in the evening, after the flowers and garden were in full shade, I decided to do a repeat photo shoot. You can see in the top photos–the ones I chose to use for the bulk of the blog post–how vivid and rich the blue appears in the shady photos. It’s the same exact vest in just about the same exact spots, yet the colors are very different. Here are some side-by-sides for comparison (sun on the left; shade on the right):

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Photos taken in both sun and shade have their value, but I definitely prefer the shady photos for accuracy of color and clarity of the knitting. Which do you prefer?

 

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Friday Finish: Lillian’s Baby Quilt

Finally! Over the past few weeks especially, I’ve hinted at this project and have shown little peeks at quilting and piecing details, but now I can finally show you the whole finished quilt!

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I began this quilt before little Lillian was born, and my friends didn’t find out the gender in advance, so I worked to choose gender neutral fabrics in creating this quilt. The center square is from a pattern I found in an old quilting magazine (I will link to it when I return to Maine; I don’t have the magazine with me and don’t remember specifics), but I really didn’t like the border suggested in the pattern and after much internal debate decided to design my own. I created the heart cornerstones, and I’m really happy with the mosaic-style cobblestone outer border and how well it frames the quilt.

For the back, I used a flannel fabric similar to the jungle focal panel in the front center square, with a single row of the color cobblestones mirroring the focal panel on the front.

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We are down in New Jersey visiting my family, and last weekend my dear friends and recipients of this quilt came down from NY for a visit. We haven’t seen them in nearly–or over–a year! I have been working hard to complete this quilt so that I could gift it in person, and while I came down to the wire, I did it, hand stitching the label the night before their visit.

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I’m really happy with the way this quilt turned out, and it is a showcase of many firsts and newly practiced skills, primarily the free motion quilting (FMQ). You can see more about my process in making the quilt, as well as more FMQ detail in my posts Baby FMQ for the Win, Free Motion Quilt-a-thon, A Sensory Adventure with FMQ, and An Unexpected Element. Seriously, the other posts are worth checking out! I’ve only been hinting at it a little, right? hah!

Since it’s a baby quilt and hopefully will see a lot of use and tough love, I opted to machine sew the binding. I also was pressed for time and really wanted to be sure to finish the quilt before departing on our trip. I used the method suggested in Cluck Cluck Sew’s Machine Binding Tutorial. With this method, the binding is sewn to the front of the quilt first, and THEN the back. The final stitching, when done correctly, traces the edge of the quilt right inside the binding, so it looks like part of the quilting. Just like the tutorial promises, most of the time it turned out perfectly:

Stitches trace the edge of the quilt just inside the binding: perfect!
Stitches trace the edge of the quilt just inside the binding: perfect!

and some of the time, I hiccuped and the stitches ended up on top of the binding:

Oops!
Oops!

All in all, I’m very happy with this quilt, and I’m eager to see many baby, toddler, child photos with this quilt getting grayer and grayer in the background! Enough about the quilt; here are some photos from the day, gifting and of course adorable Lillian!

Gifting the quilt and discussing the little details.
Gifting the quilt and discussing the little details.
I love babies! Lillian was adoring her view of her momma, otherwise I would have been snuggling that girl up close!
I love babies! Lillian was adoring her view of her momma, otherwise I would have been snuggling that girl up close!

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My son Max wanted Lillian on his lap, always. He was so very gentle!
My son Max wanted Lillian on his lap, always. He was so very gentle!

Since it’s Friday and this is an epic finish for me, I’m linking up! Click the links below to see many other awesome finishes.

Crazy Mom Quilts Finish it up Friday
TGIFF

 

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Stash Building: Happy Birthday to Me!

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Today began in the best way: in the garden with my children, smelling, exploring, and admiring the growing sea of blue flowers. The day was a whirlwind day of sunshine, playgrounds, and shopping with Grandma. Since today is my birthday, my mom treated me to some fabric. Since it was right before lunchtime with two cranky, hungry kids, my browsing time was quite limited. “You can get whatever you want, as long as you get it now,” my mom said as we arrived. Anyone who has shopped for fabric knows how long one can spend deciding on fabrics.

I’ve been really drawn to black & white and grey tones lately, which is very much reflected in my choices. Within five minutes, this is what I had grabbed:

You can tell that today I was drawn to black and white and grey... with just a splash of color!
You can tell that today I was drawn to black and white and grey… with just a splash of color!

I got 1/2 yard of the black and white hexagon fabric, and 3 yards each of the other two. I think the two grey tone color-splash fabrics would make great quilt backs. Especially the yellow and grey fabric; wouldn’t it make a great back for a quilt like this free pattern from Craftsy?

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Star Bright Free Quilt Pattern by Swim, Bike, Quilt found on Craftsy

I have been saving and buying small amounts of grey and black & white fabrics so that I can make this quilt, so when I saw the black, grey and yellow fabric, I had to get enough for a quilt back. Maybe? Yes? Whether I use it to back this quilt or not, I think it’s a great fabric to have in my stash.

2014-04-09 17.44.19Now that I think of it, I could bind the quilt in dark red and use this fabric for the back, instead:

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Either way, it was a good stash-building birthday, don’t you think?

What’s your strategy if you only have five minutes to shop for fabric?

 

 

A sea of purple on a sunny day.

Knitting in the Sunshine

Yesterday was a gloriously sunny day near 60 degrees F, a joyful treat after a long, cold, lingering winter. Since we are visiting my parents in New Jersey, I haven’t been sewing. Knitting, on the other hand, has been snuck into each day. Yesterday was so gorgeous, we spent every possible second outside: walked to and from church, walked into town for lunch, then played at a playground, and walked home. I think I may be even a tad bit sun-burnt! Once home, I had a few moments to myself while my wonderful mother (Grandma to my kids) cooked dinner and my dad (Pop Pop) played with my kids in the backyard. I relaxed with my knitting and watched them laughing and running and enjoying the setting sun.

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Working on my son’s vest as my Dad plays with the kids in the backyard. What a great day!

I think I’m nearly finished with my son’s Julian Vest. I am somewhat hoping I can finish it before Easter, but I’m going to let that be a relaxed goal. I’ve finished the six pattern rows for the body and I’m now working on knitting up the back. I’m altering the pattern a bit since it calls for knitting until the back is 20″ long and I think that is way longer than my 22-month-old-wearing-size-3T will need. (I’m knitting the vest in size 4). Next comes a short split for the straps, then working up the front, and finally joining the straps. I’ll show my progress once I start on the front straps. I am really liking this vest and am eager to see it completed on my little big boy! A few more sunny days and I might be there.

 

How do you balance your desire to craft and your desire to be out in the sunshine during these first spring days?

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Cast On in a Different World

Yesterday morning, we left snowy Maine on one of the first warm (40 degrees F) days of spring. Snow still covered almost all surfaces, and the snow was still knee deep in many drift-collecting spots. At least at our house, we had yet to see any grass, peeking flowers, or any other hopeful signs of spring. The chickadees had returned, and the sun was shining by day to melt the snow, but winter was still very much lingering.

Here are my kids playing out in the driveway just a couple days ago in snowy Maine. Note the piles of snow in the background!
Here are my kids playing out in the driveway just a couple days ago in snowy Maine. Note the piles of snow in the background!

At the end of a long day in the car, we arrived in New Jersey by the dark of night. Along the way, even southern Maine was mostly free from snow, but New Jersey is in full spring bloom! Green grass, daffodils, crocuses, irises, Siberian squill, cardinals, and chickadees abound, with no trace of snow.

During the drive, I was able to cast on for my new project, the PANEM Katniss Cowl Wrap by Dahlia in Bloom. Doesn’t the wee cast-on with the super bulky yarn look happy amidst the spring flowers!? I am loving this project so far, and looking forward to knitting in the warm sun!

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Bartering and a New Project

The Night Quilter is a fairly new blog, documenting the crafting of a new, but hopefully blossoming, business. I’ve designed two paper piecing quilt block patterns so far, both of which are for sale in my Craftsy store.

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Circling Gulls
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Four pointed star

In designing these patterns, as well as in getting this blog going, I’ve been thinking that the Night Quilter really needs a logo. Every successful business has an image, or some consistent logo to help with customer recognition, continuity between patterns, the blog, a shop, etc. As an infant business, though, growing as a stay at home mom’s creative outlet and within a teeny budget, logo design options are pretty much limited to “make it yourself”.

Enter the blogging world of pattern designers. Recently I was reading a blog with tips for getting a pattern design business started, and for the life of me I can’t remember which blog! One word stood out to me in the article, though, about delegating tasks to be more successful: barter. I decided to reach out to a local friend who happens to be a co-creator of a quickly growing new local business, Linear. Linear is a full service creative studio offering web design, graphic design, commercial photography, video production, and social media management. They do amazing work! I asked about the rate for logo design and Andrea said that a logo normally costs around $500 (only about $450 more than my budget ;)), but she also said she would be open to work something out or even barter. There’s that b-word again!

“Do you knit?” Andrea asked the next day. Done and done.

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I am going to knit a PANEM Katniss Cowl Wrap by Dahlia in Bloom (found on ravelry!) for Andrea in exchange for logo design for the Night Quilter!! I’m so excited, both for the barter and for my awesome new knitting project! This will be the coolest thing I’ve knit to date!

Andrea specified that she wants it to be soft and washable, so I decided to go with the same yarn used in the pattern: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick super bulky yarn in oatmeal. I couldn’t find enough of the yarn in local shops, so I ordered it online. It arrived yesterday afternoon, which is perfect timing since today we are driving down to New Jersey for a bit over a week, and I can’t bring my sewing machine!

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I cast on today during our epically long 11 hour car trip from Maine to New Jersey (driving with a 4 year old and 22 month old adds a few hours to the trip), and I love the project already. Pictures to come!

Have you ever bartered for something awesome?

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