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Playing with Color Palettes

I have been having so much fun with the Palette Builder 2.1 on Play Crafts. Having just finished and gifted my biggest work in progress quilt, I’m looking to start a new one (of course!). I’ve not yet created a quilt focused on a particular color palette, but I’m thinking it may be time to try one!

Check out some of the palettes the Play Crafts Palette Builder 2.1 has created from my photographs:

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Can you tell I have spring on the mind?  I love the earthy violets that came up on this palette (above). I also couldn’t resist making palettes out of some of the rich, vivid blue photographs from my knitting progress photo shoot.

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The busy bee photo didn’t result in as blue-heavy a palette as I would have guessed, but I still like it. I might add a bit of yellow in to represent the bee.

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I also love that the palette builder will give you the names of the Kona cottons that match your palette! Talk about making it easy on us quilters!

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While visiting New Jersey, I caught up with some old friends. My friend Sara was showing me pictures of her Kitty Cat (I will be honored that she named her cat Kitty, which is also my name), and this picture of hers just screamed to be made into a color palette:

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I was serious when I said I’ve been having a ton of fun! Here are some of the palettes I’ve been making from some of my old photographs:

Splash of summer!

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I made quite a few palettes for the coast of Maine. For the first one, the palette builder originally chose colors Kona Mushroom and Charcoal to represent the blues, but since I think the blues of the gorgeous mussel shells should dominate more as blue, I moved the color dots around until they landed on Kona Steel and Nautical. This is a great feature of the palette builder; you can tweak your palette until you love it. I really like the resulting palette.

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I love all of the coastal palettes, but I was really itching to see a bit of color. I love the effect the kayak has on this color palette:

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Which palette is your favorite?

 

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The Making of an Easter Tradition

maddie tea leaves cardiLast year in the wee hours of the night on Good Friday, I wove in the ends of my first-ever knitted sweater, an almost-frogged Tea Leaves Cardigan for my daughter Maddie. It had taken me a year and a half to knit, with an ah-bugger-I-think-she’s-outgrown-it-before-I-finished-it break mid-way. This year, in those same wee hours, I wove in the last ends of a sweater vest for my son (the pattern is the Julian Vest by Raya Budrevich). I think I’m creating an Easter tradition: barely finish a knitted item for a beloved family member with the intention that they wear it on Easter.

Since I completed my son’s sweater the night before he was meant to wear it, I didn’t have time to block it. Honestly, I have never blocked a knitted item before, so perhaps I could have had time? Either way, I didn’t have time to learn how to block it and then block it, so I had to improvise.

Improvisational sweater blocking: smash with a stack of books overnight.
Improvisational sweater blocking: smash with a stack of books overnight.
As flattened as this sweater looks under this stack, the method did not actually work all that well.
As flattened as this sweater looks under this stack, the method did not actually work all that well.

While spending a night under a stack of books helped a little bit, I don’t think it was nearly as effective as actual blocking would have been; the shoulder straps still rolled.  Rolling and last minute finishing aside, the sweater was the perfect Easter sweater, and Max seemed happy to wear it. Maddie’s sweater from last year still fit, too, which is an added bonus!

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Max modeling his newly finished Julian Vest.

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I made a few alterations to the pattern, since I knit the Julian Vest in size 4 and my son is currently wearing a 3T.  Once the vest is split for front and back, I knit the back until it was 15 1/2″ from cast on edge (pattern says to knit until 20″ from cast on edge) and I knit the front straps until they were 16″ from cast on edge (pattern again says to knit until 20″).

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For how trimly the sweater fits, knitting to 20″ length may make it suitable for a VERY skinny, long-torso-ed 4 year old, but it would have been a dress on Max. I think my sizing changes resulted in a good fit, although next time I probably would leave out one row of the “V” pattern in the front, and lengthen the shoulders a bit more. I would have added a few more stitches to the cast-on, too, since my son still has quite a bit of his pudgy baby belly since he’s not yet two years old.

Despite some less-than-pleased comments on the pattern on Ravelry, I really enjoyed knitting this sweater and think that the pattern was well written and easy to execute. I would definitely recommend measuring your child as you knit to make sure that the chosen size will fit well.

Blurry sweatered kids playing before Easter brunch.
Blurry sweatered kids playing before Easter brunch.

I’m pleased that both of my children enjoy wearing their hand-knits, even if they refuse to cooperate for a photo. I told my husband that next year, I will finish a sweater vest for him on the eve of Easter to continue with my tradition. I probably should start now, huh?

 

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Maine Quilt Shop Hop 2014: Bangor Day

2014-04-17 10.55.42This morning, my friend Emily and I decided to tackle two more local quilt shops with our rambunctious two-year old sons. Little did we know, today was to be one of the most rambunctious days yet! Neither of the boys wanted to have anything to do with the quilt shops, so we did not get to look around and chat nearly as much as we would have liked to. I also apologize in advance for the somewhat blurry photos. Much of the time, I was wearing my son on my back in the Ergo, which does not contribute well to a steady arm. Both shops were gorgeous and filled with beautiful traditional fabrics with lots of blenders and tone on tone fabrics, so I’m sure to return. Perhaps I will bring a camera and try to do some retakes.  For now, here’s my hop summary:

The Cotton Cupboard Quilt Shop  Bangor, Maine

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This shop is by far the largest, most thoroughly stocked shop I’ve visited to date. It is HUGE! And has everything!! The Cotton Cupboard Quilt Shop has a large selection of Bernina sewing machines, notions galore, cutting mats of all shapes and sizes–even the rotating mats!, buttons, an extensive variety of books and patterns, kits, and they have a Block of the Month Club and offer classes. And their fabric! Cotton Cupboard has a huge stock of traditional quilting fabric, MANY gorgeous arrays of blenders and tone on tone fabrics, nature-print fabrics (think stones, grass, leaves, etc), a selection of children’s fabric, the entire Downton Abbey fabric line by Andover Fabrics (swoon!), and more. The one thing they don’t have is modern fabric. In talking to Evelyn, she said they’ve tried stocking modern fabric in the past but not enough folks were buying it to make it worth stocking.

Here’s a look around the shop:

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Emily and the boys getting ready to browse.

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Button station!

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Downton Abbey fabric line by Andover Fabrics

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This shop even had Art Quilt Boards, which I had never seen before. These would make great quick gifts, or even fabric projects for kids.

The Cotton Cupboard Quilt Shop at a Glance

Location? The Cotton Cupboard Quilt Shop is located right on Broadway in the Judson Heights Center (next to The Growing Place). While it’s not in the center of downtown, it is on a road full of shopping centers and other hot spots. For the ice cream lovers, it’s just a skip, hop, and a jump away from Giffords; that alone makes it worth the trek out Broadway to visit the quilt shop and get some ice cream! There is a parking lot with ample free parking, and the store is easy to find.

Sells? A large selection of traditional quilting fabric, notions, Bernina sewing machines, books and patterns, and offers classes and workshops. They are a Bernina dealer, with classes specifically tailored to learning to use your Bernina machine.

Modern or traditional? Traditional, since apparently the modern quilting world hasn’t made its way up to Bangor yet!

Swag? 5″ charm square of Shop Hop Theme fabric, free fat quarter, coupon, and a fun sized candy treat.

Kid friendly? Not really. This store is so large, it’s hard to keep an eye on your kids, at least when they are toddlers. Evelyn said they try to be kid friendly, and are open to kids in the shop, but she worries mostly about all the sharp objects. I agree; I worried that with the ubiquitous sewing machines and aisles and aisles of fabric that Max would bolt (pun intended! hah) and find his way to something he shouldn’t before I could catch him.

Choppin’ Cotton Bangor, Maine

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Choppin’ Cotton is an adorable quilt shop right in a lovely home. Since my son was especially squirmy in this shop, I didn’t get a chance to ask whose home it is. They sell a wide range of traditional quilting cottons, notions and quilting tools, patterns and books–including some modern quilting books!–and they offer workshops as well. I loved the ambiance of the shop, even if it wasn’t especially toddler friendly. I am eager to go back someday sans kids so that I can truly browse.

Here’s a look around the adorable shop:

Walk right in through the front porch and into the main hall. Admire the crystal chandelier.
Walk right in through the front porch and into the main hall. Admire the crystal chandelier.
Some of their books, including some Modern Quilting options!
Some of their books, including some Modern Quilting options!
Colorful blenders... beautiful!
Colorful batiks and blenders… beautiful!
The cutting table is right in front of the mantle and fireplace!
The cutting table is right in front of the mantle and fireplace!
Colorful zippers
Colorful zippers

2014-04-17 11.42.42The shop sported a homey quilting decor with many signs that made me smile, mostly related to never having too much fabric. “Your husband called; he said buy whatever you want.” “To quilt or not to quilt: What a silly question!” and similar signs. While looking around, I often would pause on a sign and have a good chuckle. I also appreciated the reminder behind the check out counter: “I have a difficult time remembering my Grandchildren’s name, so please remind me of yours.” Being in a home with the kitchen behind a curtain just beyond the entry, next to a staircase leading up to living quarters, paired with the homey signs and decor and friendly conversation made this shop especially relaxed and welcoming. I’m looking forward to going back the next time I have a free moment in Bangor.

Choppin’ Cotton at a Glance

Location? Located on High Street, right off of Hammond Street, Choppin’ Cotton is walkable from downtown Bangor as long as you aren’t afraid of a good hill. Since it’s in an actual home, it’s on a residential street with street parking. I did not notice whether there is additional parking, but there were plenty of free street parking spots.

Sells? Traditional quilting fabric, notions, books and patterns. According to their website, they specialize in Alto’s QuiltCut2 quilting tool systems.

Modern or traditional? Traditional, but with Modern Quilting books available.

Swag? 5″ charm square of Shop Hop Theme fabric, a Tooltron Fine Sewing Brush, and a fun size candy snack.

Kid friendly? No. Because the shop is in a house, there is less open space, and multiple rooms into and out of which kids can run and dart to find trouble. Eloise was very friendly and understanding about our fussing kids, but I still felt that tell-tale rush of blood that triggers the fight-or-flight reaction when Max was especially fussy.

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In writing these, especially on an wildly rambunctious day like today, I realize that bringing a toddler into a quilt shop is rarely a great idea. Sometimes, though, it is the only option.  Having a “safe” corner with a pouf and a box of books and toys really makes or breaks a successful fabric shopping trip on those days.  So who’s going to be the genius who opens a quilt shop with an attached playroom or ball pit?! That would be heaven!

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

 

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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?

 

 

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