Hand Stitching Preparedness {Tip}

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of hand stitching, between finishing the piecing of my English Paper Pieced table runner, and stitching the pieced Lucy Boston blocks down to the border fabric to complete my table runner quilt top. During the past weeks, I learned two tricks that have helped streamline the process, and I’d like to share them with you today. I’ll call it “hand stitching preparedness” since it seems pretty logical, even if both tips were revelations to me.

hand stitching preparednessThe first tip came in the form of an Instagram post by Carole Lyles Shaw (@carole_lylesshaw), a simple photo of a few pre-threaded and knotted needles stuck into the arm of the couch to help streamline her binding while watching a game on TV.  I saw this and a lightbulb went off in my brain: duh!!

Before sitting down with your hand stitching, whether it be EPP, hand applique, or quilt binding, pre-thread and knot a few needles and have them ready and waiting within reach.

You can keep them in a pincushion nearby (photo above)…

pre threaded and knotted needles on a needle minder
The adorable needle minder was made by @whatthebobbin on Instagram.

or you can keep them on a needle minder on your actual work…

pre threaded and knotted needles in the couch armor you can just stick them into the arm of the couch right next to you.

hand stitching with napping baby in lapThis tip came in particularly handy since I was doing my hand stitching with my sleeping baby in my lap and my scissors, thread, and other sewing tools way up high on top of the bookcase, out of reach of my curious and busy 3 year old. Talk about a game changer! I was able to finish stitching down the blocks without waking my babe or having to juggle a sleeping baby, scissors, and sewing needles to cut new threads as I progressed.

cutting threads in advance
Stunning needlebook made by @mara_makes… isn’t that thread holder awesome!?

One additional bit of advice I’ll add to this tip is to lay your threads out neatly and separately when cutting them to pre-thread your needles. If you cut them and lay them on top of each other, they *may* make a tangled mess before you can thread the needles successfully.

tangled mess of threadsAsk me how I know this 😉

And finally, learning how to tie a quilter’s knot has saved me a lot of time with my recent hand stitching. That’s one of the downfalls of being a primarily self-taught sewist: you miss the simple basic tricks that well versed quilters take for granted. My friend Stephanie at Late Night Quilter posted this video tutorial a couple weeks ago, and I’ve made dozens of quilter’s knots since.

Happy stitching!

I’m linking up with Tips & Tutorials Tuesday over at Late Night Quilter.

June Finish {ALYoF}: Baby! & EPP Table Runner Flimsy

It’s hard to believe that less than a month ago, I was still pregnant. Yet in early June when I was setting my goal for A Lovely Year of Finishes (ALYoF), my goal was to have a baby!! I also added in a little hand stitching goal of completing my Summer English Paper Pieced (EPP) table runner top. I’m happy to report that I accomplished both of those goals!

june finish alyof finn epp table runner

june finish alyof finn epp table runnerMany of you have been appropriately introduced to baby Finn, who made his appearance 5 days into the month. Earlier today, I completed the final stitches attaching the EPP pieces to a solid border, finishing the table runner quilt top just in time.

blind ish stitch Lucy Boston applique
I used blind-ish stitch to sew the Lucy Boston blocks to a solid border fabric.

I used Aurifil 1320 – Medium Teal and a blind-ish stitch, which I hear is a highly favored stitch, to attach the EPP Lucy Boston blocks to a solid border fabric, Moda Bella solid in Coastal. I have not yet cut away the fabric behind the blocks, but I most likely will do so before layering, basting, and hand quilting the table runner.

completed table runner top lucy boston eppNow that I’ve grown my Aurifil 12wt thread stash, I’m excited to hand quilt this table runner. I have not yet decided on a quilting pattern, but I probably will go with a simple echo-border pattern. Finn doesn’t seem too interested in the stitching, but that’s ok!

baby finn and table runner quilt top eppI’m linking up with A Lovely Year of Finishes June Finish Party, and already contemplating my goal for July. I’m really enjoying being a part of ALYoF, since it is a little added incentive to focus on one project and actually make visible progress. This is my fourth successful monthly finish, since I missed the goal setting deadline for January and completely missed May. Not too bad!

Color Inspiration Thursday {52}

Fifty-two weeks of color inspiration! I’ve officially provided a year’s worth of color inspiration, and hopefully you enjoy it as much as ever! Today’s inspiration comes from tiny baby feet and gorgeous lupine, since I couldn’t resist creating a lupine palette! Color palettes are created using Play Crafts’ Palette Builder 2.1 and my photographs, matched with Kona cottons & Moda Bella solids and Aurifil thread.

lupine color paletteCorresponding solids from left to right:
Bella Hyacinth, Kona Geranium, Kona Mulberry, Kona Lavender, Kona Laurel, Kona Limelight

Corresponding Aurifil thread from left to right:
2566 – Wisteria
4030 – Plum

4225 – Eggplant
2520 – Violet
2890 – Dk Grass Green
1147 – Lt Leaf Green

I couldn’t resist making a palette out of at least one of my lupine photos from earlier this week. A gorgeous range of purples, a splash of pink, contrasting with shades of green, this palette captures the essence of a lupine field.

baby toes color palette turquoise peachCorresponding solids from left to right:
Kona Delft, Kona Blue, Bella Robin’s Egg, Bella American Blue, Kona Salmon, Bella Bunny Hill Pink

Corresponding Aurifil thread from left to right:
4140 – Wedgewood
2710 – Lt Robins Egg

6720 – Slate
1310 – Med Blue Grey
2220 – Lt Salmon
2314 – Beige

Baby toes! Back when my sister was in grammar school, I remember hearing about she and my mom going to some fashion event with the Girl Scouts, where “professionals” helped the scouts determine what colors look best with each girl’s complexion. The reason this particular outing sticks in my mind is that they came back with the news that the color turquoise looks great with EVERY complexion and skin tone. In the decade since learning this fact, turquoise has become my favorite color and therefore graces the family wardrobe numerous times. While the colors in this palette don’t read as straight turquoise, the pairing of the range of blues with the salmony pink baby toes makes me happy. I would most definitely use this palette in a quilt, either for a baby, or perhaps for a breezy summer beach house.

Just for fun, here are some more photos from my baby Finn photo shoot. It’s wild to think that three weeks ago, this big baby boy was still in my belly!

baby feet

finn at 3 weeks old

finn at 3 weeks old asleep

colo coordinated baby snuggles
Color coordinated baby snuggles. Three weeks ago today, he was still growing on the inside. Babies grow fast!

For those of you who have been following my Color Inspiration posts for a while, or even if you haven’t, what is your favorite color palette from the past year? Is there one photo or palette that sticks out in your mind? Certain colors that call to you? I’d love to know! Here’s a quick link to all of my color inspiration posts for reference: Night Quilter’s Color Inspiration Thursday: The First Year

Lupine Season and a Summer Sale

The lupines are in full bloom; some already on their way to seed. That means that country drives in our area are exceptionally beautiful, since lupines sprawl along roadways and in fields like a rolling purple sea, with splashes of pink and white. Summer is here!lupine in bloom maineLupine season makes me think of my paper pieced lupine pattern–one of the first ones I created, and still one of my favorites. I decided that summer is a great time for a sale, and what better inspiration than a field of lupine.  For the next month–through July 23rd–all of my summer themed paper piecing patterns will be on sale–nearly half off! Visit my Craftsy shop to peruse my patterns, add another fun project to your pile, and embrace summer!

LUPINE foundation paper piecing pattern saleIn addition to my lupine pattern, my summer patterns include patterns for buoys, fishies, and some Matisse-style circling seagulls, with sale prices already reflected. If you’re new to foundation paper piecing, I created a beginner’s tutorial to take you step by step through the process HERE.

night quilter summer foundation paper piecing patterns sale

Last weekend while running errands as a family of five–it was my husband’s last day of paternity leave, so I wanted to make the most of it and run the errands I knew I would not be attempting for months with all three kids on my own: Target, especially–and after restocking chicken feed and laundry detergent, my awesome husband pulled off the road at a few stops so that I could get out and photograph the lupine fields. I’m always so inspired by the gorgeous beauty in nature, yet have learned to appreciate the fleeting nature of the sights. Before you know it, the lupines will go completely to seed and the next gorgeous wildflower will take its place.
lupine flower detail purple lupine field busy bee on lupineAhh, summertime! Enjoy the sale and please spread the word!


Beginning is the Hardest Part

I did it! 17 days after Finn’s birth, I finally turned on the sewing machine and did some machine stitching. That sure beats the six weeks I waited after Max was born before realizing that I could make progress in tiny baby steps. Beginning is the hardest part, so hopefully now that I’ve begun, I will be able to sew for 10-20 minutes per day (or more likely, night). Of course I began a new project while I was at it.

snuggling kiddos under rainbow quiltAfter seeing my kiddos curled up under Maddie’s Rainbow Jellyroll Quilt, I decided that my boys really need quilts of their own. I knew I wanted to keep it simple and use a rainbow of color (why not? I love rainbows; kids love rainbows; my stash is a rainbow… perfect!), and inspiration struck in the form of a sneak peek Instagram post of a mini quilt made by Kim at _glass_half_full.

rainbow low volume fabric pullI sketched out some ideas for enlarging the quilt, decided on a 7×7 grid of 9″ blocks for a 63″ square finished quilt size, and then came the fun part: fabric pull! I pulled out all of my low volumes for the background, and decided to put the gorgeous rainbow fat eighths bundle I won from Pile O’ Fabric back in April to good use.

new fabric rainbow fat eighth roll

rainbow fat eighths bundle winnings from pileofabricTypically when there’s a bundle or collection of fabrics, I’ll like most of them, but not all. This bundle is an exception, as are many of Alyssa’s bundles at Pile O’ Fabric. I honestly love every. single. print. in this bundle. It’s a collection of 35 fat eighths, five (5) each of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and pink. They are mostly the color-heavy “basics” that read as one color in particular. It’s ideal for a rainbow quilt, and I’m excited to add these fabrics to my stash.

Rainbow Strip Quilt progressThe blocks sew up very quickly; I’ve already made 6 of the necessary 49 blocks. It doesn’t look like much yet, but I am hoping that as more blocks are added and you can see the design better, it will start to be a bit more exciting. A quilt like this might be best seen either super close so that the fabric details are there, or complete and in full so that the overall aesthetic is there.

I haven’t yet squared up the bottom left red block, since I haven’t decided if the diagonal path of the low volume print will drive me nuts or not, and whether I should re-stitch it with the print parallel to the red strip. What would you do? I’m trying really hard not to micromanage the piecing of this quilt, and to let the somewhat scrappy randomness evolve on its own.

Koi and carrot crops
Koi and carrot
red cross hatch and botanics
Red crosshatch and botanics

Baby steps. Even they will result, one day, in a baby quilt. 🙂

I’m linking up with Molli’s Sunday Stash, since I’m finally sharing this gorgeous rainbow fat eighths bundle, as well as Monday Makers & Design Wall.

Color Inspiration Thursday {51}

Irises and peonies took center stage in my garden this week, so pinks and purples dominate this week’s color inspiration. Color palettes are created using Play Crafts’ Palette Builder 2.1 and my photographs.

purple iris color paletteCorresponding solids from left to right:
Kona Eggplant, Bella Royal, Kona Shadow, Bella Baby Blue, Kona Crocus, Bella Purple

Corresponding Aurifil thread from left to right:
4225 – Eggplant
2581 – Dk Dusty Grape

2600 – Dove
2562 – Lilac
2524 – Grey Violet
4225 – Eggplant

I like to get up close and personal with flowers. There’s a whole new world of fuzzy, fluffy, intricate detail that is revealed once you get within a few inches. From afar, sure–flowers are pretty. Once you put your nose inside it and take a look around, you see the tiny details that make each flower unique, and an intricate new world blossoms.

pink peony color paletteCorresponding solids from left to right:
Bella Petal Pink, Bella Bunny Hill Pink, Kona Putty, Bella Thistle, Bella Magenta, Kona Garnet

Corresponding Aurifil thread from left to right:
2566 – Wisteria
2564 – Pale Lilac

2314 – Beige
2566 – Wisteria
4030 – Plum
2568 – Mulberry

Peonies. For some reason, this species of peony makes me feel like I’m watching a ballet, each petal a dancer deftly arcing and twirling in unison with the others, yet bringing her own personality to the dance. Typically, I love the symmetry found in flowers, but with peonies I appreciate the organized chaos, the improvisational beauty.

pink peony color paletteCorresponding solids from left to right:
Bella Lead, Kona Magenta, Kona Cerise, Bella Deep Burgundy, Kona Petunia, Kona Lupine

Corresponding Aurifil thread from left to right:
1246 – Grey
2535 – Magenta

4030 – Plum
2568 – Mulberry
2564 – Pale Lilac
2479 – Med Orchid

This time of year, my daughter brings in flowers daily to replenish the vase on our kitchen table. From wild daisies to voluptuous peonies, our table always has a burst of color right in the center. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Dropcloth Color Wheel Sampler Progress

With an infant sleeping and nursing much of the day, and still the help of my husband around the house, I’ve been making good progress on my Dropcloth Color Wheel embroidery sampler. Over the weekend, I received some new colors of 12wt Aurifil (thank you, Alex!) so I now have all of the necessary colors to complete this sampler. I’m already thinking about what I’m going to embroider next, and can’t wait to use the thread for hand–or even machine–quilting, too!dropcloth rainbow wheel embroidery sampler and 12wt aurifil

dropcloth rainbow wheel embroidery sampler and 12wt aurifilThis is my first time trying embroidery, so I’m learning the stitches as I go. YouTube is an amazing resource, isn’t it!? So far, blanket stitch is still the trickiest for me. My favorites are Algerian Eyes, Coral Knots, and Backstitch. In browsing other embroidery samplers, I’m noticing that there seems to be an endless list of stitches to try, but I want to try them all! Admittedly, I’m a bit frightened by French Knots, but will tackle them next. I chuckled at the fact that I was sewing the couched stitch while sitting on the couch (is there a couch-related reason for the name?).

rainbow of aurifil 12wt threadThe more I use the 12wt Aurifil, the more impressed I am. I’m a complete beginner at embroidery, so there may be benefits of using a floss or perle cotton thread that are unknown to me, but the smoothness of the Aurifil makes it a dream to stitch with. There’s no unraveling or splitting, and the thread is thick enough to make an impact with only one strand. The colors, of course, speak for themselves: vibrant, bold, and shiny.

rainbow of aurifil 12wt thread and dropcloth samplerI have only a few sections remaining, and then comes the fun of deciding what to do with this once it’s finished. My initial instinct is to finish it in the hoop, but I’m tempted to stitch it into a larger mini quilt for a more finished display.

If you stitch embroidery samplers, how do you finish them?

I’m linking up with Freshly Pieced’s Work in Progress Wednesday and Molli Sparkles Sunday Stash (hello, shiny new Aurifil!).



Missing June {Why I Quilt}

Over the past week, little reminders of why I love to quilt have been popping up here and there. First, the birth of my son. There’s nothing like new life to inspire an overflowing heart and endless inspiration. I just want to stitch my love into a million timeless quilts so that my family can be wrapped in a tangible sign of my love, always. Family, babies, love–what beautiful things!

Then, days later, Amy from Stitchery Dickory Dock announced her new book, For Keeps. In her words, here’s what For Keeps is all about:

For Keeps Pledge

What is it all about?  Well, quilting, yes, but so much more than that.  It’s about building relationships, about preserving priceless memories, and sparking unforgettable family time.  It’s about making beautiful things, and infusing our patchwork with even more meaning and functionality.  After all, isn’t that what quilts are all about? They’re a joy to make, a joy to give, and a joy to use.

It’s about making beautiful things.

This line gets me every time. I’ll tell you why in a minute… but first, the next sign: yesterday, Moda Fabrics posted a graphic on Instagram sharing that it was National Making Life Beautiful Day.

create beautiful things moda fabrics

Create beautiful things.

All of these little signs, popping up here and there all within the first weeks of June remind me strongly of the one who first inspired me to quilt: Grammy June.

On one of the last days before she died, while she and I were looking through her photo album of finished quilts, I kept saying, “Wow, that’s beautiful!”… “Oooh, beautiful!”… “That’s so beautiful!”.  Finally, in her matter of fact way, she turned to me and said, “Well I only make beautiful things.” I wish you could hear her say it. It was just so… true. And so very much like her. She told it like it was like no one else I know, both the good and the bad.

I remember one time, shortly after my second child was born and I was over at a family gathering, just feeling soooo tired and sleep deprived and needed to the brink of my capabilities. I said, “I just need a break,” and Grammy June, in all her tactful truthfulness, replied, “Well you don’t get one.” She was right, but her matter of fact manner stopped me in my tracks. I think I actually laughed. After all, at times like that you can either laugh or you can cry.

Grammy June was an extremely talented traditional quilter. She pieced and quilted by hand, piecing with her Singer featherweight during her final years. I still find myself thinking things like, “I wonder what needle Grammy June would use for this” and for a split second feeling excitement at showing her a new skill or completed quilt. I am sure she would be proud, and I like to think she’s smiling down from heaven, saying “Of course you did” whenever I successfully complete a new quilting technique or create a new pattern. I do know she provides inspiration daily, through her creations and simple advice, which still echoes in my mind regularly. Her one simple statement, “I only make beautiful things” has become my mantra.

make beautiful things
Photo by Liz West, used from Flickr with Creative Commons. Text added by me.

I aim to make beautiful things, daily. To create just a little bit each day: an act of love, a creative outlet, and a little stitch into the quilts of time. I’m missing June, but Finn was born the day before her birthday and within a week I’ve been reminded of her multiple times through her very own words:

…make beautiful things.

I quilt. I make beautiful things. I am continuing her legacy, building relationships, preserving memories, and sparking unforgettable family time. This is just one of the many reasons why I quilt, but it’s a big one.

A few months before her death, I completed a quilted wall hanging for Grammy June. She had made countless quilts for every family member, but I had never heard of her receiving a quilt. I knew that had to change, but I also knew I didn’t have much time. A wall hanging it was, in her favorite color purple, with my first-ever paper pieced Irises, my first-ever flanged binding, and my first-ever free motion quilting. It seemed fitting, and Grammy June loved it. It was far from perfect, but she saw the love and the effort and that’s what matters. That’s why quilts matter.

grammy june iris quilt
Grammy June opening her quilt.

In sum of this reflective post, I will echo Amy’s words and invite you to refocus your heart when it comes to your sewing. Take a moment to pause, amidst your busy lives, bursting sewing rooms, and piles of unfinished projects, to take a quick look at why it is that you sew, and for whom you sew. If you feel so inclined, take the #ForKeepsPledge and spread the quilty love.

At the very least, go ahead and make something beautiful! xoxo

Color Inspiration Thursday {50}

I promised some baby fingers and toes for this week’s color inspiration, but forgot how difficult it is to photograph a squirmy baby, especially the flailing limbs. This week I’ll be sharing one baby color palette, since I never tire of looking at this little miracle, and also a couple of palettes from photographs of the gorgeous flowers my brother and sister-in-law sent. Color palettes are made using Play Crafts’ Palette Builder 2.1 and my photographs.

baby color paletteCorresponding solids from left to right:
Kona Taupe, Kona Pale Flesh, Kona Iron, Kona Aqua, Kona Old Green, Bella Green

Corresponding Aurifil thread from left to right:
2375 – Antique Blush
2420 – Fleshy Pink
5008 – Sugar Paper
5007 – Grey Blue
2850 – Med Juniper
5014 – Marine Water

I am still in the thick of newborn baby blissland, made sweeter by the fact that little Finn is actually sleeping fairly well now that my milk has come in. I attribute a lot of that to the fact that we co-sleep and he can snuggle me all night long, but whatever the case may be, I feel rested and in love. I know that there surely will be sleepless nights–probably many consecutive sleepless nights–but for now I’m enjoying this wonderful rested and full-hearted time.

pink flower color paletteCorresponding solids from left to right:
Bella Wisteria, Kona Geranium, Bella Cherry, Bella Peony, Bella Plum, Bella Etchings Slate

Corresponding Aurifil thread from left to right:
2524 – Grey Violet
4030 – Plum
1103 – Burgundy
2479 – Med Orchid
2566 – Wisteria
5004 – Grey Smoke

A few days after Finn was born, we received the sweetest delivery–a florist’s van dropped off a gorgeous vase and bouquet of flowers from my brother and sister-in-law in New Jersey. Their divine smell has been wrapping us in love daily, and the colors brighten the room.

purple and lime flower color paletteCorresponding solids from left to right:
Kona Mulberry, Kona Magenta, Bella Purple, Kona Lavender, Kona Medium Grey, Kona Lime

Corresponding Aurifil thread from left to right:
4225 – Eggplant
2545 – Med Purple
2525 – Dusty Blue Violet
2520 – Violet
2625 – Arctic Ice
1231 – Spring Green

I absolutely love this palette! I’m not usually a big purple person, but that pop of lime green does it for me! I can see this being a really fun palette for a quilt for a purple-loving person. The grey adds some balance and the lime green adds interest. I might even lime-up the green a bit more–maybe Kona wasabi style?

Summer EPP Table Runner Progress

The fussy cutting fun involved with English Paper piecing (EPP) and Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses blocks hooked me immediately (although I still think it should be called meticulous cutting or assiduous cutting).  I’m still wondering what one is to do with these gorgeous blocks other than make a ton and stitch them into a large quilt, though. With the three I’ve completed, I decided to turn them into a summery table runner to match these placemats. I’ve begun to join them together, slowly planning how I want to border these blocks so that they finish as a table runner.  This is my first time “finishing” an EPP project, so I’m learning as I go (read: making it up as I go), as I do with most everything.
summer epp table runner

With a newborn snoozing in my lap all day and night, and since I still have the help of my visiting mom and paternity-leave-taking husband, I’ve been making steady progress on finishing the center block and making tiny 1″ squares to join the three together. Even since these photos were taken this morning, the third block is joined as well. There’s not much better than resting with a peacefully sleeping newborn on your lap, doing some stitching while watching the milk drunk stupor reflex smiles.

sleeping baby stitching
My view earlier today, shared on Instagram.
summer epp table runner
I’m loving the teeny tiny needle minder gifted to me by Mara of @mara_makes on IG.

Since I made my own 1″ square EPP templates with card stock and my paper-cutting rotary cutter, I’m thinking I may just make my own templates for the entire border. In plotting it out, a combination of squares, rectangles, and trapezoids should do the trick (I think).

Have you joined Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses blocks before? What method/shapes did you use? Please link in the comments if there’s a particular method you like, even if it’s just a general EPP tip! I honestly haven’t asked google yet, but I prefer to hear opinions from you, anyway.

perfectly matching aurifilI had been stitching the pieces together using a neutral thread, but decided that since I’m joining a bunch of blues, I should use matching thread if possible. I was pleased as punch to find a perfectly coordinating blue Aurifil thread in my stash (but not overly surprised, since there ALWAYS seems to be a perfect match!) It’s right in the middle of the darker blues and lighter turquoise, and is the perfect color for tying this whole runner together (literally!)

What do you make out of your EPP creations? I am really itching to do some more fussy cutting, but I need to have a project idea in mind before adding another project to my pile.

I’m linking up with Freshly Pieced’s Work in Progress Wednesday, and then switching my gaze back to the beauty asleep in my lap. Happy stitching!