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?

 

 

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?

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
four pointed star
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?

Maine Quilt Shop Hop 2014: Day 1, 2 Stores Down!

Today began the 11th annual Maine Quilt Shop Hop, and I started with a bang! Well, a bang compared to last year, anyway; I’ve already doubled the number of shops I visited. My friend Emily and I, accompanied by our two year olds, fairly successfully visited our first two local quilt shops this morning. I say fairly successfully since our sons didn’t wreck too much havoc, AND we were able to look around both shops, get our passports stamped, and even chat with the shop owners a bit!

The Maine Quilt Shop Hop is an annual event in the State of Maine.   Participating Independent Quilt Shops invite “Shop Hoppers” to pick up a passport at any of the stores to start the hop, then visit as many stores as we can between April 1st and April 30.  We have our passport stamped at each shop we visit, get a free 5″ charm square of the shop hop theme fabric, and sometimes an additional special gift. It’s a great way to see beautiful Maine during glorious springtime, and have a chance at winning some awesome prizes!

Here are the shops we visited today (click each name to visit the store’s website):

Fiddlehead Artisan Supply Store  Belfast, Maine

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Fiddlehead Artisan Supply Store is my go-to fabric shop. It is a family-owned sewing, quilting, and craft shop right in downtown Belfast. The aesthetic in this store is fabulous. I just love their style. I walk in and I’m in fabric heaven. Many of their fabrics lend themselves more to adorable dresses and clothing items, but they also have a good supply of quilting blender fabrics and of course quilt feature fabrics. Fiddlehead also has a wide selection of books and patterns, felt, roving, Waldorf-style dolls and art supplies, they offer classes in the back, and even have started a Thursday night open craft gathering night. Here’s some eye candy for you from inside their shop.

I walk into this store and swoon.
I walk into this store and swoon.

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Even their buttons are gorgeous!
The colors in this shop make me VERY happy!
The colors in this shop make me VERY happy!
Added bonus: box of toys and books to attempt to keep the kids busy!
Added bonus: box of toys and books to attempt to keep the kids busy!

Fiddlehead at a Glance

Location? Right in the town of Belfast, in midcoast Maine. Great location with street parking right out front. You can shop for fabric and then walk to lunch, catch a movie, walk for ice cream, do some gift shopping for other made in Maine items, and even walk right down to the Belfast Boat Launch. A great store to visit on a day trip!

Sells? Modern fabrics, threads, notions, felt, laminates, a large selection of books and patterns, craft supplies (paints, wooden doll forms, etc), fancy paper, and more.

Modern or traditional? I’d say Fiddlehead has more modern fabric lines and styles

Swag? At Fiddlehead we not only received the 5″ charm square of Shop Hop Theme fabric, but we also were able to choose a free fat quarter, and received a gift bag with a hershey kiss, an adorable sewing machine charm, and coupons to Fiddlehead and Heavenly Socks Yarn, a local yarn shop.

Kid friendly? Yes! While any fabric store isn’t an ideal spot for toddlers on the loose, Fiddlehead has a basket of books and toys to help keep kids occupied, and the owner and shopkeepers are very relaxed with kids (even wild ones, as I’ve learned through experience).

 

Nancy’s Sewing Center Belfast, Maine

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Nancy's Sewing Center on Route 3 in Belfast
Nancy’s Sewing Center on Route 3 in Belfast

Today was my first time in Nancy’s Sewing Center, but it most likely will not be my last. This shop is clearly created for quilters. There are walls of gorgeous tone on tone fabrics in glorious colors, as well as many pre-cut fat quarters, fat eighths, and even scraps for 10 cents apiece! It is definitely a more traditional shop, but has a wide variety of fabrics that would work in both traditional and modern quilts. As I admired all of the quilts hanging on the walls, the colorful variety of fabric, and the copious amounts of tone on tone fabrics, I made my way to the back room where lives a long arm quilting machine! One day I may go back there and ask if I may give it a try. I would LOVE to try a long arm!

Here are some pictures from Nancy’s Sewing Center.

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A long arm!!! Droooollll
A long arm!!! Droooollll

Nancy’s Sewing Center at a Glance

Location? On Route 3 in Belfast, outside of town. There is ample parking and large signs, but Nancy’s Sewing Center is on a busy road with no other shops within walking distance.

Sells? Quilting fabrics, threads, notions, and quilting books and patterns.

Modern or traditional? Mostly traditional quilting fabrics, with a large selection of tone on tones and batiks.

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

Kid friendly? Yes. Nancy’s Sewing Center also had a basket of toys to help keep kids occupied. In fact, my son Max wanted to adopt the little baby doll from the basket. When it was time to go, he kept saying “I have it. I have it.” We settled on giving the baby a kiss and a hug and leaving her in the basket for the next kids.  Even when both kids were running circles, we didn’t get any stern looks. That’s kid friendly to me!

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I had so much fun starting off the shop hop and I can’t wait to visit more Maine quilt shops during the rest of April!  You can follow my hopping by following @nightquilter on Twitter #mainequiltshophop2014

What qualities do you look for in a quilt shop?

Baby FMQ for the Win

It is decided: baby quilts are the all-time best for practicing free motion quilting (FMQ). Why? Here’s my thinking:

1. Baby quilts are the smallest of the “full” sized quilts, so they are a bit easier to maneuver in your machine. Trust me, this is very helpful for a newbie free motion quilter!

2. Many baby quilts, at least the ones that I have made thus far, are made of larger blocks, encouraging many different quilting patterns and styles.

Blocky baby quilt. To see more of my recently attempted free motion quilting patterns, see my post A Sensory Adventure with FMQ
Blocky baby quilt. To see more of my recently attempted free motion quilting patterns, see my post A Sensory Adventure with FMQ

3. Baby quilts are made to be spit up on, peed on, dragged around the house, and shown that tough love only a baby and toddler can dish out. This to me is the perfect medium for practice (ie, imperfection). Clearly, nothing is perfect. But when I know that the subject quilt is hopefully going to be dragged around, have diapers changed on it, and be used as an impromptu picnic blanket or cape, I feel less worried about getting everything exactly perfectly right.

This *oopsie* artistic element will make a great mountain or jump for matchbox cars.
This *oopsie* artistic element will make a great mountain or jump for matchbox cars.

4. Babies like funky shapes and textures. A brand new baby who is just starting to see the world and learn to move will love to explore a quilt with many different colors and textures. Free motion quilting helps you add those varied textures that a tactile creature like a baby will love.

5. When the quilt is for a baby, you can try out that weird or intriguingly unique free motion quilting pattern you’ve had your eye on, but have been hesitant to try on a more formal quilt. Suddenly have a desire to try out your grade school cursive? Go for it!

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In the outer most sashing, I FMQ-wrote the ABCs of babies. It was quite fun and an adventure to think up words to begin with each letter of the alphabet, almost twice around! Let me know if you are interesting in knowing the words I chose; I can addend this post if there’s interest!

See the completed quilt HERE!

Free Motion Quilt-a-thon

I’m doing more free motion quilting (FMQ) tonight, and I’m really enjoying trying out all these different patterns. Tonight I’m quilting swirls and stars in the star border,

photo 5 (2)and I’m trying a new design I recently saw on the blog Sew Katie Did. Katie, from Sew Katie Did, posted an article called ::Practice Practice Practice:: all about practicing FMQ. I’m trying out one of her suggested patterns, with a signature heart added into the design.

20140327-201257.jpgKatie is indeed correct: practice is the best teacher for free motion quilting. The only way to see what you can do is to try it!

What is the latest free motion quilting pattern you’ve tried? 

See the completed quilt HERE!

 

Stash Building

As a new quilter, my stash is far from extensive. In fact, I’m trying to complete some of my works in progress with the fabrics I’ve already bought before taking on new, large projects. My stay home mom budget just doesn’t fund extensive stash building, no matter how tempting the fabric; and trust me, some of those new fabric lines are mighty tempting!

Today I was visiting some local craft shops in search of super bulky yarn for an awesome new project (more on that soon!). Out of the corner of my eye, I happened to spot this adorable Alexander Henry “ABC With Me” fabric… on sale!

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That got me thinking about fabric: I don’t have many purples in my little stash, and I’m working on designing a new paper piecing pattern of lupine, a gorgeous flower ubiquitous in Maine.  They often are purplish, and I will need a few bits of purple to test the pattern. I decided to get some bits (1/4 yards) of purple, and a lovely swirly blue for the background/sky.

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I think they will look lovely as a lupine flower.

My latest paper piecing pattern-in-progress. Lupine are gorgeous wildflowers ubiquitous in Maine.
My latest paper piecing pattern-in-progress. Lupine are gorgeous wildflowers ubiquitous in Maine.

Don’t mind the wrinkles and shadows in my fabric photos; I was trying to quickly snap some photos while keeping my kids off the fabric–no easy task! Here they are, “helping”. Maddie is reading the fabric while Max tries really hard to resist flopping on top of the whole pile.

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A Sensory Adventure with FMQ

Free motion quilting (FMQ) is an extremely versatile form of quilting, since you can do it in literally ANY pattern. As far as I’ve seen, your only limiting factor while FMQ is your own ability to accurately maneuver the quilt in your sewing machine’s neck space. I have been experimenting with both circular and angular designs, and I feel like I’m improving a bit (but we won’t even talk about the fact that I sewed through my finger on Sunday. Let’s just not go there. But other than that joyously surprising experience, I think my free motiong quilting is getting better!)

Since this quilt is going to a baby, I am trying to use varied quilting patterns to help make rolling around on the quilt a sensory adventure. I hope those adorable little fingers and toes have fun exploring! Here are some of my FMQing so far. The quilt hasn’t been washed or dried yet since I’m still not finished, but hopefully the designs will be even puffier and more visible (and tangible) after a good wash!

Angular and circular-puzzle pieces
Angular and circular-puzzle pieces
Circular-pebbles
Circular-pebbles
Angular-zig zag pyramids
Angular-zig zag pyramids
Circular-continuous curve meandering
Circular-continuous curve meandering
Angular-pointy paisley
Angular-pointy paisley

The puzzle and pebbles pattern were both suggested by a fellow quilting friend on facebook. Thank you, Jessica Cook! The puzzle design is from CraftGossip.com. The continuous curve meandering pattern was first seen on Oh, Fransson!, one of my favorite quilting blogs. The angular zig zags and pointy paisley patterns were from Leah Day’s amazing Free Motion Quilting Project blog. If you ever need inspiration for free motion quilting patterns, that’s the place to go!

What is your favorite FMQ pattern or design? I would love to see!

See the completed quilt HERE!

 

An Unexpected Element

“Don’t point out mistakes in your quilting; call them artistic elements.”

I hear this sage advice often, especially when a fellow quilter posts pictures of newly finished quilts, lamenting the mistakes that only (s)he can see. As a quasi-perfectionist, I know how much little mistakes and imperfections can stand out. I also am learning when it’s worth befriending the seam ripper and when it’s better to carry on.

The past few days I’ve been practicing my free motion quilting skills, in the form of quilting many different patterns into my latest quilt. The quilt is slated for a baby, so my goal is to use the quilting designs to make it a sensory adventure. Late into the evening, when I was really getting into the groove, I got excited and lost a bit of focus, or perhaps I was a bit too focused. The result was this:

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I was so focused on those awesome, yet breath-stealing pebbles, I didn’t realize I was creating quite a mountainous sashing. But no worries–it’s not a mistake. It’s an unexpected artistic element: a mountainous sensory adventure. Right?