Tag Archives: quilting

Let’s Get Acquainted!

2014newbloggersbutton3The past few months I have been getting to know a great group of new quilting bloggers, making new friends, fine tuning my blog, and learning a ton about quilting and blogging, as part of the 2014 New Quilt Blogger Blog Hop organized by Beth at Plum and June. Today it’s my day to tell you a bit about myself and my journey into quilting.

What defines me? mother, gardener, crafter. If there were a quilt hanging somewhere in this picture, this would be quintessential me.
What defines me? mother, gardener, crafter. If there were a quilt hanging somewhere in this picture, this would be quintessential me. (Photo by Brittany White Photography)

Tell us a little about yourself.

When I think about what defines me, “mom” is the absolute first word that arises. I’m a full time mom of two little ones, and to say my life is filled with that blessed duty is an understatement. I also have a degree in environmental science and a master’s degree in elementary education. I’ve worked as a lifeguard, an environmental scientist–wetland and land use specialist, an elementary school teacher, and a yoga teacher. I grew up in New Jersey, but now live in rural Maine and love it. I also love to garden to grow my own organic food, enjoy nature, practice yoga, and of course craft! I have always been crafty, and have dabbled in card making, scrap-booking, jewelry making, mosaic, polymer clay, painting, and more, but only recently found the fiber arts. Now my crafts of choice are quilting and knitting.

Family
Family time is the best! (Photograph by Brittany White Photography)

How did you begin quilting?

There are a few catalysts that propelled me toward quilting, from my lifelong sewist mother, a gift of a simple squares quilt gifted by my talented cousin Hannah, and of course my expert quilter grammy. Shortly after having my son, when I had a gift-quilt only half finished, I discovered that sewing 20 minutes at a time could result in finished projects. This was a revelation for me, and thus began the Night Quilter: I grab a needle and thread when the kids are in bed.

Show us some of your favorite finished quilts.

Click on the name of each quilt to visit its relevant blog post (when there is one). If there is more than one relevant blog post, I will link them all at the end.

delight in the little things

Delight in the Little Things is a 12×12″ art quilt I made as a donation for a local Art Auction to benefit a couple faced with an expensive illness. It was inspired by a Facebook group called 12x12s with Cosmo and Cook, where a word is given each month and the goal is to create a 12×12″ art quilt inspired by that word. The word for December, my first month involved, was “Delight”. “Delight in the little things” immediately came to mind, and so I figured I’d make my art quilt out of 1″ squares (little!), featuring a tiny paper pieced sunburst star and a dandelion seed applique. I love the outcome, especially the yellow bits in the binding. For this quilt, it was my first time creating an art quilt, my first time making anything out of 1″ squares, I designed my first paper piecing pattern for the star, and it was one of my first times free motion quilting.

rainbow xo quilt

Rainbow Hugs & Kisses is the result of a test run of a paper piecing pattern called Oops, I Scrapped My Pants by ShannonMac Designs. I offered to test her pattern for her, but wanted to make something bright and modern. I am all about rainbow gradient, so that was an obvious add. The black and white stripey binding makes this one of my favorites, and it hangs happily on my craft room pegboard. The pattern is free in Shannon’s Craftsy shop, and it includes a tutorial on the freezer paper method of paper piecing, in case you’d like to make your own.

lillians baby quilt

Lillian’s Baby Quilt is one of the quilts of which I’m most proud. It’s one of the largest quilts I’ve made so far at about 58×58″, I designed the outermost border including the heart corner stones, and I kind of went crazy free motion quilting it. It was my first large-scale free motion quilting foray and I dove in head first. I even FMQed alphabetical baby-related words around the outermost white border.

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There are many blog posts outlining my process and featuring better photographs of the free motion quilting, here, here, here, and here.

I’ve also been designing paper piecing patterns. I tend to gravitate toward more modern quilts, yet I also love paper piecing. Go figure. Here are some of my latest paper piecing patterns:

paper pieced lupine quilt block
Lupine 10×10″ paper piecing pattern
Circling Gulls 12x12" paper piecing pattern
Circling Gulls 12×12″ paper piecing pattern

What are you up to now?

  • I’m making a quilt for myself!

quilt for me

late night quilters club

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  • Finally, I’ve posted my very first tutorial on Basic Foundation Paper Piecing. I’m working on a series to outline what next–now that you’ve made a paper pieced block, what can you do with it? Stay tuned!

To finish off my post, here are some tips and fun facts:

Blogging tip: Take great photographs. The aesthetic pull of an artistically arranged and naturally lit photo is STRONG. Learn to use the manual setting on your camera (try P) and wait for the right lighting. It makes a world of difference!

Quilting tip: Pressing seams open helps improve accuracy of piecing, and helps make matching seams a breeze. Also, when trying to match seams, pin right after the seam. This creates the least torque and at least in my experience, the most consistently matched seams.

Question for you: Who is your favorite fabric or quilt designer, and why? I have my top favorites, but I’d love to expand and see whose fabric you just can’t live without!

Fun facts:
Dream vacation spot: Galapagos Islands
Favorite book: tough question! My Side of the Mountain, 1984, or The Housekeeper and the Professor
Favorite movie: Overboard, or Pride and Prejudice, the Colin Firth version
Favorite TV show: I don’t have a TV, but I’ve been sucked into Downton Abbey on Netflix!
Random bits:

  • After each blog post or email I write, I go back and take out 2/3 of the exclamation points and all of the :). I’m a happy, excited person but even I get annoyed when I read something with a gabillion !!!!!!
  • I hate olives. I try them every year to see if I like them yet, but I still hate them.
  • I was a competitive swimmer through high school and college. If you start talking swimming, I’ll talk for hours.

Now that you know more than you ever wished to know about me, go check out these other great bloggers involved in the hop. Have fun!

Jill @ Pie Lady Quilts

 Chelsea @ Patch The Giraffe

 Daisy @ Ants To Sugar

 Rachael @ The Floral Suitcase

 Elizabeth @ And Pins

 Jennifer @ Never Just Jennifer

 Alice @ Blossom Quilts

 Megan @ Sew Stitching Cute

 Stephanie @ Late Night Quilter

 Kelsey @ Lovely And Enough

 

 

Tutorial: Basic Foundation Paper Piecing

Foundation Paper Piecing is one of those things that when first encountered, may seem daunting enough to send you running for the hills. But once the general concept is grasped, paper piecing opens the door to a whole new world of quilting and fabric-play. Trust me, it’s worth giving it another go. As with anything, the best way to get more comfortable with foundation paper piecing is to practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. Today I thought I’d share my process with tips along the way, in the hopes that it helps clarify the foundation paper piecing process.

For me, once I wrapped my brain around the fact that I was sewing something backwards while looking through a mirror, it all clicked. I’m a very spatial person, so once I could visualize that the picture was being created on the BACK, I was fine. Yes, the lines along which you sew will be on the back, or wrong-side of your sewn design. Think about that for a minute, and then let’s begin. Take your time, and have FUN!

Basic Foundation Paper Piecing Tutorial

First of all, why paper piecing? The ability to create life-like pictures with fabric is what first got me hooked on foundation paper piecing. Once I got the hang of it, I realized many more benefits to paper piecing:

  • No other method results in such precision and accuracy when sewing. You can make two blocks that are EXACTLY the same without too much muss or fuss about seams.
  • It is a great way to use up scraps.
  • My favorite perk of paper piecing is that it gives me a way to create gorgeous gifts for family and friends without the time invested in sewing an entire quilt. Paper piecing patterns are perfect for wall hangings, table runners, tea cozies, mug rugs, pillows, bags, and even as framed art.

Convinced? Let’s get started!

1. Choose a pattern. I am using my Buoy 1 pattern for this tutorial, since it’s fairly straightforward and consists of only one foundation piece. Summertime is calling my name, so this nautical pattern will soon become a pillow perfect for a beach house or someone’s nautical nursery. Buoy 1 used to be on Craftsy but is now no longer available, so you will need use another beginner pattern of your choosing. My available foundation paper piecing patterns are located on Payhip. The Buoy series should be making a reappearance in the summer 2019.

2. Assemble your tools. You will need:
– pattern & paper (I use regular printer paper. Some prefer velum or tracing paper)
– fabric & thread (I love Aurifil)
– rotary cutter and mat
– scissors (be sure to use non-fabric scissors to cut out your pattern. I suggest having fabric scissors, craft scissors, and small scissors for trimming threads)
– ruler (add a quarter rulers work well, but so do any quilting rulers with a 1/4″ measure)
– iron and pressing surface
– sewing machine

preparing for paper piecing

3. Print the pattern with your printer set on “Actual Size” and check the scale. ALWAYS check to make sure the pattern is printed to the correct scale before beginning to sew.

always check the scale

Cut out pattern using craft scissors. Many patterns have a dotted line showing a 1/4″ seam allowance on the pattern. Be sure to check that the seam allowance is included, and if it isn’t, add it on before you cut.

*Here, some people like to color their pattern with colored pencils to help with accurate fabric piecing. I only do this for complicated patterns or when I am using different fabric colors than indicated on the pattern, but you are welcome to get out the colored pencils and do some coloring here if you want!*

4. You’re ready to begin! Cut fabric pieces (or find scraps) to fit spaces 1 and 2 on the pattern. Be sure to include a 1/4″ seam allowance on all sides. Paper piecing is kind of like paint by number, but with sewing, and always in order. You start with piece 1, sew on piece 2, then piece 3, etc.
*When cutting fabric for paper piecing, I am generous in my cutting. I cut pieces that are amply large enough to cover the space and seam allowance and then some–lots of wiggle room. Yes, it may waste a bit more fabric, but it makes the process a lot smoother. To me, smooth (no seam ripper required) sewing is worth more than a few tiny scraps of fabric. Also, when you trim your seam allowances, any large pieces of excess fabric can be used for other pieces of the pattern. Go big!*

getting started5. Here’s where the spatial part comes in, so get ready. Remember, you are using the paper foundation to help you make the pattern on the back, as if you are looking through a mirror. Ready?

Place the fabric for piece 1 on the back of the paper, wrong side of the fabric facing you (against the paper). Hold it up to a window or a light-box to ensure the fabric fully covers the #1 space, plus seam allowances.

positioning the first piece6. Holding fabric 1 in place, position the paper so that the printed side is away from you. Take the fabric scrap for space #2 and place it right side down, on top of fabric 1. Be sure the seam line between 1 and 2 is covered by both fabrics, holding up to the light if needed. The fabrics should now be right sides facing each other, and when you sew along the seam line and fold fabric 2 up, it should cover the #2 space plus seam allowances.

getting started*Before you sew, shorten the stitch length on your sewing machine. I set mine to anywhere between 1.2 and 1.5. That way the paper is very easy to remove at the end.*

7. Holding both pieces of fabric in place, sew along the line between spaces 1 and 2, with the paper on top. Some people like to pin or even glue their pieces in place before sewing, since the fabric is underneath the paper. I personally just carefully hold them in place with my finger. I haven’t had a problem yet, and it’s one less step if that works for you.

sew along lineAccuracy tip: Lower the needle by hand for the first stitch, ensuring that your sewing will be straight along the line. Back-stitch for one stitch at the end to secure your threads.

8. Trim thread ends. (One day I will make myself a cute thread-catch, but for now I just accumulate a mountain of threads next to my sewing machine.)

trim threads

9. Fold the paper down along the seam you just sewed, and trim the fabric to 1/4″.

fold and trim

10. With the foundation paper flat and unfolded, press and set the seam with a hot iron (no steam). Finger press fabric 2 up to cover its space and press again.

press seam

When you hold the paper up to the light, you should see that fabric 1 covers the #1 space and fabric 2 covers the #2 space, with seam allowances.

IMG_149611. Continue this method for the rest of the pattern pieces. Cut, line up, sew, fold & trim, press. Cut, line up, sew, fold & trim, press. Repeat.

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Getting ready to sew on piece 3–front view.
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Getting ready to sew on piece 3–back view. Remember: the fabric has right side facing the pattern paper, with the seam along the top edge. Once sewn, the fabric will be pressed up so that the right side is showing.

If you’ve got the hang of it, you can skip the next few parts and just scroll down to the finishing steps. For those of you who run into tricky spots along the way, here are some additional tips to help smooth the process.

Tips for Lining Up Seams:

If you are truly generous in your fabric cutting, this tip is not as necessary since you’re bound to have enough fabric even if your seams end up being larger than 1/4″. However, if the frugal part of you just can’t cut those fabric bits ginormously, here’s a tip to get accurate 1/4″ seams to conserve fabric. Note that this works best for straight-forward seams, and not nearly as well for long, skinny, tricky angles (I’ll address those in a bit).

accurate seam tip

For this example, I have just sewn on piece 3, and I’m getting ready to sew piece 4.

accurate seams in paper piecing

First, fold the paper along the seam line between pieces 3 and 4.

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With paper folded over, trim the excess of piece 3 to 1/4″ beyond the fold. This will give you an accurate edge with which to line up the edge of piece 4.

line up perfect seams

When lining up piece 4 (white) with the edge of piece 3 (black), if you match the edges, the seam will be exactly 1/4″.  Note that the right side of fabric 4 is facing the right side of fabric 3. Hold in place, sew, and you’ve got as close to a perfect seam as you’re going to get!

Tips for Using Directional Fabrics:

directional fabric and paper piecing

Using fabrics without a directional flow is fairly straight-forward, but if you are using a fabric with a directional pattern that you’d like to keep consistent, it takes a bit more forethought when you cut. First, line up your pattern and your fabric to decide in what direction the fabric should go. To cut the fabric, position the pattern with the printed lines up, and the fabric wrong side facing up.  This way, since you are creating your pattern on the back, the shape of the fabric piece will be accurate (note that the above photo shows the fabric right side up, before pieces were cut).

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Once your piece is cut, proceed as usual, paying close attention to the direction of the fabric. Remember, right side of fabric piece is placed facing the right side of the emerging picture, on the wrong side of the foundation paper.

check direction

Until you get the hang of aligning the fabric correctly, it’s a good idea to check the direction of the fabric before sewing. Unpicking paper pieced (tiny stitches!) seams is less than desirable (trust me, I know!). To check the fabric direction, simply place the fabric wrong side down, hold along seam line, and fold back. Once you are sure the direction of the fabric is the way you want it, fold it back and sew.

Tips for Tricky Angles:

Many angles in basic paper piecing patterns are fairly straight forward. Sometimes, though, you have an angle that really makes you crunch your brain to properly line up the fabric before sewing so that it fully covers the necessary space with seam allowances. Rather than sew, unpick, sew, unpick, sew, unpick, here are some tips to help get it right the first try.

conquering tricky angles in paper piecing

Here I’m trying to piece section 14. When cutting my fabric piece, I’ve been generous with size, and included the angle of the seam I’m about to sew. Note that the fabric is wrong side up, with my foundation paper right side up.

conquering tricky angles

The fabric piece generously covers the space needed, with lots of wiggle room. The angle cut into the piece is key, since that will help align the seam correctly. If just eyeing the angle while cutting doesn’t work for you, you can put your pattern paper on top of your fabric, and using a Herra marker, deeply mark the seam line. Add 1/4-1/2″ to all sides and cut your fabric piece.

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Holding it up to the light, I can see that my fabric piece covers the space, extends amply beyond the seam allowance, and that the general angle of the seam line is consistent with the angle of the fabric piece.

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Here’s the tricky part. Placing your fabric right side facing the wrong side of the foundation paper, line your angled seam edge with the seam line on your block. It will look wonky, and may seem like it is headed in the wrong direction.

conquering tricky angles in paper piecing

Fold along the seam line to ensure the fabric will cover the correct area. Once satisfied that it’s all lined up properly, fold back and sew the seam. With particularly wonky angles, I sometimes pin along the seam line, both to ensure I’m accurately checking the fold, and to hold the fabric in the proper place before sewing.

So now you’ve got the basics of foundation paper piecing! Once your entire block is pieced, square up the edges being mindful to keep the 1/4″ seam allowance around the block if you plan to sew it into a quilt, pillow, or just about anything else.

completed block

I often will leave the paper on if I plan to sew the block to another paper pieced block, since the 1/4″ seam allowance line helps me with accurate sewing. If you are already a pro at 1/4″ seams or are planning on using a single block for your project, now comes the fun part–removing the paper!

removing the foundation paper after piecing

To remove the paper, gently tear away, holding the main block in place and pulling gently away and to the side, similar to how you would tear any perforated piece of paper. With your narrow stitch length, the paper should come away easily.

easy paper removalOnce one side of the paper is off, the other side often will just pop out. Go slowly and tear gently to ensure your seams stay tight. If you end up with bits of paper stuck in the seams, carefully use blunt tweezers to remove the final bits. Alternately, I’ve heard that spraying the paper with water helps with removal. I haven’t had to try it yet, though, so can’t vouch for the method.

enjoy the back of your paper pieced block!I just love the backs of paper pieced blocks. The precision and accuracy, all the little seams that are proof of my cut, line up, sew, fold & trim, press marathon… they make me happy. Take a good, long, admiring look at the back of your block, and then flip it over and admire your finished block. Gorgeous!

I hope this tutorial was helpful, and that you enjoy paper piecing as much as I do. Coming soon on my blog, I’ll talk about what’s next; now that you’ve made your paper pieced block, what can you do with it!?

Do you have any other tips for beginner paper piecers?

 

 

Works in Progress: Late Night Quilters Club, Supernova Block 1 & Scrappy Play

Today is one of those days where I feel like I have a million things “in progress”.  I promise I won’t spill my entire brain’s to-do list for you (that would be messy), but here are some of the top projects I have in progress at the moment:

Late Night Quilters Club Facebook Group
LNQC-cover-4
This awesome LNQC banner was created by my talented brother Steven.

About a week ago, my new quilting friend Stephanie and her local quilter friend Michelle and I decided to launch a new Facebook community for fellow late night quilters, since we were getting so much out of our own nightly conversations. It started as a page, but the interest and content was so fabulous after only a day, that when new members requested that we make it a private group, we knew it was the right path. This way, it allows for easier communication and better sharing of pictures and ideas. Facebook “pages” aren’t as  conducive to posts by many different people in a community as “groups” are. So we made the change, and the group is hoppin’!

We want you to join us there. Your posts will be front and center so you can get lots of feedback from fellow quilters. You can network, ask questions, share advice, share your own works in progress, or even just be a wallflower looking for inspiration.

How is this a work in progress, you may ask? Well, we have a lot of great ideas still in the works, including the creation of a button you can include on your blog, creating a weekly fabric swap so that you can buy, sell, and trade fabric on the page, and more! If you’re on Facebook, would you please give us a little love and take a second to join the group (Steph, Michelle and I are accepting requests as fast as we can), share it with your quilting friends, and perhaps post some of your projects? We’d all love to see what YOU’re working on!

Supernova Friendship Block Swap: Block 1

typewriter and supernova swap block 1

I have completed my first block for the Supernova Friendship Block Swap, and I love it! I still need to make a duplicate for myself, but I figured I may as well stay ahead and start writing my first letter to my partner Laura. The aspect of the swap that really drew me in at the start is the friendship-making in the process.  Each month, I will send not only an awesome 18″ supernova quilt block to Laura, but I’ll also write her a letter about myself. I’ve decided to type most of the letters since I have an awesome typewriter and may as well use it.

typewriter

Besides, how awesome would it be to receive a typed letter in the mail?! I hope Laura agrees.

I think that the swap is partially supposed to be a surprise each month, and I’ve already blown the surprise this month anyway with my tweeting and Instagramming, so I figure a semi-secretive peek at my block is okay. In future months, I promise to only post pictures AFTER Laura has received her blocks! This is going to be fun!

Scrappy Play

My final work in progress has been a fun little “extra”. My Star Crazy quilt is the first pattern I’ve used that results in many, somewhat large, already cool-looking scraps. I have been having a lot of fun playing around with different possibilities for the scraps.

various scrap arrangementsI think I have decided to make them into a set of place mats, but I think I will wait until the quilt is finished to make sure I have enough pieces to make a sufficient number of coordinating place mats. The alternative, of course is to use them on the back of the quilt. Either way, it has been fun discovering all of the wonderful arrangements possible with half-square triangles (HST).

possible place mat arrangement

It has been a busy week!

What do you do with your HST scraps? Do you have a favorite arrangement?

I’m linking up to Work in Progress Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced.

WIP Wednesday

Gardening by Day; Quilting by Night

After a long, especially cold and lingering winter, spring is finally fully here in midcoast Maine. Those first days of warm sun, cool (not frigid and biting) breeze, and sprouting green are precious days. I didn’t know it my first year here, but I know it now. The blackflies won’t be long.

Spring Magnolia

The past few days have been supurb: sunny, warm-even borderline hot, and too early for blackflies. Needless to say, I have been spending every daylight moment out in the garden, playing in the yard, or admiring the flowers with my kids. I know that once the blackflies arrive, we we hide indoors or only go out with long pants and a full head & arms bug net. The blackflies will subside, but for a good solid month, they are a wicked scourge. Swarming clouds of annoying and biting bitties. When my husband and I decided to move from New Jersey back to his home state of Maine, no one had told me about the blackflies. Some days I joke that if someone had told me about the blackflies, I never would have moved here… but I know I’m joking. I love it here in rural Maine.

Days spent in the garden makes for a tired momma, but I can’t help but sew once the sun sets and the kids are asleep.  I’m making slow progress on my Star Crazy quilt, and I like it more and more as blocks get added.

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Before beginning this quilt, I was thinking of adding grays into the low volume sides, to have some of the light stars be grey instead of just low volume. I think now I’ve decided to keep grays out of it, and just stick with the black and white stars.

Star Crazy progress

Star Crazy progress

These blocks are a combination of my favorite colors, AND of fabrics from some of my favorite designers and fabric lines. Seeing Botanics next to Wee Wander next to Architextures, framed by Perfectly Perched and Zen Chic makes me tremendously happy!

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While my sewing progress has been slowed by this gorgeous weather, I feel like I am spending my days the right way. Family, garden, and those first days of spring are SO refreshing and key to a joyous life.

Here are a few more shots of spring from around my homestead, for those of you who find inspiration as I do, from nature.

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Happy rows of garlic in our garden.
onion seedlings
Yesterday I planted about 120 onion seedlings that I had started indoors in early March. I inadvertently planted them in more of a chevron pattern than straight rows! Quilting meets gardening.
onions
Hopeful that these little onion seedlings get big and strong and heavy beneath the surface.

IMG_1125 Tulip Splendor

Fiddleheads coming up in the woods behind our house. Nature is so gorgeous!
A large patch of our lawn is covered in these flowers every spring. Picnics galore!

Happy spring!

Since it’s Wednesday, I’m linking up to Work in Progress Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced.

WIP Wednesday

Work in Progress: Lupine Paper Piecing Pattern

Now that I’ve got my printer figured out, I’m back to testing my new Lupine Paper Piecing Pattern. It’s a 10″ block with lots of small bits, but no complicated joining points. I’m excited to test this out and finalize the pattern, since I really think it will be a beautiful block, truly representative of lupine. Lupine grows all over Maine, and during early June you can see it sprawling gorgeously alongside highways and roads, as well as in fields and gardens. I’m working on a Downeast Paper Piecing Series, and this lupine is an essential piece!

Gorgeous lupine
Gorgeous lupine

When designing paper piecing patterns, I always battle with the balance of visual accuracy and simplicity. I want the finished pattern to look unmistakably like lupine, but I also want it to be simple enough that people will want to create it. With the lupine design, I knew I definitely wanted to get the heart-like flower petals into the pattern.

Hearts in the heart of a lupine flower.
Hearts in the heart of a lupine flower.

The recognizable radiating leaves also had to make an appearance, albeit simplified.

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I’m really happy with how my pattern turned out! I think it looks like lupine, leaves room for lots of color play in the flower, and is fairly simply pieced despite the many small bits. There are a few tricky angles, but using the printer paper foundation paper piecing method, I focus on being generous when cutting my fabric bits and haven’t had trouble yet.

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I’m not overly wild about my fabric choices this time around; they seemed like they melded and contrasted well when I looked at the stacks of fabric, but once paper pieced, I’m not sure it’s enough contrast for my liking.

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Mental note: when choosing fabrics for Lupine Paper Piecing Pattern, go bold!

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I’ve only completed one small section of the Lupine so far, but I will be sure to post my progress as it comes along. I’m hoping to have this pattern posted in my Craftsy Pattern Store within the next couple of weeks, just in time for lupine season here in Maine.

This pattern came about when a search for a paper pieced lupine pattern turned up nothing. There are many paper pieced flower patterns, but I could not find lupine! The only solution was to design it myself.

What’s your favorite flower? Would you take the time to paper piece it into a pillow, table runner, etc.?

Since it’s Wednesday, I’m linking up with
Work in Progress Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.

WIP Wednesday

 

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Supernova Friendship Block Swap: I’m In!

Last week, Stephanie from The Late Night Quilter announced the Supernova Friendship Block Swap, and I was immediately hooked. (Yes, you read that right–The Late Night Quilter meets The Night Quilter: we lead parallel lives more than half a country apart, unbeknownst to either of us before a few weeks ago when I saw her name in a comment on a blog we both follow and sent her a hello!)

supernova friendship block swap blog-button-200x200-back-font-finalSo back to the Supernova Friendship Block Swap! It took me an entire day of deliberating to decide that I definitely was going to join in on the fun for this unique project. It will be my first ever swap and first ever official quilt along, as well as a great opportunity to better get to know a fellow quilter/blogger. But do I really need another project? With the design and testing of four paper piecing patterns, my newly started Star Crazy quilt, a slow-moving baby quilt, as well as other various sewing projects all in progress, on top of being a full time mom and wife trying to get my garden in before the blackflies hit!, I was really debating if I would be taking on too much by committing to this swap. I decided that this Supernova Friendship Block Swap is spread out enough that the sewing part is definitely doable without time-limit stress, and the added letter writing and friendship-building part is right in line with what I’d like to do more of: connect with other quilters. So yes, I’m doing it!

Click on the picture above to find out all about the swap from Stephanie’s blog. The jist is that you pair up with another blogger-quilter acquaintance or friend and each month, you create two identical blocks–one for you and one that you send to your partner. After five months, you have enough blocks for the entire quilt, plus one extra for the back or a smaller quilt. Here’s a summary, and the part that really hooked me:

Here’s the idea: To learn more about each other and deepen our friendship, each time we send our surprise package with a new block in it to our partner, we’ll also include a letter with few details about ourselves.

In my previous life, before having children and before email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. made it so easy to converse daily, I was quite a letter writer. I am eager for this chance to get back into the fading art of letter writing.  I’m also excited to get to know another quilter along the way. More on that–I’m partnering with Laura from Adventures of a Quilting Diva. I don’t know Laura well, but she has been designing blocks for a Spool Along, with which I have been sort of trying to keep up (I’m quite far behind!). It will be fun to get to know her more, and to see this project come together–a melding of styles and personalities in one of my favorite modes of expression: quilting.

2014-05-04 12.11.05Off to finalize our color palette plan! Here’s what we are thinking so far: Jewel tones with a light grey background and some black & white prints mixed in. Sounds like just my style, doesn’t it?

2014-05-04 13.29.42It’s not too late for you to join in the fun! Just grab a partner and leave a message on The Late Night Quilter’s blog post here. The deadline to send your first block to your partner is June 15, but other than that there’s a rolling admission for anyone who would like to join. Even if you don’t have a partner in mind, Stephanie can help match you up with someone. Do let me know if you decide to join–I’m looking forward to reading all of the blog posts and tweets about the #supernovaswap and the growing friendships that emerge!

Any tips for my first quilt-along block swap?

 

Dusting off the Old Canon

Up until this point, all of the photographs on my blog have been taken with my iPhone camera. *hangs head* Yes, even the ones in the post Beauteous, Bountiful, Botanical Blue! There, I admitted it. It’s time, though, for me to dust off my old Canon Rebel XT and start taking REAL camera photos.

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I am a very aesthetically-driven person, and fabulous photos are what first draw me into a blog, and then ensure that I stick around to follow future posts. Even great content, without clear or aesthetically composed photos, is less desirable to me than a blog with lots of eye candy and occasional tidbits of helpful wisdom. When a blog has BOTH fabulous photos and consistently helpful or interesting content, I’m an immediate fan and follower.

I’m trying to use my blog as a way to show the world what I am creating, and without great photographs to let my readers see the depth of beauty I see, that won’t happen. I think I take decent photos with my phone, and to honest, it has been a challenge to re-learn how to use my Canon to take great indoor photos. It’s a work in progress. Outside with perfect natural light it’s a cinch, but inside my fairly dark craft cave-loft, taking clear photographs is a lot more challenging. But I plan to try.

Tripod clamped to the back of a chair. This picture was obviously taken with my phone!
Tripod clamped to the back of a chair. This picture was obviously taken with my phone!

I bought a new camera battery charger and a clamp-on tripod for my Canon, hoping those tools will help. Next up is to figure out how to improve the lighting. Any suggestions, short of finding a different room in which to photograph?

Here are some comparison shots to see the difference between my iphone photos and Canon with tripod photos (without editing and with some editing in Picassa):

My current quilt-in-progress

iPhone photo
iPhone photo

Canon photograph with no editing

Canon photo with no editing

Canon photograph with editing
Canon photo with editing

My cutting table

iPhone photo
iPhone photo
Canon photo without editing
Canon photo with no editing
Canon photo with editing
Canon photo with editing

So what do you think? Which photos are your favorite?

If you are a craft blogger, how do you take the perfect photos?  I need some tips!

My Modern Fabric Designer All-Star Quilt

April is nearing its end, which means I’ve been shop hopping every chance I get. On Saturday, I went on a whirlwind 10 hour trip up the coast of Maine from Freeport to Nobleboro, visiting six shops before calling it a day. I will be introducing you to all of the shops I’ve visited in the next few weeks, but will spread them out a bit.

With all of this shop hopping going on the past few weeks, I’ve been really itching to start a new project. More specifically, a new quilt. I’ve been quite drawn to low volume, black and white, and grey tone fabrics lately, and have developed a fairly decent stash of them, at least for a beginner like me. I have decided it’s time to pull them out and get them into a quilt. During my epic shop hop along the Maine coast on Saturday, I bought the fabric needed to supplement my stash and I got started cutting last night. I’m so excited about this quilt!

IMG_0621 IMG_0634This quilt will contain fabric from many of my all-time favorite designers, and seeing all of these gems together makes me very, very happy. Little glimpses of Carolyn Friedlander’s Botanics & Architextures, Lotta Jansdotter’s Sylvia, Denyse Schmidt’s Chicopee, Anna Maria Horner’s True ColorsSarah Jane’s Wee Wander, Laurie Wisbrun’s Perfectly Perched, Lori Mason’s Koyoto Garden, Brigitte Heitland’s Zen Chic, Violet Craft’s Madrona Road, Beth Studley’s Henna, and more. I need some Alison Glass and Tula Pink in there… who am I missing? In my eyes, it’s the all-stars of the modern fabric design world all in one.

I don’t know about you, but I’m counting down the minutes until my kids go to bed and I can sew!

Do you like to make quilts out of primarily one fabric line (plus coordinates or solids), or do you mix and match?

 

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?

Perfect Seams on National Quilting Day

Today, March 15, 2014 is officially National Quilting Day! To celebrate, I actually spent some time… quilting! I made progress on a quilt that I’m making as a gift, so details will not be shared today (as much as I want to!). While piecing the final border of the quilt, I was reflecting on how well my 1/4″ seams come out now that I use a secret trick shared by a local quilter. Today is the perfect day to share the trick!

All you need is one basic supply: 1/4″ quilters tape. I use Dritz Quilter’s Tape but any brand should work. I stretch the quilters tape the full length of my sewing machine, with the machine’s 1/4″ seam guide line aligned with the tape’s left edge.  Take your time and get the tape perfectly aligned and straight, since this will be your guide. Before employing this trick, my 1/4″ seams were extremely varied and inconsistent, which lead to puckery and not-quite matching seam intersections. This tape provides a visual and uninterrupted guide while I’m sewing, and my seams have been SO much better.

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A scant 1/4″ seam, meaning it is a bit less than 1/4″ in width, is preferred since pressing often makes up for the minor discrepancy.  If your seam is larger than 1/4″, however, there’s no fixing it!

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Look at that perfect seam!

A seam that is a little bit off might not seem like a big deal, but when you’re piecing a border composed of many pieces, when every seam is a little too wide it eventually adds up to a border that is an inch or more too small! The exactness of quilting is one of the aspects that really resonates with me, and this new seam trick has worked wonders in helping me create quilts with exactly matching seams, visible symmetry, and MUCH less frustration.

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The 1″ white sashing strips between 2×6″ blocks turns out perfectly, which will hopefully mean this border’s addition to the rest of the quilt will go seamlessly (pun intended!).

Do you have any tricks to creating perfect seams? If you try this method, I’d love to hear what you think. Happy quilting!