Friday, September 23, 2016

What I've learned after finally jumping into quilting (...and why did it take me so long?)

I'm still newish to quilting.  After sewing just about everything except quilts for awhile, I finally tried it a couple of years ago!  To be honest, I was intimidated to try quilting before.  I was worried about feeling incompetent - am I cutting right?  do I have the right tools?   how am I ever going to be precise enough? what will the "real" quilters think?

Why are we like this as adults?  Kids don't have this filter. They just jump in and try and are simply pleased by the act. They don't care as much about the final product.

Nevertheless, I finally made a quilt a two years ago.  My first finish was made to celebrate my baby niece's arrival and was finished, oh, the night before my sister's baby shower.  I wrote about that quilt here, and also cautioned against making your very first quilt as a gift to someone special. The whole "gift" aspect adds a wee bit of pressure!

baby quilt for my sweet niece
Since then, I haven't actually finished a whole quilt.  I have a Modern Maples top that I pieced...and have yet to quilt.  I made a couple of mini quilts - one for a swap and one for my daughter's room.  Those were satisfying finishes.  And recently I helped coordinate two quilts for the Orlando MQG's #quiltsforpulse effort.  But that's it!
a mini for my daughter

Raspberry Kiss mini for #lovewinsminiswap
Wait, I honestly forgot two others until I looked through my photostream!  I finished a little doll quilt for a friend's one-year old.  And how could I forget the labor of love that was my nephews' i-spy drawstring quilt?!?
doll quilt in the softest Blueberry Park colors

i-spy drawstring quilt

But, no finishes of large quilts, like throw size or bed size. And I'm okay with that.  Here's why....

As a new quilter, I've taken some steps to build my skills first  I'm the kind of person who wants to know the ins and outs.  I research things to death.  I have a curiosity and want to know all the answers.  (Maybe the reason it took me so long to actually quilt, instead of exhaustingly reading about it.)   I thought a sampler would be a great first step in providing an opportunity to try many different blocks and learn new techniques.  And a sampler would force me to practice, practice, practice, and would get me sewing on a regular basis.  Sometimes we forget as adults the need to practice a new skill in order to get "good" (On a side note, i just listened to a great episode of the Good Life Project podcast that hit on this very topic of learning new skills as adults and being vulnerable....)

The Modern HST Sampler Quilt Along hosted by Alyce of Blossom Hearts Quilts seemed like a great place to start.  Half-square triangles are foundational to quilting and Alyce promised to teach several different methods and provide us the quilt math to master HSTs!  And two blocks per month seemed a perfect pace. In addition, Alyce hosts an great facebook group where fellow members post pictures of their blocks, share questions or tips and encourage each other. The group is so supportive and inspirational.  What a nice little corner of the world wide web!

At this point in the sampler QAL, I now realize that my fabric pull was somewhat ambitious for a newbie. Nearly ten different designers, numerous prints and colors, and an array of low volume background fabrics.  Phew!  The amount of fabrics has challenged me (in such a good way) to choose just the right fabric combinations to make individual blocks work, but also to consider the bigger balance of color and value to ensure cohesion.

my fabric pull
Pairing fabrics and considering placement, and then seeing the blocks come together is absolutely my favorite part of the process. And when it works, it works and is so satisfying!
block 14 : introspection

block 15 : windmill
As I finished my two most recent blocks (shown above), I could clearly recognize my improvement and evolution.  The blocks look crisper, more precise, the fabrics complement the design more so that my first few blocks.  I've also learned that slowing down and using the right tools makes all the difference.  Specifically, starching before cutting has helped, although I don't do it every time. I've always been a big fan of pressing, but I finally realized that using a dry iron vs steam is best and avoids the ripply look of my early blocks.  A tool that has really helped me is the Fons and Porter Quarter Inch Seam Marker.  Marking the seam line rather than the center line of the HST allows for more precision in my stitching.

hotel floor progress shot! i've been taking my machine along on work trips.
Looking back at  my earlier blocks, I don't love a few. I could easily remake them with different fabric choices or better process, but I'm not going to.  They are staying in the final quilt as a reminder of my progress!

block 1 : candy

block 5 : mountain

If you'd like to see all my blocks from the sampler, click the pages at the top of the blog. I've added a page for the Modern HST Sampler and post my blocks as they are completed. 

I've also started a second sampler, the Summer Sampler 2016, which has taught me many more lessons and deserves its own post!  


Follow my blog with Bloglovin


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sewjo Reclaimed (and a peek at my sewing room...for a little while)

When I first started sewing again at the end of 2008, I took over the dining room, then the living room. The picture below is from March 2009 and is my most viewed picture on Flickr (@by Lorna). Amazingly, my whole stash of fabric and notions fit in those cute little green containers. Oh, how that has changed...

Living room circa 2009

In 2012 we finished our basement and I was so excited to claim a small room for my creative space. A dedicated sewing room seemed ideal.  But....I found that I did not sew nearly as much after moving to the basement.  All the family activity was upstairs, the kids were upstairs, the natural light was upstairs!  I couldn't be in the center of things.  I had to make a decision to go sew and almost make a declaration, "Family, I'm going to the basement to sew."

Slowly but surely, over the past year, I began to migrate my sewing back to the dining room.  First I moved my machine and a single project upstairs.  One project became three or four. Half my notions were strewn about. Fabric piled up, and so it went.  But even with the mess, I suddenly was sewing more.  The sewjo returned.  I was energized by creativity and color again.  I felt productive.  I dusted off this blog.  I finally jumped into quilting. Having my sewing right in the center of other activity allowed me to spend five or ten minutes sewing some seams or cutting out a project while dinner was cooking.  My older daughter could join me in the dining room with her homework. The little one could wander in and sit beside me and play with scraps.

A month ago we decided to move.  Or, more accurately, I found (and became emotionally attached to) a house before ours was anywhere near ready to put on the market.  A flurry of activity over a seven-day period ensued and a for sale went up.  Less than two days later we accepted an offer on our house and had an offer accepted on the new house.  Whew!  While the house was on the market, my sewing had to move neatly back to the sewing room in the basement.  The room never looked cleaner... (I won't show you my giant, overstuffed Expedit shelf on the opposite wall or the fabric and bags of stuff jammed in the storage closet!)

Basement sewing room all ready for house showings.
I do love this room. There is something to having a space that is all yours. Isn't the heart mini cute?  I received it as part of the #lovewinsminiswap last October from Elaine (@eirefinghin on instagram). The table on the left was my dad's kitchen table when he was a kid.  I love the art deco feel of the leg painting. The table on the right was built and finished by my late stepfather.  I put it on bed risers to bring it up to cutting height.   My husband and older daughter absolutely hate the rug and call it the "zebra rug".  However, my firecracker of a 3-year old loves it; she gets me.  Oh yeah, I bought that lovely Janome S7 at Glamp Stitchalot; I feel in love with the automatic thread cutter, among other things, and had to bring it home. You can also see my serger peeking out.  I overcame my fears last year and thought I had it figured out, but nope, not yet. I keep breaking thread and so it sits.

In the new house, my girls and I will claim a room right on the first floor.  All our sewing, art and crafting will happen there.  It will be easy to access and the girls can pull out supplies and create whenever they want.  The room has great natural light with two big windows.  Doors close off the space (and will hide our creative mess), which will make my husband much less antsy/twitchy.  We are excited!  Once we're all set up, I'll give a tour.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Reflections on Glamp Stitchalot 2016

I had the opportunity to attend Glamp Stitchalot earlier this month, hosted by the amazing and hardworking team from Pink Castle Fabrics, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Unlike most attendees (who bought tickets a year or so in advance), I only decided to attend a month prior when a friend needed to sell her ticket.  It was sort of an impulse decision, but come on, the teachers were Rashida Coleman-Hale, Carolyn Friedlander, Penny Layman, Monica Solorio-Snow, Violet Craft and Elizabeth Hartman.  Not exactly a bad line up, especially for someone who is relatively new to quilting and is firmly planted in the mania/hyperfocus/obsessive phase.  Give me all things quilty.  Right now.  (I know some of you understand what I'm saying).  

Glamp Stitchalot 2016 Review
Airplane Block by Rashida Coleman-Hale.  

Ann Arbor was an easy four hour drive for me from Cincinnati.  A bonus revelation, because I thought for sure it was more like five hours until I hopped in the car to leave and set the navigation. Only four hours - Sweet!   

Overall, I have to say, the event was incredibly well organized.  The staff worked so hard to present an amazing event weekend - a packed agenda with six different classes by amazing teachers, great meals and other social time, giveaways, support from vendors, a pop-up shop, machine rentals, etc. Because the team thought of everything and made it happen so seamlessly, all attendees had to do was wake up, shower (hopefully) and sew! Just show up!  The weekend offered a chance to learn from the best, have plenty of fun and recharge. There were all levels of skill and experience in attendance, so the environment was very comfortable and inspiring.

Glamp Stitchalot

Glamp is a "Choose your Own Adventure" sort of thing - with each attendee (Glamper?) choosing their level of intensity, the amount of sewing they'd like to accomplish, and also the level to which they want to socialize.  Some quilters may choose to approach Glamp truly as a immersive learning weekend, soaking in as much knowledge as absolutely possible.  Some approach it as a fun getaway to socialize with others who "get us" and speak the same quilty language.  Others may approach the weekend as an opportunity to speed sew and close down the sewing rooms each night to bust out as many blocks as possible.  And some do a little of each approach.  The point is, it's your choice.  There is plenty opportunity to socialize from an opening mixer to class time to lunch and dinners to a dance party (and probably a few after-parties)!  You can go all #fangirl with the amazing teachers, who are celebs in the sewing sphere, by asking asking for autographs and selfies.  Or you can stay more low key (I did, and it was a good recharge).  It's all up to you.

Glamp Stitchalot 2016 Review
Elizabeth Hartman's blocks.

The pre-event communication was great, with packing lists, a preview of the pattern and a very active Facebook group where we could pose questions and get information, make introductions and share information.  Brenda gave guidelines on how much fabric to bring and offered bundles to make things very easy for attendees.  I took a bundle of Kona solids that I already had (it was a quilt kit from 2014 and I absolutely love the colors), some Essex linen for background and a few of the new Indah Batiks from Me + You (which made fabulous shutters on my house blocks!)  I didn't do any prep other than last minute packing (the morning I left). Work and life is busy, so I really didn't have time to put a lot of thought into my approach and didn't pre-cut my fabric, although some did since we had the patterns in advance. I chose my fabrics and cut on-the-fly as each class began. It worked out great for me and I avoided some stress, too.

Glamp Stitchalot 2016 Review
One of Carolyn Friedlander's blocks.

Some tools that were especially helpful for me were a small cutting mat and rotary cutter to use machine-side (tip: mark your tools with your name or washi tape), a seam roller (I was shocked how well these work for paper piecing), an add-a-quarter ruler (so fast for trimming seam allowances during paper piecing) and a thread catcher.  And don't forget essentials like pencil, pen, sharpie (if you want autographs), etc.

A  pouch swap was offered for this Glamp and I participated.  Darci made the cute and colorful box pouch and threadcatcher above, which I love along with the extra goodies.  I made an Open Wide bag, by Patterns by Annie, shown below mid-construction, for Lisa who loves black and purple.  It's a sturdy and roomy bag with very nice finishing details.

Open Wide Bag Patterns by Annie

Finding your swap partner at the opening dinner/mixer helped some Glampers to break the ice. Another conversation starter was wearing a handmade garment or carrying a handmade bag. (I have mental notes of some things I'd like to make as a result! Inspiring!).  Some attendees swapped pins to make connections.   One of the members of my group, Jodi, made each group member and instructor one of the selvedge needle books shown above.  Super thoughtful!

I was able to finish several blocks and try curves, paper piecing and flying geese - all for the first time!  I knew not to expect a finished quilt top to take home. I'm grateful for the new skills, tips and confidence I gained, along with some new friends. Yay for staying connected on instagram!

Glamp Stitchalot 2016 Review
Progress shot.

My advice if you attend a future Glamp or similar event:  Be open to new techniques and step out of your comfort zone.  The next Glamp in November 2016 is all about improv and SO tempting!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin


Thursday, June 16, 2016

New Sampler Pages

I added some pages that can be accessed in my header, to post progress on ongoing projects like sampler quilts. Currently, I am working on two samplers:  Modern HST Sampler and Summer Sampler 2016.  I link to both on their respective pages and show some progress pictures.  As a new(ish) quilter, participating in both samplers is helping expand my skills.

Summer Sampler 2016

Alyce's (from Blossom Heart Quilts) Modern HST Sampler, as the name implies, has introduced me to many different methods of making and arranging half-square triangles, such a staple for block building.  Also, working with a wide group of fabrics has challenged me on fabric selection for each block. My fabric pull includes over 10 designers, prints and solids, florals and geometric prints, and at least four different color families. It's been a great stretch for me to choose fabrics carefully for each block and maintain cohesion.

Modern HST Sampler

The Summer Sampler 2016 has allowed me to practice some additional techniques like curves and paper piecing.  For this sampler, I chose a very different set of fabrics - just 6 fabrics, mostly solids, in a limited and subtle color pallette.  This fabric pull is challenging me, too, in different ways. I'm loving the cool, calm vibe these fabrics are creating, still with a punch of color that I can't resist.

Summer Sampler 2016

Two samplers, along with my attendance at Glamp Stitchalot (post coming soon), are combining to make 2016 a year of skill building at just the right pace.  I'm loving it!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

new address, same blog ::

Same blog, new address: 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Drawstring Quilt

My family and I recently visited my brother and his family in Hawaii. My brother and his wife were super-hosts and planned such a great visit for us. I wanted to take a gift and decided on a quilt for my two sweet nephews.  Over the past year or so, I collected i-spy charms - 5-inch squares of novelty fabrics. Most were found and purchased on Instagram via the #thegreatfabricdestash hashtag.  I may have purchased a few on etsy.  The remainder of the fabrics were in my stash or were picked up as remnants here and there. There are at least eight Heather Ross in here. Her little animals and images are perfect for i-spy.  
drawstring quilt tales of cloth
Drawstring Quilt : Rainbow i-spy style!

Rather than make a standard quilt, I used the Drawstring Quilt pattern by Tales of Cloth. This is a great pattern with a clever binding method that adds a drawstring casing around the perimeter.  The quilt is perfect to use a playmat or a picnic blanket that can be cinched up and taken along as a bag, toys and all. The instructions were detailed, clear and easy to follow. The included pictures were very helpful, especially for the binding steps.   The pattern makes a hexagon quilt using strips, but was easily tweaked to use charm squares.  My layout kept growing and growing and eventually became a fairly large octagon.
i-spy drawstring quilt

For the drawstrings and backing, I used Essex yarn dyed linen blend by Robert Kaufman. I love the durability and stain-hiding that the Essex adds, especially since this quilt will likely be used outside.

drawstring quilt

The binding is a new favorite of mine - tiny black and white stripes set on the bias. It's from the First Crush collection by Sweetwater for Moda fabrics.  I'm glad a have another yard for future projects.

i-spy quilt

Choosing the fabrics (and raiding my stash for more), tweaking the color gradient, and then endlessly swapping and moving squares around was so fun.  I can't count how many times the layout changed.  My girls and I loved playing i-spy along the way.  I can now easily point out every marble, elephant, piece of sushi, and sunglass-wearing pig on this quilt!! The good news is, I still have plenty of i-spy charms left to play again and make more quilts!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Messenger Bag from Little Things to Sew

At the same time that I was waffling between a few different bag patterns for a new bag I had promised my oldest daughter, the Oliver and S blog featured a new school bag for S.  I was reminded of how much I loved the Messenger Bag pattern when I first bought the Little Things to Sew book by Liesl Gibson.

messenger bag pattern little things to sew

What a clever pattern this is, with all of the little design details and great curves.  I've made several bags, but never used bias tape to enclose all of the edges like this. Liesl's patterns are so well written and flawless in finishing details.

The main fabric is Mochi Linen Dots by Moda which adds some durability to the outer bag.  Also, since the dots are a natural linen color (vs. white dots), any dirt is nicely hidden! The lining is a fun print I picked up at JoAnn a year or so ago. I love the punch of color the lining adds when the flap is opened! For ease, I used pre-packaged bias tape and love the contrast added by the navy.
messenger bag handmade

As I researched pattern notes and reviews of several bloggers (thank you!), I followed the lead of Bartacks and Single Track blog to slightly enlarge the pocket flaps and am glad I did.  I chose not to apply any closures on the pockets or the messenger flap.  So far, that has not been an issue.  My daughter uses a backpack for school, so this is her weekend bag.  It is perfect for our library trips and I am amazed at how many books she can fit in this bag!  Not having a closure on the messenger flap allows the bag to stay flexible.

I made this bag over several days, so the time and various steps were spaced out. I wish I blogged right after I finished in order to capture some more details and notes.  I followed the pattern as written, other than enlarging the flaps.  I did add some fusible fleece that was not called for in the pattern to add some heft and body to the bag.  The pattern offers both large and small options, and I made the large size for my 10-year old.  The smaller bag would be perfect for my 3-year old!

Friday, May 13, 2016

2015 Swaps

I dabbled in a few swaps in late 2014 and 2015.  It is an interesting process which allowed me to try some new things and actually finish some projects given the deadline and hopeful partner waiting on the other end of the swap.

My first swap was the #merrymodernswap.  After considering a scrappy Christmas tree mini-quilt, I landed on this tree table runner that pairs natural linen with some colorful prints.  A few years ago I made a similar pillow and my swap partner had a similar project on her inspiration collage.  I won't lie, I felt a little pressure when my partner was revealed as a super-talented pro in the swap game. She nails every swap - project, extra goodies and packaging.  I love how this turned out.  I considered binding but thought turning out would maintain the simplicity and modern feel of the project.  I'm glad I went that direction.  An edge of binding, even in the matching linen, would have distracted from the simplicity of the trees.  And I do love that sole red tree :)

Handmade Christmas table runner sewn in linen

For a local meetup, I participated in a zipper pouch swap.  Ellen mentioned loving the new (at that time) Doe collection from Carolyn Friedlander.  I purchased a charm pack and paired some of the prints with other fabrics from Carolyn that I had on hand - gray crosshatch for the exterior and a white/orange Botanics leaf  print for the lining. I kept things simple and let the fabrics shine.  To add some interest, I quilted random straight lines in coordinating thread colors. Those colorful lines are my favorite part of the pouch.

Carolyn Friedlander Doe fabric

My favorite and most colorful project of 2015 was a Raspberry Kiss Mini made for the #lovewinsminiswap which celebrated the Supreme Court's wonderful decision for marriage equality. How gorgeous is this bundle of Karen Lewis Textiles screenprints?  The colors are a highly saturated take on the rainbow and worked well with assorted low-volume gray and white prints for the background and sashing.  The rainbow kiss blocks from Wooden Spool Quilts  are so fun and easy to make.  I was challenged a little on layout once my blocks were made, and after at least 20 trial layouts, I decided on the 3 x 3 layout with sashing.  I really love this project not just for the beauty and meaning behind the quilt, but also the challenges it offered me in color and layout and my first hand binding.

Raspberry kiss rainbow mini quilt

Toward the end of 2015, I participated in a bag swap at the #OHcraft sewin.  I followed the drawstring bag tutorial by Jeni Baker which is very easy to follow.  I absolutely love these Cotton + Steel fabrics paired with Essex linen.  At the last minute, I made the accompanying mini bag in a Denyse Schmidt fabric that matched perfectly!

Drawstring Bag by Jeni Baker