Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Clancy | 1 week old

We've been talking for months about adding a member to our family -- no, not another baby, but one of the canine variety. We fully explored rescuing an adult dog. We even had a couple come to visit us. But, in the end, anything in the retriever family (our first choice) was just too much for my allergies to handle.

So, we decided to go a different route.

Meet Clancy.

Well, one of these puppies will be Clancy. We decided to get a Goldendoodle, the most hypo-allergenic dog that we could find. (My mom has a goldendoodle -- the sweetest dog EVER -- so I can attest to the fact that my allergies aren't bad at all when I stay with her).

I say one of the little guys will be Clancy because we're not sure yet which one will be ours. Another family has first dibs and will be choosing their puppy (blue or green) at 6 weeks of age. The other will be ours.

We're expecting Clancy to come home sometime in early June. Understandably, we're a bit nervous about getting our first dog ... especially with him being a puppy. But with Quilt Mom* still a stay-at-home mom for now, we figured it's the best time to get him trained and acclimated to life with our family.

Any tips or words of advice as we embark on this adventure?

* Speaking of Quilt Mom, I'm trying to convince her to write a guest post on my blog sometime soon ... !

How cool are these blocks?

Come into my secret swap workshop, where I am experimenting with a few ideas for my very first little quilt swap ...

Caution, swappers! Sneak preview ahead!

Sorry for the terribly dark picture quality, but I really like the way these are turning out. Experienced swappers, am I on the right track here?

Stay tuned ... all will be revealed ... ... ...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Quilt-a-Long | Fabrics Selected

I'm really excited that AmandaJean has started her second quilt-a-long. I found her blog about midway through the first quilt-a-long, and wished I had taken the time to catch up and play along. Nevertheless, I followed each week as the new block was posted, visualizing the making of it in my head, but never actually started. As soon as she said there would be a round 2, I knew I would want to take part. And now, round 2 is beginning!

Inspired by Anina, I decided to use Full Moon Forest fabrics (designed by the fabulous Ms. Tula Pink who, by the way, reads my blog, thankyouverymuch!!!).

I love the colors of these fabrics and think they'll look great against a white background.

My (probably overly ambitious) plan is this:
Each week, I will make that week's block from both Quilt-a-Long I and Quilt-a-Long II. That way, at the end, I will either have two quilt tops, or I can combine all of the blocks from both rounds into one quilt top ... if it looks OK, of course. You see, this second round happens to have 12 setting blocks, which I think I will try to replace with the 12 blocks from last round (since the blocks from both rounds finish at 12.5").

That probably sounds more complicated than it needs to be, but I'll just cross that bridge when I get to it.

Think I can handle two blocks per week?

Monday, April 28, 2008

HELP! Your scraps needed!

OK, so I know this is a long shot, but if I can't put out a request for help on my blog, then what good is having one? I'm hoping some of you ALQS'ers might be able to help me out.

I am on the hunt for some scraps of three specific fabrics (pictured above) to work into my ALQS swap quilt. One is from Heather Bailey's Freshcut line, and the dots are from Amy Butler's Lotus line. All would work great in my plan.

Unfortunately, none of my local shops carry these, and I don't want to meet the minimum yardage to place an online order. I need at least two strips measuring 2" x 11" (or larger) of each, or a larger scrap from which these pieces can be cut. I'd be happy to reimburse postage and/or send you some scraps from my stash. Can anyone help??

Swap Blocks DONE!

Tonight, I finished my 20 Road to California blocks for the swap I first blogged about here. They're due to the swap hostess on Wednesday ... nothing like cutting it close, eh? I must say, I'm a little "Road to California"-ed out. I'm very excited to be done, and can't wait to get the other blocks in return. With this being my first block swap, I'm just hoping mine are up to snuff ...

Here's a sneak peek of the beginnings of my little quilt for Kate's swap:

After a false start, I finally found my inspiration and I am SO excited to work on this one.

And here are some fun shots from last week:

Ugh, Monday tomorrow.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Happy Friday!

These gentle souls (Mr. & Mrs.?) look in through our back doors right into our dining room. The kids love 'em. Since they bring a smile to our faces, I thought they might bring a smile to yours.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Penny Pincher Block Swap

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been keeping busy this week with my first block swap. I've been watching the forums to see if there was a swap I was interested in joining and this one caught my eye. I couldn't decide if I wanted to join but finally fell off the fence last week. The only problem? The blocks are due to the swapper by April 30th. I didn't give myself too much time.

I purchased my fabric late last week and washed, pressed and cut everything over the weekend. I also made all of the half-square triangles over the weekend. My plan for this week was to complete 4 blocks per night for a total of 20 blocks ready to send on Saturday morning. The piecing's not too difficult, but more time consuming than I was expecting.

It's probably the most traditional type of quilt that I'll make, but getting involved in the swap scene is fun. My only concern is that my blocks will be "up to snuff" -- this is the first time that I feel like someone else is relying on the quality of my work. And with this being my first swap, I am not sure of the level of precision that is expected. (I'm pretty please with how most of the blocks are turning out anyway, so maybe I shouldn't be too concerned).

You can see the color scheme in the pictures -- everyone is using reds, whites and blues. We're supposed to stay close to the color values of the American flag. Of course, everyone's block will be different, so my quilt top will be made up of 12 different blocks with different fabrics used. I'm excited for it to look like a real patchwork-style quilt and, if I like it, it may go to my son for his new "big boy bed". Pattern can be found here. (Great site, by the way, but be sure to turn the volume on your computer down.)

I'd love to get more involved in swapping ... the collaborative nature is really cool, but I'll be sure to give myself more time next time. I'd also LOVE to get involved with something like this. Those ladies are SO inspiring.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Topic of conversation at our house this week...

Are we crazy? All you dog people out there, please send your encouraging words ... because our family and friends all think we're nuts for even considering getting a dog. (They're not dog people).

Keeping me busy this week are some blocks that I committed to making for this swap. I jumped in late and I have to make 20 blocks in 8 days. In my first blog post, lisajo warned me that swaps can be addictive ... she was right! I was drawn to this one because we're about to buy my son his first "big boy bed", and I think this red, white and blue quilt would be great for a boy.

I'll post pictures as soon as I break long enough to take some ...

Monday, April 21, 2008


... is one word that sums it up. After my last post, I thought this picture was just too special not to be full-size.

How happy are they?!

Hope you had a nice Monday!

Happy Birthday Weekend

This past weekend we celebrated my son's 2nd birthday.

It started out with breakfast on Saturday at the farmer's market, followed by a party at The Little Gym:

Sunday was spent outside enjoying his special present from Mom & Dad, and the weekend ended with our nightly ritual of Dad telling the story of the 3 little pigs ... I do a mean Big Bad Wolf!:

Happy Birthday, little buddy! I can hardly believe it's been 2 years since the day we brought him home:

Spaceboy Turning Twenty Quilt

Hope you had a great weekend! Our was a lot of fun -- our son turned 2 and we celebrated all weekend. Pics and more info on that to come ...

In the meantime, I wanted to share another work in progress.

Three of my cousins' children all have birthdays coming up in May & June. This year, one of the boys is turning 3 and the other two are turning 1. We decided that each boy would get something homemade this year ... so I have embarked on a project I like to call "3 months, 3 boys, 3 birthdays, 3 quilts, oh cr*p!" OK, so that last part isn't so much part of the name as it is how I'm feeling right now!

The good news is that one of the quilt tops is done (above and below), another is very much in progress (blogged here), and the third is already all planned out with the fabric purchased and cut, just not pieced.

This first one follows the "Turning Twenty" pattern, as recommended by the teacher of our Beginning Quilting class as an easy quilt for a beginner. She had made a beautiful quilt from this pattern out of Amy Butler's Nigella fabrics and showed it off at one of our classes. It looked pretty easy, so I wanted to give it a try.

I picked out some Prints Charming fabric featuring rocketships and spaceboy themes ... suitable for a little boy, no? I remember reading about this line back in the fall and had been keeping my eyes and ears open for it to officially "launch" -- well, it must have come out to little or no fanfare, because I stumbled across a fat quarter bunch in an Etsy shop. This fabric is so nice -- both the patterns and the feel of the fabric -- that I'm really surprised there hasn't been more "buzz" around it.

Anyhow, I got some fat quarters and picked up some coordinating Kona Cotton solids at Joann's and cut and pieced the whole top in one weekend. It was extremely easy and I think the pattern is great for fabrics with large designs on them. I could see this becoming a "go to" pattern for a quick gift or to feature favorite fabrics.

The thing turned out to be a LOT larger than I was expecting. In fact, after finishing the blocks, I considered not using them all and making the top at least a row or two shorter in both directions. I'm afraid that even a 3-year old won't be able to even lift this thing once it's put together and quilted! But I decided to make it full size -- want to know why? Because having some leftover blocks would represent yet another unfinished project, and I wouldn't be able to rest until I bought more fabrics to complete it and figured out someone to give it to. So basically, I'm making the poor kid a humongo blanket because I didn't want to feel like I had "unfinished business"! Is that selfish of me?

I'm kind of intimidated to even try to quilt this thing, it's so big. And I haven't bought a backing yet. Any ideas?

So here's another completed top that's sitting folded up in my house. Are you sensing a pattern here? I love picking out the fabric, the pattern, cutting it up, piecing it all together ... but I get stuck at the basting part. It could be because I don't have a room big enough to lay everything out on the floor. Or it could be because of the 3 slipped discs in my back, and the fear of crawling around on the floor. Either way, I need to get over it or figure out an alternative ... my unfinished projects are creating a logjam!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Working with Solids

Every time I go to JoAnn's, I'm drawn to the bolt of Kona Cotton in Charcoal. I've always been partial to the color grey and especially liked that tone. I took it as a sign and started thinking of potential projects. I recently bought the "Slide Show" pattern by Atkinson Designs and was contemplating making it as a birthday gift for my cousin's son's upcoming first birthday. They live in Manhattan so I thought she'd appreciate something a little more modern and sophisticated. I was also inspired by this quilt on the Purl Bee website and the idea of using blue and orange as a color palette for a young boy. So I grabbed the bolt of charcoal and grabbed a few blues and oranges to see if they "popped" enough off of the darker fabric. I included some stone colored solids to lighten it up a bit.

I'm anxious to see how this one turns out. I go back and forth between really liking it and thinking it's not appropriate for a 1-year old. What do you think?

I really went off the grid and grabbed random items from all around the department, instead of sticking to a collection like I normally do. I guess that's how the "real" quilters do it. : )

I think I'll stick to collections for a while.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Enjoying the Spring Weather

It's finally starting to warm up here in North Carolina. We took advantage of the Spring weather and spent some time outdoors ...

Shout Out to LAL

... or should I say, LABFL?

My sister-in-law recently shared with us the wonderful news that she and her husband are expecting their second child later this year. Yeah! We are SO excited for them and my wife and I have already started tossing ideas around about what we can make for the new arrival. Of course, I won't be able to blog about it because she's one of my first (only?) readers.

Congrats, L!

Flip a Coin, Amy Butler style

Two brick path quilts was enough. I was eager to try something new, and had picked up a copy of the first Easy Quilts magazine a few months earlier. I really liked a lot of the projects in that magazine (and the ones that have followed), and I'm looking forward to turning to them often for new project ideas.

The pattern that really drew me in to that first issue was called "Flip a Coin". The magazine insisted it was an easy pattern, but it sure didn't look easy to me. So I mulled it over for a few months, reading the pattern over and over again, working through it in my mind and all the while softly convincing myself that I could do it.

I decided to use some Amy Butler "Lotus" fabric that I had purchased without having a real plan for it. One of the fabrics had a large pattern on it which I thought would work perfectly for the long strips that make up the main part of the quilt. Plus, the pattern called for a stripe, and I just so happened to also have the coordinating stripe.

Here's the top:

And here it is with the dotted fabric that will become the back:

I am happy to report that it was pretty easy to put this one together. I can see myself making more of these -- I think with the right fabrics, it really 'sings'. We're actually thinking of giving this one as a wedding gift to a cousin who will be married in July ... provided the final product turns out OK after the quilting and binding, of course. The mag called for stitching in the ditch on either side of the striped sections, quilting some X's in the 'coin' section, and a cable-knit design up the large columns.

I think it will be tough to give this one away. Actually, I think the tough part will be prying it out of my wife's fingers ... she really loves it ...

Mendhi Brick Path Quilt

So after completing my first quilt, I was eager to move on to the next project. The problem was, I wasn't sure how to do anything else ... so I promptly started another Brick Path quilt (I know, original, huh?).

I was still new to all the different fabric collections, but I found one I really loved called Mendhi by Free Spirit Fabrics. The problem was, as soon as I found it, I also learned that it had been discontinued and there were limited amounts to be found. Luckily, our local shop still had most of the colors and patterns left so I picked up a bunch of 1/2 yard cuts. And because I didn't know what else to do with them, I started cutting more bricks.

In retrospect, I guess this one went together more easily than my first. It's been in progress for a long time, though ... it survived a move across the state and I only just recently finished piecing the top. Backing is pieced and ready to go, too. Now I just have to baste & bind it.

Not sure if it will show up, but here's the green that will be used for the back:

I made a HUGE rookie error when piecing this quilt. I painstakingly and methodically laid out every single individual brick on our living room floor one day, just to make sure I liked the distribution of color. Well, see if you can follow me here: when I had all of the columns pieced and was ready to put them all together, I laid column 1 on top of column 2, and instead of sewing along the left side (which was the seam that was supposed to be in the middle), I mistakenly sewed up the right side. And I did it again and again, until I had a bunch of sets of 2 columns put together. Then I continued to make the same mistake while putting the whole top together. The result had a lot more of like colors touching than was my original goal. But it certainly didn't bother me enough to rip it all out. I'll just pretend it was random placement!

This is really beautiful fabric; it's a shame it was discontinued so soon. I still have a TON of it left, but I'm not rushing to use it this time. The right thing will come along ...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Some Cool Bags

As I've mentioned, my wife has really become quite the bag maker with her machine. She picked it up very quickly and has made some beautiful bags. Recently, I've purchased a couple of Jelly Rolls but haven't yet found a quilt pattern that I'm interested in trying out with them ... so I decided to try this bag thing out.

I picked up a copy of this pattern from Bunny Hill Designs and decided to make a few. I already completed one and sent it to my mom up in Brooklyn, but didn't get a picture of it before shipping it off. The ones pictured here are not completed yet, but I'm planning on giving the two Swell bags to my beautiful grandmothers for Mother's Day. The Za Za one might go to our sister-in-law.

I think I might just leave the bag-making to my wife. I kind of wish I had kept the Swell fabrics for a blanket.

My First Swap

I've signed up for my first swap and I'm very excited about participating. I'm not quite sure yet what I'll do with the quilt I'll receive, but for now I'm enjoying the process of planning out what I'm going to make. I have a LOT of ideas, so I think I'll be participating in more of these.

Here's something I was playing around with once I signed up for the swap:

But, I just received my partner's information and I think this comes too close to one of her stated dislikes. So, back to the drawing board. No worries, I think I already know how I'm going to proceed, and it lines up quite nicely with what she said she likes!

Maybe I'll save my original idea for something Fall or back-to-school related ...

Travel-themed Happy Hour Quilt

I was motivated to start (and finish) my second project as a housewarming gift for one of our very best friends who recently purchased his first home. I had seen several messages in the blogisphere about the relative ease and happiness with the final results of the patterns from the Happy Hour book by Atkinson Designs. (AmandaJean at Crazy Mom Quilts raves about it all the time and has posted some beautiful quilts that she's made from the book.)

I actually started a quilt using batik fabrics in primary rainbow colors, mostly because I was eager to try out the Disappearing Nine Patch technique seen here. In fact, I grossly overestimated how much fabric I'd need and I probably cut enough squares to make a king-sized quilt.

However, I was in JoAnn's one day and came across a new line of fabrics featuring a travel theme (I think it's a M'Liss Rae collection). I was inspired to start over from scratch because our friend had decided on decorating his living room with a travel theme, highlighting photos and collections from his many travels around the country and around the world.

I was originally going to make the pattern featured on the cover of the book, but the travel collection featured a lot of large prints, and I was nervous to cut them up and piece them back together again, knowing they'd never match up. So, I switched to the Triple Treat patter from the same book ... similar technique and look, but it keeps the large cuts intact (and, as an added bonus, calls for less cutting and piecing!).

One of the reasons I'm proud of this quilt is because only about 50% of the fabrics are from the collection; for the other pieces, I chose solids and other patterns from the wall. It's easy to make a whole quilt out of a single collection that you like, but there's something satisfying in selecting things yourself that all work together so nicely. Making it even sweeter, the copper and green colors I selected match his living room furniture perfectly ... which he purchased after I bought all the fabrics!

I promise I was going to try to traditionally baste and bind this quilt, but I ran out of time. So, the night before we were to gift it, I sewed the pieces right sides together and flipped it out, same as I did with the Brick Path quilt. I then sewed a 2" border around all four edges, giving the illusion of a border, before "echo quilting" 1/4" on either side of every vertical and horizontal seam. Not sure if you'll be able to see it in the picture, but it resulted in a nice checkerboard pattern on the back.

Ready to be gifted!

Our friend loved his present, and I was very happy with the way it came out. Making it even more special was the fact that we gave it to him at a time when he really needed some help from his friends. I think (hope) it gave him some comfort. It may not be display-ready, but it certainly is cuddle-worthy. My wife tried to convince me to keep it, but I wouldn't give in.

Now what to do with all of those Disappearing Nine Patch blocks??

My First Project: Amy Butler's Brick Path Quilt

As I mentioned in my first post, my first true quilt project was Amy Butler's free Lotus Brick Path pattern. I was really enamored with her fabrics and thought it sounded like a good first project for a beginner. So while home in NYC for Christmas, my wife and I discovered the fabulous City Quilter (my aunt and uncle literally live right across the street!) and stocked up on our half yard cuts.

It took me a while to cut out all the bricks, and while I don't remember exactly what I was doing wrong, I know I certainly made it a whole lot more difficult than it needed to be. It was a great project for a first-timer, though. I meticulously laid out the entire quilt top before piecing it, making sure that at least one color from each brick flowed into the next. (Yes, I'm that kind of person).

Piecing the top was a great orientation to my wife's machine. I finally got it all together, butchered it with a pair of scissors in an attempt to square it up, laid it right sides together and flipped it out after sewing it together (is this called "birthing" the quilt? I thought I read that somewhere ...).

Anyhow, it is far from perfect, and I am sure that any experienced quilter would wince upon closer inspection. There's a lot of bunching, especially in the middle. (Common rookie error, I'm sure: I stitched in the ditch starting on the sides and worked my way inward, towards the middle). And I learned to avoid striped fabrics for backing ... my stitching in the ditch and the stripes on the back nowhere near match up.

But my wife loves it -- she insisted on keeping it and snuggles with it every night in front of the TV. And I love it, too -- I'm very proud of it and still love all of the patterns and colors.

Not bad for a first project, eh?

(Oh, and here's my photography assistant, insisting on getting in on the shoot!)


Well, I'm finally doing it ... dipping my toes into the blogiverse after what I believe is called "lurking" for the past few months. I've been immersing myself in the wonderful, inspiring, and somewhat overwhelming world of the craft blog for the past few months, and I've become hooked. I just got turned on to Google Reader last week, and I have 70+ subscriptions. (Wow, I just blew my own mind when I counted them).

I started this blog because I joined my first swap (see sidebar -- thanks, Kate!), and I've noticed that most internet swaps prefer that the participants have a blog of some sort. But I am excited that it represents my emergence from lurker status to one of involvement and interaction. Who knows where it will lead, but I am excited to poke around a bit, get involved, and maybe make a few new friends.

First, the stats: I am 33 years old and married to my college sweetheart, with whom I have 3 beautiful and remarkable children. Our twin girls are 3 1/2, and our son will turn 2 next week. Yes, we have our hands full and are exhausted 110% of the time. My hobbies keep me sane. I was born & raised in Brooklyn, NYC, and moved to North Carolina for college. I have both my BA and MBA from UNC-Chapel Hill (and yes, I am still mourning our Final Four loss last week). I work in the field of Brand Management & Design and have worked in the snack food, apparel, and home improvement industries ... today, I am working at a small but powerful technology company here in Raleigh.

One thing that has become very clear is that I am not the stereotypical quilter. First of all, I'm a guy. There are not too many of us poking around these parts -- in fact, I think I've come across one, maybe two crafy blogs written by men. And I get a huge kick out of the assumed "hey ladies" on almost all of the blogs I read! No bother ... in my mind, it's a creative outlet. Plain and simple, I love to make beautiful things, and to admire the beautiful things made by others. No different from photography, or painting, or woodworking -- all perfectly acceptable as hobbies for men -- right?

It all started when I bought my wife a sewing machine about two years ago. She was a new stay-at-home mom with twin babies and another on the way and, like I said earlier, needed a hobby to stay sane. I think she had grand ideas of making all of the kids' clothes (still hasn't happened), but she really sparked to making all types of bags and purses. She also signed up for a beginning quilting class at our local sewing store. I started getting really excited when I started to see the fabrics she was bringing home from the store -- Amy Butlers, Joel Dewberries. My head immediately started spinning with the possibilities.

I started asking her to show me how to work the machine, and slowly started going with her to pick out fabrics for her bags and quilts. (P.S. Ever try fabric shopping with two 2-year olds and a newborn? It's ... interesting). I was hooked. I started messing around with some easy patterns -- my first attempt was Amy Butler's free Brick Path pattern -- and even though I made a TON of mistakes, I'm still proud that I completed it, and my wife uses it almost every night when she cuddles up to watch TV. I messed around with a few more easy patterns, learning something new each time and (in my own estimation) dramatically improving in a relatively short time.

This past Christmas, my wife signed us both up for a Beginning Quilting class, and I learned a bunch of the tips and tricks of the trade ... and now know some of the mistakes I made on my first few projects. I am in the process of finishing up the quilting and binding of the quilt I made in that class.

Pictures and posts of all of my projects (so far) on their way.

Wow, first post ... pretty long. Sorry about that. Better self-editing in the future!

P.S. Here are my three greatest masterpieces: