Thursday, July 30, 2009

5 "S" Words

I've done it again. An unintended two-week absence from my blog. Why, you might ask? Well, sometimes life just gets in the way. In this case, I think I can sum it up in 5 words, all beginning with the letter "s" ...

  • Staycation -- Last week, we shipped the kids up to Camp Grandma in NYC and I took the entire week off. Mrs. Quilt Dad and I thought of some short trips we could take, but decided instead to make it a "staycation" ... meaning a vacation where we don't go anywhere and just stay at home. It's my favorite kind of vacation, actually ... traveling can be so exhausting.
So I know what you're all thinking ... a full week off of work + no kids + staying at home = tons and tons of uninterrupted sewing time, right? Well, not so much. You might ask what I was able to accomplish, to which I would answer "nothing". Instead, I spent the time with my wife -- we ate at some of our favorite restaurants (as well as some new ones), caught up on our summer movies (Star Trek, Wolverine, and Harry Potter were all on the schedule), tried to get outside and exercise (not as much as we should have), sleep in, and generally reconnect. It was bookended by overnight stays in Alexandria and Washington DC, for the "exchange of goods" with my mom.

It was a great time, even though I didn't get too much of my sewing commitments completed. (Besides my Doll Quilt Swap responsibilities of course. It seems that one set of parental duties was merely replaced with another ... ! : ) This was also due in part to a major ...

  • ... slip-up. I did have every intention of at least working on my July quilting bee commitments, but any sewing momentum that I had was quickly dashed after making a stoopid mistake.
The first block in my to-do pile that I decided to tackle was Tina's from the Cottage Quilting Bee. I remembered that Tina had requested wonky Denise Schmidt-inspired square-in-square blocks made from the yellows and grays that she sent. I happily started pulling some coordinating fabrics from my pile, cutting and piecing, generally having a great time. So great, in fact, that I didn't stop at one block and ended up with the following two for Tina:

There's only one problem. After finishing the blocks I went back and re-read Tina's directions, and she specifically asked that we not add in any additional fabrics to her selection. D'oh!! I felt terrible. I still haven't yet tried to squeeze a third block out of the remnants of Tina's fabric, but I will.

The bad news is that it killed my sewing mojo for the week. That was last week, and I still haven't gotten it back. The bad news is that tomorrow is July 31, and I still have a BUNCH of July blocks to work on. I also have August fabrics of my own to send out to my SewConnected 3 group, and I haven't even started cutting it yet. Needless to say, I will be tardy this month. I'm going to try to tackle them this weekend ... no promises, but I will try my best. I hope my peeps can all forgive me!

I can't even say that I'll be able to work on stuff tonight, because of my daughter's ...

  • Surgery. Yes, one of my daughters is having surgery first thing tomorrow morning. Nothing serious, but it is surgery nonetheless, and she will be receiving anaesthesia. We're driving a couple of hours west to Winston-Salem, which is where she was born and where her surgeon is based. Again, it's nothing serious ... but please keep her in your thoughts and prayers this evening!
Oh, back to the staycation. Let me tell you guys about my big ...

  • Score! I have been on the lookout for the past year or so for a nice, big work table for cutting and, well, working, but haven't really been able to find anything. I've seen some great tips from other bloggers for making your own tables out of shelving units, door blanks, etc., but I've really been holding out for a big table like Jenny's. Go take a look at that link and marvel in her magical workspace -- you'll be glad you did!
Anyhow, I was describing my want/need to a co-worker, and he told me about my local North Carolina State Surplus Property office. It's where all of the state departments and agencies dispose of any unneeded or recently-replaced property ... most notably, furniture.

I headed over there one day last week in the hopes of finding a table that might be suitable for my needs and space. My timing was impeccable. They had just gotten in a shipment of 25 work tables recently released from the North Carolina State University School of Design. Ummm, hello? EXACTLY what I wanted.

So I bought 2.

They were $5 apiece.

Granted, they are a little beat up, have tons of creative-student graffitti all over them, and a piece or two of dried gum stuck to the bottom. But I've got big plans for them. I've already bought some glossy white paint and will tackle that project when it cools down a bit.

A true hidden gem. I recommend that you find out if your state has one of these near you!

Finally, this has nothing to do with my blog absence, but I thought I'd share ...

  • Singer! Mrs. Quilt Dad and I went to see Jason Mraz in concert last night. He's one of our faves, so it was fun to get out for the night ... even if it meant yet another evening of sewing was put aside ...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Doll Quilt Swap ... recap and new round now open!

You may have heard the rumors, but yes ... I am here to tell you that they are all true: signups for Doll Quilt Swap 7 have opened up.

So much for my mini quilt swap hiatus.

Anyhoo, the first 200 people to sign up are guaranteed spots ... and they are filling up fast. So what are you waiting for? Go! Go!

But be sure to come back, because I thought this was a great time to post the recap of DQS6 that I've been meaning to get to for a few months now.

As you may remember, I was an admin (aka "swap papa") for the Doll Quilt Swap for the first time in round 6. And let me tell you, I think I was given the best bunch of quilters in the whole swap (well, except for Joy, who sent me the best dang quilt of the whole swap (IMHO)!!)

I wanted to honor their talent and hard work by posting this gallery of their quilts. So sit back, relax, and enjoy!

We'll start with Bronwyn, who sent this fantastic quilt to fellow Aussie Helen:

Love that Tula Pink fabric!

Helen made one of her signature minis for lucky Kerri:

In turn, Kerri sent this little cutie (one of my faves!) to Erin in Utah:

And Erin made this for Tina ... although it looks like Tina's daughters have claimed ownership:

What a creative idea! Those little pennants are so original.

In turn, Tina made this sweet little quilt for Jennifer in Virginia ... or maybe for her daughter?:

I paired Jennifer up with Darci in California ... I had a feeling it would be a good match. Here's what Darci received:

Oh, hey Darci! Cute pic.

Darci, in turn, made this mini for Stefanie:

And Stef made this pretty quilt for Sarah:

Here's what Sarah sent to Indiana to live with Solidia:

And here's Californian Rhonda showing off her little beauty, handmade by Solidia:

I think Karen from Washington was (understandably!) very happy with what Rhonda made especially for her:

What better for a cat lover than this little quilt made by Karen for Molly in Oregon:

And this retro mini traveled from Molly's place in Oregon all the way to Virginia to live with Liz:

Here's what Liz sent to Anastasia:

Check out what Anastasia sent "down under" to Hayley in Australia:

And finally, another Aussie-to-Aussie package from Hayley to Bronwyn:

... which closes out my little circle.

Like what you see? Inspired by the great work of these fabulous quilters? Then head on over to Flickr and get involved. Rules and guidelines can be found in the group.

See you there!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

WIP Wednesday

OK, folks ... you heard it here first. I am officially on a self-imposed mini quilt hiatus.

As you all know (and many have commented! : ), I've been on a bit of a mini quilt bender for the past year or so. I wouldn't have done it any differently -- I really credit all of those swaps with helping me to learn both basic and new techniques, build my confidence (thanks to all of the help and support of fellow swapees), and meet a whole bunch of really, really great people -- but it's time to face facts.

I have a whole slew of larger projects in various stages of completion. And I've been avoiding basting, quilting, and binding full-sized quilts. I've got to start clearing some of these projects out!

I believe I've seen "WIP Wednesday" posts around the blogiverse and thought it would be a great way to track my progress on these projects ... and to keep me honest! My WIP Wednesday posts will be devoted to my larger quilts only.

First up, do any of you remember my very first Doll Quilt Swap? Well, as soon as I finished up that little quilt I decided to use the remainder of my "Wee Play" charm pack to make a larger sized version of it. I've had the middle (pinwheel) part of this quilt done for, oh, almost a year now. All I had to do was add the two borders. Why did it take me so long??

In retrospect, I wish I had made the inner border a bit thinner.

Another quilt top done. Moved to the "to be quilted" pile.

Up next, piecing this Amy Butler "Midwest Modern" quilt. I bought these fabrics and picked the pattern to make as a wedding gift for an MBA classmate's August wedding. Ummm, no ... not next month. August 2008. Yes, last year. Does Miss Manners still give us 12 months to give a wedding gift??

Blocks are done. Layout is final. Now I just have to piece it all together.

I will say this about mini quilts -- they spoil you rotten. The thought of piecing together 63 blocks -- when I'm used to more like 9 -- is numbing my brain. I just have to soldier on ...

My goal is to have this top pieced by next week's WIP Wednesday.

Finally, my quilt for Dana's Old Red Barn Company quilt-along. Here are all of the strips, cut and ready to go:

I would say I am about halfway done with piecing the strip sets ... and what I've pieced has already been cut into blocks. I still have a bunch more strip sets to sew together. Maybe I'll shoot for July 22nd to show this one off?

(P.S. Not sure what happened here, but the pictures below are TERRIBLE -- those are not the colors of these blocks AT ALL!)

And then the next few projects in the hopper for WIP Wednesday:
- Remember this? My Full Moon Forest quilt that I made as part of Amanda Jean's quilt-along (embarassingly, I haven't touched this one since October 2008).
- My Amy Butler quilt with blocks from my Craftster group.
- My SewConnected, Buzz Cuts, and Cottage Quilting Bee quilts ... some straggler blocks are still rolling in.
- ... and some others that I can't think of right now.

P.S. I reserve the right to change my mind and break the hiatus any time I want!! ; )

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Baggie Bingo!

Speaking of blocks (see my lengthy post from earlier today!), I've been playing in the monthy "Baggie Bingo" block swap hosted by Tracy in the Mini Quilt in a Bag group on Flickr. The premise is simple: each month, you opt in to a "raffle" of sorts. Everyone that's participating makes a single, 5.5" block. At the end of the month, someone's name is drawn at random to win all of the month's blocks, and everyone sends them to the winner.

5.5" blocks ... seriously, how much easier can you get?

Here's what I made for May:

LOVE that Red Letter Day! Unfortunately, it finished out at 5" square ... a bit too small. So I kept it, and made this one in its place:

And guess what? I just found out that I won June's raffle! Stay tuned for pics of all the blocks that I receive ...

June Quilting Bee Blocks

WARNING: marathon post ahead!! Turn back now if you don't have a few minutes to kill!

Is it just me, or was June 2009 the fastest month in history?? Wow, it just blew right by me. I only had one blog post in the whole month! Crazy.

Luckily, I was able to keep up with my many online quilting bees. I am terrified of falling even one month behind, because I know the snowball effect is huge in these things. One missed month turns into piles and piles of other people's fabrics that need to be made into blocks. And I definitely take the commitment that I made to other people very seriously. So on to the block-making ... !

For SewConnected, Sarah (aka krommama) sent out ... NOTHING! Her challenge (which is SO TRUE to who she is!) was to make an entire block out of nothing but our own scraps. And those of you familiar with Sarah's work know that she LOVES wonky houses. So that's what she asked for: scrappy, wonky houses. Fun!

Fortunately for me, I've recently been getting back a lot of scraps from my own SewConnected quilt, so I was happy to put them to good use:

My favorite part about this house is the roof. You can't really tell from the picture, but it's made up of 3 or 4 very skinny strips of the same fabric, all sewn together. The result is a textured roof ... almost reminiscent of shingles or gables. A small but nice detail, I think!

Over at SewConnected 2, Amanda (sasikirana) selected a really striking array of greens and greys for her quilt blocks. Her color combo is so, so great (check out her picture here). She also included a hand embroidered strip of the alphabet for each quilter, as well as a smaller bit featuring the quilter's initials. What a great way to tie all of the blocks together! And featuring the "signature" of every quilter on their block is such an inspired idea.

Her request was for improv-style blocks. I had no idea where I was going with this until I was done ... and I am pretty happy with the final result! It finished a bit too narrow, so I added the column of green apples down the right side of the block.

June was a 2-quilter month in the SewConnected 3 group, and to help defray shipping costs for the group, I assigned the month to both of our Belgian members: Dallas (aka forthejourney) and Sarah (aka craftywaffles), affectionately known as "Team Belgium"!

Dallas pulled together a really nice collection of autumnal colors and patterns (see her pic here) and asked for a "bold pattern, modern in style, but not improvisational or wonky". I decided on a simple (but effective, I think) pattern that showcases those great owls:

I can't wait to see how Dallas' final quilt turns out!

Sarah really decided to throw out a challenge for her blocks. Her vision is for a "modern, shabby chic" quilt inspired by antiques and Cath Kidston. She sent everyone a blank-slate cut of white fabric and a selection of some of her shabby chic prints. Her only direction was "bubbles" ... to be interpreted however we like. Her challenge was to work with curves and circles ... something I really haven't tackled yet.

After going back and forth, back and forth a few times on my design, I decided to experiment some more with reverse applique. I figured that it would be different & unique, and the slightly frayed edges that will occur over time (after washing) would be VERY shabby chic!

First, a single, large bubble:

And next, a nice orderly collection of 9 bubbles. I tried to select soft, coordinating perle cotton colors for the stitching. It's still a new technique for me, so I really, really hope that these blocks can stand the test of time!

I hope they meet your vision, Sarah!

Buzz Cuts is a really fun group to be a part of. Very feisty! Lots of good discussion and banter happening over there. For June, Jean (aka JAmundsen) sent out some swanky Moda fabrics and asked for some "anything goes" blocks in a variety of sizes.

I made up two different block designs for Jean:

Mary (aka namawsbusyquiltn ... I love typing that screen name!) is also a member of Buzz Cuts, and decided to get a jump start on July by sending out her fabrics early. To be perfectly honest, I had forgotten that this was a July block and thought it was due by the end of June! No worry ... it just lightens my load a bit for July.

She sent Moda's "Howard Marcus - Collection for a Cause (Heritage)" and asked for traditional star blocks in a variety of sizes. I made a 12" star ...

... and an itty-bitty 6" star. I am definitely not used to sewing with such small pieces and cuts. As you can see, I had a bit of trouble getting all of my mini seams to match up. This picture is an extreme close-up; it looks a lot better from afar!

Stars seem to be a theme for several swaps lately. Donna (from bee inspired) also asked for star blocks from the group -- this time, in a standard 12.5" size and made from her selections of blue, white, and gold.

I was also able to make 2 blocks for Donna:

Another great month full of wonderful fabrics and fun challenges! I really love making blocks -- it eliminates the stresses I have about basting, quilting and binding!

Monday, July 6, 2009

FAQ's, plus my Deer Valley quilt

Before getting to the quilt blocks of the subject line, I wanted to get a few random thoughts out of the way ...

I absolutely love getting comments, and try to respond whenever possible ... but it never seems to fail that readers with specific questions have their accounts set to "no-reply"! I'd love to answer your questions, but often can't. However, I've noticed that two questions keep popping up over and over again, so I thought I'd answer them here:

  1. What do you do with all of the mini quilts that you receive as part of the swaps you are involved in? Great question. I am planning a re-do of the room that currently doubles as our home office / sewing room, and would love to create a mini quilt wall like the amazing ones shown here, here, here, here, here and here. But for now, they are all neatly stacked near my machine, and I look through them OFTEN. Every now and then, my kids will swipe a few of them for their dolls ... and I am TOTALLY cool with that! : )
  2. How can I find out about new swaps or quilting bees that might be open to new participants? I can only recommend following the same path that I did -- check out the Flickr groups and watch the discussion threads for open groups. Monthly swaps are a great place to get started -- I recommend the 6-12" Mini Quilt Swap Group, or Swap Til You Drop. Other mini quilt swaps, like the Doll Quilt Swap or the Mini Quilt in a Bag Swap, aren't quite monthly, but are usually open to new swappers. Finally, the best resource for info on quilting bees is Erin's Quilting Bee Blocks group. It has become the go-to place for both people who are recruiting and those looking to be recruited for a bee! And if all else fails, and you're feeling sad that you're not being invited to any groups, do what I did: start your own! That's how SewConnected was born!

Is anyone else as addicted to as much as I am? I LOVE it. However, the combination of Pandora + iTunes is EXTREMELY dangerous to my checkbook ... it's way too easy to discover new music and, one click and $1.29 later, it's yours forever. For quilting & sewing, it's usually a toss-up between "Josh Kelley Radio", the very similar "John Mayer Radio", or "Black Eyed Peas Radio". The Peas have been winning more often than not lately.

Any readers in AUS / NZ interested in a trade? I'd love to get my hands on this book. Let me know ...

OK, speaking of Material Obsession, I recently got the first book and I dig it. So much so, in fact, that July is my month to send out fabrics for Rachel's bee inspired group and I drew my inspiration from one of the quilts in the book.

I always admire pineapple quilt blocks, and "The Big Pineapple" quilt combines this traditional pattern with very modern, contemporary fabrics. It got my mind racing, and I quickly decided that I wanted the group to help me make a modern pineapple quilt.

First, I had to decide what fabrics to use. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I am a huge fan of Joel Dewberry's designs and I've been anxiously awaiting his Deer Valley fabric line for quite a while now. It didn't take long to decide that this was the perfect fabric line to fulfill my vision.

I scoured the 'net for a free pattern that I could include with my fabrics, but could only find paper piecing patterns. And as y'all know, I don't paper piece ... so I'm sure as heck not going to ask 17 other people to do it for me! Some more searching and I found the perfect solution: Bonnie's Pineapple Blossom quilt pattern over at Great pattern, easy enough for the various skill levels in our group and, best of all, all traditional piecing.

I made four practice blocks to show the group just how easy it is ...

... and I am THRILLED with the result! I know that you lose the pattern somewhat with so many different fabrics going on, but I wanted the end result to be scrappy and I think (hope) that the pattern will come through when it's all together. Even if it doesn't, it will still be a kick-a** quilt.

I can't wait to see it all come together.

Anyone else working with Deer Valley yet?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Patisserie Kindle Holder

Happy 4th of July (a day late)!! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, whether you celebrated or not. We laid low this weekend -- had some friends over for a cookout last night, and went over their place for dinner tonight. Mrs. Quilt Dad made the cake pictured above in celebration of the holiday ... from scratch! And it was goooooo-ooood. It's a Barefoot Contessa recipe that she got from The Pioneer Woman. She says that Quilt Dad is her favorite blog, but I know I can't even hope to compete with the force of nature that is The Pioneer Woman.

Oh well ...

On Thursday, we decided on an impromptu overnight trip to our favorite beach spot in North Carolina, Wrightsville Beach. The kids had a blast ... it's always fun to experience the thrill and novelty of staying in a hotel through the eyes of a child.

I also managed to get a bit of sewing done this weekend. I recently bought my wife an Amazon Kindle for her birthday-slash-Mother's Day-slash-anniversary-slash-Christmas (need I go on? It's not cheap!) Of course, I had to make another Bookkeeper from the Moda Bake Shop for her to carry it around in. I love this pattern. Plus, I've got to protect my investment!!

This time I made it using a mini honey bun of "Patisserie" by Fig Tree Quilts. It came out much better than my first two attempts ... and more quickly, too!

I showed it to our friends who were over for dinner last night. One of them asked if I would make one for her to gift to her mother, who also just got a Kindle. I had enough Patisserie left to make an identical one to my wife's ... and whipped it up in about an hour last night. I think I've mastered the Bookkeeper!

P.S. There is no question that Roger is a true champion, but I was really pulling for Andy today.