Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Two for Tacha

Boy, the posts sure have slowed down over here. It's completely indicative of how much the sewing has slowed down, too. Life & work has just been too busy to get anything done in the evenings. Know how many homemade gifts I'm giving this year? Exactly one, but it was a good one! It was my contribution to our office's gift exchange, which had to be homemade. I made two scarves out of Anna Maria Horner's Little Folks voile fabric (a la Jona of Fabritopia ... thanks for the great & easy gift idea, Jona!) Have you worked with that fabric yet? All of the raves about how nice it feels are not at all overrated. I highly recommend that you pick some up.

I also threw in 3 fabric covered Moleskines using some of my Amy Butler Midwest Modern scraps. They are always very well received and super easy to make ... every time I make them, I wonder why I don't do it more often. A great scrap reducer, by the way.

Anyway, it was one of the more popular gifts of the day -- stolen twice in the first 9 rounds of the Dirty Santa exchange, thereby frozen for the remainder of the swap!

Oh, and before I forget, be sure to check out Scott's great giveaway over at Blue Nickel Studios. He just reached 200 posts, so I think some congratulations are in order! He's got 7 (!) amazing grab bags full of quilting supplies for some lucky readers. Head on over and enter ... be sure to tell him that Quilt Dad sent ya'!

Now, here are a few things that I have been able to get done over the past few weeks. These two quilting bee blocks are both for Tacha (hanies), an amazing and prolific quilter from Berlin, Germany.

October was Tacha's month in the bee inspired group ... and yes, this is the long overdue October block that I referenced a few weeks back! Tacha asked if we were up for the challenge of hand sewing some hexagons as the basis for her block. I was terrified and completely overwhelmed but, feeling accomplished by my recent mastery (ha!) of paper piecing, I decided I wasn't about to back down from this challenge.

bee inspired | October

Well, it turned out that it definitely was a challenge. It took me nearly a week to make this single block, and my hand sewing skills are most definitely amateurish. I can't relate to all of you that talk about how meditative and peaceful you find making these blocks, since I alternated between feeling anxious, frustrated, nervous, and angry throughout the process. BUT, I am so happy that I tackled it, persevered, and finished the block. Sure, some of my seams are showing through, but I'm still very proud of finishing it.

Take a good look, because I'm not sure I'll be making another one of these!

bee inspired | October

November's block for Tacha for the Cottage Quilting Bee fell much more in the center of my comfort zone. Tacha asked for a range of squares & rectangles, which could include mini log cabins and could be wonky or straight. I looked back to a block I made for another quilting bee a few months back for inspiration, but was decidedly more wonky in my construction.

Cottage Quilting Bee | November

I really love how this one came out, and the process of making it was a welcome change from the hand piecing of the previous block. I had a lot of fun using all of Tacha's different fabrics and choosing some coordinates from my stash. I hope you like it, Tacha!

Cottage Quilting Bee | November

I'm going to try to get back over here at least once more before Thursday to wish you all a proper Merry Christmas. In the meantime, I hope you all are enjoying your friends, families, and the spirit of the season!

P.S. Thanks so much for all of your Quiltmaker love from my last post. I really appreciate it!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Do you see what I see?

Sorry, I couldn't help but make that cheesy holiday reference ... but check this out!:

My blog, featured!

That's right -- that's this little ol' blog of mine featured in Quiltmaker magazine right above Rachel's blog (oh, hey girl!) I'm so happy and so humbled at the same time. Of course, as soon as I was tipped off about this, I ran right out to Borders to get my own copy -- and one for my mom, too!

You know, when you make the decision to start something like a blog, it's with the understanding that -- to a certain degree -- you'll be exposing yourself completely to the world. It's a bit scary to embrace that kind of vulnerability.

When I decided to start this blog and share not only the things that I make with my hands and from my heart, but some of the more personal details about my life and family, I never imagined how rewarding it would be to have anyone -- much less total strangers -- notice and even appreciate my creations and my passions.

So all of that is just a very long way of saying "thank you" both to the team at Quiltmaker magazine and to all of you for reading my humble blog. You bring new joy to my life every day. I hope each & every one of you is having a happy, healthy, and peaceful holiday season.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tea Towel Tour Complete

I recently wrapped up the Craftster Tea Towel Tour, and I couldn't be more pleased with what was returned to me. I started with a very pale green cloth napkin and asked for an underwater theme from my fellow swappers. I bound the napkin in a favorite Flea Market Fancy print that reminds me of seaweed. Here's a full shot of my towel:

My completed TTT5 towel

I started the tour by embroidering an initial design for myself to set the tone for the towel. I decided on this octopus design from the Badbird blog.

TTT5 | My design

The towel first traveled to SarahJ2001, who stitched up a cute little seahorse:

TTT5 | SarahJ2001's design

Sarah forwarded the towel along to IamSusie, who added this great little Nemo fish:

TTT5 | IamSusie's design

Susie then sent the towel across the pond to Kitten Wrangler, who created a coral made entirely of french knots. The texture on this one is amazing:

TTT5 | Kitten Wrangler's design

The towel then traveled back to the U.S. and landed in the Bay Area with ritapizza, whose contribution is this beautiful mermaid inspired by Heather Ross' Mendocino line of fabrics:

TTT5 | ritapizza's design

For its final stop, the towel made its way to PearliePie, who added another piece of undersea plant life:

TTT5 | PearliePie's design

I had such a great time participating in my first Tea Towel Tour. It has really helped me develop my embroidery skills and add a new dimension to my sewing and crafting. I hope to be able to rejoin the tour for round 6!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Pillow Talk Swap

I recently completed another swap over on Flickr. This one was called the Pillow Talk Swap and was organized and hosted by all-around cool chicks Heather & Kerri. For this swap, we were asked to make a homemade modern, urban pillow or pillow cover for a secret partner. As you may have gathered from previous blog posts, I really enjoy making pillow as they are a nice departure from always making mini quilts. Plus, they're functional and great to have around the house!

First, here's what I was thrilled to receive from Amanda who blogs at sasikirana homemade:

(Pics are from Amanda's photostream, since I haven't had the chance to take a good picture of it yet, and hers are so beautiful anyway!)

I saw the pictures of this pillow in the group before I even knew it was mine, and I was completely in love with it. I've long admired Denyse Schmidt's Single Girl pattern, but haven't been confident enough to tackle it myself.

The best part? Amanda used the same shade of grey Kona Cotton that I recently sent out to her and the other SewConnected 2 swappers to make mini neighborhood quilt blocks for me. She did this so that the pillow would match the quilt. How cool is that??! It's really thoughtful, special touches like that that make swapping with other wonderful crafters so enjoyable and fulfilling.

I drew fellow manquilter Ryan of I'm Just a Guy Who Quilts as my secret partner. Once I knew I'd be making a pillow for Ryan, it was pretty easy to decide what to do. He really expressed a lot of love for a mini quilt that I made recently based upon some of my favorite pillows from Antropologie, so I revisited that design and made a pillow version for Ryan!

Pillow Talk Swap

The main part of the pillow is made from some great Aiden linen that I got from Kathy's shop, Pink Chalk Fabrics, and a whole bunch of scraps of some of my favorite prints. This project is a really great scrap buster!

Pillow Talk Swap

For those of you wondering how I made this, I first cut a sheet of Heat 'N Bond the same size as my panel (18" x 18" for this pillow). I sketched the dahlia design directly onto the paper side of the HnB. Then, petal by petal, I cut each piece out from the HnB, peeled the paper backing off, fused it to a piece of scrap fabric, and then fused the petal onto the linen.

There are two tricks to this: devising a system so that you don't get lost in where each petal should be placed (trickier than it seems), and also making sure your drawn petals are mostly symmetrical, since your actual flower will be a mirror image of the one you've sketched.

Once everything was fused into place, I added some border strips to bring the pillow front up to 20.5" x 20.5" (so that it would finish at 20" x 20", a pretty standard size for pillow forms). I then spray basted the entire pillow top to a piece of batting slightly larger than the pillow top. I brought the two layers (top and batting only -- no backing) to my maching and, using a small zig-zag stitch, first stitched in the ditch between the linen and the borders, and then machine stitched around each petal.

All in all, a very easy (though time-consuming) process. If you decide to make something in a similar way, I'd love to see it!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

October Quilting Bee Blocks

Hello, everyone! I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. Ours was good, aside from the nasty stomach bug / flu strain that has been making its way from kid to kid to parent to parent over the past week. I think we have finally exorcised it from the Quilt Dad house with one daughter spared. Let's hope it stays out.

I recognize that postings to the ol' blog have been sparse lately. Quite franky, my sewing time has been sparse, too. I've had a few new commitments pop up lately that have eaten into my evenings and I'm trying to figure out how to balance it all. My to-do list is nagging at me, and I find myself thinking three projects ahead of what's on my cutting table. Does this ever happen to you?

I've been trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to at least keep up with my quilting bee commitments. I've always prided myself on returning people's blocks back on time, but it's all finally caught up with me. I still (embarrassingly) have one October block that isn't done yet (sorry, Tasha!), and a couple of November blocks to complete. Fortunately, December's an off month for many of the bees and I desperately need the time to catch up. 'Cause, you know, there's nothing else happening in December to occupy our time.

OK, so here's what I was able to complete for October:

First up are some mini neighborhood blocks for Dee for the SewConnected swap. There have been many great blocks and quilts popping up on Flickr inspired by this wonderful Ingrid Press quilt. Dee sent some soft pink fabric for her background and a selection of pinks and yellow to construct the houses. I was able to make both a house ...

SewConnected | October for Bubbachic

... and a tree for Dee.

SewConnected | October for Bubbachic

October was Sonja's month in SewConnected 2. In true Sonja style, she assembled a truly eclectic and inspired grouping of fabrics and requested blocks with a "beach house" theme. It was very important to me to make something special for Sonja, because she always puts 150% into anything she makes for others.

First, I decided to put my new embroidery skills to use and stitch up some whales inspired by the work of one of my favorite artists, Kurt Halsey. I bordered the embroidered piece with some prints from Tula Pink's Neptune line.

SC2 | Block for Sonja

Here's a close-up of the embroidery -- I love how it came out!

Kurt Halsey whales embroidered

I had an idea for a second block for Sonja. I decided to make a quilt block reminiscent of those old wooden beach signs (like this one). I used Lazy Gal Tonya's free-pieced letter tutorials to highlight all of Sonja's fabrics, and bordered it with a woodgrain that reminded me of driftwood (from the Lush line).

SC2 | Block for Sonja

October was a two-member month in the SewConnected 3 group. First up, Anina (from the popular twiddletails blog!) requested wonky log cabin blocks. And you KNOW I love me some wonky log cabin blocks. Here's what I came up with:

SC3 | October Block for Twiddletails

Cathy, fellow swapper and owner of my favorite local fabric store (Wish Upon a Quilt), sent a variety of Jennifer Paganelli's fabrics and didn't ask for any specific type of block. I LOVE working with Jennifer's prints, and I made this block up as I went along. I even added the bottom border from one of Jennifer's older lines to finish the block up:

SewConnected 3 | October block for Cathy

Over in the Cottage Quilting Bee, Ariana designed her own block and asked everyone to help her make her first queen-sized bed quilt. Each swapper received a selection of fabrics in a specific color story and a solid gray. I received this WONDERFUL set of green prints, and I love the way they play off of the gray. I deliberately embedded five little pinwheels into my fabric placement -- can you spot them?

Cottage Quilting Bee | October

And finally ... hold onto your hats, people ... 'cuz Quilt Dad is paper piecing.

Yes, that's right ... after so many months of resisting the urge, I finally took the plunge and taught myself how to paper piece. I am so happy to have finally gotten over my fear and apprehension, and I feel like a whole new world of possibilities have been opened up for me.

I was motivated to tackle paper piecing because I really wanted to make the Color Wheel block for Julie for her Buzz Cuts block. Julie sent fabrics from the Neptune line and they seemed to me to be great candidates for the swirling geese in this pattern. It reminded me of a whirlpool, which fit nicely with the nautical theme of Julie's blocks. I am THRILLED with how it came out!

BuzzCuts | November block for jgmehlin

And that closes the book on October ... with the exception of that one final block for Natasha. It's next on my to-do list!

I have a few more things to blog about soon, including the Pillow Talk swap (for which I both made and received a homemade pillow lately) and the conclusion of the Craftster Tea Towel Tour swap, since I also received my completed towel back.