Saturday, January 28, 2017

Embroidery Catch-up

The second half of 2016 wasn't super productive for me, craft-wise. Work was very busy, and I found myself using my weekends to squeeze in social time and sleep. I was also making a quilt for a friend's wedding gift (the wedding was in June... eek!), which took up what little time I allotted to creative efforts. The quilt is (finally) finished, but I just shipped it off to the recipients, so I'm waiting for them to see it before I post anything about it!

However, I did make a few embroideries! My good friends Randy and Marie welcomed twins (!) in June. I made a quilt for their big brother Anthony when he was born, but I knew I wouldn't have the time to make two quilts before the babies arrived. Instead, I made Lidia and Vincent their own embroideries!

Vincent's lion comes from a pattern by Kimberly Ouimet, and Lidia's bird comes from one of Jenny Hart's books. The twins couldn't be more different! Vincent is a little ham and a total people-person, while Lidia is more serious and knows what she wants. Both babies are adorable and ooze personality, just like their big brother!

One of my school friends, Kim, recently got married to an excellent guy. Sadly, I could not attend their Florida wedding, but I wanted to send them some crafty goodness, so I came up with this:

They are both Disney-obsessed, and while I thought about going full-on Cinderella's castle with the embroidery, I opted for a simpler Disneyesque message. I also did some reconnaissance to find out what their wedding colors would be so I could incorporate them!

The main flowers came from a Polka & Bloom pattern, but I ended up adapting them a bit. I used a raised satin stitch for those, and a daisy stitch for the little flowers on the side (which also remind me a bit of snowflakes).

In case you're wondering (and I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat!), all of the text just comes from Word fonts. I've downloaded a few fancier fonts, but after one font ended up crashing my computer, I've since given up on that! In general, I think the simpler the font, the better. I also like freehanding the text when I can. I have pretty nice penmanship, if I do say so myself!

Finally, I finished my Book Girl embroidery at long last! It's from September House and I knew I had to have it the first time I stumbled across it. (It sort of looks like a skinnier version of me, and I, too, am book-obsessed!) I must have purchased it 2 or 3 years ago, started it about a year and a half ago, and finally finished it in the fall. It wasn't that it was difficult; I just sort of lost momentum. I also decided to fill in all of the outlines, which took a while, so I only chipped away at it here and there. 

In the end, I'm so, so happy with it. I used jewel tones (my favorite color palette at the moment) and unintentionally gave the girl an outfit I actually own.

I have another embroidery in progress, but I haven't picked it up in quite a while. Maybe this post will give me some motivation!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Baby Quilt Two-fer

The babies in my life tend to be born in waves, and there were two awesome little ones due last spring. For the first time ever, I decided to make TWO quilts at the same time! This meant twice the fabric cutting, twice the piecing, twice the basting, twice the quilting, and twice the binding, but it actually went pretty quickly once I got into a rhythm. It was like having my own little assembly line.

I actually found all of the fabric I needed in my stash, which was also a first for me! I've used Anne Kelle's Urban Zoologie prints in quite a few projects now, and I had a fair amount left over from Baby Michael's quilt last year. Since one of these new quilts was marked for Michael's little brother or sister, it seemed appropriate that they would coordinate. Love those tiny animals.


To show off the adorable animal prints, I made large blocks with three even-width strips of fabric. I didn't use a pattern; I just figured out roughly how big I wanted the blocks to be and went from there.

You'll notice some differences in the blocks across the two quilts, which was mainly due to fabric availability. I had to improvise when I didn't have enough of a fabric to make another block! But this also ended up making the quilts unique, despite the fact they were made at the same time with the same general layout.

For blenders, I used Lizzy House's mini-pearl bracelets in primary and secondary colors. I bought a fat quarter bundle of them on Massdrop about a year ago and had been waiting for just the right project to use them on! The other fabrics are a mixture of solids and prints I had on hand. (My fabric collection is seriously getting out of control...)

The backs are both from yardage of a bright blue fabric I bought for another project, but whose color just didn't work out in the end. I like how it brightens up the back of these quilts without being too busy. The fronts are busy enough! I quilted diagonally across the large blocks, and I like the diamond effect on the backs.

These quilts are now with their adorable little owners: my cousin's daughter, Caitlin, and my college friend Emily's son, Kylian. (Perhaps Auntie Kym can do some matchmaking when they get older? They both come from good Irish stock!)

I'm currently working on a wedding quilt for friends who were married in June. (Eek! But you have a year to give a gift, right?) It's large and it has taken ages. Summer travel meant I didn't have much time at all to devote to it, and work got incredibly busy during the fall, so it sat neglected on my ironing board. But I've made a lot of progress on it in the past week, and I hope to finish it this holiday weekend. Then, I will be caught up on my sewing obligations and might actually sew something for myself!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Well-Traveled Quilt and Pillow

It's been a busy summer and I haven't spent too much time with my sewing machine. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I sewed up a storm in the spring and needed a break! I took a 10-day trip to England in April to visit family, friends, and -- most importantly -- Liberty of London for some fabric shopping. It had been three years since my previous UK visit and I was missing England, and the people I love who live there, quite a bit. It was a great trip, but I did have some extra baggage with me...

Yes, I decided to make a quilt and lug it across the pond! My dear friends Alex and Annie May bought a flat in London last year -- no small feat. I thought that was deserving of a handmade (er, machine-made) gift. Alex is an Englishman who studied abroad at Lehigh with me for a year, then I studied in his mother country the summer after. He's become one of my closest friends and we've managed to stay in touch despite the miles. (Actually, I see him more often than I see many of my pals who live in the U.S.!) When he started dating a lovely English-born, New Zealand-bred gal a few years ago, there wasn't any doubt we would become amazing friends, too. So, I had it in my mind to make them a quilt after the holidays, hopefully in time for my April trip.

I started on the quilt some time in the late winter -- details are getting fuzzy because it was so long ago! Annie has an eye for art and impeccable fashion sense, so I didn't want any fabrics that were too stodgy, cutesy, or traditional. I decided that some big, bold florals and geometrics would be the thing. Alex has no strong opinions about design or fabric that I know of, but he does have strong opinions about football, so I designed the colo(u)r scheme around his beloved Tottenham Hotspur team. 

The squares are large -- 10 x 10 -- I think, but that's because I really wanted to show off the large prints. I set the rows en pointe (diagonally) to add some visual interest. I didn't make this from a pattern, but I did pull out Amy Butler's Lattice Quilt pattern for reference when it came to the triangles along the edges. (That's the one I used for Drea's quilt way back when!) I quilted in a grid, shadowing the squares as I normally do.

There's really a hodgepodge of fabric in there. I ordered a fat quarter bundle of Camelot Cottons' Mint to Be line in navy, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to figure out which ones came from that line. There's also some Secret Garden fabric by Sandi Henderson that I've had in my stash since I started sewing, a few blenders from V and Co. (another go-to designer for me), and my favorite Joel Dewberry herringbone pattern that ends up in many of my projects. The back is a large polka dot pattern (Michael Miller, I think), and the binding is from Cotton + Steel. I thought the little Xs were appropriate, since that's how Alex and Annie always sign-off on their emails and texts. (It's a British thing!)

My friends seemed really surprised and pleased with the quilt, which currently sits in their lounge, so it was more than worth the hassle of trying to squeeze it into my suitcase for a transatlantic flight. Even better, they had just gotten engaged a few weeks prior, so the gift had a little extra meaning!

But that wasn't the only gift I made. My friends Lisa and Andrew had a daughter, Hattie, in between my visits to England. I made a pillow for Hattie's big sister Abigail when she was born, so Hattie needed one as well. 

I'd been dying to use the unicorn fabric from Heather Ross since I purchased it about a year prior, and I used some other purples and magentas from my stash. I hand-embroidered Hattie's name like I did for her sister, but this time around, I used quilt-as-you-go method for the pillow front. I'm a new convert! Some of my favorite sewing bloggers swear by it, and it is definitely both easy and effective for a project of this size.

It was a delight to meet Hattie, who is now 2, and see how much Abigail has grown up. They are sweet and silly little ladies, and I hope they enjoy their presents from their American auntie.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't confess to spending way more time and money at Liberty than was strictly necessary. Annie took this shot of the awesome monkey quilt on display and inadvertently captured my super-serious fabric-buying face!

I don't know what it is about Liberty. My tastes in fabric don't usually lean toward dainty flowers, but there's so much history there and the fabric is so incredibly silky-soft, it's hard not to be enamored with it. They are an English national treasure! I ended up with 2 1/2 yards of fabric, a pack of mini-charm squares, and a large dent in my bank account balance. But when in London, right?

Next up: More baby gifts! (Shocker!)

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Quilt for Veronica Jane

I've written about Drea on here a few times, as she's one of my best friends and has always been a supporter of my quilting endeavors--and my life in general! I am happy to announce that she and her husband, Mike, welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Veronica Jane, on April 30th. I finally met her last weekend, and she is a little doll. Beautiful and warm like her mama, and curious and observant like her dad.

Drea knew she would be having a daughter and she kept me posted on decor for the nursery, so I was able to pick out fabric that was 1) a little bit girly, and 2) tied into the nursery's forest theme. Most of the fabric I picked came from the Owl & Co line by Riley Blake, featuring all sorts of cute owls, hedgehogs, squirrels, and birdies in pastel colors. I didn't want the quilt to be too pink, so I used green as a focus color for the blenders, binding, and back.

The pattern is based on this one, but I adjusted some of measurements. It has two large strips of the main animal fabric with rows of charm squares. As usual, I stressed out over the arrangement of the blocks so that similar colors and patterns weren't touching, but the variety of fabrics I used helped out quite a bit! I believe the final size of the quilt was around 40 x 55", so it's fairly large for a baby quilt. The quilting lines echo the charm squares, which gives the large strips of fabric a nice texture!

I am a sucker for cute animals!

Some of the blenders, like the Joel Dewberry pink hexagons and Lizzy House pearl bracelets below, came from my stash. The binding is from Connecting Threads' Good Neighbors line. (I ordered several different fabrics in various shades of green before deciding on that one!)

The backing is from Riley Blake's Halle Rose collection, and I was able to snag it on sale. I really love that shade of green! It's screamed "spring" to me. I used some extra Owl & Co. fabrics to piece together a strip on the back and added an embroidered note.

This quilt came together pretty quickly with no major snafus. I surprised myself by having it ready to go for Drea's baby shower in March. The big reveal:

And here's Veronica and I, hanging out for the very first time, with her quilt in the background:

I hope little V will enjoy it for years to come!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Quilt for My Goddaughter

I am lucky to have several best friends--as Mindy says on The Mindy Project, "Best friend isn't a person... it's a tier!"--but one of the very best is my girl Wendy, who I've known since middle school. I was honored when she asked me to be the Godmother of her little girl. Reese Autumn was born on November 15th and she's Wendy's mini-me!

Reese's parents and big brother love penguins, and when I saw Maude Asbury's "Snow Day" line of fabric at The Whale's Tail Quilt Shop in Ketchikan, Alaska while on vacation, I knew it would be perfect. I don't often see peach and aqua together and it was a stunning combination without being overly girly. I picked out some blender fabrics from Lizzie House (one of my favorites!), Bonnie Christine, and Jeni Baker. I also surprised myself by using more solids than I had intended, some of which I had in my stash.

Laying out the blocks!
I decided to go with a simple framed block pattern to highlight the uber-cute penguins, polar bears, and walruses. The blocks were about 10 inches square. The block frames took a while to piece together -- longer than they should have -- but I like the effect of the corner squares. To save some time, I used pre-cut strips for the sashing. (Seriously, Kona's jelly rolls have probably added hours to my life!) The quilt is large for a baby quilt and would actually make a decent-sized lap quilt.

The finished product, already washed and dried (so a little crinkly).

The quilting is a straight line grid, echoing the blocks. I thought about getting fancier, but I didn't want to overshadow the patterns on the fabric.

Polar Bear and Cub

Guys, these penguins are wearing bow-ties. So cute!

I had lots of leftover prints for the back, so I pieced together a few rows of bricks and used this excellent geometric print for the large pieces. (I forget where it was from, but I know the color is called "glacier," so it seemed like a good fit!)

The back!

I like the back almost as much as the front.

My embroidered John Hancock

Little Reese is growing by the minute and I'm excited for her to spot all of the adorable animals in her new quilt!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Liberty Hexie Pillow

I've mentioned my love for Liberty on here quite a few times. (Psssst... If anyone at Liberty wants to give me fabric for my free advertising, I wouldn't complain!) On one of my visits to the Liberty store in London in 2013, I bought a variety pack of hexies for use in some future project. They were probably the cheapest thing in the store, and it was the best way to get a bunch of Liberty prints without spending my life's savings on yardage.

When it came down to using them, though, I had no clue what to do! They came with little hexagonal pieces of paper. I did some research and found out that these hexies were meant for English paper piecing. In EPP, you are supposed to fold the fabric around the paper pieces, hand-stitching them into shape using large, loose stitches. Then, you attach the shapes to one another at the edges using tinier whipstitches, being careful not to sew through the paper. Once your hexies form a pleasing shape, you pull out the big stitches you started with and remove the paper pieces. Lots of pressing later and voila! You have a nice, hand-pieced grouping of fabric that's ready to be appliqued!

I started my paper piecing journey in 2013, but I wasn't that into it. It seemed like a lot of work, and my hand-sewing was pretty sloppy. I made a hexie flower out of the blue Liberty hexies I had on hand, then machine appliqued it with navy thread onto an off-white background. This was on my old sewing machine, though, and the applique came out really heavy. (It kind of needed to be, in order to cover all of my inconsistent stitches!) I'm still debating what to do with this, and it has sat among my sewing projects for a while now.

However, during a recent binge of The Walking Dead, I found myself needing some craftiness to keep my hands busy during all of the zombie attacks. I decided to paper-piece all of the remaining hexies (there were fifty total!).

The front of a paper-pieced hexie, ready to be joined to other hexies.

The back of a hexie, with the paper still in it.

These hexies helped calm my nerves during season 4 of The Walking Dead. I only stabbed myself with a needle once or twice during suspenseful scenes.

I made another hexie flower to match the blue one, this time out of purples and dark pinks. I tried to be more careful with my hand-sewing, and my new machine is much better at applique, so the final product came out better than I anticipated! I originally thought I might frame this or make a mini-quilt out of it to hang on the wall, but I had a small cushion on hand from IKEA, so I turned it into a pillowcase.

Close-up of applique stitching. I used plum thread, with two layers of zig-zag stitching around the middle of the flower, and one layer around each of the petals.

The backing fabric is from one of V & Co's fantastic lines of monochrome blenders, and I think the leaves complement Liberty's florals nicely.

Though I really, really didn't need another throw pillow for my bed, I love how it looks with my bedding set and Aviary quilt.

Apologies for the poor lighting. My room is always dark, and I took this one on my phone, which didn't help!

With this success, I think I will try more English paper-piecing. I'm still not sure what to do with the remaining 30-some hexies. Maybe make a memory board? It's hard to commit to anything knowing how precious (and expensive) Liberty fabrics are -- no room for mistakes! But I do have another trip to London planned for April, so I suppose my arm could be twisted to buy more...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Another Bundle of Baby Quilts

So many important people in my life had little ones this past year, it was hard to keep up with baby gifts! I've made three baby quilts so far, with another one slated to be finished by November.

It's important to me to make each quilt a little bit different, and I try to choose fabrics that I think both the parents and munchkins with enjoy. Whenever possible, I try to find out about the nursery colors or investigate the general design scheme the parents are going for. The quilt doesn't have to match, especially since the quilts are intended to be used for play or while out and about, but it's a nice way to get an idea of what the parents will like, design-wise. I also consider, "Will the baby enjoy looking at this fabric? Is it fun and colorful? Is it something the kid can use a few years from now?"

In each of the following quilts, I fell in love with one main fabric or fabric set and designed the quilt to showcase that fabric. I selected blenders to complement the main fabric(s). Fabric selection is probably my favorite part of the quilting process, which I think comes through here!

Baby Caroline's Quilt
My good college pal Michelle and her husband Steve welcomed a daughter the day after the baby shower in March. Talk about timing! Michelle and Steve were keeping the gender a surprise, but Michelle gave me a heads up that the nursery would be decorated in soft greens and browns. I knew the Critter Patch line from Penguin & Fish would be perfect as soon as I saw it! (Alyssa Thomas, the designer, also has some adorable embroidery patterns, FYI.)

I decided to feature the main fabric in a big block in the middle, with smaller blocks and borders around it. (I found some inspiration for this design on Pinterest, but I did all of the sizing and cutting math on my own.)

How precious are those animals?

I did my favorite diagonal grid quilting here.

One of the reasons I went with this fabric line is that it features owls. To say that Michelle is obsessed with owls would be an understatement. :)

The quilt makes its baby shower debut, just a day before Caroline made her debut!
Caroline is that "I'm-going-to-eat-you-up" brand of cute, and it warms my heart that Michelle has taken so many pictures of Caroline enjoying playtime on her quilt. Here she is at 6 months old!

Baby Michael's Quilt
My cousin Mike and his lovely wife Stacy were expecting their first child just in time for summer. They were also keeping the gender a surprise, so I thought a brightly colored quilt with lots of animals would be just the thing. I've used Ann Kelle's prints before (I am such a fan!), but for this quilt, I decided to feature her animal panels and coordinates in the bright (Bermuda) colorway. Those tossed lions, monkeys, songbirds, and owls will give the little one lots to look at. I had to use big blocks of coordinating fabric to accommodate the panels, but I really like the effect of the bold pops of color! It was ready just in time for Stacy's baby shower in April.

This monkey is my favorite!

The aqua circles are from a 108" wide backing fabric that I could have used on its own, but I couldn't resist adding more animals to the back.

Mike Jr. arrived on May 21st. He's one of the happiest, sweetest babies I've met, and Mike Sr. and Stacy have made a smooth transition to parenthood. This kid is so, so loved! And who wouldn't find this face irresistible?

Baby Rozsa's Quilt
One of my college roommates, Jodie, and her husband, Mike, are expecting a little guy in November. He still has a little bit of cooking to do, but we celebrated her baby shower yesterday. I knew that the nursery was bright blue, and while I had been eyeing a few fabrics, nothing really jumped out at me until I was on vacation in Alaska and saw this amazing Riley Blake line in a local quilt shop (The Rushin' Tailor in Skagway). It has bright blues to match the nursery, as well as the moose and bears Alaska is known for. It also has bits of brown and white in it, representing our alma mater. It seemed like fate! I bought the panel set and several fat quarters at the shop, and then I ordered a few coordinating fabrics when I got home.

Again, the panels needed to be the focus of the quilt, so I had to plan my blocks around them. I used a block-and-brick structure and grid quilting to showcase the prints. (That's the thing about adorable prints -- you don't want to cut into them or quilt through them too much, so it's best to keep them in large pieces!)

You may recognize the orange chevrons, blue houndstooth, and yellow plus-signs from Baby Mike's quilt! I ended up using these scraps instead of some fabrics I bought specifically for this quilt. Even after doing this for a few years, it still amazes me that what you have on hand sometimes ends up working better than what you've purchased new.

We saw lots of bears on our Alaska trip, so I put this block front and center!

The trees on top are from the Riley Blake line, and the smaller animal blocks were part of the panel sheet. The blue circles are the other half of the backing I had originally intended for Baby Mike's quilt, and I had the brown chevrons on hand from Baby Anthony's quilt two years ago to accentuate the Lehigh love. (I told you my fabric stash is getting crazy!) 

Jodie seemed to love the finished quilt, and I actually had a tough time saying goodbye to this one. (After all, those fabrics did go on a cross-country adventure with me!) I'm eager for Baby Rozsa's arrival in a few months so I can ask him what he thinks of the quilt. I will report back.

Now, for the first time since I started this blog, I am up to date on my quilting endeavors! I have a busy fall coming up, so I am not sure how much craftiness will be achieved, but I'm hoping to do some more embroidery and applique at the very least.