Monday, October 22, 2012

Small Embroidery Projects

Amid all of the quilting I've been doing  (Drea's quilt is finished and is currently in the wash!), I've managed to squeeze in a few embroidery projects. Embroidery is so much more relaxing and less involved than quilting that it offers a good break from the big projects. Here are a few things I finished.

I made this for my mom for Mother's Day. The pattern is from Polka & Bloom, and I embroidered it on white patterned fabric I got in a fat quarter sale at JoAnn. For the floss, I picked out bright colors I knew she would like, and I think it actually ended up matching the apron I embroidered for her for Christmas!


My college friends Rachel & EJ welcomed their second child, Ethan, in July. Since their son Eddy is just a few years older, they already had all of the baby things they needed. So, we threw them a "Baby Sprinkle" a few weeks before Rachel's due date to help them restock on necessities. I wanted to make Ethan a little something special, though, so I embroidered this pattern from Aimee Ray on a bib I ordered from Sublime Stitching. It was a big hit at the "Baby Sprinkle!"

Another set of college friends were having a different kind of big event. My friends Michelle and Steve got hitched in August after dating for 13 years! I bought them something off their registry that also had meaning for Michelle & I, but of course I had to make them something, too. (Michelle is the culinary mind behind Taste As You Go and has brought me as her plus one for many a free meal, so I owe her!)

I knew I didn't want it to be too wedding specific, since I'm sure they received enough presents with their names and wedding date on them. So, I decided on love birds stitched in several shades of purple, their wedding color. I went back and forth between a few patterns, even purchasing a different one before I settled on this one, which I already owned but had never used. It's from one of Jenny Hart's books, and I was very happy with the way it turned out! The frame is from IKEA, and I like how the shadowbox style gives it some depth and doesn't smoosh the fabric. (Yes, smoosh is the technical term...) I was happy to hear that it has already found a place in their home!

Finally, another baby embroidery -- this time for the offspring of my childhood friend Shauna and her husband Brian. At the time of the shower, no one knew the sex of the baby, but they picked out an adorable forest animal pattern for the baby's room that featured owls! (My favorite!) So, I stitched up this pattern (also from Jenny Hart) in colors that would work for a boy or a girl, and added it to the gift bag. 

Baby Adam was born on August 20th, which also happens to be Shauna's birthday (best birthday present ever?), and I've been told the embroidery is hanging in Adam's room, playing with all of the other woodland creatures in there.

I have one other embroidery in progress for another awesome baby that has already been born, but apart from that, I'm all caught up on my embroidery adventures. I also have one non-quilting sewing project in progress that I plan on finishing up this weekend. And my brother will be pleased to know that I'll finally be starting on his LSU quilt this week. (He's been bugging me about it to no end. You'd never think a guy would be so excited about a quilt...) As to whether it gets finished before his birthday in a month... we'll have to see...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sewing for My Dad

So, it's been a while since I've posted. I don't have any good excuses, just that life seemed to intervene. But I've continued to sew and embroider. The latest news is that I just bought Liberty's new Bloomsbury Gardens line in blue and I'm in love! I finished up another baby quilt for my cousin's new little girl, Sarah, and I'm working on a belated 30th birthday quilt for my best friend, Drea.

But let's backtrack a few months. My dad requested a quilt for his bed when I finished my first quilt. I thought "Sure! It will be fun!" However, choosing fabric and a pattern for a guy quilt was surprisingly difficult. There aren't a whole lot of masculine quilting fabrics out there, and my dad is a pretty simple guy style-wise, so I couldn't venture into anything too modern. I kept it simple, using Amy Smart's Brickyard pattern, though I decided to forgo the borders and added some extra rows instead to make it closer to the size of my dad's queen bed.

I initially drew inspiration from David Butler's new Parson Gray line, which seemed like the perfect "dude" fabric, but once I had it in hand, it still seemed a bit too modern for dad's taste. I ended up using a few designs from it, but turned to the Saville Row line from Northcott Fabrics for the main patterned fabric of the quilt. It's a combo of traditional patterns -- houndstooth, plaids, stripes, argyles, and paisleys -- in black, cream, and brown. Perfect for dad's room! Since his comforter is green, I opted to throw in some green patterns and solids, too, just to add a little splash of color. The greens are from all different lines -- whatever was on sale and that I thought would work. I used a darker cream for the sashing and black for the binding. I quilted it using vertical straight lines, which was something a bit different from what I had done before -- no criss-crossing quilted lines this time! I love the way it turned out.

The back may be my favorite part, though. The main fabric is a brown plaid from Connecting Threads, a store that has great discount fabric. (It's become my favorite place to buy larger yardages of fabric since it's so affordable, but is still of a decent quality.) But the surprise comes in the Civil War print. My dad is a big history buff and would retire to become a Civil War re-enactor if he could. I found this print of Civil War soldiers with excerpts from real letters soldiers wrote to loved ones. It's in cream and brown, so it fit with the overall color scheme of the quilt. I just added a wide strip of it to the back, so it's a fun little secret that's purely "Dad." I embroidered a little note to him, too.

I gave him the quilt for Father's Day and he seemed to love it, even though he knew it was coming. Since I do a lot of my quilting at his house, it was hard to find time to get it done when he wasn't there -- but I managed! I popped into his room last week and saw it on his bed -- with the Civil War side facing up. Perhaps I should have made a whole quilt from that fabric alone. :)

With the leftover fabric, I made him a drawstring bag to hold the quilt using the same tutorial from In Color Order that I've used several times before. I figured he could use it as a laundry bag on vacation (which he did).

My dad's birthday is in early May and I knew I wouldn't finish the quilt in time. So, I made him a few throw pillows. Two are embroidered with Celtic-style symbols and two are made from home decor fabric. All of the covers slip off. (I'm getting better at making pillow covers!) I chose the fabrics to match the style of his rec room, which we've been working on updating. My only regret is not using heavier fabrics for the brown pillows. The Kona solid I used wrinkles easily. But it doesn't seem to be a huge issue. The striped fabric has held up really well.

Recently, my dad has also been learning how to cook. I'm very impressed with the progress he's made. He's gone from only knowing how to make grilled cheese and fried eggs to being adept at cooking 20 or so different meals in just two years' time. So, I embroidered "Chef Joe" on an apron for him. (The apron is from IKEA. If I had more time, I might have made him a whole apron myself, but I needed to make progress on the quilt. Sadly, I neglected to take a picture of the apron. Blogging fail.)

So, those are the "guy gifts" I've made. My brother is now demanding a quilt, too. He wants it to be LSU-themed, so it's a little easier fabric-wise -- at least I already have a color scheme!

In other exciting news, I bought a new camera! It's a Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot, and I love it. It takes much better pictures than the ones you've seen so far and is less fussy than my old Canon Elph. Unfortunately, it had a small accident on vacation and there appears to be a tiny scratch on the lens. I have to see what I can do about getting it fixed -- or if it's even worth it to get it fixed -- but either way, there are better pictures ahead!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Baby Simon's Quilt

Last fall, I found out that my oldest friend in the world, Becky, was expecting her first child. Becky and I have been best friends since I moved up to New Hampshire when I was 6 years old. She lived across the street and we were inseparable for four years until I moved back to Pennsylvania in 5th grade. That didn't stop us, though. We visited each other at least once a year, wrote letters, and frequently spoke on the phone before email was around. The Internet made it easier to stay in touch once my family moved into the modern age and signed up for AOL when I was in high school. As we got older, we'd sometimes go for a few months without talking, but it was always the same with us -- we'd pick up right where we left off without skipping a beat. Her family was (and still is) like an extension of my own. We've had lots of adventures together, including a meet-up in London while she was working on her Ph.D. in Germany, and she's truly a lifelong pal.

Me & Becky in 3rd Grade (early 90s fashion icons!)

A more recent photo of us

I was thrilled when she got married last summer to a great guy, Voytek, and even more thrilled to hear that she was having a little one. Becky is the youngest of four, and her older siblings have six kids between them, including two sets of twins. I think she was pretty excited to be contributing to her parents' growing brood of grandchildren!

She called to tell me the good news around the same time I was getting back into embroidery and sewing. So, it was only natural that I began thinking about what I could make the baby-to-be. A baby quilt seemed like a good first foray into quilting, but I didn't want to mess it up, which is why I tried out my quilting skills with the purple aviary quilt. After I didn't completely screw that up, I ordered some fabric to start on a baby boy quilt. (At that point, Becky & Voytek knew what they were having -- I didn't flip a coin or anything...)

I wanted to use fabric that wasn't too babyish and could be suitable for the little one to use beyond the infant years. I fell in love with this print from Michael Miller, which I used as the main print (it shows up the most frequently):

I loved the light aqua, gray, and yellow combo -- it was so different from all of the other kid-fabric color schemes I came across -- and I thought the print was modern-looking without being too out there. I chose a few other complementary prints from Michael Miller and opted for a gray background. (The thought of using a white background with a baby quilt seemed a bit impractical!)

I used a simple charm square pattern (similar to what I did for Lynn's quilt, on a smaller scale), and I tried to disperse the patterns evenly. (I ended up figuring out the order on an Excel spreadsheet -- yup, I'm a nerd!) I shadow-quilted horizontal and vertical lines and bound the quilt in a darker gray.

For the back, I lucked out with a complementary Michael Miller fabric that was on sale. (Thanks,!) I pieced together a few more blocks to add some interest, and embroidered a brief note. There's some puckering on the back, and if you pay close attention, the row is not completely straight, but I don't think it's all that noticeable.


I was worried about getting this done in time for the baby's arrival, so I probably rushed through some parts more than I should have. I really need to take the time to "square up," or remeasure and trim, as I go along to make sure squares and rows are even. When I tried folding the quilt after it was finished, I noticed it wasn't exactly even. Since this quilt, I've started squaring up between quilting and binding, which has been a big help  in keeping everything symmetric.

However, the quilt seemed to go over well with Becky & Voytek! I mailed it a few days after Simon Jakub's birth, and these pictures were quickly posted on Facebook after it arrived in California.

When Vanna White decides to retire, I have a good recommendation for a replacement...
I hope little Simon is able to enjoy using this quilt to bundle up with or play on, and as he grows up, I hope it's a reminder that his Auntie Kym loves him!

I have to say that I enjoyed making a baby quilt quite a bit. Since it's small, it came together much faster than the other quilts I've made. While I like how the others turned out, there were times when the task seemed too daunting and tedious to complete. The baby quilt was able to keep my interest, though, and before I knew it, I was onto something else! It's also satisfying to know that you are making a gift that will be enjoyed for a while, and is something a little different from what other people will be giving. Like I said in the last post, a special quilt for a special baby!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Sad Quilt Story with a Happy Ending

I started planning this quilt while I was finishing up my Aviary quilt. I hadn't anticipated making another one so soon, but the circumstances called for it. My best friend Andrea's older sister, Theresa, was diagnosed with cancer in January. The initial prognosis was hopeful, but I knew she was be going through a few rounds of chemo and I thought a cozy throw quilt would be just the thing to help her keep her spirits up. She could pack it with her on trips to the doctor or just curl up on the couch with it at home while she recovered. I decided on a very basic pattern using pre-cut squares (charm squares) to make it quick and easy, so she could use it right away. Moda had just put out a cute new line of fabric called California Girl, which has lots of flowers and bright colors. It was cheerful and would also match her room, so I bought a charm square pack.

I hadn't yet started the quilt when Theresa took a turn for the worst. The cancer had spread faster than the doctors could treat it, and she passed away on Valentine's Day. It was obviously a very heart-breaking and emotional time, but it was also a blessing that she didn't have to face a long, difficult battle with an unpredictable disease.

Left to right: Drea, Theresa (in back), me, and Lynn at the rehearsal dinner before Drea's wedding in 2009

I was left wondering what to do with the pieces of this quilt that hadn't quite come to fruition. Should I just toss them, since they could never serve their original purpose? It didn't seem right to use them to make something for myself. But then I realized that Theresa and Drea's younger sister, Lynn, had a birthday coming up. I could use the fabric to make her a birthday quilt! It would be a way to remember Theresa, turning something sad into a celebration of something happy. (Anyone who knew Theresa would tell you that she was an exuberant gal who loved life and would hate to see us all moping around at her expense!)

So, I set out to give these pieces a new life. I kept to my original plan of using a simple charm square layout. I agonized over the placement for quite a few hours, trying to evenly distribute the colors and patterns. I ended up swapping out a few squares with some leftover blue Taza stripes from the tea cozy set I made for my mom's birthday.

I used Moda Bella in Snow for the sashing (it has a yellowish-tint to it, which went well with the yellows in the charm squares). I made the quilt a little bigger than I originally planned by adding an extra border of yellow dots from Moda's Strawberry Field line. 

Since backing fabric can get mighty expensive when you need a good 2-3 yards of it, I hunted around for a while to find something on sale that would complement the California Girl squares. It was hard to get the colors just right, but I ended up getting a good deal on Bandana Cream from Riley Blake's Daydream line from I added a couple of strips of the yellow dots to the back and embroidered a message to Lynn on a strip of the sashing fabric. 

I opted to quilt diagonal criss-crossed lines this time, while using straight lines along the borders to make big squares. I used a water-soluble pen to draw the lines so I wouldn't mess up. I wish I could say it went off without a hitch. However, I didn't extend the diagonals all the way to the edges, and due to the limitations of my walking foot (I can't backstitch to secure the thread), some of the lines were already coming undone after the first wash. I had to go back and hand-stitch some areas. Not ideal, but I don't think it's too noticeable; I just hope it doesn't completely fall apart on Lynn one day! I also had some problems with the quilt bunching up under the stitching. I later realized this was more to do with the way I hold the quilt while quilting than my machine or the fabric. I have to make more of an effort to constantly steady the quilt and smooth out the fabric as I go. I'm getting better at it, though!

I used Michael Miller's solid in geranium for the binding. At first, I thought it was a bit too bright and peachy for my taste (I was anticipating more of a coral color), but I think it actually looks good on the finished product. It gives the quilt a little extra oomph. I once again used Amy Smart's tutorial for binding. So helpful!

Lynn seemed to love the quilt. I explained the story behind it -- how I originally bought the fabric to make a quilt for Theresa -- and I tried to convey that this wasn't meant to be a hand-me-down. Instead, I hope that when she uses the quilt, she's reminded that little pieces of Theresa are still in all of our lives. 

It was hard to part with this quilt for a variety of reasons. I may have to go to Lynn's house to visit it on a regular basis.

On a related note, some of Theresa's family and friends are walking in the Relay for Life to raise money for the American Cancer Society. If you can spare a few dollars, you can click on this link to donate. (I know it would mean a lot to her family!) Thanks!

Next time: A baby quilt for an awesome baby!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Quilt Story, Part 3

Wow, it’s been over a month since I last posted! What can I say? Life got in the way. Work was extremely busy, and I was actually pretty productive with my sewing/embroidery in the interim. I just didn’t have time to write about it!

So, back to the story of my first quilt. Thanks to the meticulously detailed quilt pattern I bought from Oh, Fransson!, the construction went along fairly smoothly. (My boss recommended this pattern specifically because it walks you through every step.) I was very nervous cutting into my expensive fabric. I’m sure some psychologists could do a study on what goes through one’s mind when forced to slice up something one has grown attached to. It’s not pretty.

This pattern required fabric cuts in various sizes. Then, the pieces were matched up with other pieces from their pattern “pair” to form blocks that were all the same size. It wasn’t until I started making these blocks that I noticed how crooked some of my cutting was. Thankfully, the seam allowances seemed to cover up most of my mistakes.

Sewing the blocks took a few weeks in itself. I kept them organized through Post-It notes. I laid out all of the blocks per the pattern instructions, but found myself completely rearranging them as I started piecing together the rows. I also didn’t really follow the directions when it came to the directions of the blocks. I was supposed to alternate the ways the blocks faced, but this didn’t work so well with my directional bird prints. I wanted all of them to go the same way. So, I broke the rules and did my own thing. I think it was the right decision.

There is a lot of ironing involved in quilting. It’s actually considered “pressing” since you aren’t supposed to move the iron back and forth (though I sometimes do). I don’t like this. I avoid ironing at all costs. I would rather be seen in a crumpled, wrinkly shirt than have to break out the ironing board. So, this is an adjustment for me. But I followed the directions and pressed all of the seams. This helped quite a bit when it came to attaching the sashing between rows. Everything seemed to line up better than it would have otherwise.

There were many pins involved with this part, too. Pinning is a good practice to get into. It’s generally better to have too many pins than not enough. Fabric has a tendency to bunch up or form gaps when you’re not looking. (It’s sneaky like that!)

quilt top, in progress

For the back of the quilt, I used two large pieces of fabric, two strips of the sashing fabric, and one long row of scraps from the fabric I used on the front. I tried to center the row, which didn’t go exactly as planned, but I like the way it ended up.

After lots of ironing and pinning and stitching and rogue thread snipping, I was ready to make my “quilt sandwich” and “baste.” (These are terms that make me hungry.) I used an all-natural cotton batting (low loft) in the middle, which was fairly thin and easy to work with. The fancy basting pins in the craft store were quite pricy, so I just used some regular old safety pins. They did the trick. I brought all of my quilting necessities (including my sewing machine) to my dad’s house for this part, so that I could spread out a bit more. (My apartment is pretty small, and I would have to move furniture to do it there!)

I used masking tape to carefully line up each layer on the floor. I followed all of the advice I found and trimmed the backing and batting to be a little larger than the quilt top, since everything shifts while quilting. (I used my rotary cutter and cutting mat, which were not nearly large enough for the task, so I had to keep crawling around the quilt to trim it. Must have been a sight.) Starting from the center, I used about a million pins to keep my three layers together. It took me about an hour just to pin the quilt!

Next was the most intimidating part, apart from cutting the fabric: the actual quilting. I didn’t want to get this far and mess up here, so I took the simplest approach possible – quilting straight lines a little bit outsides of the blocks. This is called “shadowing” or “echoing,” as I later found out. I didn’t know how to deal with the bulk of the quilt as I ran it through the sewing machine. A few blogs I read advised to roll it and keep adjusting it as you go. There’s really no other way to do it! Since my quilt was pretty thin, I didn’t have too much trouble. It’s just more awkward than anything. But since you start in the middle and work your way out, it gets easier as you go.

I have to say that quilting is my least favorite part of the whole “making a quilt” process. It’s kind of tedious and plenty can go wrong. At this point, I just wanted it to be done! I used my walking foot for this part, along with a special quilting needle, which made the job easier. I kept the presser foot along the edge of the blocks, so the lines were stitched about 3/8 inch away from each block. Some of my lines aren’t completely straight, and the quilting emphasized some minor variations in the sizes of the blocks. But I maintain that this gives the quilt character. After the quilting was done, I trimmed the excess batting and backing off, using my handy-dandy rotary cutter.

quilting close-up

Last, but not least was the binding, which covers up the raw edges of the quilt to finish it off. I was a little confused about this part, so I went to a few different sources. The most helpful binding tutorial is on Diary of a Quilter. Amy’s instructions are superb. Her method involves machine sewing the binding to the back, then hand sewing the front. It seems like a long, thankless task at first, but is actually fairly relaxing, especially when there is TV involved. It only took a few hours for me to tack the binding on. The mitred corners didn’t come out wonderfully, but they serve the purpose (and I do feel like I’ve improved on subsequent projects). 
binding with wonky mitred corners

I felt like doing a victory dance when I was finished!

 Here’s the end result, held up by my lovely best friend, Drea:

the front

the back
(Ignore the shadows. As I've said, lighting in my apartment isn't great! I also took this picture on a bit of an angle. The back really isn't that crooked!)

And that's the (long) story of how I made my first quilt. It's been living happily on my bed for almost two months and I love it. I don't think I could have asked for a better first quilting project! I'm very pleased with the size, too. It's great for those times when my duvet is too heavy, but a sheet is too light.

I've made two more quilts since this one, which I will post about soon. Just don't take the "soon" part too literally. :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Quilt Story, Part 2

I knew I wanted to make Joel Dewberry’s Aviary 2 line in plum/lilac my main fabric set. I’ve found that choosing a central set of coordinating fabrics helps the fabric-selection process immensely. But the pattern I was using required no fewer than 16 different fabrics, so I had some more research to do.

This part was very stressful. I saw way too many fabrics I liked. Some wouldn’t quite fit in with the vibe of the quilt, so I had to convince myself to leave those behind. Some fabrics were just too expensive and I couldn’t warrant buying them for my first quilt, which may or may not have turned out to be a success. I took a look at just about every quilting fabric site I could find, trying to get a feel for which designers I liked, which colors would work best, and which patterns would go well together. Because I’m a planner, I mapped out all of my prospective fabric choices in a table before making my final decisions. I opted to stick with the Aviary color scheme – a variety of purples with hints of pink, aqua, and green. I thought a creamy color would work best for the sashing, with a purple-y binding. I didn’t care so much about the backing. I just needed something that would be cheap, since I’d have to buy several yards of it.

I bought most of my fabric from Hawthorne Threads (recommended by my boss), the Fat Quarter Shop,, and various fabric sellers on Etsy. The most important lesson I learned about fabrics is that they are EXPENSIVE. Unless you go the Jo-Ann route and sacrifice a bit of quality for price, it’s typical to spend $8-10 for a yard of designer quilting fabric. So, it was important for me to buy only what I needed. This generally meant purchasing fat quarters. The Fat Quarter Shop (obviously) has a great selection of fat quarter bundles, but sometimes you don’t need the whole set. That’s where I found Etsy to be helpful. There are dozens of small online fabric stores selling their merchandise on there, and they’ll often cut you a break on the price the more you buy. Some allow you to mix and match fat quarters for a flat rate, too, which is awesome!

After my various fabrics arrived, I had to pair them up. The pattern called for several blocks made up from each fabric pair, so I had to make sure the fabrics in the pair actually looked decent together. This part was excruciating. I went back and forth on these pairings for days, and ended up swapping out a few fabrics at the last minute (even after I had already cut into them!). For the most part, I kept the Aviary prints together, matched busy prints with solids, or put large patterns with smaller geometric patterns. I’m pleased with how the pairs looked in the end, but it took me a while to get there!

Without further ado, these are the fabrics I used in my quilt:

Pair 1
Tula Pink Parisville Topiary in Sky – I found this using the color grid search feature on Hawthorne Threads, since I needed some more aqua in the quilt. (Such a handy tool!) This has a great combo of purple, aqua, green, and pink. I think it’s very romantic!
Free Spirit Designer Solid in Mulberry Wine – I was expecting this to be a slightly different shade, but it’s a good balance to the darker purples in the quilt. I think Free Spirit makes my favorite solids. They have a nice sheen to them and they are easy to work with.

Pair 2
Patricia Bravo Lace Elements in Plum – In doing my fabric “research,” I fell head over heels for all of Pat Bravo’s lines. I was worried this would be a little too dramatic for the quilt, but I think it plays nicely with the Aviary patterns.
Patricia Bravo Pure Elements in Cabernet – I didn’t love this solid. It snagged a bit while sewing the blocks. But since it is part of Pat Bravo’s line, I thought it would have the best chance of matching the Lace Elements pattern. It worked out better when I used it for the binding. (See below!)

Pair 3
Joel Dewberry Heirloom Blossom in Amethyst – I actually bought this for a memory board I made for my room and ended up using the extra yardage at the last minute. It’s a little more red than the other plums in the quilt, but because it’s the same designer, it works.
Free Spirit Designer Solid in Red Plum – A perfect match for the Heirloom Blossom print. One secret I’ve uncovered in this process is that when in doubt, stick to colors from the same manufacturer. (Free Spirit makes Joel Dewberry’s fabrics!)

Pair 4
Joel Dewberry Aviary 2 Sparrows in Plum – I’m not sure why this is called “plum,” since it’s actually aqua, but I love it!
Joel Dewberry Aviary 2 Damask in Plum – This is probably my second favorite print in the collection. Damask is timeless, but the aqua and purple make it look modern.

Pair 5
Joel Dewberry Aviary 2 Ironwork in Plum – Another great print. Seems a little bit Moroccan-inspired, which I like.
Joel Dewberry Aviary 2 Lodge Lattice in Lilac – This could have paired with just about any of the other patterns in the quilt. It ended up here by process of elimination!

Pair 6
Joel Dewberry Aviary 2 Sparrows in Lilac – The inspiration for all of this!
Patricia Bravo Bespoken Jacquard in Orchid – I didn’t think I was going to use this, but I was having problems finding a partner for the sparrows print that wouldn’t take too much attention away from it. (It is my favorite, after all!) I bought this fabric thinking it would be more purple, and was disappointed to find that it was actually a raspberry color. But then I thought it couldn’t hurt to have a little more pink in the quilt. It’s not a perfect match, but it draws out the pink in the sparrow pattern.

Pair 7
Joel Dewberry Aviary 2 Bloom in Lilac – I love this one, too!
Buttercup Vines in Petunia – I found this on sale at and bought it on a whim. I wasn’t sure it would match, but it was cheap. It ended up being a perfect pair with the Bloom print. I like how the tiny birds echo the sparrows in the Aviary prints. I’m looking forward to using the rest of the yardage for something else!

Stand-bys that I didn’t end up using:

Patricia Bravo Pure Elements in Verve Violet – It was a little too pink for the quilt. I’ve stashed it away for a future project.
Joel Dewberry Modern Meadow Herringbone in Pond – I adore this print, but the aqua was way too bright and it drew too much attention away from the plums. I wanted to keep aqua as an accent color, not the focus.

You'll get a better look at these in my next post...

Free Spirit Designer Solid in Natural – It was really hard to pick the right neutral for the quilt! I knew regular white would be too stark, but if I chose something too creamy, it wouldn’t go with my existing duvet cover. This turned out to be the perfect shade of off-white.

Pat Bravo Bazaar Style Moroccan Streets in Night – I wasn’t a big fan of this at first. It was too modern looking for me. However, the back of the quilt required 4-ish yards of fabric, and I had already exceeded my budget. This pattern happened to be on sale at and had the right colors, so I figured I would live with it. Now that it’s done, I love it! It complements all of the flowers and birds nicely, and the light gray-lilac background adds a bit of interest without overwhelming the senses.

Pat Bravo Pure Elements in Cabernet – This deep purple matches both my duvet cover and my curtains exactly. This was not planned! I originally wanted to bind the quilt with the red plum solid that is paired with the Heirloom print in the blocks, but once I saw it in person, it was way too reddish in color. I felt that the binding for this quilt needed to go with all of the various purples, plums, and lilacs, and the red plum just didn’t work. I was concerned that the cabernet would be too dark, but since it borders the natural-colored sashing, it provides a nice little contrast. 

So that's the long story of how I agonized over fabric for days on end. It was totally worth it to have a quilt I'm 100% happy with, though -- at least, fabric-wise. The construction may leave a little to be desired, but I'll save that for Part 3!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Quilt Story, Part 1

I’ve been putting off my “First Quilt” post for quite some time, mainly because it seemed really daunting to describe a process that took me the better part of two months to complete. I didn’t want to write as I went in case it ended up being a total disaster or in the event that I gave up halfway through – that’s not something the world would need to know! But now that I’ve finished two quilts and am well into my third, it’s high time I began my first quilt story. I’m going to tell it in a few parts, though, just because it’s easier that way.

Part 1: Inspiration
It all started with a t-shirt. Late last summer, possibly early fall, I wore one of my favorite t-shirts to work. (Yes, I work in a place where people wear t-shirts… don’t be jealous!) It’s a purple-violety color, with a few birds and writing in blue. I love all things purple and anything with a bird on it, so naturally, this is one of my favorite clothing items. My supervising editor Kristen, who knows her way around a sewing machine, told me that my shirt reminded her of some fabric she had been eyeing. She sent me a link to this page:

It was a print from Joel Dewberry’s Aviary 2 line in the lilac/plum colorway (which I learned is a fabric design-y term for “palette”). I clicked through to the other patterns in the collection, and they were all perfect! It seemed like the entire line was made for me. Bold flowers with a retro feel, geometric patterns with an international flourish, and most importantly PURPLE BIRDS!

However, at this point, I didn’t have a sewing machine and I was only starting to embroider again. It seemed silly to buy fabric just because I liked it, while having no plan or ability to do anything with it. So, I let Aviary 2 sit in the back of my mind for a while.

Once I did buy my sewing machine, and after I had a few projects under my belt, I started thinking about quilting. A good friend is expecting and I thought I might be able to manage making a small, simple baby quilt. However, I knew I should do a trial run before committing myself to making a functional gift! I asked Kristen if she knew of any easy patterns I could use to make a practice quilt for myself. She directed me to Oh, Fransson!, a lovely site of quilt patterns and tutorials by Elizabeth Hartman. Kristen recommended that I download the Mixtape Quilt pattern, which had actually been updated since Kristen tried it. It was a step-by-step guide through the entire quilting process, from picking fabrics to binding the quilt. (The binding is the outside border that covers up the raw edges of the quilt layers – this is the kind of thing I learned from this little guide!) There was so much detail, I felt confident I could take a stab at a making a quilt, and it seemed well worth its $10 price tag. 

The guide gave instructions for making quilts of various sizes, and I figured I would do my trial run on a quilt for the end of my bed. As you can probably guess, my room is drenched in purple, so it didn't take me long to realize that Aviary 2 would be the perfect fabric collection to use. It was destiny. 

Next Up: Part 2, in which Kym is introduced to the the expansive and expensive world of quilting fabrics…

Monday, March 5, 2012

Teatime and Superheroes

My mom's birthday was in early February, and I knew I wanted to sew her something. Lindsay made a cute teapot cozy with a pattern from Retro Mama, and since my mom enjoys a good cuppa as much as I do, I moseyed on over to Etsy and bought a pattern to make her a home for her teapot. My mom loves pale blue, so I bought a few fat quarters of Taza by Dena Designs in blue, white, and aqua just for this cozy. I really like the mix of bold florals, stripes, and geometric shapes and soft pastels. It's traditional with a modern flair.

Here's the finished product:

The back used a slightly different pattern:

This was my first time using a cut-out pattern and there were a few hiccups. It was hard to get the arc of the cozy just right. The batting was a little thick, and I had trouble stitching straight in a few places. (This is before I mastered my walking foot!) If you saw the pieces before I stitched them together, they would really show that I had no idea what I was doing! But I think the finished product looks okay.

I quilted straight lines, since this was still one of my first quilting attempts and I didn't want to rock the boat too much. The most difficult part was the binding, which would not cooperate. It just didn't want to fold over all the layers. I started out machine stitching it, but I wasn't catching all the layers, so I ended up having to go back and handstitch parts of it. I've become more confident with binding since this project, though, and I think next time, I'll make it a bit wider.

I put a little embroidered message inside the lining:

I used variegated floss, parts of which didn't show up well in the picture, but I liked the way it looked on the gray lining. (Ignore that rogue thread... it kept sneaking into the picture.)

I had plenty of leftover fabric, so I decided to make some coordinating coasters. I used this tutorial , which was very easy to follow. It uses a log cabin technique, and each coaster is a little bit different. Quilting was a challenge, since there wasn't much surface area to work with. If I do them again, I'll be a bit neater with my stops and starts.

the front

the back

Yup, I personalized these, too! I tried to match the floss to the petal color, so it would be a bit more inconspicuous.

And here is the whole shebang:

The teapot is mine, included for photographic purposes. I bought my mom her own tea set, complete with cups and saucers, in a powder blue to match her new cozy and coasters. She loved them! I'm not sure about the practicality of having cloth saucers or a lightly colored cozy, given potential tea stains, but at least they will look pretty for a little while and can always be washed.

In other news, I am able to reveal some of the drawstring bags I made. My godson Ryan just turned 5. He's always playing with his action figures and they never seem to stay in one place -- they get stuck in couches, behind his bed, under seats in the car, etc. So I thought he could use some superhero storage to make toting his good guys and bad guys more convenient. I even made him two, so he could separate the good guys from the bad guys when he's not around to monitor the safety of Gotham City / Metropolis / the universe. This called for a special order of some Batman fabric. (The Fat Quarter Shop had a ton of superhero fabric to choose from!)

Ryan didn't seem quite as excited about the bags as I was about making them, but his parents thought they were great! I remember being his age and being disappointed whenever I got something I couldn't play with right away. I figure he'll come to appreciate his superhero storage over time. :) I also got him a book, which he seemed to have more interest in -- Michael Chabon's The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man. I love a great kids' book, and this is one of the best I've read in ages. It seemed perfect for my favorite little superhero!

I've actually been busy at work on my second quilt. More on that soon!