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!