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.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

So much embroidery!

In my enthusiasm for quilting over the past few years, embroidery started to fall by the wayside. I started to get back into it about a year ago to make gifts for weddings and new babies. While I'd love to make everyone quilts, I just don't have that kind of time (or money!), and I think embroideries are nice, personalized gifts that can be equally cherished as heirlooms -- that's my hope at least! Here are a few of those projects.

Emily & Allen's Wedding
Emily is one of my closest friends from college, and she married a great guy last October. Emily, our friend Lauren, and I have proclaimed ourselves "feisty Irish broads," a term that was once used to (lovingly) describe my sassy, smart, and ambitious grandmother. It seemed fitting to make Em and Allen a claddagh, which represents friendship, love, and loyalty -- words to live by! The claddagh itself is a mixture of a few designs I found online, and the banner below is from Sublime Stitching. There are small faux pearls between the words in the banner, and I mounted the embroidery in a shadow box I found at Joann, which ended up giving the finished project just the right amount of polish.

(Time for a secret: This was my second attempt at this embroidery. The first was amazing--you'll have to take my word for it--but the fabric was too thin for the weight of the stitches and ended up tearing when I ironed it. So frustrating! It could not be saved. But my second attempt ended up being finished just in time for their wedding!)

Flowers for Leia
Baby Leia was born last fall to my friends Jim and Sylvia, who just moved to the U.S. from England. (Jim is an old friend of my pal Alex, who studied with me at Lehigh, and I've gotten to know him during my various trips to the UK. I'm very excited to have them nearby!) I wanted to make Leia something bright, cheery, and a little bit girly. I found the bird and flower pattern online, but made a few variations, including adding Leia's name to it. Sylvia said it was Leia's first personalized gift! I really like the color palette for this one. Leia's a little sweetheart, and I'm looking forward to some snuggles from her soon!

Bears for Benjamin
When I moved up to New Hampshire at the age of 6, Melinda was tasked with showing me around the school. We've been friends ever since! I was excited to hear that Melinda and her husband Mike were expecting, and Benjamin arrived in early 2015. I loved these two little bears from September House's baby animals series, and I used some shades of aqua and teal to match Ben's room. I hope I get to meet the little guy one of these days!


Elephants for Evelyn
When I moved back to Pennsylvania at the age of 11, Kate became one of my dearest friends. We hadn't been in touch in a few years, so I was shocked to hear that she had a little girl this summer! I made this embroidery for Evelyn, using the elephants from the same Baby Animals series as the bears above. After I sent this, Kate contacted me about getting together, and I got to meet baby Evy last week! She is beautiful, and it was wonderful to see Kate as a mom. I'm heading down to DC to visit them in October. See -- embroidery can bring people together!

Foxes for Jonathan
Last, but not least, my old friend Shauna welcomed baby #2 a few weeks ago. I made an embroidery of a mama and baby owl for his big brother, Adam, so it was only fair that I made one for him! Shauna and Brian kept the baby's gender a surprise, but I knew their nursery was in orange and green with a woodland theme, so I thought these foxes would be a safe bet. (And adorable, to boot! I really got a lot of mileage out of that Baby Animals pattern set!) I love the little mushrooms on this one.

With that epic post, I'm very close to being caught up! I have just a couple more quilts to write about, and one I'm about to cut fabric for. I've been working on a cute embroidery for myself, as well as some Liberty of London applique projects.

Last week, I reorganized all of my fabric and moved it to a new storage unit. I was a little overwhelmed by how much fabric I've accumulated, so I've decided that at some point, I want to make some charity quilts. If anyone knows of any reliable organizations that accept quilt donations (especially kids' quilts), please let me know!

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Giants (Ew!) Quilt

For reasons I can't fathom, my brother's now-fiancee, Heather, is a Giants fan. As a good future sister-in-law, I made her a Giants quilt for Christmas. I am a Patriots fan, so this broke my heart more than a little bit. It helped to think that I was just making a very pro-America quilt. (I was tempted to embroider a little "Go Pats!" message on the back, but I refrained.)

It's a little bigger than a traditional lap quilt, but smaller than a twin-sized quilt. I used the Giants fabric for standalone blocks and pinwheel blocks, as well as a sizable section on the back. (I really, really didn't want any leftover Giants fabric contaminating my stash!) The blocks are big, about 10 inches, and I used various red, white, and blue patterns to round out the fabric selection. The quilting lines are in a simple grid, so it came together pretty fast once I got into the groove. I think Heather was pleasantly surprised with it on Christmas!

Needless to say, I think this will be the only Giants quilt I make, but I hope she gets a lot of use out of it!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Liberty Quilt

If you know me, you know I'm a fan of all things British. I've been to the UK seven (?) times now, with another trip planned for the spring. Over the years, I've fallen in love with Liberty of London -- an old department store near Oxford Circus known for its gorgeous line of fabrics. They mainly produce pricey clothing and decor weight fabrics, so I was super excited to hear about the line of (somewhat more) affordable quilting fabrics they were releasing in 2012. I bought the whole line of Bloomsbury fabrics in the blue color story. (Fun fact: The individual patterns are named after members of the illustrious Bloomsbury Group, including one of my very favorite authors,Virginia Woolf!)

I knew I would use them to make myself a quilt for the couch, but it took me a long time to settle on a pattern and with all of the baby quilts I had been making, it took me a year or so to even cut into the Liberty collection. It took another year to to actually put the quilt together. But here it is!

I opted for a disappearing 9-patch pattern, which I had never done before. It was easy in theory, but took a while to execute. First, I sewed together small blocks in a 3x3 arrangment (the "9" in "9-patch") to create large blocks. Then, I sliced up those large blocks into quarters and repositioned the pieces in a haphazard-looking way (the "disappearing" part of the "disappearing 9-patch"). 

The goal was to showcase all of the prints while giving the quilt a traditional patchwork feel. I still did my best to avoid having similar patterns hit one another in the quilt, though. Once I cut into the fabric, I had doubts about how busy the quilt would be, so I threw in some coordinating solids and whites to accent the patterned fabric. 

Since the quilt is somewhere between twin and queen sized, I couldn't afford enough Liberty fabric to finish out the back. I bargain-hunted for some blue patterned fabric in the same color family as the front. 

I also used a London underground print I purchased a while ago on a whim for a nice little homage to my favorite city: 

I quilted diagonally through the main squares, which lately has been my preferred quilting method. I think it provides a nice contrast to the block patterns. (My quilting isn't as wavy as the photo below might have you believe! It was just a windy day, and the quilt kept blowing in the breeze!)

Finally, I bound the quilt in the navy version of my favorite Joel Dewberry herringbone fabric:

This quilt has been at home on my couch for the past year and has proven to be the coziest TV-watching and nap-taking partner. And every time I see it, I think of England!