Thursday, July 29, 2010

rainbow blocks

Someone else's UFO - if you're a thrifting junkie like me, you're bound to come across one. I don't know why, but I always feel compelled to DO something with them. Like I'm their last chance, and if I don't do it, nobody else will, and all that work will be wasted!! Sometimes, it only takes a couple finishing steps, like this one. Sometimes, it's starting almost from scratch, like this one. (Okay, that last one is STILL a UFO, but at least I got as far as two quilts, almost basted! and I have plans to have them quilted by the end of summer!). And there are so many more in my shelves, patiently waiting for me to fulfill their destiny...

In one of the stash sales I just posted about, there was this little pile of castoffs. I'm not sure it's an official UFO, maybe it was just some leftovers from a completed quilt. There were some loose half square triangles, some strips, some squares...

Some HSTs sewn into rows, some squares sewn in rows...

When I saw them, I immediately thought of Anna Maria Horner's Rainbow Around The Block project, which requested monochromatic blocks. You can't get much more monochromatic than this! So, I spent a day trimming and sewing and came up with 10 blocks to send.

There were 8 of these...

And one each of these other two random blocks.

I think they are pretty "granny" looking, and certainly not as lovely as the many others that have been donated. But I like to think that sampler charity quilts are better when they have a couple "homely" blocks thrown in! Kinda like a reminder that everyone can contribute in life, no matter what your skill level is. And I also like to think that this little UFO has finally fulfilled its destiny!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

craigslist loot report (or, why my stash continues to grow out of control)

It's been a long time since I did a loot report! I've been trying to stick to a "sew more, loot less" plan, by which I limit myself to:
  • one weekly trip to my favorite Value Village (usually with Vada, as a mommy-daughter date).
  • Friday or Saturday morning garage saling, but only if I go with a friend. Sometimes I'll go with Vada, but only if it's a rummage sale, or a garage sale in our neighborhood.
  • Craigslist "stash sales", but again only if I go with a friend.
You wouldn't think there would be too many in that last category, but there have been at least 3 so far this summer. I took screenshots, so you can see what the temptation looks like, along with the loot I picked up.

I really tried to resist this one. I mailed the link to my friend Chara, because it was much closer to her house. But she somehow twisted my arm into going with her, and we somehow managed to fill up a 50-yard bin together. Of course, Chara only got a few yards (darn her!), and the rest was all mine. Here's a sampling - some Halloween prints...

a fun set of coordinating bowling fabric... (Do I bowl? No. Know someone who bowls? No. But it was cute! I'm sure I can turn it into a donation quilt or some pillowcases or something!)

And a bunch of pretty solids...

Then there was THIS sale. Again, I tried hard to resist. I really did! I mailed the link to Chara and my friend Quynh, hoping that one of them would buy it, so I wouldn't have to. Quynh took the bait, but then she brought the stash over to MY house to sort through. Very clever, that girl! Of course I somehow ended up with more than half!

Just look at those piles of fabric! There was a whole bag of scraps and strips and random leftovers too. So much fun to look through!

And one more... Quynh and I hit up this sale on Sunday. Funny enough, the seller was one of the gals from my Project Linus group!

For once, I was not the big spender! For $6, I brought home this stack...

I was so happy to find that cute kitty reproduction print. I have no plans for the piggies, but they were too adorable to pass up!

Ditto for this small vintage piece. Can you spot the nursery rhyme characters?

I also got a couple pretty mod vintage prints. These are lighter weight (probably poly blends of some sort), which I thought might make some nice skirts.

And for another 50 cents each, I picked up these...

I should have put something in the picture for scale - these are 6000 yard spools! They are A&E Perma Core thread, normally about $10 each. Nice deal!

If you're interested in checking out Craigslist for stash sales in your area, Ircabbit has a great post about 'how to pwn at Craigslist' (love that title!).

And if you're in the Redmond, WA area and want to sell your stash, whatever you do, please don't tell me about it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

where have I been?

I've been slacking on my blog, I know. Do you ever feel that you just have a limited number of things you can juggle at once, and in order to concentrate on something new, you just have to drop something else for a while until you get everything under control again? Well, I do! My new distraction isn't even anything of consequence, it's just... distracting. But, I will slowly catch back up!

First of all, a big THANK YOU to my bee partners for the blocks I've received in the last month or so. They are beautiful!

Clockwise from upper left - Bethany, Angela, Colima and Megan.

And while I have been slacking on the blog, I have not been slacking on the crafting! I'm happy to report that I have finished my second "Cancer sucks" quilt, which will soon be heading to my friend Kelli in Texas. Sending a quilt to someone in Texas, in August, sounds like the stupidest idea ever, huh?

Like the first one, this is all vintage sheets - two each of 35 pink prints, and the "solid" is a pink and white Pottery Barn gingham. The back is also a thrifted sheet, but it's a newer Ralph Lauren 100% cotton (and buttery soft too). The quilting is just a simple cross-hatch through the squares. The binding is not scrappy on this one, only because I'd recently picked up a nice pink print, and it was sitting too close to the cutting table when it came time to do the binding...

I tried a new place to hang a quilt to take some quick photos... Next time I'll haul out a stool to stand on. Vada will not be happy with me if I break her trampoline by greatly exceeding the weight limit!

I still have to add a label, and I'm on the hunt for a good inscription. My friend Kelli is deeply religious, but I'm not so much. Can anyone suggest a nice bible verse for me?

Monday, July 12, 2010

tutorial - super quick "baste as you go" charity quilt

Yesterday's Project Linus meeting was a sewing session, instead of the usual fabric sorting, label attaching, and kit making that we do. I took advantage of the large table space to try out an idea for a super quick project, combining my favorite Quick Strippie design with the baste as you go technique I learned from Des when I first started quilting. Des, I can't thank you enough for that post - I've never seen the technique mentioned anywhere else, and it's just so fantastic!!

Before the meeting, I prepped the fabric for two quilts. For this design, it's five 6.5" strips of focal fabric, six 3" strips of contrast, and ten 1.5" strips of accent. I also cut five 2.5" strips (of contrast or accent fabric, whichever I had enough of) for the binding. The backs were already made (using my weird backing technique, as explained in a previous post). After only four hours at the meeting, I had two completely pieced and basted quilts! Here's how it works:

First sew the accent strips to the contrast strips, aligning the ends on one side. The bottom and top pieces have the accent on only one side, as you see on the left. Press the seams however you like - I pressed mine towards the contrast because it was easier darker.

Lay out the backing, wrong side up, and smooth it out.

Lay the batting out over the backing, centered and smoothed down.

By the way, I do not AT ALL recommend using crappy fluffy poly batting, but I'm still working on the monster in my closet, so that's what I'm using. If you use nice batting, this technique will be SO much easier! I was especially cursing myself at this meeting, because they had a whole huge bolt of Warm and White sitting there (donated by the Warm company - thanks folks!), free for the taking. But no, I bought this crappy batting, and I'm determined to finish the bolt!

Anyway... After laying down the batting, place the first (top) strip across the top (short) side of the backing/batting. It should be right side up, centered (equal amounts of batting on each side), and as straight as possible.

Then, lay down the next strip, with the bottom edges even. The top strip will be upside down, so the right sides of the two strips are together. Pin the bottom edges, through all layers (the 2 strips, the batting and the backing). Put your pins pretty close together, about 3 or 4 inches apart.

For sewing down the strips, I used a walking foot. I'm not sure it's absolutely necessary, but I think it helps when you have this many layers (and that fluffy batting!). Because I wasn't using my 1/4" quilting foot, I got a wider seam (more like 3/8"). Keep that in mind during your planning - if exact dimensions are important, you'll want to add an extra 1/4" to each row. And you would not want to use this technique for designs which have corner points that would get cut off.

So, drag the whole thing over to your machine, and sew down the seam. It will feel backwards, since the raw edges of the seam will be on the left instead of the right. It helps to pull the fabric from the front and back as you sew, to keep everything taut and straight. When you're done, lay the quilt out again, and fold that second row down and press the seam. Smooth down the batting and backing, making sure they are still laying down straight and smooth.

Add the third row, sew it down, flip and press. Alternate the strips and repeat all the way down the quilt. If you're using directional prints (like I am with the kitty print here), be sure you check the direction before you sew each row!

As you work your way down, you can roll up the quilt on the right to fit under the arm of your sewing machine. When you get towards the middle/bottom of the quilt, you can turn the quilt around and sew from the other direction so you have less bulk under the arm.

After 10 seams, you have a finished top AND a basted quilt. Huzzah! I didn't take a picture of the kitty quilt I was working on above, but here's a picture of the second one I made - a cute froggy print.

Yay, two quilts ready to be quilted! I'll probably do some simple meandering across the focal print rows, and some simple wavy quilting across the accent/contrast rows. For now, these are going to the bottom of the "to be quilted" pile. And now I really need to get back to working on that pile!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

tutorial - swaddling blanket

Okay y'all - here's a tutorial for the world's easiest and most useful baby gift - the flannel swaddling blanket! You can't have too many of these - we had at least 8, I think, and they were always in rotation.

To make one, you'll need 1.25 yards each of two prints of flannel (or 2.5 yards of a single print, though I think they are cuter when the front and back are different). It's important to use flannel (and not just regular quilting cotton), because it's "grippy", and will help keep the baby from wriggling out. Any flannel is fine, but I actually prefer the cheaper quality flannel (like from Joanns) because it is stretchier. I even used a thrifted flannel sheet to make a couple for my own kid, and that worked great too.

IMPORTANT - prewash your fabric! I know some of you quilters out there are hardcore non-prewashers, but you really need to prewash flannel, because it can shrink and change grain a lot. If you don't prewash, you're very likely to have edges that curl after that first wash.

Iron your fabrics, fold each one lengthwise (right sides out), and trim straight across one edge (just one!) on each piece.

Now line up the cut ends and stack the two pieces on top of each other. You'll often find that one print is slightly wider than the other. Put the wider fabric on the bottom and the narrower one on top. Measure the width of the narrower fabric, minus the selvage. Mine here is about 20.5" across (folded, of course).

You want the blanket to be square, so double that measurement (20.5 x 2 = 41" in my case), measure out that length of fabric, and trim across the ends of both pieces of fabric at once. Since you started with 1.25 yards (45") of fabric, this means you'll be trimming off about 2" or 3".

Finally, trim off the selvages.

The next step is to pin the two pieces together, with the right sides together. At this point, you have 4 layers of fabric on your cutting surface. The two inner layers should be one layer of each fabric, with the right sides facing each other. Grab just those two inner layers at the corners, pick them up, and let the top and bottom layers unfold on either side. Shake it out, line up the other two corners, and pin around all four sides. I don't use too many pins, just one in each corner and 3 more on each side.

Now we're going to sew all around the edge, leaving an opening for turning. I like to leave the opening on a side that was along the selvage (the length-wise grain of the fabric), because it's slightly less stretchy than the cross-wise grain sides. But any side will work. Start a few inches below the middle, back-stitch a bit, sew all around, stopping about 6 or 8 inches from where you started, and back-stitch again. Use a wide seam allowance (anywhere from 1/2" to 3/4") - I usually use about 5/8".

Before you turn it right side out, trim the corners to reduce bulk. I'm anal, and I always trim a tiny bit more than straight across.

Now, turn it right side out, and use a chopstick (or whatever) to poke the corners out. To get nice edges, it helps to first iron the seams out flat. To do this, grab one layer of fabric about 4" from the seam. Shake the blanket until the layers shift, and set the blanket down on your ironing board. From the outside, poke around until the seam allowance is all laying down one direction inside the blanket.

Then iron the seam flat. You should be able to see in this picture that my seam allowance is pressed toward the lighter fabric. Do this to all four sides, taking extra care on the side that has the opening. Then pick the blanket up by the seam, and shake it out again to get the layers realigned. Iron all the seams again, and you should have perfect edges!

Now, slip-stitch the opening closed (sorry I didn't take a picture of that, but I imagine you know how to do it!). Or, if you're being lazy and plan to edge-stitch close to the seam, you can skip that step. For gifts, I try to use some sort of decorative stitching, and maybe use contrasting thread. Since the swaddling blanket itself is pretty simple, this is one way you can dress it up. Just be sure to try out the stitch on some scraps before you start sewing on the blanket - you don't want to have to adjust the width or length after you start! And be aware that some decorative stitches use a LOT of thread, so make sure you have a full bobbin and spool.

And there you go - an easy peasy swaddling blanket!

A variation on this is a single layer blanket - these are great for warmer weather (hello, summer - so nice of you to finally visit Seattle!). Just cut a square of flannel as before, and sew a narrow hem all around, as shown here. This one has mitered corners (I didn't make it - it was a gift for my daughter), but just plain corners work fine too.

Finally, if you're sewing these for yourself or a friend (in other words, not for charity), consider whipping up a couple "arm bindings" to go with them. I described these in an earlier post, (complete with a hilarious video of my husband demonstrating how to use them), so you can check them out there. If you want them to match the blanket you just made, start with an extra 1/4 yard of each fabric. After you cut out the blanket, use the leftover pieces to make the bindings.

Have fun making them - they are addictive! Oh, and if you make more than a few of these, be sure to clean out your sewing machine when you're done, because flannel sure does lint up your bobbin case in a hurry!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

lucky me!

I was so thrilled to win a giveaway on the Vintage Sheets blog for a copy of this pattern by Melissa at Under Construction. It was love at first sight when I saw this lovely ruffly confection:

As soon as I saw it, I thought of my overflowing bin of sheet hems. Ever since I started collecting vintage sheets, I've been cutting off the hems and saving them. I had no idea what I would make with them, but now I do! Thank you so much, Jen & Melissa!

And last week, I won this sweet package of Anna Maria Horner goodies from Scott at Blue Nickle Studios. I love the bits of fabric, and the notebook is awesome (I've been needing one to keep upstairs in my sewing room - perfect!). I'm totally jazzed about the bootie pattern, and I will definitely be making some of those for baby gifts. Thanks, Scott! (And Anna Maria!)

And even better, I found out that Scott is my neighbor! I knew he lived in WA, but for some reason I thought it was somewhere on the coast. But his day job is just down the road from me in Redmond. Small world! It was fun to meet a real quilt designer, who has actually been to the Quilt Market and all that! Almost like a real celebrity! :-)