Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009: my year in sewing

Pictured and not pictured:
5 quilts, quilted all the way
3 quilt tops, not quilted
3 aprons
2 smocks
3 table runners
7 pairs of slippers
3 oven mitts
76 reversible dog bandanas
3 receiving blankets
8 bibs
9 bags
3 dresses
4 stuffed friends
8 pincushions
3 ornaments
12+ cloth napkins
3 wall hangings
1 patchwork ball, 1 appliqued onesie, 1 wedding garter, 1 zippered pouch, 1 throw pillow, 1 pair of baby bloomers, 1 pillowcase...
742" of quilt binding attached by machine and finished by hand, for hire (and countless inches sewn at work and at home)

In progress:
1 dress, McCall's 5845 in this print from Anna Maria Horner's new collection of voile
1 six-point star quilt
1 Phoebe quilt (a Valori Wells pattern)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

for little Oliver in North Carolina

Four or five years ago, I lived in a house across the street from a very old fire station in East Nashville. It was a cute house complete with a picket fence, and I shared it with three roommates. They were all very much into old-time music, and spent many hours playing banjo/guitar/whatever else on the front porch. The firemen enjoyed it--I think they played old-time on their porch too. Our house was a few blocks from a pizza place that had a large, two-topping carryout deal for maybe $7. So it was a nice place to be.

One of my roommates, Chris, started spending a lot of time with this lady named Jill, who I met at Food Not Bombs. They began dating, and long after I moved out of that house (and maybe away from Nashville, I don't recall), the two of them moved to North Carolina.

We kept in touch by mail, mostly postcards exchanged every couple of months, and a little email correspondence. Last spring I received a postcard from Chris asking me to make a quilt for them because they were expecting their first baby in December!

This is what I made:

It's a variation on the traditional stacked coin pattern. I pieced the 'coins' to a muslin foundation at random, using what I guess some call the stitch-and-flip technique. Each print was chosen and placed very carefully so that the top would look balanced and cohesive, but still kind of spontaneous.

My friends won't know the baby's sex until it's born (*edit: welcome, Oliver!), so I tried to stick to gender-neutral colors. Four of the prints used were purchased specifically for this quilt, but the rest were from my stash, with a little help from my mom! I had all these great Denyse Schmidt and Heather Ross fabrics hidden away, and until I had this quilt in mind I couldn't bear to cut into them.

The backing and binding are both pieced. I really like pieced binding, it can be really striking and effective if the quilt top itself isn't too busy. I quilted this with free-form (but not free-motion, no way) vertical waves. They never intersect or touch, but the curves kind of play off of each other without completely echoing the same path. This is the second quilt in which I've used this technique (the other was quilted horizontally) and it's a new favorite.

I also sent along this onesie!

It's a quick (8-minute?) project. I fused the owl fabric to one side of Steam-a-Seam 2 Lite, cut it out, and fused it to the onesie. (Be sure you cut around the applique after it's been backed with Steam-a-Seam!) Then I shortened my stitch length and stitched around the owl.

I hope the little one arrives happy and healthy. I know Chris and Jill will be wonderful parents!

Monday, December 14, 2009

tiny dress

I work in a fabric shop. I guess technically it's a quilt shop, but since we do so much more than patchwork, I like to be broad in labeling it. Anyone who sews can imagine the best parts about the job: seeing beautiful new fabric and patterns (sometimes before they hit the streets!), and making samples for the store. Sometimes I make samples on the clock, other times I work on them at home.

This is one such sample I made at work:

Cute, huh? The pattern is from Vanilla House Designs, and the fabric is Lantern Bloom by Laura Gunn. You probably noticed right away my directional error on the yoke! That aside, I like the way it turned out, but I had a few problems with the pattern.

First, the entire dress is rotary cut, meaning it is made entirely of straight lines. Humans, on the other hand, are made of curved lines which is why typical garment patterns have all sorts of slopes, arcs, and curves too. Fabric has to be manipulated a certain way to hang properly from a 3-dimensional form.

I know this is a child's dress, and those principles matter less because the fit is less of an issue. And the dress isn't on an actual person, so I can't tell how it will hang and move in reality... BUT, if it's hanging funny on the mannequin, it'll probably hang funny on a wiggly toddler.

If I made this again, I'd double the cut width of the hem and sleeve trim and fold them in half rather than just hemming them. That way the inside of the trim is faced and looks more finished.

All in all, it's a quick and easy project--the pattern itself is well-written and easy to understand. The pleats take the most time, and they're really nothing.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

on books and binding

This is what I did the last two weekends:

It's a baby quilt for my friends' firstborn, who is due next month and whose arrival is much anticipated. I'll post pictures of the quilt once they receive it, which will never happen unless I get it in the mail!

Really, I spent one weekend on the quilt. And most of that time was spent agonizing over whether it would suit the parents' style, but in the end I decided it would suit the baby regardless and that is what counts. I pieced it at my mom's house in Tennessee, and quilted it in a few hours before we drove back to Bloomington. So really, it was a quick little thing, and I am proud of my work. The second weekend involved finishing the binding by hand, which didn't take long. It was on the heels of another binding job: 268 linear inches of binding made, machine-attached, and hand-finished with love and for money.

I gave myself a break from sewing this week, and read Cormac McCarthy's The Road cover to cover in maybe three sittings. So good! Tales of the post-apocalypse have fascinated me since I was young, and this one is particularly engrossing. Good news: after the fall of civilization, we will still have biscuits and coffee. We just have to find the hiding place. I hope that's in the movie, because it's a very human moment.

Yesterday I got my copy of Color Your Cloth by Malka Dubrawsky. The page that made me gasp:

Using letterpress stamps to pattern fabric! I don't imagine you can achieve great detail, but the possibilities...! This will be a spring project, unfortunately, because it's too messy to do inside this tiny house but too cold to be outside for very long.

Malka's modern take on an ancient craft is so thrilling! I've dyed fabric to use in quilts a little in the past, and was always interested in the process. The books I referenced were hopelessly mired in hippie aesthetics, and I didn't know how to use the information to produce something I would like to look at and sew with. (Pardon my prepositions.) But then this book came into my world, and I can't wait to use it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Look look look! I made these:

You, too, can buy the PDF pattern here and here from I Think Sew patterns. The designer has a handful of really adorable adult and baby-sized slippers. I bought this one because it looked simpler than the others. Online patterns can also be dicey, so I went for the less expensive option first.

I was really happy with the instructions, though. You get about 28 pages of instructions and pattern pieces. I've read some lukewarm-to-bad reviews of I Think Sew patterns because it's apparent that the designer/writer isn't a native English-speaker. The pattern was so well-written and specific, though, that the occasional curious phrasing didn't matter. It seemed like she was aware of this and made an extra effort to spell things out. So don't believe the hype! I Think Sew patterns are great, and I can't wait to try more of them!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The beginning

This illustration is by my cousin's 9-year-old son, Niklaus.

The description on the back reads: "There is a missle being shot at the Dragon and a guy that has a sheild That is blocking fire. And He has a sord."

Note missile trajectory!

I am a little sad that the ink is bleeding through from the back, and fading at the same time.

I think for Nik's birthday I am going to put together a little art kit. When I was his age, the most exciting gifts I received were art supplies. They always seemed so expensive, and I guarded them fiercely from my little brother. My best friend, Anne, and I were always so competitive about our crayons and the like. If one of us got the new set of scented crayons or color-changing markers, it was a tragedy for the other. At the time, it meant the girl with the newer art supplies had better, more loving parents. Usually, it was Anne's parents who won. She and I would always share with one another, however, but seldom with our classmates. They didn't understand why it was a crime to break crayons, and that they must peel back the paper evenly, and take care not to get the light-colored markers all muddy from coloring over the darker inks. It was a matter of respecting our treasures, and few could be trusted.

(Left: myself, Anne and Bev at Cool Cottons in Portland.)

I was so lucky to have parents who nurtured my creative side. Anne's mother, Bev, was also instrumental: she held crafting parties for Anne's birthday, and taught our 3rd grade class to sew. My family moved from Portland to Nashville the summer after 3rd grade, and Anne and I kept in touch by mail. A couple years later, my family visited Portland and Bev signed Anne and I up for sewing lessons. We made some really ridiculous drawstring bags, and elastic-waist shorts, and probably a scrunchie or two. Bev took us to her father's beach house in Seaside, Oregon (which for a long time had an autographed picture of Huey Lewis & the News in the bathroom), and we sewed all weekend. I think that's when I got hooked.

When I was 18, I moved back to Portland for a little while. Bev had been a quilter for as long as I remembered, so naturally it was her guidance I sought when I decided to learn to quilt. I don't know why I wanted to--it just struck me, suddenly, as wonderful. I made my first quilt (below) and the love of sewing was new again.

My mom had always sewn a little, and when I moved back to Nashville I taught her how to quilt. Really, I pestered her until she caved and accompanied me to buy fabric... my mom can be stubborn! Her first quilt (below) was gorgeous, and she too fell in love with the process.

And this brings me back to the original subject: encouraging creativity in youngsters. If someone hadn't taught me to sew, would I have arrived here on my own? Maybe. I sure went through a lot of different mediums before I settled on textiles--nothing else felt quite right. I hope Nik holds onto his creative voice, and I hope I can help him find the right tools to make it heard.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Days off

I'm back from Illinois! The below photograph was taken in standstill traffic just south of Gary, IN. That's Indiana corn, baby! Apparently, it's a big deal.

The week of product training was exhausting. Most days were around 10 hours long. I found the Whole Foods the first night I was in Naperville, and stocked up on jugs of water and vegetarian goods that wouldn't immediately spoil. I kept maybe-perishables in a bucket of ice and made dehydrated soup by running water through the coffee maker. Steven said it sounded like I was living out of a van.

I met some really nice ladies who just opened a quilt shop called Stash in Walla Walla, Washington. They will be selling fabric online soon, so stay tuned! In the meantime, I am keeping up with them on their blog.

Friday I drove home after class, and by Monday I had recharged and was ready to start sewing for fun again! This:

turned into these:

Rattles from Simple Sewing for Baby! (I sewed a bell into the head for a little noise.) These are incredibly fast and easy, which is all I've had the patience for lately. Also recently sewn: bibs, bloomers, and a little bird.

I started on a bag from the Spring 2009 issue of Stitch magazine, and then my sewing machine began acting up. According to our mechanic, I either have a motor problem, or something has gone awry with my foot control. Either way, I am without a sewing machine which feels unnatural. I should have a diagnosis by Saturday, and I hope it can be fixed. I love my little old Bernina!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Binding for hire

In the last week I've attached and finished the binding on three quilts, totaling 474 linear inches. I started offering the service through the quilt shop where I work, and the local longarm quilters have been happy to refer clients to me. I realized, after the first quilt, that I am paying myself a little above minimum wage... but since it requires little else but time and patience, it feels more like getting paid to watch a lot of TV.

If binding a quilt doesn't make sense, here is a good tutorial! She cuts her binding strips way skinnier than me--I stick to 2.25"-wide strips.

I also started retaking photos for my Etsy. I'm not sure if the new pictures are more interesting, but I was unhappy with the lighting and arrangement of the old ones. A couple of before-and-after shots:


Tomorrow I am off to Bernina training in lovely Naperville, IL, home of Bob Odenkirk. I'll be there Sunday through Friday... oh my!

I made another set of magnets today and started taking pictures for my Etsy account, but after the first photo my camera battery died. I ran around the house emptying out drawers, digging through boxes and generally tearing through every possible hiding place looking for the charger. After more than an hour of frustration, what do you think I spotted, sitting on top of my dresser in plain sight? Yeah. Here it is:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This week in sewing:

Sunday, I traveled to Clementine's Dry Goods in Franklin, IN. It's about an hour from Bloomington, all state roads, which makes for slow and scenic travel. Driving on IN 44, I had the distinct feeling of being in the Midwest. It was very Wizard of Oz. The cornstalks were tall and wild-looking, which isn't something you really see in a college town like mine.

Clementine's is a small shop but nicely curated. It's half fabric and half yarn. I left wishing I'd figured out how to cast on. The loot:

The quilt shop where I work is closed Mondays, but I went into work anyway to help prepare for a 50-person bus trip we are hosting next week. So much to do! The trip is organized by a quilt guild out of Terre Haute, I think. We made a lot of kits, and cut more fat quarters, and rearranged the store, which happens all the time anyway.

Tuesday after work, I finished sewing the Mary Go 'Round dress as a sample for the shop to display. It's so quick to make, and it's reversible! What more can you ask when it comes to kids' apparel?

And today I brought home the new Zakka Sewing book, which is so exciting. I've had an interest in sewing storage cubes of all sizes, and this book has a pattern that uses a different approach to construction. We'll see!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Next in line!

I bought this pattern at an Indianapolis thrift store for less than a dollar. All pieces are intact! It's a vintage size 12, so some of the pieces might fit. I have a hard time finding sewing patterns that fit my figure. The best part is the bloomers! I'm going to try to sew them first. It'll be an experiment with knits. Look at the technical illustrations on the back--that is always my favorite part of any pattern.

Friday, August 28, 2009

West Coast fabric love

My honey and I just returned from a week in Portland and the Bay Area! The occasion: my cousin's long-awaited wedding, in which I was a bridesmaid. The week before our trip, we moved to a cute little apartment on the "other side" of town. (When you live in a city that is less than 20 square miles in area, there is hardly an "other side" to speak of.) We are still getting settled, and my sewing room (which is also the living room, dining room, and library) is the last thing to fall into place. Of course.

I visited several fabric stores while out west. Let me tell you, I behaved myself, but you wouldn't know it from the yardage I brought home. Although I work in a quilt shop, it's still thrilling to fraternize with new fabric! So now, live through me:

1. First on the shop hop was Cool Cottons on SE Hawthorne. This shop is in a very cute old house, which has been converted to showcase bolts and bolts of fabric. It does so very well, and manages to be tidy but by no means sparse. The ladies who own the store have incredible taste, and stock the best in modern quilting-weight cottons. Many of the fabrics could be considered novelty prints, but there are plenty of basics (including a full line of Kaffe Fassett shot cottons) to round out the collection. This definitely a destination for seamsters of all kinds.
Gem from Cool Cottons: Anna Maria Horner oilcloth! (Impossible to photograph.)

2. Next I went to Bolt on NE Alberta. It's located next to a yarn shop, which is not at all on my radar but a nice pairing nonetheless. Bolt is a smaller store but makes great use of their space! I mean, fabric from floor-to-ceiling, or so it seemed. Most of what they stocked was also quilting cottons, but they also carried some lovely home dec and garment-appropriate fabrics. It was exciting to see some Marimekko fabric in the flesh! Bolt is a versatile shop, with appeal to quilters but an emphasis on garment sewing. Their samples were inspiring, and actually made dressmaking seem approachable to me! I was particularly interested in their pattern and notion selection, which seemed endless. A well-rounded shop indeed, and busy too!
Gem from Bolt: Colette patterns #1001: Macaron (I got brave)

Shown here with a fabric I am considering for one component of the dress...

3. Then on to The Pine Needle in Lake Oswego, just across the Willamette from Portland I think. This is more of a traditional quilt shop, with a little bit of all the standard genres: Civil War and feedsack reproductions, Asian as in Kona Bay not Kokka, batiks, and a handful of more reserved moderns. To be honest, Bolt was a tough act to follow. I did appreciate the large selection of quilting books and patterns, which were nicely displayed with each cover facing out.

4. Our one and only stop in SF was Britex. If you have the chance to visit, it's worth the experience! There are four floors and more to look at than any person can process at once. The third floor was my favorite, and was all notions. Ribbon, trim, and a sea of buttons, plus a sizeable selection of vintage trim. Much of the fabric was too expensive to buy without a purpose, especially with my remedial garment skills, and so I left empty handed. It's hard for me to shop for fabric when it's on rolls stacked to the ceiling, but it's incredible fun to get lost among the stacks!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hello, nice to meet you.

Hi! Welcome to my little craft blog, wherein I talk all about the things I have made, am making, and hope to make. I've been trolling craft and sewing blogs for months now, and am so inspired by what I find! There's nothing better for a creative slump than looking at what other people are making, don't you think?

Pictured is my Iron Seamstress, a Bernina 801 Sport. It's a total posed photo, though, because I am definitely not sewing at all right now. I'm in the midst of setting up my Etsy account, which is a lot of work initially!

Okay! Stop by again; I promise to write often. Also, Carl Perkins radio (on Pandora) is good for getting things done. So far, at least!