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.