Improv Play

Feather / leaf
It's an experiment. I'm learning things, at least.
Progress.After I finished the triangle quilt, it was time for some fabric play. It’s been a little while since I’ve tried to build something in an improvisational way from start to finish.

I’m a much better quilter in my head than I am in real life. The only way to get better is to practice, and this is part of that process. I’m not quite sure about the overall effectiveness of the layout, but I’m thinking of it as an improv sampler – a few curves here, some crazy piecing over there.

Improv top done

This quilt snippet started with some Marcia Derse fabrics, a thought of Gail Baer’s colorblock quilts for that center section, and some practicing with curves. I think I’ll do some circular quilting to finish it up and see if I can help flatten out the whole thing.

Treasure Pocket Pants

Treasure pocket pants #sewing #sewingforboysCarl's not a fan of the crazy pants (treasure pocket pants). They are kind of bell bottoms

Have you made these pants from Sewing for Boys? They’re really appealing as a way to include a spot of cute fabric on the side of some boys’ pants, plus pockets are fun (except Will doesn’t use them yet). They’re kind of a pain to make, though! There are several errata for the book, as with most sewing books, unfortunately, but after staring for awhile at instructions that didn’t make sense I decided that  I should probably just sew them like it made sense to me, instead of worrying too much about following them. There were a couple new things to learn, like the hem facings and faux fly, but I did the waistband a completely different way that worked better for me. Now that they’re done, Carl thinks they’re too girly, and I admit they are kind of like bell bottoms. I’ll have to use a pair with a slimmer leg for my next pair of boys’ pants, and maybe keep the contrasting fabric to the inside.

Simplicity 1688


This dress was nowhere near my to-sew list, but when we got an invite in July for an August wedding I realized I would probably have enough time to make something and started looking through my stash for something that would be dressy enough, a little beyond work wear. I had 1.5 yards of this AMH linen print stashed for a skirt, but there is enough for this shift dress too, for a totally different look! the blue is the only solid I had that would somewhat coordinate in a heavier weight fabric, and it’s a Lisette twill from Joann’s. Thank goodness for pictures of finished objects made in the AMH print – most of the swatch photos I’ve seen online don’t really show the lime green grid very well. There was enough fabric for me to play with the placement, but obviously I didn’t realize the band would be around the widest point of my hips with a bullseye on my belly, or I might have shifted it a little!


There aren’t many pattern reviews for 1688, but everyone always complains about how there’s too much ease in big 4 patterns, and to look at the finished garment measurements. I don’t know if I based my measurements on the finished jacket instead of the dress, but I measure a 14 and made a 10 on top and 12 on the bottom, and had to eke out the seam allowance on the top with not a lot of room on the bottom either (but I didn’t change the seam allowance there). I feel like I could have made a straight 14 and had a little extra room to breath, although maybe the darts wouldn’t have been as spot-on. The other thing I would note is that I usually have to take out an inch or two in torso length to avoid pooling in the back. I didn’t adjust this pattern at all for that, and it fits well.
The lining is an orange linen-rayon blend. Not the softest on my skin, but about the same weight as the dress. If I’m not sure if I’ll finish a project, I definitely don’t want to buy new materials for it! I used to dislike any hand stitching on a garment as a sign of something being homemade, but I decided that it’s a feature because when do you get so much care and attention paid to store-bought goods. Beyond the fact that never would a store-bought dress be sewn to my exact measurements like this.
I was feeling pretty good about making the dress until the zipper. I installed an invisible zipper and it couldn’t hold the strain of holding that much of the seam together over my pear-shaped (I mean AWESOME shaped) hip-waist ratio, so I put in a hand stitched metal zipper instead, and it worked better, although the stitches at the bottom popped out when I wore it so I had to sport a safety pin that day, so there’s a repair to do already. Oh well, my next one will be better.


I’ve made myself a few skirts and easy tops recently, but it feels like a nice accomplishment to put together a dress, for some reason. Let’s hope there are more soon!

Matthew’s Texty Triangle Quilt

I already wrote about about the process of making this quilt, so today’s the day for lots of pictures of it all done! I took it along when we went blueberry picking last week, and it was hard not to just focus on the fluffy clouds and bright blue sky.

Triangle Quilt
Triangle Quilt
Triangle Quilt
Triangle Quilt
The black border is Chicopee ladder dot, and the binding is Cloud 9 scribble. 

Triangle Quilt Back

The quilting on this is not the best, but it’s because I wasn’t very careful with basting or getting the wrinkles out of the batting. The back has more text, numbers, ikea prints, and a few Miscellany scraps. There are folds, but I’m over it now.
The Quilt Holder + FriendAnd one last picture of my great quilt holder and favorite photo bomber!


Triangle Quilt in Progress

For the first time since last August, I have a quilt basted and under the needle for quilting. I have a few other finished tops and many others in progress, but this one took priority recently and I haven’t wanted to finish any of the others until this one was done. I’m not good at blogging the process of making a quilt (because I just want to get it done in the time I have) but I thought I’d take a blog post to share the instagrams I’ve taken along the way so it doesn’t look like it just came out of nowhere when I show the finished quilt (soon! hopefully very soon!). Sorry for poor picture quality – I sew late at night and in the winter I’m not home much during the daylight, so there’s not much opportunity for natural light photography!

Fabric stack – 24 Nov 2012

See how I pulled this stack before Christmas? I knew I wouldn’t finish it in time with the other stuff I was making, but that’s when the idea originated. It was fun to pull a stack of fabric for this quilt. I’m making it for my brother, who is a graphic designer and artist, so I knew he’d appreciate the text prints. There are several Julia Rothman Cloud 9 fabrics that I’ve always wanted to use in a triangle quilt, and this use is more interesting than one just limited to that line. I left out the prints that had pink in them to keep it more manly. There are several prints from last summer’s London line from Dear Stella, because he spent a semester in college living in the UK. I used the yellow dot to add some contrast to the design and keep things from being too busy. This size quilt used 14 different fabrics, but considering there are a couple half yards it would be 16 fat quarters.

Cutting – 2 March 2012

Somehow it took me 3 months to start cutting seriously! January and February saw very little craft time, and when I did have a little time I wanted to sit down and sew right away or see immediate results (like with baby dresses). The hardest part of making this quilt was cutting all those triangles. I like to jump right into sewing, and cut as I go or start with a whole bunch of strips or squares. This one required a little more precision. I used this 60 degree ruler (LINK) and chose to make them 6″ finished just because I could get the most out of a fat quarter that way (I would have loved to go bigger to speed things up, but didn’t want to waste more fabric). Cutting all of the dog-ears was time-consuming up front, but definitely helped with precision in piecing.

Finished cutting – 10 April 2012

If you’re interested in making a thousand pyraminds quilt yourself, Ebony Love had a cut-along for this pattern that just wrapped up that had a lot of great information. I bought the Sizzix isosceles die for future projects, although I’ll have to get better at eyeballing how to line them up because it doesn’t have the dog-ears cut already.

Triangle Sets – 26 April 2012

The toughest part of stitching was, of course, the bias edges. I had a pile that I unpicked and re-sewed because they weren’t quite right, but the good thing about the busy prints is that it helps hide the triangle points that got lost. I saw a good tip somewhere to stitch with the straight-edge fabric on the top and the bias on the bottom, if there’s a choice, and somehow the feed-dogs help ease things in.

Laid out rows – 30 April 2012

I didn’t lay this all out before I started sewing block sets because I don’t have a design wall – I just laid it out once I got to the stage of sewing rows. Somehow the dimensions I sketched out didn’t work in practice and I was missing at least a row of triangles, so I cut a few extras, and then decided to just go for a border. My brother is over 6 ft tall, and I wanted to make sure it was big enough to cover him completely. I think it’s going to be just shy of a double bed sized now.

Finished top – 24 May 2012

Here’s a peek of the finished top, because I don’t have a spot that’s far enough away in the house to get a picture of the whole thing. I think my desire to start sewing other things is going to motivate me to finish this up!


Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival 2013


While all the cool modern quilters are at QuiltCon in Austin this week, I visited my regional quilt show, the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival yesterday. So so much stuff that wasn’t my taste. It only took an hour for me to see everything I wanted to see, including shopping. The last time I went was three years ago and I found a lot more to be inspired by, but I was also a lot newer to quilting then.


It’s funny how when you spend time online reading blogs of modern quilters, you can start feeling like there’s nothing left original to do because other people are already making so much cool stuff. Here’s what I realized yesterday: the majority of quilters are still older ladies making traditional quilts, there are wide open opportunities for expanding people’s visions of modern quilts, and we all are thinking about essentially the same things, like fabric, thread, how to make our machines do what we want them to, etc.


Harue Konishi

There’s a modern quilt guild starting up locally that I haven’t gotten a chance to go to yet, but I’ve been following their blog. Looking at the pictures I was starting to feel like it would be just another group of older lady quilters who didn’t really understand what modern was, but I felt newly excited to go one day after seeing a couple things.


One was this quilt above, which was by someone in the VA Beach Modern Quilt Guild who was stretching herself to work with all solids, and had found this pattern (by John Adams aka quiltdad) in a Quilter’s Newsletter magazine and gone to the trouble of re-drafting it in EQ to make this size. The other was this quilt based on a Heather Jones pattern, which is so far from the original colors but still neat to see someone obviously stretching in a new direction.


My phone battery was dying so I don’t have the name of this quilter, but if I had voted for a fan favorite it would have been for this one from Fredericksburg, VA:


The other photos in this post are the vintage and art quilts that I enjoyed at the show.

Susan Lenz

Susan Lenz

IMAG0139IMAG0131This one’s really kind of amazing – 1930’s, and the gradation of blues is so cool.


Books of 2012

Without setting a goal, I read about twice as many books in 2012 as in 2011. Go figure – 3 months off of work plus a definite lack of sleep equals finishing more books! I read the Hunger Games and finished the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogies. I haven’t included crafting books (because there were probably too many to count), cookbooks (I don’t think I read any start to finish) or devotional books. Here’s the list, in case you don’t follow me closely on goodreads:

  1. The Girl Who Played with Fire, Steig Larsson
  2. The Bird Sisters, Rebecca Rasmussen
  3. The Secret Lives of Dresses, Erin McKean
  4. Then She Found Me, Elinor Lipman: so annoying, and they made a movie of it in the 80’s? weird.
  5. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins: did you know she used to be a writer for Nickelodeon?
  6. Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu, Lee Goldberg: Listened on CD, it was like a super long episode of the show
  7. Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me?, Mindy Kaling
  8. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
  9. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
  10. Let’s Panic About Babies, Alice Bradley & Eden Kennedy
  11. Whose Body?, Dorothy Sayers
  12. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Steig Larsson
  13. Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones
  14. The Memory Palace, Mira Bartok
  15. Kisses from Katie, Katie Davis: So amazing
  16. A Grown-up Kind of Pretty, Joshilyn Jackson
  17. Bloom, Kelle Hampton
  18. Orange Jumpsuit, Letters to the God of Freedom, Tarah Leigh-Cobble: Read this, seriously
  19. Oddfellow’s Orphanage, Emily Martin: definitely for younger audiences (so pass it on to the 3rd graders in your life!)
  20. Cold Tangerines, Shauna Niequist: I relate to her, makes me want to write more
  21. Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing, Kathy Cano-Murillo: light fiction about crafting. why isn’t there more of this?
  22. Bossypants, Tina Fey: may have been Carl’s first book on CD experience
  23. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls: reading this and The Memory Palace too close together is a lot on mental illness of mothers
  24. Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Stout: v good, not much else to say
  25. Sarah’s Key, Tatiana de Rosney: made it to book club! twice this year!
  26. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, Vendela Vida
  27. Caleb’s Crossing, Geraldine Brooks: Fascinating history of Native Americans at Harvard, made me want to know more about the same time period at W&M
  28. Riversong, Tess Thompson
  29. Love Walked In, Maria de los Santos
  30. A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan: listened on CD and didn’t actually finish it. I liked some characters a whole lot more than others, but those characters didn’t appear enough
  31. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer: nice quick read
  32. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro: not at all what I expected, but a really beautifully written book
  33. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood: a little ironic to read on a digital reader, yes?
  34. Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walters: I didn’t need both storylines in this book. It was about twice as long as it needed to be.
  35.  Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese: amazing. I’m afraid to read more of what he’s written, because it may not be as good. Super long, well researched, and well crafted all around.
  36. My Berlin Kitchen, Luisa Weiss: probably best read within the context of her blog, but I enjoyed it
  37. Heart of the Matter, Emily Giffin: ugh. no.
  38. Circle of Quilters, Jennifer Chiaverini: listened on my way to work and wished I could be quilting instead
  39. The Lotus Keeper, K.R. Dial: wannabe Grisham, but an important topic
  40. The 19th Wife, David Ebershoff: good book, but I didn’t really want to be reading about polygamy
What’s on your recommended reading list? I think I’m reading about 6 books right now, and the better the baby sleeps the less I’ll be reading, but I’d still love to hear what you think I should add in 2013!

Christmas Crafting

Christmas cards (bonus craft! we made these in MOPS)

I need to record all of the crafty things I made for Christmas that I couldn’t share on my blog before they were opened! I put most of them on instagram as I went since the recipients don’t check that, but I didn’t usually get better pictures before they were gifted. This year was fun because of all the babies to sew for!
baby blocks
I wanted to make blocks for the babies using these silky & textured Riley Blake fabrics I bought last summer. I have enough left to make some blankets for gifts, too. They were a lot more difficult to make than I thought they’d be and they’re pretty lumpy. I probably should have interfaced the silky sides and made them a little smaller so I could have stuffed them more firmly. I still need to sew closed the set of these for Becca.
baby pants
I also made E some pants from Made by Rae’s big butt baby pant pattern in a trailer print because I knew Shannon would like that. The plaid goes in the back (I guess I should have included a tag!). Bonus – now I have the pattern printed in the 6 mo size so I can make some for Becca, too.
Matching dresses for Becca and her cousin
These dresses (Oliver & S knit hopscotch dresses) were the most time-consuming thing I took on this Christmas. I made them matching for the two girls in the 6 month size, even though they probably won’t get a chance to wear them together. I love how they look finished, even with a few imperfections. The fabric is a modkid interlock stripe. I cut out a shirt for Becca too before I put the pattern away, so hopefully that will get sewn soon.
I also made a few baby headbands – I’ve been making them like crazy from these tutorials and using my Sizzix.
Mom requested a yellow toaster cover
My mom requested a yellow toaster cover – it was a pretty specific request on her list (maybe Meagan can make one!) so I took on the challenge. This is the kind of project that justifies a big stash (in my mind) – step 1: pick a pretty yellow fabric, step 2: realize that fussy cutting means you’re going to need more than a 1/2 yard, step 3: pick another piece of fabric a few years old that’s almost exactly the same shade of yellow. This would have turned out better if I had made piping to go around the corners (and maybe interfaced? I just don’t like to!), but it should do the trick. It was good that I double checked the measurements with my dad before I cut my quilted panels because otherwise it would have been too small for sure.
I'm a super awkward jewelry crafter, but this will have to do for my mom's gift (grandkid's initials)
I had these frame charms for awhile from pickyourplum knowing that they’d make a cute Grandma necklace, but not knowing exactly how to do that. I used diamond glaze on scrapbook paper, but the first batch were ruined because I didn’t coat the paper with gel medium first. I bought the rose charms from this etsy shop and a chain from JoAnns. Jewelry making feels really awkward for me – I buy beads and things and then get a huge mental block about how they should be combined, and never seem to have the right findings to make everything come together. Hopefully it doesn’t fall apart too quickly.
Fabric stack. We'll see how this one works out.
Slowly trimming dog ears
I started cutting fabric for a quilt for my brother, too, but it was taking a long time so I have permission from him to delay! I still may end up simplifying the design – it’s going to be a triangle quilt so maybe I just won’t make the triangles go all the way to the edges of the rows.


Noodlehead Tote

One of last weekend's projects

I made this 241 tote over Thanksgiving weekend when we decided not to travel anywhere. It probably would have been smarter to be working on my Christmas gift list, but this pattern had been on my list forever and it was ready to happen right then! The fabric is from Amy Butler’s Love line, and the squares are Anna Maria Horner. I didn’t include any zippers or magnetic clasps, but I did include the inside pocket.I used home dec fabric instead of interfacing on the inside. I’m planning many more of these in my head because I love the way the fabrics are feature together in this bag. I haven’t started using it yet because I feel a little silly about carrying something handmade to work (I don’t want to out my secret as a crazy crafter, although I’ve worn a few handmade things to the office).