Wednesday, May 30, 2012

WIP PIP - Work in Progress, Purse in Progress

God Save the Queen!

It seems very un-American to utter that phrase after a pretty nationalistic holiday such as the one this past Monday, but in other ways, the timing of this project is just fine, what with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee coming up this weekend. I'm making this bag for an Anglophile friend who just completed her Masters degree at the University of Minnesota a couple of weeks ago. I hope she'll love it!

Fabric: from the "Cool Britannia" line by Benartex

For an ironic twist, I started cutting this purse out while watching the movie Braveheart, which is all about the dreadfulness of the English. I doubt William Wallace would have found this circumstance as funny as I did.

I'm sharing this British-themed goodness on Freshly Pieced's WIP-Wednesday link party.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Quilting Idol

I'm quite new to the world of quilting and quilt blogs, so I am perfectly aware that I've only dipped my toe into the ocean of online chronicles that are out there. But sometimes I have to laugh at the many recurring themes or tendencies that crop up on blog after quilt blog. The one that struck me most recently is the absolute obsession many quilters have for certain designers of fabric or patterns.

OMG it's Denyse Schmidt: everybody freak out!

No exaggeration, it's like Bieber-level hysteria, just with carefully-coiffed stay-at-home mom bloggers, not screaming pre-teens. 

With the tidal wave of (much enjoyed) Quilt Market recaps this week, there has been a major dose of this idol worship. I've noticed that this takes one of two forms:

1. Fabric Idol: "_______'s newest fabric collection is TO DIE FOR!!! Like always. I have never seen orange fabric before. Well, not like this anyway. I love the stripes, the plaid, and the teeny tiny dots which are soooo cute! Also, there are narwhals, people. NARWHALS."

2. Designer Idol: "I met ____________* and she was kind enough to take a photo with me!!! I couldn't believe I was meeting her, it was a dream come true! She was so kind, considerate, and genuine. I also heard that she saved four puppies on the way to Quilt Market and that she donated a kidney to a Guatemalan orphan last week!"

*Designer's name must be in all caps and have at least three exclamation points. There are standards here.

My snark aside, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. Any hobby that people are passionate about (like quilting!) is going to result in passionate reactions to figures of note within the hobby. Perhaps down the road I'll have my own favorites I start to obsess over and I'll look back at this post and laugh at my naïveté.

Let's just not go down the road of tribute tattoos, mmmk? No one needs Summersville inked on their back for all time.


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Monday, May 14, 2012

Backyard Baby Boy

Here's my next project--a little boy quilt using the adorable "Backyard Baby" collection from Patty Sloniger for Michael Miller.

I'm excited to see the finished product!

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Friday, May 11, 2012

All Framed Up Baby Quilt

Well, here it is: my first attempt at quilting! A sweet little baby quilt for my best friend's first baby.

The colors were what she had requested during her baby shower, so I let that guide my selection, and I have to say, I like her taste! The turquoise and lime green are sweet and happy, but not too girly-girl. And I love the design of the quilt--modern, and it really makes the bright colors pop. (Directions for this pattern can be found here.)

In retrospect, this was probably not the ideal first quilt. I looked at it and thought "Oh, it's all straight lines and squares! How hard can that be?" Hard, it turns out. Sewing together the center four patches went smoothly, but joining together the framing strips of squares turned out to be a bit more difficult-- they stretched out, and with so many seams, there were plenty of opportunities for inaccuracies to mount. I ended up having to do a fair amount of easing in order to line them up, and I did have some puckers, but I decided I didn't care that much, and neither would the baby. :) Now that I've tackled this once, it's a pattern I would probably use again, but maybe I'll wait until I try a few other quilts first!

I used turquoise flannel on the back. This was largely a nostalgic choice, as my aunt made a quilt for me when I was born that was backed with pink flannel, and I loved sleeping with my "fuzzy" quilt as a child. The downside, of course, is that a plain back showed my not-yet-impressive quilting skills in all of their, uh, glory:

Ah well.

I went the simple route with the quilting, being too nervous to try something else and on a bit of a time crunch. This would have looked pretty with all-over quilting, or even just straight lines over it, but I went with stitch in the ditch (which was a little harder than I thought it would be!) I'll try something else on my next baby quilt. I think quilting is the most intimidating part of this whole process to me, but I'm sure I will get better at it.

--Easy to figure out spacing since I was following the existing pattern of the blocks.

--So much turning of the quilt! Yikes.
--Straight lines can be harder than they look.

I thought laying out the quilt was a lot of fun. The most appealing aspects of quilting to me are the fabrics and colors, so I loved getting that first glimpse of what it would look like when it was finished. My cat loves this part too--you can see a threatening paw in the top right corner of this photo.

Adding in the sashing strips was fun too. I didn't have a lot of trouble lining up the sashing and posts with the blocks (a testament to my mother's assistance in squaring up the blocks, which were pretty off after all of the stretching and easing I did!)

My binding choice was unremarkable, but I think it looks nice. It was just one of the medium-range turquoises I used in the quilt. In the future, I think I'll play around more with prints and stripes in the bindings, but it seemed scary on this one! I accidentally used a machine binding tutorial, but sewed it by hand-- this meant that I sewed with the machine on the back first, and then did hand tacking on the front! Oops. Fortunately, my hand stitching is pretty neat, and it looked fine at the end. It took me a long time to sew on, and I watched almost half of the first season of Deadwood while sewing it on! Wild West whorehouses, gambling, violence, and a neatly hand-stitched quilt binding. What a hobby. :) 

Since I'm new to this, it seems right to list some of the big lessons I learned with this quilt.

1. Just because there are only straight lines doesn't mean that a quilt is "easy." Lots of seams can really complicate things! One should be prepared to be very, very accurate and to know that there will probably be some difficulty getting things to "fit" due to stretch and inaccuracy.

2. Stitch-in-the-ditch has its appeal, but it's not necessarily the easiest method of quilting--or the fastest.

3. No matter how things look when it's going together, it will probably look ok when it's done. I looked at some of my blocks when I was making them and wanted to cry because they looked so off-kilter or had so many puckers. At the end of the project, the overall effect was still a good one, in spite of the inaccuracies and mistakes.

4. When hand-stitching a binding, machine-stitch to the front first, not the back.

5. Most importantly--perfection isn't required! I can be a perfectionist in some parts of my life, but early in this project I was able to abandon that expectation. I decided that this was my first quilt and that I was just going to forge ahead and see what happened, since it was pretty unrealistic to expect perfection at this point. And you know what? I loved how it looked. There are some strips that are different sizes than others. There are a LOT of puckers on the front. My stitch-in-the-ditch veered out of the ditch routinely. This sucker isn't winning any quilt shows. But the overall effect is great, the colors are lovely, and--most importantly--my best friend loved that I had taken the time to make a gift like this for her baby. 

At the end of the day, I am very proud of my first quilt!

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