April 26, 2022

Barn Block Mini Quilt: March

Waiting to pick up someone at the airport = perfect time for stitching

Last year I started making mini quilts in the style of barn blocks using patterns from designer This & That. You can see my first two here. Obviously I'm pretty far off schedule as far as the months go, but I'm still enjoying the projects, so I plan to keep working through my pattern (and fabric) stash. Mini quilts are satisfying because they take so much less time to complete than larger quilts, but working with small pieces is still challenging, so these have been pleasant skill builders for me.

One thing I really like about this block is that little border detail, with the squares in the corners. It's a nice variation on the standard, straight border. Very cute.

That busy print around the center and in the border had to go

This is the March block. After cutting everything out, I changed the fabric around the center square and border because my original choice was too busy and didn't provide enough visual contrast. I'm really happy with how these fabrics all came together -- all three of them are kind of unusual and hard to match and coordinate. I think I just got lucky that I had the right complements to make them all work.

Much better!

For the quilting, I decided to do this one all by hand. There are French knots, big stitch straight lines, little dashes and x's. It all adds texture without being too distracting, and I was able to dig into my late grandmother's box of embroidery floss to find some of the colors I needed.

March 27, 2022

Star Pop Quilt

This quilt was an energizing project to work on during the depths of winter -- it gave me summer vibes and brightened my sewing room up considerably. The pattern is from Emily Dennis of Quilty Love (available to purchase here), and I bought it pretty much as soon as it was released because it's layer cake-friendly. (Those are 10-inch precut squares, for anyone who doesn't know.) I have a few layer cakes in my fabric stash, and they can be a little tricky to use because, well, they're 10-inch squares and it doesn't seem like there are a lot of things to do with that. But this pattern proves that you can, in fact, do a lot. (You can see all of Emily's Star Pops here.) I made the throw size, which uses one layer cake.

I used a Tula Pink layer cake because I loved all the vibrant colors and prints. When I started this quilt, all the Star Pops I was seeing on Instagram featured one fabric (usually a neutral) in the stars. A few of the Tula Pink prints are on a white background, so I didn't want to put a white star next to those prints and have everything blend together. So I started to consider colored stars, and then I pulled out lots of solid fat quarters in colors that complemented the prints. It was a "use what you have" moment of inspiration, and I'm really happy with the result. And it was more fun and more interesting to sew all the different combinations. I did have to do a little planning, however, to ensure that I paired the solids with the right prints to make the overall pattern work. But that's what the coloring sheets that Emily provides with her pattern are for!

After cutting, I put everything up on my design wall, starting with the solids according to my star map and then filling in the gaps with the prints. It was tricky to position similar prints and colors away from each other, and there are a couple in the finished quilt that I probably would have shifted around, but overall it works.

As I sewed the half-square triangles with solids and prints, I was able to start assembling the stars on the blocks on the wall and see how the stars were coming together. This is usually my favorite part of the quilt process.

Another thing I like about this project is that it was very easy to work on in small chunks of time. I could sew some pieces, press HSTs or assemble a block or two and then walk away and come back to it later. So it's a good one if you have a day job and want to sew a little to relax in the evening but can't handle getting fully immersed every time.

Pretty soon I had a finished quilt top, and I decided to stick with the theme of bright colors and use my solids stash to make a pieced backing. I don't often love how my pieced backings turn out (sometimes there's just something not right about them), but I didn't overthink this one. And it turned out great. Maybe that's the lesson!

For the quilting, I decided to try a new-to-me design on my domestic machine, making short and tall loops across the quilt horizontally and using the blocks as my guide. I used bright orange thread, again keeping with the colorful theme. It shows up in some places more than others, but any thread was going to do that. So why not make it orange!

The binding was also made using solid scraps. I couldn't resist taking more photos than usual of this burst of color on my backyard fence.

(That maple tree started as a seed that landed in a potted plant on my parents' deck a few years ago. They let it grow there until it was finally big enough for its own pot, and after a few bigger pots, it finally made its way into my yard.)

February 28, 2022

Inside-Outside Pouch

This month's finish is another bag -- actually the third I've made from this pattern and the one I'm keeping for myself.

The pattern is the Inside-Outside Pouch from bag/pouch/organizer designer extraordinaire Aneela Hoey. This pouch was on my list of sewing/quilting goals for 2021, so I pulled it out to make for my quilt guild's holiday gift swap. After finishing the first one, I decided to make one for my mom and one for myself, so I cut and sewed both at the same time, knowing that I wouldn't want to go back to the beginning and start all over again with each one.

There's a boxed bottom with a large center compartment, plus two narrower zipper compartments on either side with clear plastic so you can easily see what's inside. Construction was pretty easy to follow, but the very last step of hand binding around the side panels was the least pleasant. It was tricky to get into the corners, and the only curved needle I was able to find was too large to do the job. And that's why I just finished my last pouch this week after putting that binding step off for, oh, two months. :) Here it is out in the wild while I was waiting to pick up my mom at the airport:

Here are the other two -- the peach one for my mom and the hot pink/black/white one for my guild swap:

January 20, 2022

Laptop Bag

I've needed a bag for my laptop since I bought it a few years ago. Every time I would take my computer somewhere, I'd think, "Ugh I really need a bag for this." But then I'd forget until the next time. I considered buying one, but the well-padded ones aren't cheap, and I knew I could make one -- I even had a pattern that I'd used to make a bag for my mom 9 years ago! After traveling with my computer for the holidays this year and being frustrated with myself yet again, I decided it was finally time to get sewing.

The pattern I used is the Gadget Guard from Dog Under My Desk. I love the simplicity of the design, the snug fit and the fact that there's a picture for almost every step. For someone who only makes bags and pouches occasionally, this is very reassuring and helpful. Also, with more recent projects and especially bags, I've found that I get much less intimidated and frustrated if I spread the work out over a span of time. So this bag took me about a week of doing a few steps at a time and walking away when I made a mistake (sometimes repeatedly!) or got frustrated.

I chose two old-school Cotton + Steel (now Ruby Star Society) fabrics from my stash, paired with black zippers and a cool Alison Glass zipper pull that I found at my local quilt shop. I love how the bag turned out, and I feel good about finally tackling a project that I've been putting off for years. Not a bad way to start off the year!

December 31, 2021

Layer Bars Quilt

Recently I was in between bigger, more complicated projects and sort of at loose ends, and I was feeling the itch to cut and sew something -- anything -- without thinking about it too much. Just mindless making. So I went to my stash and pulled out a 10" layer cake of Carolyn Friedlander's Gleaned fabric in the blue/gray/black/white colorway and quickly came up with a plan. 

I cut some of the blocks in half and started alternating them on my design wall. But keeping some blocks at 10" square didn't look right, so I just cut everything in half and this Layer Bars quilt was born. I added a couple of other Carolyn Friedlander pieces I had in my stash to fill in a few of the gaps, but otherwise this came from one stack.

I pieced the top quickly and put it in the closet to be finished later for donation to Project Linus. Then I was contacted by an event planner looking for a quilter to set up at a United Way donor event. I agreed to attend as a representative of the Knoxville Modern Quilt Guild, displaying both guild quilts and some of my own.

She said there would be a silent auction with items from the other artists attending -- a painter, a potter and a stained glass maker -- and asked if I'd consider adding something. After I joked that, well, quilts don't come together overnight or even over a couple of days (at least they don't for me), I remembered that I had Layer Bars in the closet.

I used part of a new black and white gingham bedsheet (also from my stash) for the backing to keep the lap quilt neutral and hopefully more appealing to more event attendees. I quilted it with straight lines to match the clean, linear piecing.

The quilt got a lot of compliments at the event, and one attendee even put in his bid and then came back later to add another one -- I hope he went home with it. I left the event before the silent auction was officially closed, but the bidding was at $300 when last I checked. I haven't received word of the final amount, but I'm glad I was able to contribute to the local United Way's efforts. If I hadn't already had the quilt top waiting in the wings, I'm not sure I could have pulled a quilt together in time.

November 25, 2021

Shivaun Place Bonus Scrap Quilt

In 2020, I finally finished the Shivaun Place quilt that I'd been working on for a couple of years. The pattern by Sassafras Lane Designs is really clever in that it includes a second smaller quilt pattern to make using the trimmings. The half square triangles and quarter square triangles come together in the sweet pinwheel pattern seen above. Below is the original Shivaun Place:

A few of my trimmings must have disappeared in the process of making the original quilt, so I had to remake a couple of peach floral pinwheels, but luckily I still had enough fabric left over to fill in those gaps. I also added a border to make it a little larger. The peach was left from a bedsheet that I used as backing on another quilt. 

For the back, I used up some coordinating Rifle Paper Co. fabrics from my stash. Same for the binding - use it up! I did my trusty free-motion quilting design -- an allover meander with occasional loops -- on my domestic Juki.

I think I'll hold onto this one for a little while before deciding whether or not to donate it to Project Linus, the usual recipient of my smaller quilts.

October 31, 2021

Halloween Economy Block Quilt

This quilt started out as a way to use up Halloween fabric scraps left from at least three other projects I made for friends -- specifically, sisters who are my good friends and whose birthdays are just before Halloween, making them big fans of the holiday. 

Microwave bowl holders


I wanted a project that would be easy and pretty mindless to sew while using scraps in a variety of different sizes, including some triangles I'd cut for the pillow above and not used. It's been a while since I've done any economy blocks, aka square in a square, so I found a free foundation paper piecing template for 6" finished squares and printed out some copies. I sewed, pressed and trimmed over and over while watching Netflix, and soon I had used up all the scraps that were big enough and fit my general color placement plans.

I had an idea along the way that I would give this quilt to my friend Bethany (one of the sisters) as a birthday present, but her personal style is more edgy and dark than what I would normally reflect in a quilt, so I needed to keep this quilt moody. I pulled out a bolt of Michael Miller Cotton Couture in Ocean that I bought a while back when I could occasionally get good deals on bolts of solids. The hand is so silky, and the color was a perfect complement to the colors in the blocks.

After planning out the sashing, I moved on to borders. To keep things looking more modern, I decided to use wide borders in varying widths so that the panel of blocks would be off-center. I built the design in EQ8 (it took forever!) and played around with the dimensions until I had something I liked. I tweaked this plan a little when it came to cutting the strips, deciding to make the quilt a little bigger with wider borders. Having a whole bolt of solid border fabric on hand was very convenient, as I knew I wouldn't run out of fabric!

For the backing, I bought a black and gray text print (in German) at my local quilt shop, but there was not quite enough to cover the whole pieced back, so I had to add a bit to the bottom corner. I auditioned a few options but ended up using a piece of haunted houses that appeared in a few of the economy blocks.

I tried a new local longarmer and chose an allover design that, to me, looks like swirling smoke. It looks so good in the wide border fabric and adds just the right amount of texture and movement. The quilter used dark gray thread, and I used more of the MM Ocean solid as binding for a clean, seamless finish on the front.

I took photos outside before and after washing and drying the quilt to compare the crinkling. Unfortunately, the post-wash photos are marred by the shadow of a tree in my backyard! Needing to get this gift in the mail to arrive in time for my friend's birthday, I couldn't wait for an overcast day to try again, so the photos that follow are unwashed. The finished size is approximately 60 x 70".


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