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!


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