December 31, 2022

Handmade Christmas Gifts

I didn't have a lot of time to devote to handmade gifts this holiday season, but I did manage a few. First up is a mug rug with a sweet foundation paper-pieced butterfly that I made for a mug rug swap at my quilt guild's holiday party.

The butterfly block is one of 3 free patterns from Lilyella Stitchery, her butterfly charm blocks available here. It was the perfect charm (5") size to frame out and turn into a rectangle mug rug. I did some simple walking foot quilting and was happy with the result. I thought the dark teal scrap fabric background was interesting but also set the butterfly off nicely. 

The other gifts I made for two friends took a little (a lot) longer. I learned how to knit socks in 2020, and these make pairs #5 and #6. I finished the purple pair around June and started the black and white pair in July on a road trip to Florida for a family Disney cruise. Both are made with Patons Kroy sock yarn and a go-to basic ribbed sock pattern that I found on Ravelry. I used my acrylic sock blockers for the first time and was happy with the shape they gave the socks. I'll use them again on a pair for myself and see if I notice any difference in how they fit or wear.

November 30, 2022

My Patchwork Chore Coat


One of my sewing/quilting goals for the year was to make 3 garments, and finishing this quilt coat this fall allowed me to check that item off my list. It was definitely the most complicated garment I've ever made -- and the first time I've made buttonholes, too (not sure what I was so worried about with those). So how did I get to this finished coat?

Earlier this year, a member of my local quilt guild came to a meeting wearing a quilt coat she had recently finished. Everyone was appropriately impressed, and there was some interest in turning quilt coats into a guild program. After some discussion, we scheduled a day retreat in September where members who wanted to make themselves a quilt coat could bring their pattern and textile and sew in community -- no formal instruction, just support and encouragement to actual make the thing instead of just think about it forever.

For my coat, I chose the Patchwork & Poodles Patchwork Chore Coat pattern. Designer Eliane has created a comfortable, boxy coat pattern that I thought would be a nice casual addition to my wardrobe and a good weight for fall in East Tennessee. You can see all of her iterations here. I didn't want anything too wild for my first coat (because I might hesitate to wear something really bold, and after all the work of making it, I didn't want it to hang in the closet forever), so I decided to combine a solid body with a pieced back. Pretty quickly, I landed on Essex yarn-dyed linen in black for the body because it would be a little heavier weight than quilting cotton, neutral and easy to pair with piecing. For the back, I chose the foundation paper-pieced pattern Twinkle by Amy Friend from the book Scraps, Inc. The blocks finish at 6 inches, and I thought that scale would be a good fit for the back of my coat.

With the body fabric and piecing design in place, I pulled a few different combinations of fabrics for the back. I ended up choosing the orchid purple/pink colorway because it would complement the piecing design and be colorful without being too wild (for me).

I turned out that I had a lot more fabric in this color than I would have guessed. After I pulled it all out (more than is pictured above), I only added one more to the mix, which I ordered along with my lining fabric. I love foundation paper piecing because it's methodical and produces precise results, and I love Amy's block pattern because she does all the work of telling you what size fabric to cut for each piece in the pattern. It saves so much time and error when all the pieces are already cut to fit.

I chose dark and light gray prints for the stars/points where the blocks meet up. I pieced 25 blocks for a 5 x 5 layout, producing a panel big enough to cut out the coat back pattern piece. Even though my panel was not centered, there was enough room to center the pattern piece on it, which was a welcome surprise.

I outsourced the quilting to a local longarmer to make things quick and stress-free. I gave her essentially a mini quilt (the pieced back with floral lining) and a whole-cloth quilt (the yarn-dyed linen with floral lining). She used medium gray thread and a pantograph called Rosemary that I had seen on Instagram and loved. The delicate design looks random but has good coverage without being too dense or too loose. After I got the quilted pieces back, I washed and dried them to allow for shrinkage and then laid out the pattern pieces to make a plan before cutting. I had some seams that I wanted to avoid, so I had to be strategic.

At the retreat, I began piecing and binding my coat. I sewed the binding on by machine but then finished it by hand, so that took more time than actually assembling the coat. It definitely wasn't fun sewing some of that binding over thick seams in awkward places, but it's worth it in the end to have clean, finished seams throughout.

After the sleeves were on and bound and the front edge was bound as well, all that was left to do was add closures. I considered toggles but found some buttons that I liked, but I've never made buttonholes, and the thought of doing so on this coat -- after all the work that had gone into it --  made me nervous. So I wore it around for about a month, holding it closed, before I decided to just do the buttons already. I figured out how to make the buttonholes on my machine and did a few tests ... and then did a few more to make sure I was happy with thread and placement. I had to unpick one side of one pocket to accommodate the buttonhole (and then sew it back down afterward), but that was the only hiccup in the process. I took a deep breath before cutting the buttonholes open, too, because there's no going back!

My sister, a nonquilter who was skeptical of how a quilt coat would end up looking and how I could possibly make it cool, took these photos for me and has admitted that, yeah, it turned out pretty cool. Will I make another? Maybe. Will it be wild(er)? Possibly.

October 28, 2022

Good Morning Sunshine Pillow

Earlier this year I converted my guest room into a full-time home office, replacing a bed that took up most of the room with an olive green velvet sleeper sofa from Edloe Finch. (The back lays down like a futon, but it looks much more like a regular sofa than the typical futon. It's firm but comfortable.) After months of it looking pretty bare, I decided to start making toss pillows for the sofa. For the first one, I used a template from the Good Morning Sunshine free quilt pattern from Heather Ross and Windham Fabrics:

I resized one sunburst template to fit a rectangle down pillow insert that I already had on hand. The toughest part was figuring out the rays -- what colors to use and in what order. I decided on a neutral background with the cutest tiny rainbows on it (from this bundle that I picked up at local Mountain Creek Quilt Shop) and a collection of solid raspberry, pink and coral scrap strips. The mustard yellow sun is also a scrap.

For the back, I pulled out a fat quarter of Tula Pink lady bugs that couldn't be a more perfect color match. I'm not sure how I got so lucky, but it pays to have a fabric stash! I also decided to put a zipper in the bottom seam in case I ever want to remove and change or wash the cover. I used this tutorial from Wren Collective and it worked like a dream.

I'm really happy with how this pillow turned out, and it looks so nice on the sofa every time I enter my home office. Now I'm brainstorming other pillows to add and considering a knitted or crocheted one to add some texture. I'm sure there will be more quilted pillows, too!

September 30, 2022

Works in Progress

This month I decided to put together a snapshot of my current quilting and sewing projects that are all in various stages of completion. Quilters usually call them WIPs (works in progress) or UFOs (unfinished objects). The projects below aren't all of them, but they're at the top of my To Do list and I'm hoping to finish them within the next couple of months. After these are complete, maybe I'll do another post with a second batch of WIPs!

Lucy Boston Quilt

This isn't my oldest WIP, but it's definitely my favorite. It's English paper pieced and all sewn by hand. I started it in 2017 with a little kit I threw together to take with me to Dallas to visit my friend Eryn, her family and her twin newborns. Those kiddos are in school now! And my quilt is pretty close to being finished! I just need to choose a backing and quilting plan. I can't decide if I should hand quilt it -- given that it's hand pieced, do it matter to me to be able to say it's 100% hand sewn? -- or if I'd be happier with an allover longarm quilting design (and a faster finish). If I hand quilt it, I have no idea what design to use...

Fishing Net Quilt

I made this one with the intention of submitting it to my guild's quilt show in March of next year. The large scale and graphic use of color fit the modern quilt aesthetic. Bonus - it was really quick to make. The pattern is from Suzy Quilts, and I made the baby size using fabric from my stash. It's basted and just needs quilted and bound. I'll be hand quilting it using big stitches and color-matched perle cotton thread.

Solstice Roses Mini Quilt

Last year I bought a couple clearance kits from Quilty Box (RIP), and I decided to make this EPP design from Paper Pieces and Sally Kelly first. The kit came with EPP papers, an acrylic diamond template, a pack of charm squares in Sally's Soltice prints plus some solids and thread (although using my standard EPP thread for the project). I only had one issue with the fabric and had to purchase one more print to finish the piecing -- the caramel brown one by Kathy Doughty. After I get all the large hexagons in place, I'll decide what to use as the background, as the pieced element gets appliqued onto a background for finishing. (The kit minus fabric is still available here.)

Neitherlands Quilt

In 2019, my mom and I attended QuiltCon in Nashville and took the Mystery Quilt Workshop with Jen Carlton Bailly (aka @bettycrockerass). We got copies of two of Jen's new patterns at the time, Find Your Fade and Neitherlands, a big set of curvy templates in various sizes, and the choice of patterns to work on in the workshop. We both decided to make a Neitherlands block, and I finished one during our time with Jen. I made one more block when I returned home, but then I packed the project away and put it on a shelf ... until last month. I pulled the project box out again, grabbed some fabric, miscut that fabric as I knew I would (the templates and pattern are a little tricky to sort out when you haven't worked on it in a while) and then found my groove. I made 4 blocks and plan to make 3 more for a 60 x 60" quilt. Needless to say, I'm feeling pretty confident about sewing curves these days.

August 26, 2022

Macaron Mystery Quilt


In July 2021, I decided to participate in the Macaron Mystery Quilt sew-along organized by Cheryl Brickey of Meadow Mist Designs. For years, Cheryl has designed a quilt, generously shared the pattern for free and organized an annual quilt-along for people who would like to make the quilt in (virtual) community. (After the series ends, quilters can purchase a complete, easy-to-follow pattern if they don't want to work through each individual post from the quilt-along.)

I was in the mood for a low-stress project with a leisurely timeline -- each step of this quilt-along is published at the beginning of the month, so there's plenty of time to get caught up in between -- and I wanted to be able to use fabric already in my stash. This project began in July with a fabric pull, so I gathered my spotted background plus peaches, greens, turquoises and hot pinks. In August, I visited friends in Indianapolis and snagged a coordinating floral backing on sale at a local fabric shop, The French Seam. It was nice to have the perfect backing ready and waiting when I finally got to the stage where I needed it.

The monthly assignments took us through cutting and then piecing with each color and finally assembling blocks and the final quilt top. There was an active Facebook group (actually I think it's really active all year long!) of participants to share photos and get/give advice and kudos. Cheryl posted that there were 189 versions of the Macaron Mystery Quilt shared in her end-of-project photo parade. That's impressive engagement!

My finished quilt top was large enough that I didn't want to try basting and quilting it myself, so I took advantage of the "penny special" from longarmer Sterling LaBosky, @sterlingquiltco in Instagram, whom I have used before. Her monthly deal was this cute edge-to-edge flower design -- it's something that I never would have chosen on my own, but it brings a lot of whimsy to the quilt. I love how it turned out.

July 30, 2022

Quilt Concert: First Notes

Last summer, I joined a sew-along for the First Notes quilt, a pattern co-designed by Lissa and Cassandra. It caught my attention because it features all kinds of different block designs in different sizes, which isn't really something I've done before. My fabric choices were all from my stash, which may be why they're a little wild and crazy -- lots of Rifle Paper Co. florals plus blenders and crossed fingers that it would all make sense together in the end.

The sew-along pace was one block per week, released on Fridays, and that turned out to be a pretty good fit for my schedule. I made most of my blocks over the weekends and didn't feel rushed.

It's interesting to see the blocks individually first. In my finished quilt, all the florals kind of muddy the design a bit and you lose track of some of the blocks.

At the start of the series, Lissa and Cassandra provided a coloring sheet that turned out to be tremendously helpful for me. It helped me figure out what fabric I'd be putting where before I cut anything out, and then I used it frequently as a reference to make sure I was everything was in the right place.

Around this time, I wanted to see how things were starting to come together, so I put the blocks up on my design wall. Interesting!

Then it was back to making blocks, with some large ones and some small ones and some just filling in the gaps.

That pinwheel above, which is pretty small, is one of my favorites. I used that caramel-colored print in another project and was happy to incorporate it here, too. I never would have expected that color to be so useful, but now I keep an eye out for it to add to my stash. It's the perfect warm, not-brown blender.

And that's all of them! So how do they look all together? Like I said earlier, pretty wild, but it's good to push your boundaries every once in a while, right?

I used a bright navy solid for the backing (from my stash) and free motion quilted it myself using a variegated blue thread. I dealt with many, many thread breaks and was very close to losing my patience, but I persevered and got it done. It's not perfect, but it's finished. 

From the beginning, I knew I would donate this quilt to a child in need through Project Linus, so I look forward to dropping it off for distribution soon. I don't think I'll ever use quite so many busy prints all in the same quilt, but it was good experience.


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