The luck of the Irish

Just a quick post to show you my finished baby quilt featuring shamrock-themed fabrics. This is probably the easiest and quickest quilt I’ve ever made, and even though it’s really simple in design, for me, that’s part of its charm. Sometimes it’s nice just to show off the fabric, rather than the construction.

contentmediaexternalimagesmedia36 Here’s a look at the back:

contentmediaexternalimagesmedia37My favorite part is the binding. I don’t know about you, but it seems more often than not that the binding is the part I like best on any of my quilts or blanket projects. I love adding a pop of color to tie the whole thing together and when I saw the yellow line running through the argyle fabric, I knew that color would be the perfect choice.

I hope you’re having a wonderful week. Thanks so much for stopping by!



Stop, start and almost finish

It was a long and stressful week at work, but thankfully, a four-day weekend with lots of sewing has been just the ticket to set things right.

Somehow, though, I couldn’t seem to stick to one project. I spent the first day trimming 253 hourglass blocks, which sounds like a lot, and it was, but I got into a groove, and it wasn’t too bad. My new rotating cutting board was a huge help.

253 blocksFor what I have in mind, I’ll need to see the whole quilt, both up close and from a distance, in order to decide where each block should go. Given that it will finish at 81″ square, I’m going to need a large space, and I wasn’t up for the challenge of moving things around to get it.

Instead, I went back to a WIP, a set of nine-patch blocks using 1930s-style fabric. It’s “Aunt Grace Friends Around the World,” by Judie Rothermel for Marcus Brothers. I’ve had it about 10 years and have already made one queen-sized quilt for a friend and a baby quilt for another. Amazingly, I think I have enough to make an oversized queen quilt for my bed, if I find something else for the back.

I didn’t get much done on it – just five blocks from two strips of fabric:


What I love about this fabric, other than it being ’30s style, is that each one is named after a country. The orange one is for Turkey and the yellow with tiny squares is for Italy. I’ve had a lot of fun picking sets based on friends I’ve had from a particular place or the ones I’ve visited. Here’s a close up:

elephant blockAs you can see, even though I’ve completed 80 blocks already, even with some of the sashing, I still have quite a ways to go:

contentmediaexternalimagesmedia39 contentmediaexternalimagesmedia40 contentmediaexternalimagesmedia41 I couldn’t stick with this one, either. While taking a break, I started going through my Pinterest files (check me out at The Crabby Editor) and came across a simple striped baby quilt. I had been looking for something to make with some shamrock fabric I had bought a couple of years ago for a project that didn’t pan out, and thought it would be perfect for this quilt.

The Oklahoma City MQG is accepting donations for victims of the devastating tornado, and they’re calling it Moore Love. One of the most heartbreaking stories to me was of the young mother with her seven-month old infant, killed while hiding in an empty chest freezer she thought would protect them. I just kept thinking about them and praying for them and the others affected by the tragedy while I made this, praying for peace and love and hope, and that my small offering could help in some way.

contentmediaexternalimagesmedia44Here’s the detail on the fabric (I always love how quilts look so different from a distance as opposed to close up.):

contentmediaexternalimagesmedia46I haven’t quite finished yet, I’m still in the quilting stage. On the argyle, I’m doing large triangles, using the diagonal lines as a guide. For the shamrocks on mottled green, I’m doing an all over stipple, which I really need to practice. And for the green dots, I’m not 100 percent sure, but probably something modern like concentric squares.

Here’s the back:

contentmediaexternalimagesmedia48-1Thankfully, this has gone much easier than my last project, even with the high-loft batting I’m using (not my first choice, but it was what I had in the house), and I haven’t had to rip anything out yet – major bonus!

I hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day here in the U.S. and perhaps take a little time to remember not just our veterans, but all who serve their nations proudly.



How to work an alphabet sampler

When I stitch a sampler, I like follow a plan that’s worked well for me over the years, adapting it as needed for each piece. Let me show you with a sampler I finished a few years ago:

First, I go over the pattern, making sure I can read the symbols and that there aren’t any errors. I try and start with the designer’s website (if there is one) and see if they’ve published any errata, or corrected mistakes.

Then, I go over the pattern myself, making sure I can see the symbols clearly and that there aren’t any additional mistakes. Since the pattern is just a starting point, I don’t believe I have to stitch it exactly as written, particularly when it comes to spacing. I mark any changes I want to make on the pattern, so I don’t forget about them later.

mod animal sampler
“Birds and Beasties, Ninety-second exemplary” by Sheepish Designs. Sadly, the company seems to be out of the design business, at least under that name.

Many samplers have a border or some kind of anchor that you can use as a starting point. I like beginning with this first, because it sets up your work space and makes it easier to count the rest of the piece.

This is especially true when you stitch on linen — my favorite — because unlike Aida cloth, where it’s easy to see the squares and where to place your needle, linen is uneven and doesn’t have the nice clear holes Aida does. For me, that’s why I love it; it’s a cleaner, more sophisticated look.

I try to be extremely careful when I stitch this part, since I don’t want to get it all done only to find I’m one or two stitches off. Believe me, it’s happened! I count it repeatedly while I’m stitching and several times after I’m done until I’m convinced I have the exact number in the right place. If there’s a problem, it’s better to work it out then instead of waiting till later.

With what will become my largest alphabet sampler to date, “And They Sinned,” by Vilma Becklin of Exemplar Dames, there wasn’t a simple overall border, and since the piece is so large (about 17″ x 48″) I chose to work a mini-border just underneath one of the alphabets.

aTS_alphabetHaving the strawberry vine done gave me an anchor point for counting, as did the green chevron line below the larger alphabet.

Next, I like to stitch any sayings or phrases that might be included.

"Laughter Brings Sunshine," by Dimensions. Finished 1982.
“Laughter Brings Sunshine,” a stamped piece by Dimensions. Finished 1982.

Once I finish any letters, I work on the remaining motifs centered in the sampler. Just as I did with the alphabet, I’ll find a spot to use as an anchor point (in the sampler above, it’s the flower pot) and then move on to the parts that aren’t as easily stitched in a continuous fashion.

I usually work all the stitches in a particular color for the whole section, e.g., all the dark green vines, the medium green vines, the yellow petals, etc. If there aren’t many color changes, I’ll keep a needle threaded in each one and place them on a magnet holder nearby so I don’t have to stop and re-thread.

Lastly, I’ll complete any motifs that are part of the border (again, usually stitching one color at a time) before signing my name.

My very first sampler, a stamped pattern, "Heirloom Sampler," by Bucilla Needlecraft. Finished 1980.
My very first sampler, another stamped pattern, “Heirloom Sampler,” by Bucilla Needlecraft. Finished 1980.

I hope this plan helps you complete any projects you want to stitch or already have in progress. Since my first sampler was rather large, (16″ x 20″), this method taught me early on how to look at bigger projects into manageable sections. Dividing the work up that way gives me a sense of completion when I finish a section and helps keep me going on to the next one.


Ship of Life sampler

While I’m working on a couple of quilt ideas (in varying stages, of course) I thought I would share with you one of my earliest craft loves, cross stitch. I learned how back in college from a good friend, and in the past three or so decades have made more than 25 samplers of varying sizes.

In fact, if you scroll down far enough, you’ll see I started this blog with the sampler, “And They Sinned,” by Vilma Becklin of Exemplar Dames. I’ve definitely gotten farther since those first few stitches, but since the piece is something like 17×48 inches, it’s going to be awhile before I get it finished.

My favorite type of cross stitch is doing alphabet samplers. I’m not sure why, I just love them. Maybe it’s the writer in me, imagining all the words that come from the letters.

But sometimes, I find something without the ABC’s on it, that I just have to make. This is one of those pieces.

ship of lifeThis is the Ship of Life sampler, designed by Renee Nanneman of the Need’l Love Company back in 1990. I found it in a cross-stitch store in Connecticut when I used to live there back in the day. I fell in love with it immediately.

Of course, as you can tell by the completion date, it took me a few years to make, which actually worked to its advantage. When Renee designed it, there wasn’t any of the glorious overdyed floss that you can find in stores now, with all the lovely variegation to the colors.

It might not be easy to tell, (I wanted to take the photo so my reflection wouldn’t show up on the glass, that’s why there’s the weird angle) but you can see it in the water and in the sails. I think the subtle variation from light to dark, as well as the changes in hue really added something to the piece, without having to constantly re-thread the needle with something new. All I did was change direction so it wouldn’t look stripey. The fabric is 32-count linen, I think, which I had in my stash.

Of all the pieces I’ve done, this one is definitely my favorite. In fact, I keep thinking I should scan the pattern just in case I ever lose it. I have to admit, a few years after I bought it, I figured the pattern would live in a box forever. Now, every time I look at it, it makes me so happy that I took the time to finish it. Nothing better than that sense of completion when it comes to craft work, especially when it turns out even better than you expected.

I’ll try and share an updated photo of “And They Sinned” soon — hopefully it will inspire me to get back to work on it!


Decisions, decisions

A few days ago, I posted a sneak peak for my next quilt, which features an hourglass block. I fell in love with them after seeing the excellent tutorial describing in great detail how to make them on Red Pepper Quilts.

Rita’s method is not quick; in fact, it’s quite labor intensive. But for recovering perfectionists like me, it’s just about a guaranteed method of getting a perfect hourglass shape. (Sounds a lot like what the human body needs, doesn’t it?!)

Needless to say, it may be awhile before you see a finished project, but I can show you the fabrics, at least:

DSC_2370I don’t usually like anything Victorian, but a number of these Civil War reproduction fabrics have almost a modern feel. If there were in today’s bright colors, I think a few of the designs could definitely work. The only one missing is what I plan to use for the back, but I’ll save that for a future post.

In the meantime, since this project is likely to take awhile, I’m also working on designing a new carry-all, or what my mother would have called a reticule. Like many working women — both inside and outside the home — I need something to carry the basics, like lunch,  shoes, camera or the leftover items that won’t fit in my purse.

DSC_2404 For the past few years, I’ve carried this bag, which is made out of recycled billboards. It got a lot of use, so I can’t complain too much, but there are definitely things I think I can make better.

DSC_2405I don’t know how well you can see this, given that it’s pitch black, but when the women who designed the bag put in pockets, they didn’t include zippers. Of course, that’s easier to sew, which means they don’t have to charge as much, but for me it’s not very practical.

The design I have in my head is similar in some ways to the messenger bag Kati has on her blog, “from the blue chair.” She has an great tutorial for it, too, and what I love is all the pockets she included, along with links to other bloggers’ tutorials for the pesky parts, like installing different types of zippers.

My trouble is I can’t quite decide what fabrics I want to use. Take a look:

DSC_2399If you check out Kati’s post, you’ll see she uses three different fabrics from Joel Dewberry’s collection “Notting Hill.” I love all those patterns together and want to do something equally fab, but in a black/white graphic. (The fabrics are all from Premier Prints: “Gisella,” “Zig Zag” and “Circles.” The large links below are called “Free Hand.”)

DSC_2403Initially, I thought I’d use “Free Hand” for the main body, with a solid black bottom, and use the “Zig Zag” for the pockets and probably the interior. But when I put the fabrics together just now to take a photo for this post, I really  liked the combination of the small circles with the chevron and the fun giraffes.

I’ve got time to decide as I have to work most of tomorrow and won’t be able to sew much this weekend. If anyone has any suggestions, please shout them out — I’d love to hear from you!


Look what arrived in the mail

I had a pleasant surprise when I came home last night and found the two new quilting books I ordered from Amazon: Tula Pink’s new “City Sampler,” which has 100 modern blocks. These will be great inspiration to help me create something for the first meeting of the Louisville Modern Quilt Guild.

pink bookJust looking at the cover gives me all sorts of ideas for the many quilts I’m sure I’ll make from this book.

I also bought a copy of “Quilting Modern,” by Jacquie Gering and Katie Pederson.

quilt modernIf you haven’t yet visited either of these wonderful quilters’ blogs, you should definitely take a look. You can find Jacquie’s work at Tallgrass Prairie Studio and Katie blogs at Sew Katie Did. I can’t wait to spend some quality time with both these books over the next few weeks.

Are any of you familiar with the website Craftsy? I learned about them a little more than a year ago and I am hooked! For those who don’t know, Craftsy is a crafter’s paradise, offering well-done, online video classes in everything from quilting, knitting, sewing, cooking, just too many subjects to list.The classes aren’t expensive, they often have sales and the classes never expire.

Craftsy also offers a number of free mini-classes and it was Elizabeth Hartman’s class, “Creative Quilt Backs,” which got me interested in modern quilts. I really couldn’t recommend the website more.

If you like Jacquie’s work, she now has a class for Craftsy called, “Improvisational Piecing – Modern Design,” where she’ll teach three new techniques and five new quilt designs. I was lucky enough to score it on sale for just $19.99!

I’ve started my next project that I can’t wait to share with you. Here’s a sneak peak:

civil war blockI know it doesn’t look very modern (although the dark pink/wine kinda does to me), but I’ve got some pretty cool plans for this quilt. It will definitely get a modern treatment.

As always, thanks for stopping by for a visit.


My new favorite tools

A few weeks ago, I went on a shopping spree for some new quilting tools like some of the ones I have seen on the quilt blogs I follow. Take a look:

DSC_2372I think this might be my favorite – it’s a gripper for your rulers, and it totally helps you keep the ruler straight so your cuts are more accurate. Bear in mind, this puppy sticks on tight, so if you remove it, be careful you don’t bend or break your ruler in the process.

DSC_2373I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m a big fan of circle quilts and hope to make one some time this year. I hope this tool works as well as the gripper.

DSC_2374I got these to help me wrangle the baby quilt I finished recently. The idea is you roll the excess quilt and clamp them with these so it fits easier under your machine. I have to say, these didn’t really help. They might work better on a larger quilt, but on a baby size, they tended to move around too much. Also, I’m not sure I was crazy about the large roll either. I think I had more control just shoving it all under the arm.

DSC_2376I love these Clover wonder clips – I used them to keep the binding in place so I could machine stitch the back side. Normally, I like to hand stitch bindings, but since the quilt was for a baby, I figured the more secure the better. I plan to put these to good use when I design and make a new tote bag for myself.

DSC_2371Last is one of those rotating cutting boards, and I have to say I really like it. I’m doing an hourglass quilt top (more to show on that soon) and it definitely is a help with cutting and trimming.

I hope you got some ideas for new toys to help make your quilting more fun. If you have any ideas for other neat gadgets, let me know!