Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Post-Christmas Review of Pre-Christmas Projects

We back from a wonderful Christmas in the Caribbean last week. I find myself pining for Puerto Rico, once again. For the longest time, I couldn't picture us settling in any one place. But now, each time we come home from Puerto Rico I miss it like home. Though I miss "home" where my mom and the rest of my family are, I don't have the same feeling of constant welcome and easy getting together that we have from my husband's family in Puerto Rico. I also suspect that I won't be able to settle somewhere that isn't at least somewhat exotic for me - and until my dreams are in Spanish, I think Puerto Rico will still have that foreign charm I need.

I started this embroidery from Anna Maria Horner last January (2012) and by October, it was finished. It was hard to decide what to do with it, until I realized that my mother-in-law loves embroidery, especially classic designs.

I made the traditional look a bit more modern with a black flower and bright details, adding a gray quilted border so that the pillow could be a bit bigger.

the back, with loopy-swirl quilting

I also made a pillow for my friend's little girl, whose birthday was close to Christmas as well. It's from the pillow pocket pattern I used before, but without the pocket. I hand-quilted her name on the front, and it came out quite light in this picture, so I went back and added more hand-quilting to the name in darker thread to make it pop more (not pictured). 

the back, with meandering quilting

 And finally, a project for our own Christmas decorations - a wall-hanging. This was an idea that I had pinned after Christmas last year and was keen to squeeze it in - even if it wasn't finished in time to hang on our own wall. I also made a similar version for my sister-in-law, who adores all things handmade. I love it - modern, yet retro, and kitschy, and kinda Scandinavian.

Quilted with stars up top and swirls from the bottom

Now that we're back and I have two more weeks of freedom until I'm strapped to the computer again for classes, my mind has turned to my new projects. On the eve of our departure for Puerto Rico in mid-December, I started a new quilt for my niece Kaitlyn (because packing was of no concern to me, obviously - this also explains why I packed a bunch of tops and only one denim skirt for bottoms). I was also finishing up Christmas gifts that I would be bringing down.

I've wanted to try this star-burst pattern for months, and I am loving the scale and simplicity of the contrasting fabrics against each other and the white background fabric. This is my current obsession.

Pedro/Santa also bought me a couple of skeins of German wool yarn from a Christmas market in Stuttgart last month (along with sewing books!). These have a date with my dusty crochet hook. I'm thinking HAT. For me! And maybe one for my sidekick.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Farmer's Wife Quilt - Finished!

 My FWQ is finally finished. I started it in late June and finished in early December. I did almost all of the piecing within three months, then there was a lag of about two months while I worked on my master's coursework.

The room is suddenly so colorful - I love it!
 The last few days have been taken up by finishing the binding by hand. Though it makes my fingers ache, it slows the time down and totally relaxes me.

 I was very daunted by the prospect of using my sewing machine, the Swedish/German Pfaff, to do all of the free-motion-quilting (FMQ - not to be confused with FWQ!). But FMQ was the biggest reason I bought it  (my little Brother was so basic that I couldn't even lower the feed dogs). So I have been practicing on potholders, table runners, and pillows that are all going out for Christmas gifts. Still, I didn't think I would be able to really handle the bulk of a queen-sized quilt under the arm of my Pfaff.

But I just went for it. It was not as difficult as I thought it would be. As an FMQ novice, I took about five hours spread over the course of three days to quilt it. I did have to rip out some of the quilting where I moved the quilt faster than the needle could sew, causing some awful looking tension problems on the back.

 And I think it looks good! It's no professional job, but it was a huge learning experience for me. The whole quilt, in fact. From the very traditional and difficult piecing, all the way to the large scale quilting. I am glad I decided on FMQ, rather than anything more intricate. I think the intricate piecing of the individual blocks needs no competition. Plus, I like how I unifies the quilt, despite all of the pattern and color going on.

Late English autumn means that opportunities to photograph something in decent lighting are very limited. I took my quilt out to a sports field, where the wind was so strong that I had no other option but to photograph the quilt with the sun right behind it. The upside was that my friend, Aneta, and I didn't have to hold the quilt - the wind plastered it right to the fence! Because the sun is behind the quilt, you can pretty much see how the backing looks (oops, forgot to photograph the back!).

The position of the sun does give it that interesting stained-glass effect that I like.

And soon, when Christmas is over, I hope to start on the next big thing!

Scandinavian Christmas Crosstitch

While briefly scanning the magazine rack at the grocery store, something very surprising caught my eye. I usually ignore the knitting and crosstitching magazines, but when I saw the cover pattern on  the Christmas issue of Crosstitcher, I didn't hesitate to put it into my cart. I so wholeheartedly love the simplicity of Scandinavian color and design, and this pattern was just want the twelve-year-old crosstitcher inside of me had been waiting the past twenty years for.

In fact, the last time I did a crosstitch project, it was something like a little bunny rabbit sitting on a tuft of grass with the words, "God Bless This House." Not really something I would be sewing these days to hang up in my house. But I absolutely loved the process of crosstitching - the mind-numbing counting of squares and the tedious sewing of little X's reads as pure pleasure to my obsessive, goal oriented mind. Plus, I get to do my favorite lazy winter evening activity: watch a DVD box set and just stitch away. 
Though I adore this finished design - it goes perfectly with my decor! - I decided to give it to my mom for Christmas. I think she'll love it. Plus, I have a four-year-old who tends to spill on things a lot, and the delicate crosstitch here isn't going to like getting frequently washed.

 So, as with most things I make and ship off to far away lands, I took lots of pictures to remember it by. Tomorrow it's off via Santa Express.

 I foresee a few more crosstitching projects like this in the future. For now, I'll look at these photos and remember those deer as the outlet of all my outraged energy while watching the US Presidential debates.
For back-issues of Crosstitcher, see here.

Sunday, 18 November 2012


 I am working on a group research project for my Fundamentals of Environmental Systems class, and it turns out the I have a bunch of slackers in my group. I'm the final editor for the paper and I've been waiting all weekend for any bits of work they might send me. And I have received nothing. This is an unexpected bonus for my free time, actually. While I should have been plugging away at a 15-page paper, I have returned to my sewing room - a place that has a few more spider webs in it since my last sewing session!

Though I haven't started to quilt the FMQ yet (that's my reward project after these two research papers are finished), I have been wondering what to do with all the tiny little scraps left over from its piecing.  I've had this project floating around in my brain for months. Even though I didn't think I would actually ever get to a postage-stamp quilt for all of the work it entails, it just seemed like a good way to wile away an hour of a crisp Saturday afternoon.

So I put on some relaxing Andrew Bird, and got to work. I thought every step of the process was beautiful, from the pleats created on the fusible interfacing, to the precision of the pressed seams on the back when it was finished.

Elizabeth Hartman's tutorial was pretty ingenius. The piecing on these tiny 1.5" squares is exactly precise and all corners meet up perfectly.

Even though the interfacing made the end result a little stiffer and thicker, it was just fine for the Barbie quilt it was intended for.

These multicolored frames are stunning!

In the end, I decided not to quilt it because it was so small that I didn't think quilting would allow it to drape over the edges of Isabella's little Barbie bed. I didn't even use binding for it either, I just added a backing fabric and left it simple.

I would love to do a bigger project with this technique. It was very time consuming, so it might be something I would consider doing with my scrap pile as it forms, rather than all at once. 

And there is it, the first little homemade Christmas present done. 

If I'm * lucky *, ha!, maybe my group will procrastinate some more so that I can move on to the next project. I have a feeling that the coming week is going to be a killer!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

More progress

 There is precious little time for blogging, but I wanted to put up a few photos. The Farmer's Wife quilt top is finished...I think. I may widen the sides still, but I have until the backing fabric arrives before I commit to that. (Pay no mind to the religious icon hanging near the bed - I loved it when I bought it in Greece...but next to the bed it just doesn't belong - husbands joke!)

 In the meantime, I'm making a row of extra blocks, possibly to piece onto the back...another "we'll see!"
When this project is over, I will resume a few others, already lined up in the queue. There are random quilt blocks I've made out of curiosity, an unfinished table runner for my grandma, a hand-quilted pillow top I'm making from Hungarian fabric, and that gorgeous feather block you see in the center. The feather is a pattern from Anna Maria Horner that reminds me of something from Anthropologie- I'm thinking wall-hanging. Sewing is the perfect respite from all things stressful - namely, the environmental law class I'm taking!

More to follow soon!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Farmer's Wife. Continued.

 I am still plugging away at my Farmer's Wife Quilt. I actually have three more blocks to piece together, but have already begun putting together the quilt top itself. To some, it may be a haphazard way to work, but I am more inspired by the visuals of putting it together. This way I can amend the last of the colors I will be adding to this mix. Also, I have been studying away for my degree and it is taking double the time I thought it would take during the day, so there are fewer hours left for sewing.

Tall Pine Tree
 The FW Quilt is spreading like wildfire throughout the online sewing community. I'm happy to say that I've been part of the torch relay and a new group has started up a sew-along on Threadbias. If you're thinking about trying it, I would highly recommended participating or at least referencing this group. There were a lot of bumps in the road that I had to just figure out myself, and it's so much better to learn from someone else's mistake rather than have to pull out the seam ripper!

Two types of settings that will alternate
To include here what I mentioned on the group forum, I will say that I had a lot of trouble on block size consistency, no matter how careful I was. I will take some hits for shaving too close to the template paper, etc, but in the end I felt like some templates were slightly off (again, as someone mentioned, maybe it was my printer). Also, I found some template repeats - my number 3 was equal to my number 12. And some blocks I found I could piece by eye after a while!

This is called Waste Not - but I prefer Ninja Star!

Wedding Ring

Wild Geeese
 In the end, if you find your blocks are slightly too big or too small, you may not need to worry if your sashing is forgiving. For example, since I'm alternating squares by putting every other on "on-point," I have some leeway there. I was also able to make adjustments in the seam allowances for my blocks that ended up a half inch or so too small. My final block size is 8.5 inches with the background fabric sewn on.

These would make cool wall-hangings themselves..

Now I just have to make a decision on how I'm going to put together the back, and how I will quilt it. By hand? By machine? Maybe a combo? And what design? I want something simple, but also something that I haven't done before. I hope I can have this quilt finished by Thanksgiving! There, now I have a deadline - let's see if I can meet it!