Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What was I waiting for?

Procrastination?  Boredom?  Fear of a challenging next step?

At this point, I don't know what I was waiting for on sewing the rainbow bathrobe.  A couple quick seams and it looks almost finished already...

The fabric is a little ravelly, so I am trimming one seam allowance and turning under and top-stitching the other one.  I like the way the finished seams are looking

The inside looks as lovely as the outside!
Still have sleeve and neck edge facings to do, along with the dreaded hem, but really
What was I waiting for?

Just to hush up the scolding children on the pattern cover, I found a place for them to hang out.  So there: I can work on long-dormant projects!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Quilty Little Secrets

Not really a secret, is it?
The divine Molli Sparkles inspired this post, by sharing Ten Quilty Secrets of his own. 

Plus, he has a button!  My blog always needs some fancy-ing up, so this button is just the thing

13 Spools

I think it's liberating to open up and spill some of those things--secret, sewing room things--I've been holding on to.  My inner perfectionist never wants me to appear as messy or distracted as I really am.  Here goes!

1.  Not only do I sew over pins, but I save and continue to use many of the really bent ones.

Sorry Mom: still not using those new pins you bought me...

2.  I am in love with 30's reproduction prints.  I probably won't make another quilt out of them, unless a family member specifically requests one, but I just think they are so charming and adorable and generally make me smile.

This quilt makes me smile the most!

3.  I don't pay any attention to fabric lines or designers or whatnot.  I can resist the latest Cotton & Steel (or Moda, or Kaffe Fassett, or whatever) because there are already *tons* of beautiful and amazing fabrics out there.

4.  Quilts made out of the same block or two, from the same fabric repeated over and over, pretty much bore me.  Something has to give my eye a reason to travel over the quilt.  Just the addition of scraps, or changing some portion of the block placement on purpose (quilter's choice!) can make all the difference.

Circle of Friends pattern in scrappy Xmas prints

5.  My greatest wish is to be known to all as wildly creative.  (Followed up by "nerdy intellectual", but that's a different blog.)

6.  I harbor a well-hidden desire to be a pattern designer.  My wild creativity overflows, and I think I could live the Bohemian lifestyle of an artiste; but my ADD brain has let me know on several occasions that I could never be organized enough to actually run my own business.

7.  Here's how much I dislike hand-sewing: my last six quilts had the binding hand-tacked by others.  I will PAY for this service, and gladly.

Umm, yeah: not my hand-sewing (thanks again, Linda!)

8.  Not really a fan of wall-hangings.  And the irony here?  I have created two patterns for wall-hangings, plus worked myself into a frenzy on a scrappy bargello wallhanging: why???

Wallhanging of doom: border auditions in progress

9.  I have eleven WIP/UFO quilt projects going on right now.  (Gee--that's fewer than I thought Ihad!)  Yep, ADD at work.  Or not at work, as the case may be.  (And, perfectionist that I am, I had to make a list to be sure of an accurate count here.)

10.  My favorite part of the quilting process is the dreaming and fabric-auditions portion.  It's all downhill from there...

How about you?  Any quilty secrets that you need to get off your chest?  It's a freeing experience, I say: go for it!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bargello Center Complete

about 36" square, sans border
If I glance back at my goals list for the quarter, item ONE was to finish piecing the scrappy bargello wallhanging.  I'm going to call that goal done, even though the flimsy doesn't yet have a border.

Project reminder: pattern is "Ocean Waves" from the book Twist-and-Turn Bargello Quilts, by Eileen Wright.

I worked on this project like a woman possessed.  I had dreams about how best to manage the tail amounts of fabric scrap I was using up.  My brain put its background processes on a loop of "what's the next step? when can I duck out to the sewing cave and get just a tiny bit more done? how long will that next spot take me? should I go on, or just stop after that row there?"

Yep, that was definitely my ADD brain at work there.  

Pretty proud of my use of scraps, although I really don't seem to have made that much of a dent in my blue scrap bin.  My favorite scrap used?

Lighthouse scrap: all gone!

This lighthouse print.  I only had one strip of it, 22" long and just the right width of 1-1/2".  And it ended up looking so nice next to the wave print!

My obsession with using such small scraps meant that I had to change fabrics mid-stream quite a bit.  There was much fussing and futzing, and some light cursing involved.  But I think I actually relish such stuff; it's the proper balance of minute detail and creative problem-solving, with the added benefit of allowing me to be over-the-top thrifty.

Here's how the change-of-fabric shows up in the finished project: as a fresh pattern in the transition between stair-steps.

 My next bit of scrap-using wizardry is to somehow make a border out of fabric that I don't actually have enough of, but really really want to use.  Umm, yeah.  Stay tuned on that front...

It's WIP Wednesday, so I'm linking up with the fabulous Lee and folk at Freshly PiecedSo much inspiration!  (That could easily have been where I first got the crazed idea to start this scrappy bargello in the first place--I know it was somebody's blog post that lured me down the rabbit hole.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Russian Wedding Band

Finished just before my recent two-week vacation: a knit cowl.  (Now why wasn't this on my goal list for the quarter?  Oops, oversight.)

My sister made me one of these cowls as a present, and sent me home with the directions (available as a free download from Ravelry).  It's super simple: just knit, on circular needles.  It's a stash-buster: uses small amounts of any worsted weight yarn, in 3 different colors.

She's a sweet sister, and pretty inspiring, too.  I pulled out my longest-stashed yarn (since college!), determined to get my knit on.  Had never knit on circular needles before, but I am now a big fan.

So, the pattern goes like this: knit a tube, about 7" long; bind off.  Let it curl up like a soft kitten, which is what it wants to do anyway.  As you cast on the second ring, put the first ring in the center, so the two loops will be intertwined.  And follow the same intertwining method with the third ring.

Those of you who knit in the round know a particular pitfall.  But my lips are sealed.  I called my sister in mid-panic about having screwed up the third ring.

Me: do I have to rip it out?  It's a pretty big error.
Sis: send me a picture, Ms. Perfectionista
I'm knitting with a crazy yarn, here
Me: Well???
Sis: Is it a gift?  Then redo it.
Me: I think it's just for me.  I was kinda just goofing around with old yarns...
Sis: Then leave it alone.

Sis: And don't tell anyone about it; they'll never know unless you go blabbing.

This is me, not blabbing.

First knit project I have completed in probably four years.  Feels kinda good!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tutorial: Dimensional Fish

I really love dimension in quilts: love to have bits and pieces that stand out away from the surface of the quilt.  This tutorial creates a paper-pieced fish block that can have the fins or tail (or both!) as dimensional elements.

Make a 6" on-point fish block

In honor of a post by Shay on "How to write a tutorial", I am attempting to lay this out in an organized manner.

Credit for the original fish design goes to Lazy Girl Designs.  She offers a pattern for a quicker version of the non-dimensional fish, using a tool called the Lazy Angle ruler.

What you are making

A 6" on-point block, with options for dimensional elements:

Option A:  paper-pieced block, no added dimension

Option B:  simple dimension options for fins and tail (shown in photo above)

Option C:  fancier dimension option for tail, fins that are flaps


Materials and equipment

1) Paper pattern (available for download)

2) Ruler and rotary cutting supplies

3) Sewing machine

4) Two colors of fabric; 6" square of background fabric and 9" square of fabric for the fish are adequate amounts

5) Topstitching thread, if desired (option C)

6) Chocolate--because Shay requested it (I prefer dark chocolate, but the type and amount is entirely up to you)

Degree of difficulty/time to complete

I am super slow when it comes to anything, but I can make one of these blocks in an hour.  That includes cutting, changing thread colors for the topstitching, and ironing after every seam.  (I know, I know, a single block is not a project, but this technique can be used in many projects, in many ways.  See the Gallery at the end of the post for more ideas/uses of dimensional elements.)

This design is based on paper-piecing.  If you don't have that skill in your arsenal, my directions may not be super helpful.  I will lead you through the complications, but the basic paper-piecing is on you.

Option A: basic paper-pieced block


1.  Download the pattern for paper piecing.  The block is made in two units.

2.  Mark the paper pattern for placement of the fabric colors: pieces A1, B1 and B3 are the background; pieces A2, A3, B2 and B4 are the fish.  I used different pen colors on the version of the pattern shown for my markings.

3.  Use paper piecing techniques to sew the A unit and the B unit.  Attach the units as shown in the photo above.


Option B:  fish block with simple dimension options for fins and tail

1.  Cut fabric:

  • 3 squares for background, 2-5/8" each
  • 1 square for fish body, 2-5/8"
  • 1 square for fish tail, 2-1/4"
  • 2 rectangles for fish fins, 2" x 2-3/4"

2.  Fold the 2-1/4" tail square along the diagonal; fold the 2" x 2-3/4" fin rectangles in half the long way (so they are 1" x 2-3/4").  Press the fold lines into creases.
Fins and tail, folded & pressed
Approximate placement of folded units

3.  Place one fin rectangle at a slight diagonal on top of a background square, folded edge toward the center;

one corner of the background square will just barely show, and opposite edge of  the square will be overlapped by the fin by 3/8"
Reverse side of fin placement
baste in place along edges; trim edges even with background square.

4.  Make second fin unit as a mirror image of first fin, on a separate background square.

5.  Place folded tail on remaining square of background fabric, folded edge toward the center of the block, and edges matching in one corner; baste in place along edges.

4 units, ready to assemble

6.  Using 1/4" seams throughout, sew body of fish to one fin; press seam toward fin.  Sew tail of fish to remaining fin; again, press seam toward fin.

7.  Sew body-fin unit to tail-fin unit, matching center seams.  Press this seam open.

Admire your handiwork!


Option C:  fish block with fancy dimension option for tail, and full-flapping fins

1.  Download pattern for fins and tail.

2.  Make the tail unit:  mark any desired alterations on long edge of tail pattern (the isosceles/HST).  I made a lazy curved edge, slightly wider than the pattern.  Place pattern over two layers of fish fabric, right sides together.
Fancy tail, alteration from plain tail pattern (on right)
Sew through paper and fabric along altered edge only; cut along corner edges.  Remove paper.
Trim seam allowance to approximately 1/4"; cut in seam allowance, making notches as shown.
Turn right side out; press seam flat.  Top stitch, if desired.

3.  Make the fin units (make two):  cut out two fins, using the narrow triangle pattern.  Place each fin piece right side down against another piece of fin fabric.  Sew around long edges of fins, using 1/4" seam; leave shortest edge open. 

Trim seam allowances, clipping closely and carefully around the point
Turn right sides out; press seams flat.  Top stitch, if desired.

4.  Cut remaining fabric:

  • 3 squares for background, 2-5/8" each
  • 1 square for fish body, 2-5/8"

5.  Place fins on background squares, mirror-image symmetry, 1/4" from side seam.  Place tail on remaining background square, corner and edges aligned.
 Baste along seamlines.

6.  Using 1/4" seams throughout, sew body of fish to one fin; press seam toward body.  Sew tail of fish to remaining fin; press seam toward fin.

7.  Sew body-fin unit to tail-fin unit, matching center seams.  Press this seam to one side.

Admire your handiwork!


I have used dimensional elements in many previous projects.  Links to blog posts are included, but I haven't written actual tutorials for any of these.

My version of prairie points; along a border of the first quilt I ever made.

Favorite block of all time: paper-pieced coffee cup with 3-D handle.

Traditional star, in traditional gingham, zinged up by making the star points 3-D.  This is a baby quilt.

WIP: my Relaxing Robin quilt, where I made the sun's rays dimensional (out of taffeta!) in the midst of (mostly plaid) flannels.

And... one more look at those fish!

 Thanks for visiting.  Hope you get going adding some dimension to your quilts!