Thursday, October 20, 2016

TGIFF: A finished BOM sampler

Welcome!  I'm Alla, and I'm so glad you are visiting.  I have been blogging about my creative passions since 2011; these days, it's pretty much all about the quilting.

Today's finish is a sampler quilt made from black-white-and-bright BOM blocks.  I hosted/taught this BOM last year (September 2015 - August 2016), and made a commitment to the students to stitch it up as soon as I could.

New skills for me:

Wonky/twisted setting for blocks (based on tutorial found at; click ahead to step 3).

Placing blocks in a non-grid pattern, which involved partial seams everywhere.

Curved piecing on some flying geese in the background (learning about/practicing my curves in this year's BOM).

Quick shot of the reverse, a giant B&W print from the stash of amazing art quilter Jonathan Shannon.

Not sure if the fabrics and the setting managed to break this traditionally-pieced sampler out of its stuffy past, but I like to think that 12-inch star blocks can aspire to a modern sensibility.

Thanks for reading about my quilt!

Now it's your turn:  Link up those fabulous finishes here and don't forget to stop by some of the other finishes--leave them some comment love! Grab the TGIFF button and link back to this post, so your  visitors can see other dynamite finishes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I Hava Design Wall!!!

Yep, I hava design wall, and I'm pretty chuffed!
All last night I was singing, in my best Jo Anne Worley warble, about the virtues and wonders of this new development in my sewing space.

Not familiar with Jo Anne Worley? (Such a shame, youngsters)

(If for some reason the video doesn't play, I got it here on Youtube.)

Design wall specifics: two 4 foot x 8 foot pieces of rigid foam insulation, found at my local big-box lumber and building supply store. One side is a silvery mylar, one side is a white plastic; the "foam" looks like a styrofoam product to my untrained eye.

I covered the whole thing with 1 2/3 yards (8 feet) of polyester batting, from the roll at the quilt shop.

Held up very cleverly with blue painter's tape; and by being wedged between the floor and ceiling.

And on the design wall today?  A little ol' table runner whose borders need some help. 

(I am aware that 64 square feet of design wall is a tiny bit of overkill for a table runner.  But I will use its lovely, ginormous surface soon, I promise.)

This table runner is made from three blocks out of last year's black-white-and-bright Block of the Month.  I threw it together quickly, to show students an idea of how to use some of their blocks.  I also wanted to try out a border idea that I had previewed in 2014--also on a black-and-white quilt.


 Upon further review, I was left feeling that my version of the border--which I made narrower due to the size of a table runner vs. a full quilt--was just too darn loud.  The black-and-white fabrics I used did not allow for good viewing of the piecing.  Plus, they shouted down the lovely blocks in the center.  Not good at all.

So, there you have it: a large canvas to give perspective to noisy borders.  I'll be replacing some of the fabrics to try and calm things down a bit.

In other news... I will be hosting TGIFF this week.  More super excitement brewing!

If you have a FINISH, please come back and join the party on Friday this week.  I love to celebrate finishes!!
3rd of July wedding = awesome photographs

Friday, October 7, 2016

A Special Stocking

One of my goals for September--Memento Stocking--finished!

Last seen during fabric auditions. I showed some of my color ideas to the recipient, and she gave me carte blanche.  As long as I used the pocket and name tape from the uniform of the Marine being honored, she had no opinion about the rest--yay, who doesn't love picking fabrics?

This stocking was made using my tutorial. I have had a great time personalizing each stocking I make for a specific recipient, and using special, meaningful materials.

I used part of a sleeve from the uniform to make a bias strip for the toe detail.  I also added batting to the cuff to make it feel more substantial.

Name obscured for the family’s sake
I felt so very honored to make an item that will remind the family of their fallen loved one.

Linking up with Finish it Up Friday, hosted this week by Sarah at Georgia Girl Quilts.  Happy to have a finish(!) and to check out marvelous, motivating work by others.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Who Do I Blog For?

It occurs to me that blogging has not happened lately.  I apologize if any of my regular readers have missed this. I've been writing in my journal--not regularly, don't think I'm "cheating" by putting all of my thoughts in writing elsewhere--but I think this places some of my blogging energy on paper, rather than the digital sphere.

What I have not done is replace my blog with an Instagram feed of things I am working on.  Even if I manage to post some fabricky porn on Instagram, it will never fill my need to process and share via the written word.  That's kinda always been my thing; not gonna change that mode as long as I have the ability to write...

So, I'm pondering again who it is that I blog for: is it just for me?  Do I want lots of followers?  Will better blogging lead me to fame and fortune as a small business person?  (If my small business dreams ever get out of the micro-business realm.)  And overall--if I have all these ideas for blog posts floating around in my head (and I DO), why can't I just stick to some sort of schedule and release them into the world like a normal blogger?

Things I have read lately about blogging

Inspire to Thrive: surefire ways to succeed in social media
Just read a piece from them on why your business needs a Facebook page (um, can't say I'll get right on that, but it's probably a good idea I will want to implement. Soon, maybe.)
Coincidentally, the most recent post is titled "What Happened to Blogging and Having a Great Blog?"

Basic Blog Tips: helping you build a better blog
Just their post headlines make me want to read more "what's a landing page and why should I make one for my blog" "why your email open rates have taken a nosedive" "using comments to boost your own blog's traffic"

But then again, I ask myself if my purpose is to build a great blog, or just be my messy, authentic self online.  Who has time to curate their persona?  Not me, obviously; I can't even write a blog post every week.

Thoughts?  Authenticity vs. branding?  And how often should I push myself to Just Post Something (Anything) Already?!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Goals for August

Oops...make that Goals for September (already?!)

Haven't put any of my sewing goals in writing recently.  And yet, setting goals really is helpful for my internal compass, which tends to get knocked about by all the ideas floating around--the shop, the blogiverse, my friends, the Facebook.

External Deadlines

1.  Memento Stocking for the family of a U.S. Marine
Fabric auditions for another Memento Stocking
2.  Make step-outs for teaching Circles BOM (for September and October classes).
3.  Finish sample(s) for September's class in Oregon
This kimono is goin' places!
4.  Make step-outs for paper-pieced kimono class
5.  Make step-outs for memento stocking class

But I really, really wanna do these, too

6.  Finish flimsy of black & white BOM
Thirteen blocks = fussy setting
7.  Betsy bag
8.  Make 2 more Circle blocks for BOM samples
Latest circle: Grandmother's fan, on a muslin foundation

BONUS Points - as if!

9.  Cinch sack
10.  Pillowcase for a certain niece
11.  Hem Sweetie's pants (she is so patient with me!)
12.  Asian BOM fan sample block

Whew! Setting my aim high again, with no hope of actually finishing them all.  However, it is super important for this list to exist.  In fact, as I was writing up the list and sorting out the "must do" from the "wanna do", I realized that I have been plotting and scheming on the wanna list for the past few days.  Chomping at the bit, as it were.  Tally ho!  

I am teaching three sewing classes in September--those are some motivating deadlines.  Best to remember where my stitching energy should get put in order to not come out looking like an amateur in that regard.  

Do you make lists?  Are they helpful?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Few Forgotten Finishes

Over the past couple months, I have finished a few small projects. No big fanfare. But I feel compelled to at least mark them: this blog is my place to keep track of and celebrate my worthy accomplishments, no matter how small.

A tissue-box couch, made as a gift. The ribbon and box-pleated trim was from stash (yay!) but the train fabric was purchased with a specific person in mind. Unfortunately, this was a gift that never found its way...

Altar cloths for the college chapel.  These guys were on my "hem me" pile for the longest time. So glad to get them done and off to be used.

Another Memento Stocking, this one made from one of my mom's t-shirts (University of Washington--go Huskies!) and a pair of her pajamas (cows; very typically Mom). I will be teaching this technique at a shop in September.

That's it. Little bits getting done a smidge at a time.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Guild Blocks (Done Early)

Quilt guild meets this Saturday, and I've had my blocks done for over a week. Go me!

First up: this block is called Another Star, and instructions can be found here at the Quilter's Cache website.

Flying geese and HST's
While Marcia Hohn's instructions for this block are just fine, I chose to construct mine a different way. 

I noticed that there were four flying geese units (one is outlined in red) and eight HST units (four of them are marked with asterisks).

My favorite flying geese method, when making 4 gooses, is the no-waste technique, which you can find demonstrated very aptly at McCall's Quilting University.  So that's what I did there.

And I tried out a HST method that I read about in a magazine.  [The math: double the finished size of your HST block and add 1-3/4"] 

Put two identical squares right sides together, with the lighter color on top, and mark along both diagonals.  Sew 1/4" away from each diagonal, on both sides of the drawn lines (4 lines of stitching).  Then carefully cut the square in quarters and along each diagonal.  When ironed open, you will have eight identical HST units.

The second block was actually more challenging, as it is constructed along the diagonal, and there's lots of bias edges to be aware of.  I'm just happy with the skull fabric hanging out in the black-and-white mix.

And happy to be done early--for once.  What deadlines have you beaten lately?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Wordy wallhanging: a finish

So long I have been working on my wordy wallhanging.  So many great ideas to put into it.  And long has it languished...

It's been sitting around waiting for the quilting for ages. I even found a fabulous inspiration

Quilt sample seen at Something to Crow About
They look like paisleys!!!  And, since one of the words in the finished project is to be paisley, what better quilting pattern to use?

 When I was last working on it (November 2012) I was thinking about using some scalloping around the edges.  I consulted the internet for directions on how to go about making a scalloped edge; here's what I made use of:

Okay, so what actually got me past my I still can't do FMQ so I can't get this finished storyline?  An external deadline!  This has worked so well for me in the past (most notably with getting items done in time for County Fair) that when the President's Challenge was announced for my quilt guild, I knew that could spur me to finish.

Red, white and blue.  Hmm... there appear to be some colors missing.

Minimum 30 by 30 inches.  Again... not there yet.

And then there was the pesky direct object: what exactly are we supposed to be feeling about here?

Bunting!  And faux gingham (pieced from stash fabrics only).  I seriously contemplated changing the final word to
I was worried about "being political" by asking how one feels about AMERICA.  But really: (1) it's an election year, so everyone in the U.S. is feeling something about America right now; (2) the challenge was red white & blue--if that doesn't say America, I don't know what does.

And there you have it: a finish!  It's on public display with the rest of the guild entries at a lovely library in Oakland.  Yay for deadlines that push me over my self-imposed blockages!!

What's been holding you back from finishing a project?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Bookmarking my Brain

Well, I've got lots of windows open on the computer again.  ADD = attraction to new & shiny, apparently.  So, as I did last time this happened, I'm dumping it all here.  Apologies to any who are not interested--there's more fabricky goodness coming soon.

A Body Double Helps you Zip Through Paperwork
Found on the Totally ADD Blog, a guest post by Linda Walker.

Pattern page for designer Laura Heine.  She is owner/founder of Fiberworks, and her collage quilt patterns are *AMAZING*.  First saw one of her designs at a quilt guild's Show and Tell and I had to go look her up that minute.

An amazing series of posts by Felicia at The Craft Sessions called Stash Less.  I read through the whole thing (I think it's 17 posts on this topic).  I kept this tab open because I wanted to write a blog post about how her ideas and her journey inspired me.

The Renfrew knit top by Sewaholic Patterns.  So many folks in one of my Facebook groups were making this, and it was so darn cute!  Why haven't I bought the pattern yet?  Oh right, I hardly sew garments...

Fitting Fundamentals for Sewers, a Craftsy guide.  It's FREE!  This is me, dreaming of sewing more garments.

Hunter's Star quilt tutorial from the Missouri Star Quilt Company's blog.  I know I want to make one of these, but I'm sure I won't follow their particular tutorial.  Despite Jenny Doan's awesome video tutorials, their version uses layer cake pre-cuts, and I want to use Thangles.

Peppermint Magazine - a print magazine about style, sustainability, and substance.

Hampton's Beach Bag free knitting pattern/tutorial from Joann's. This window's been open for over a month (how often do I reboot my computer? now you know)  I think I wanted to make it out of strips of fabric, instead of yarn.  But it's been so long since I even looked at this link that I have forgotten.  Gosh, what good is that?

30 Photography Magazines Worth Subscribing To.  It's a list from 2010, so don't know how many of these magazines are still in print.

Does this count as decluttering my brain?  Or even my computer's memory?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Memorial Christmas Stockings, Plus Tutorial

Welcome Blog-hoppers!  I'm Alla and I love whimsy, creative design, and all things new and shiny and fabricky.  I hope you enjoy your stop here.

Not new or shiny: this quilt has known love!
I'd like to invite you on a journey of rebirth: taking beloved items and making them into Christmas stockings.  There are two options here, maybe they will give you ideas...

From this

To this

From this

To this

Option A: using an embroidered sweatshirt as the stocking front

Option B: using a vintage quilt as the stocking front

The basic method is similar for each option.  Sarah asked if I could make a tutorial for these, so that's what I will share.

But first, a little bit of love to the women who are memorialized by these stockings.

Angel in reverse
The sweatshirt was among my stepmother's clothes--a slightly-dated Christopher & Banks design that was definitely her signature look.  As I was the one to clean out her closet after she died in January, I took the opportunity to remove a couple items of clothing, hoping I could turn them into mementos at some later date.  The 12 Days of Christmas in July Blog Hop turned out to be perfect timing for me.  The angel stocking will go to my step-brother, her only son.  It turned out so well; I am super pleased!

The vintage quilt was among my mother's possessions that I inherited.  The stash included four vintage quilt tops and one completed quilt.  The completed quilt is the one I used here, and it has seen a lot of love.  It was our "couch quilt" when I was growing up, and was adored by three growing children and one cantankerous dachshund.  I'm not 100% sure who stitched it--maybe my great-grandmother?  Anyway, I had my siblings' permission to cut it up and try to reuse it somehow.  Even so, I needed steadying before I made the initial cut (there were phone calls and a bit of hand-holding involved).  I need to make two more stockings now: I'm sure each of my siblings deserves their own.

My inspiration for actually trying to reuse this vintage quilt came from the book
Recycled Hexie Quilts: Using Vintage Hexagons in Today's Quilts by Mary Kerr.  She gives hints on techniques as well as projects.

On with the Tutorial!

Materials and Equipment

Sweatshirt, including bottom band*
1/3 yard (or 1 fat quarter, FQ) cotton quilting fabric for stocking back
1/3 yard cotton quilting fabric for stocking lining
1/3 yard fusible fleece
1/3 yard fusible light/medium weight interfacing

Basic sewing supplies
Clover Wonder Clips, or other pins or clips to hold bulky fabrics when sewing
Walking foot (optional, for multiple layer sewing with no fabric shifting)

Pattern for stocking: I traced a commercial stocking and added 3/8" seam allowance
If you don't have a pleasing stocking to copy, you might try and reproduce mine by checking out the 1" grid from my cutting mat.  Or there are free stocking patterns available online, such as from Craftsy


1. Cut the bottom band off the sweatshirt and set aside for a cuff
2. Cut one stocking front from the sweatshirt fabric, paying attention to placement of any design
3. Cut one stocking back; make sure to reverse the pattern from the stocking front
4. Fold the lining fabric right sides together and cut two stocking linings
5. Cut and fuse the fleece to the back side of the sweatshirt
6. Cut and fuse the interfacing to the stocking back piece
7. Cut a 2" by 6" rectangle from leftover fabric (either stocking back or lining, your choice); this will make the hanging loop


1.  If desired, embellish the heel and toe area of the sweatshirt prior to assembly.  (My version has a fused applique heel that matches the stocking back, and two rows of hand embroidery along the toe line.)

2.  Make the hanging loop by folding the 2" by 6" strip in half lengthwise, then folding each side in toward the center.  Press.  This makes a strip 1/2" wide.  Topstitch along both long edges.

3.  Place all four stocking pieces together, in the order shown: both lining pieces, right sides together; sweatshirt/stocking front, facing up; stocking back, facing down.

4.  Fold hanging loop in half and place along seam allowance between the two lining layers, 1/2" below the top. Secure all the layers together with Wonder Clips or other clips or pins; sew along the sides and foot with a 3/8" seam, backstitching to secure at both ends.

5.  Clip curves along the seam, notching the outward curves and cutting toward but not through the seam on the inward curve.

6.  Turn stocking right side out, gently pushing all the curves out.

7.  Make a cuff: measure the width of the top of your stocking, double this and add 1/2".  Cut one layer of the sweatshirt bottom band 3-1/2" tall by the width you need (e.g. my stocking was 7-1/2", so I doubled this to 15" and added 1/2" = 15-1/2").  Cut a second rectangle, 3-1/4" by the same width.  Sew these two rectangles together along the long edge in a 1/4" seam.  Make a loop by sewing the short edges together in a 1/4" seam.  Turn the cuff so that wrong sides are together and raw edges even; press.

8.  Place the cuff, sweatshirt ribbing side out, inside the stocking.  Align all raw edges, use clips or pins to secure, and sew all layers together in a 1/4" seam.  Be careful to keep hanging loop out of the way of this stitching.  Finish seam with a row of zigzag stitches, if desired.

9.  Fold cuff toward the outside of the stocking.  Press as desired.

10.  Admire your work!

Many thanks to Sarah for hosting this blog hop!  I am so happy to be in such amazing company, and I'm busy planning some August stitching with the designs I am seeing from my fellow sewists.

Confessions Of A Fabric Addict

July 14th:     Sharon Vrooman @ Vrooman’s Quilts
                    Carole Carter @ From My Caroline Home

July 15th:    Yanicka Hachez @ Finding Myself As An Artist
                   Chris Dodsley @ made by ChrissieD

July 16th:     Marsha Hodgkins @ Quilter in Motion
                    Leanne Parsons  @ Devoted Quilter

July 17th:     Tonia Conner @ All Thingz Sewn
                    Selina @ Selina Quilts

July 18th:     Lara Buccella @ Buzzin Bumble
                    Soma Acharya @ Whims and Fancies

July 19th:     Joanne Harris@ Quilts by Joanne
                    Suzy Webster @ Adventurous Applique and Quilting

July 20th:     Vicki in MN @ Vicki’s Crafts and Quilting
                    Jennifer Fulton @ The Inquiring Quilter

July 21st:     Michele Kuhns @ Crayon Box Quilt Studio
                    Jan Ochterbeck @ The Colorful Fabriholic

July 22nd:     Alla Blanca @ Rainbows. Bunnies. Cupcakes.
                     Zenia Rene @ A Quilted Passion

July 23rd:     Joanne Hubbard @ Everyone Deserves a Quilt
                    Paige Alexander @ Quilted Blooms

July 24th:     Carolyn Jones @ …by CJ
                    Tisha Nagel @ Quilty Therapy

July 25th:     Susan Arnold @ Quilt Fabrication
                    Beth Sellers @ Cooking Up Quilts
                    Linda Pearl @ One Quilting Circle