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Monday, December 29, 2014

2015 BOM--Part 1

With the upcoming new year comes an opportunity for a full-year series!  I'm so excited about actually completing an entire year's worth of blocks with my guild sisters at the Lakeland Modern Quilt Guild.

First up:  January's block of the month is called "Card Trick."

My first attempt went surprisingly well, constructed entirely from scraps from my scrap treasure box.

Yes, I have an actual treasure chest.  Isn't it awesomely cute??!

In fact, it went so well, I think it might be donation-worthy!

My second attempt was still from my scrap box, but with nicer fabrics, fully intended for donation to the guild.  I think my second attempt might have actually been worse, but not noticeably so.

For my third try, I busted out my "pretties."  Yes, I intentionally bought a set of coordinating fabrics from the Fabric Warehouse for this BOM series, so I could end up with a matching sampler quilt for myself at the end.

I am absolutely smitten with this print!

I think they all ended up rather modern, but of course I like the last one the best.

What do you think?

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

For my coworkers

As I write this, I'm struggling with fatigue due to lack of sleep.  I tell you this not to gain your sympathy, but as a warning:  I think my New Year's resolution will be to start my Christmas crafts in January!  I had two long-term hand sewing projects going at the same time this year, so it really came down to the wire.  I pulled it off, though!  Here is my latest creation:

What's that jumbled mess, you say?  It's a pile o' mug rugs!  Also known as snack mats, mug rugs are bigger than a coaster, but smaller than a placemat, and are just the right size for a drink and a snack. 

As y'all know, I have rediscovered my love for crafting and sewing this year, and I am extremely grateful to all of my family and friends who have been so supportive and enthusiastic about my less-than-perfect creations.  My coworkers have been especially supportive, so if you're one of them and you're reading this, thank you!

I wanted to make something extra-special for them, so I decided to try my hand at English paper piecing for this project.  What's English paper piecing?  Heidi here has an excellent tutorial with lots of photos.  Check it out!

These mug rugs have been personalized with each of my coworkers' initials (well, except one--sorry, Susan!).  I started off embroidering each letter by hand.  I used an iron-on transfer for the monograms and simply satin stitched each one. 

I bet my coworkers can tell when I started this project based on the letter I skipped!


Each monogram was cut out and basted to be hand pieced with the fabrics I chose.  For those curious, I chose Riley Blake's Fancy Free collection for this project.  I purchased one 10-inch stacker, (from Gigi's Fabric Shop in Brandon) which was just enough fabric.

After several months of working on it here and there, I finally had a large panel ready to chop into pieces. 

Oh, Maya and Eli stopped by to help.  This was their very first visit to my house, so they were super excited, though you can't really tell in this photo.

Now for the hard part:  cutting this apart!

Thanks to the hubster for taking these pics!

I had to trim off the "excess" to square the panel up first.  

Then I had to cut out the individual mug rug tops.  Using hexagons as my paper piecing shape really helped because it gave me straight lines to follow as I cut. 

Here's what they look like cut up.

This photo turned out terribly, but Sandy at the Fabric and Sewing Shop in Sebring helped me pick out this super cute fabric for the back. 

I made a modified quilt sandwich by layering the top and back right sides together, with the batting underneath.  I sewed a narrow seam along the edges, leaving an opening for turning.

After turning, I topstitched around the edges, and they were ready to quilt!  I had this cute "sherbet" variegated thread I used to quilt them, with a solid pink in the bobbin. 

I love my new machine!  I opted to quilt straight lines diagonally in one direction.  I ended up having to put my walking foot on to feed everything through smoothly. 

And here's a stack of completed mug rugs!

Well, we have one solitary dude working here, so I decided to make him a special one, rather than de-girlify (is that even a word?) the rest of them.  For his, I pieced a few hexagons together and appliqued them to a black background.  I quilted it using black thread in the same pattern as the other mug rugs.

I whipped up these gift tags right around midnight.  Not too shabby for homemade, huh?  My husband claims partial credit for these: he suggested I reinforce the tags with tape before punching the holes, and I just happened to have some festive washi tape handy.  This is the result:

Everything you make needs a proper label, too!

And there's my man, attempting to tie a bow.  Yes, I had to re-tie it.  :)

Merry Christmas, y'all!

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Mug Rug Swap

One of the perks of being in a quilt guild such as the Lakeland Modern Quilt Guild are the cool projects.  We recently mailed off our mug rugs all the way to Canada!  I can't wait to hear from them. 

What did I make, you ask?  A caffeine mug rug!  Inspired by the cover of Quilt Lab, I decided to put my own spin on it.  Why a caffeine molecule?  For those of you that don't know me, I hold a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry from the University of South Florida.  Do I use it?  Nah.  I'm a lawyer, after all.  I'm just fascinated by all things science-related.

Anyhow, Ms. Winston does a pieced molecule, but I'm far more comfortable with applique at this point, so I tried out a brand new (to me) applique method that I learned here.  Angela uses a fusible interfacing, but I opted to use Pellon Wonder Web for mine.  That means I had to be super careful when turning the shapes, because it is super delicate, but I like that it adds minimal weight to the design. 

I appliqued the "body" using the new turned method, and appliqued the "dots" with paper-backed fusible web the traditional way.  I blanket stitched the circles by hand with embroidery thread.  I also embroidered a running stitch by hand around the "body" of the molecule.  While it isn't necessary to secure the pieces, I thought it added a nice touch. 

I didn't want to bother with binding (coupled with the fact that I appliqued too close to the edge!), so I turned the mug rug and topstitched around the edge in a contrasting pink.  I hand quilted around the shape with perle cotton.  

Sorry about the picture quality!  It looked much better on the camera screen, I promise!
I used linen as the background, which gave it a more modern feel in my opinion.  I embroidered a little label on the background to add even more of a handmade touch.  

It's far from perfect, but not too bad for my very first attempt at a mug rug.  I really had a good time making it and cannot wait to see what our Canadian counterparts have in store for us!

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Stampin' Up!

A few months ago, I went to the crafter's yard sale at my church and bought a handmade card for my sister's upcoming birthday.  I also entered a drawing to win a free card making class for me and seven of my friends.  Well, you know what comes next--I won! 

I set it up for this past week, but apparently it wasn't a good time--only one other person came with me, and that was my mom!

That didn't affect the level of fun and craftiness, though.  Check out the beautiful cards we made!  Beverly provided everything for us--she would normally charge $15 per person for the class, but she graciously did this for free.  I might have just caught the stamping bug.  I know my mom did! 

I'll keep it short and sweet this time.  Take a peek at these pics, and God Bless!

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Fast and Easy Baby Quilt

My grandma lives with my parents part of the year, and one day she excitedly shared with me that she was finally going to be a great-grandma--my little cousin was expecting! 

I immediately began to mull over the possibilities of a gift for this new addition to my extended family.  A quilt?  A stuffed animal?  Every baby deserves a handmade gift, after all.  Of course, life gets in the way, and time snuck up on me.  I found out on Thanksgiving that my grandma would be leaving for her "shift" in Puerto Rico on December 10th.  I only see grandma on the weekends, so that gave me two weeks to whip something up if I wanted her to deliver the gift in person.

The following week, during a break between hearings, I made a quick detour to the Fabric and Sewing Shop in Sebring.  Sandy, the proprietor, is just the sweetest lady imaginable.  She quickly ushered me in, showing me all the new, neat things she had to offer, and this panel caught my eye:

(Pictured here already pin-basted and ready to quilt)

"Perfect," I thought.  I don't know whether my cousin is having a girl or a boy, and I was really short on time.  Sandy hooked me up with some matching flannel for the backing that is oh-so-soft and oh-so-sweet:

I wish you could feel this!
All fabrics come from the Susybee collection.  I know it's significantly more expensive, but I have yet to regret buying higher quality fabric from my local quilt shops.  It's just that much nicer, and in the case of this collection, all of the prints coordinate perfectly.  Don't worry, though--I do my fair share of bargain hunting at Joann and Hancock, too. 

Well, you already saw me layer and baste the quilt: I opted for an 80/20 cotton/poly blend batting.  So far, that's been my favorite to work with.  You'll definitely hear it if I change my mind. 

I'm getting all geared up for new project on Saturday morning (with a Sunday deadline!) when this arrives at my front door:

Oh Lordy!  My new sewing machine is here!  It's my early Christmas gift from the hubby who saw me continually get frustrated with my Singer Simple.  I don't care what people think about Singer nowadays, I just couldn't pass this machine up.  It has all the bells and whistles of a machine three times its cost, and there seem to be many very happy customers. 

I was gearing up for its arrival by watching series of YouTube videos that demonstrate how to use different features of the machine.  And yes, I also downloaded the operation manual and read it.  Needless to say, I was ready to sew right out of the box. 
And here it is in action:

Isn't she lovely?

I immediately attached my walking foot and started machine quilting this baby.  Which begs the question: how much "hand" must go into something "handmade?"  After all, I trimmed all of the pieces by hand, basted the quilt by hand, and guided it through the machine by hand.  I also finished off the binding by hand, but I somehow feel like a bit of cheat for calling it "handmade."  I guess I just need to come to terms with the difference between "hand sewn," "hand quilted," and "handmade." 
One neat feature of the Singer Quantum 9960 is the built-in alphabet embroidery.  Check out the label I made:

All in all, this quilt only took a few hours to make because there was no piecing involved, which makes it a good option for a really fast, but homemade gift.  Now I'm glad I have a few hand-me-down panels in my stash for other last minute gifts. 
Here's the final product:


I kept the quilting far apart at Sandy's advice, because it'll keep the quilt softer and less stiff than if it was more densely quilted.  I'm pretty proud of this one, y'all.  Until next time, God Bless.

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Table Runners Galore!

Okay, so maybe just two of them!  I proudly present the Too Square Table Runner and the Noel Table Runner:


The first one also happens to be my very first table runner ever.  This one was made from the Eazy Peazy Quilts pattern Too Square Table Runner.  I was all geared up to make this table runner along with my guild sisters at our November monthly sew day, but I punked out and didn't feel up to leaving the house that day.  This led to it being half-done for quite a while. 

Anyhow, I've had this super-cute coffee themed fabric laying around for a while that I bought at Heart to Heart's location in Winter Haven. 

This isn't the project that I had in mind for it (its intended ultimate use is a super-secret Christmas gift for someone I love very much!), but I purchased an entire yard of the fabric, so I have plenty for both. 

I fussy cut the squares for the runner...

...and it really was easy to put together.  I normally can't get my patchwork to quite match up correctly, but this wasn't hard at all!

To save time, I opted to machine quilt this piece by stitching in the ditch, and only where the seams were obvious.  I opted not to quilt the yellow-on-yellow seams.  This will just sit on our little coffee buffet, so I'm not too concerned with the quilting being far apart.

Then comes the binding: I really wanted to make this project completely from my stash, so I went with this really bright green broadcloth I had tons of.  I got really lazy, so I used Steam-a-Seam (which I now absolutely love, by the way) to iron on the binding.

And here it is!  My very first table runner.


Now for some Christmas fun: I scored this fun book by Nancy Halvorsen:

The projects inside are super-adorable!  There's even a soft nativity that I'm itching to make.  At this point, that'll have to wait for next year.  Or maybe a Reyes gift for my mom???? Hmm.  Anyhow, I started with the table runner. 

I traced the templates onto freezer paper. 

Does this count as a "selfie?"
I then roughly cut the templates out and ironed them on the wrong side of my fabric, since the patterns are presented in reverse in this book. 

I'm still not quite used to using freezer paper, but gosh, did it come in handy this time!  So far, it's been great to use for templates where you don't need to use fusible web, or you don't want to trace a template directly onto the fabric. 
I did fail to follow the instructions on this one--you are supposed to fold your fabric, right sides together so your back and front are cut out at the same time.  I took the longer path of doing them individually.  Lesson learned.
I pinned all three layers together and decided to sew right through the freezer paper, then trimmed the letters before removing the freezer paper.

Peeling the paper was actually kind of fun, but a little bit messy.  Not my favorite method, but it did ensure that my seams were accurate, which I appreciate. 

The "O" in "NOEL" is the main feature of this table runner.  It is prepared with fusible web on contrasting fabric. 

I chose a Robert Kaufman Japanese print that has a gold leaf-like pattern throughout, so I thought it'd be nice to embroider it with some gold metallic thread I inherited from my mother-in-law when they moved.

This was my first time using metallic thread.  Sandy from The Fabric and Sewing Shop in Sebring warned me that you should use a special needle for metallic thread if you plan to use it in your sewing machine.  I opted to sew this by hand, so I used a regular embroidery needle.

A few things I learned about metallic thread:

  • It frays, it frays, it frays!  I started cutting shorter lengths of thread because the wear on the thread as it passes through the fabric encourages fraying. 
  • It gets all over the place!  This is definitely something to work on at home, not on the go.  I'm still picking up tiny filaments of gold thread from the floor of my sewing room.
  • Use a thread conditioner.  I used Thread Heaven, but beeswax should work, too.  I noticed a HUGE difference in the ease of sewing once I coated the thread. 
  • It might be a bit of a pain, but it's worth it!

Every time I thought about cursing this thread, I reminded myself that I was stitching around an image of Baby Jesus, and that calmed me down.  My NOEL table runner is now proudly displayed on the door of my office.  One more tip: I ended up having to use double-sided tape to keep the table runner looking nice on my door.  If I were to make it again, I would use some sort of interfacing (maybe foam, or Peltex?) to keep all of the letters nice and stiff without additional support. 

What do y'all think?  I had a good time making these.  As I write this, I've already completed another project, so expect another update soon!  God Bless.

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