Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Feelin Good on a Wednesday: Mini Quilts

I recently signed up for a mini quilt swap on Instagram hosted by Schnitzel & Boo

This is a fun project where you are assigned a secret partner, and someone else is secretly assigned to you. You get to know your partner from their sign-up questionnaire, their Instagram feed, and any other social media they may participate in (such as Pinterest). Then, using your new-found knowledge, you make a quilt for them and send it to them by mail! So far, I have been having a lot of fun getting to know my partner, and thinking about what to make for them.  

Here is some of my inspiration:

Feathers by Alison Glass
Arcadia Avenue by Sassafras Lane

Woodcut quilt by Bijou Lovely
These are all large quilts, so I would do a smaller version, or just a single block in the case of the Sassafras Lane quilt. These quilts are all foundation paper pieced, which means I would have to learn a new technique. But that has never stopped me before! For colours, I was thinking blues, greens, and greys, like this colour palette:

{leeked tones}
I found this fabric bundle of solid colours that I think would be perfect (less the purple)!

Winter bundle from Pink Door Fabrics
I do like the idea of having some patterns mixed in as well though, so I may want to add in some other fabrics. So while I'm enjoying Hawaii, I am going to be percolating on what to do, and what fabrics to use. Also, checking out the Hawaiian quilt shops for some inspiration!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Feelin' Good on a Wednesday: Cables

I changed my mind about taking some knitting with me on our trip to Hawaii. I'm just not sure I can go the two weeks without some needle work! My current project is my husband's Game of Thrones blanket. I am in the midst (still) of the wolf panels, but these are far too big to take on a plane. I'm not kidding, there are four balls of yarn on the go for these!
Way too much for carry on-this would not fit under the seat!

So I decided to start on the cable panels, because these will use just one colour of yarn, and I will knit from both ends of the ball for the two panels, instead of having two separate balls. I want the cables to be chunky and manly to go with the direwolves and "Winter is Coming."

This is my short list of contenders:
The winner is...... The horseshoe cables! I like the chunkiness, I feel like the braids and the celtic cables look too delicate.  The twist I thought was a little boring. The horseshoes just feel right!

I started on the panels to make sure I like them in action, and also that my husband was okay with them. When I showed him the cables and asked if they made him feel manly, he grunted. That's man for yes. 
Gotta love these delicious cables!

Monday, 10 November 2014

The ocean was always you: a quilt refashion

My husband's cousin lost her mother to a hard battle with breast cancer a few years ago. I love and adore Renee so much, she was such a special person, and I always found her so supportive and smart, and a real pleasure to be around. I miss her, and I thank her for getting to know her (as short a time as I did), as I feel like she really opened my eyes to having an authentic and honest existence, and appreciating the beauty in the world. She is a woman to be admired and loved. So when Angelique approached me about refashioning a memory quilt for her, made from her mother's clothes, I was honoured to be able to take on this project in memory of such a great woman. 

Angelique had the original quilt made shortly after her mom passed away, wanting something beautiful that she can snuggle up with and take comfort from. The quilter made a quilt with large squares of stripes, and backed/bound it with a blue sheet. 
The original
She hated it. She didn't like the colours and the way they came together, she hated the blue sheet backing, and in hindsight, felt the size was too large. She put it away in a closet and didn't ever use it. And that isn't what you want for a memory quilt representing your mother!  So I took it home with me and percolated for a while with it. 

She wasn't thrilled with the pinks and floral patterns as part of the main quilt. And she wanted something more modern. I saw that there were lots of blacks and blues and greys and whites, and started thinking of the ocean at nighttime. Then I saw this quilt on Pinterest, and thought "Perfect!" Also, I found this poem to be very inspiring. 

Isn't that so fitting for mothers? It's true that no one is as vast and important and mysterious and beautiful as your own mother. Just like the ocean. So I kept this in mind throughout my work on this project. 

My first step was to create a draft to show Angelique for her approval. My concept was to use the black fabrics as the night sky, with the white fabrics as the moon. The blues, greys, and black/white patterns would be the ocean, and below that, the greens, browns, reds, and pinks would be the earth. 
The layout

 She liked the plan, and so began the arduous task of hand ripping stitches to take apart the quilt piece by piece.  
Annyong was "helping"
Separated and sorted
After I had the quilt in pieces, I ironed and sorted them into colour groups, then began trial layouts. 
My bed is my design board
I ended up omitting the pinks from the earth portion, they just didn't work. My plan was to incorporate them into the back. Then I sewed all the pieces together. I found this to be a real challenge, as the different types of fabrics have different degrees of stretch. After I had it all together, I learned about using stabilizers when dealing with tshirt materials. That would have been nice. I hand appliqu├ęd the moon in place after using fusible web to fix it to the quilt. We decided against incorporating stars into the night sky. I also decided to add a black border all the way around. 
The front with no border (yet)
Then I turned my attention to the back. I had all the pink fabrics left, so we decided to do a horizontal stacking coin row to liven up a black-on-black backing fabric.
The back
Great! Time to baste! I laid everything out on my dining room floor to make the quilt sandwich. Originally, we were going to reuse the sheet that had been used for backing as the stuffing, but it was too slippery, and it would have made quilting difficult due to shifting. Instead, I ended up using a thin fleece blanket to keep the weight down. At this point, I sent pictures to Angelique for final approval. She decided that she wasn't feeling having the earth portion on the quilt front, she felt like having just the sky and water was more soothing for her. I'm glad I checked in before basting! I took apart the earth from the sea, replaced the borders, and set to work basting. 
With the earth
Without the earth (and basted)
I used wavy line quilting over the ocean part with varied spacing between lines to make it look like waves in the water.
Close up of wave quilting
I used a walking foot for this, and this is the first time I have quilting using it. It sure made quilting a breeze! Until I got to the sky. When I took apart the quilt, I knew I was going to be using the black all together as the sky, so I didn't seperate each block from the panels, but left them all sewn together in long strips. This was a mistake. The previous quilter had attached old sheet pieces as a stabilizer, but left lots of excess material loose in each block. This means when it came time to quilt the sky, I ended up with huge bunching at each seam between blocks. 

This looks terrible!
At this point, I was feeling very discouraged, and contemplated telling Angelique that we had a fire and the quilt was lost. I couldn't give her a quilt that looked this terrible! I was so embarrassed that it looked so amateur. Thank goodness for a fresh set of eyes: my mother-in-law came over to see the problem and suggested handsewing over the seams to tack down the bunching. This made a world of difference!! Apparently I forgot to take an after picture though, so you will just have to take my word for it.  

Next I tried to machine quilt some modern clouds into the sky, but the thread was too skinny to show up properly. So I hand embroidered over it with a chain stitch and 6 strands of thread to make sure it really popped. 
Clouds and the moon
My last step was to hand bind the quilt with the same black as the border. I wanted the border and binding to just blend into the background, so as not to detract from the star of the show, the fabrics from the clothes. 
The finished front

The finished back
Closeup of the moon
Wrapped and ready to gift
Angelique came over yesterday for the big reveal, and I am so happy that she loves it! I shared with her the poem and my inspirations, and she shared with me the meanings that the ocean and the moon and white cotton shirts have for her and her mom. I think part of what makes this memory quilt so special, is that not only is it made with Renee's clothing, it has deeper meaning and significance in addition to beauty. Just like Renee! Angelique is excited to finally have a quilt that she can use and love, to take comfort in and share with her children. And I am so happy that I got to be a part of this project and pay tribute to an amazing woman. This project was a true labour of love, and an honour to be a part of. Renee wrote regularly on her blog Circling My Head, and I encourage everyone to have a read through to get a glimpse of what made her so special. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Portable handsewing kit? Yes please!

My husband and I are heading out for a little holiday soon, and I wanted to take along some crafty goodness to enjoy while on the move (and while sedentary on the beach). I didn't want to bring along any knitting, because yarn is hot, and we are going someplace hot. And I can't bring along my sewing machine, that is just asking for trouble at the airport! So I decided to give English Paper Piecing a try, as small, portable, handsewing projects seem perfect for travelling. 

I have been admiring (aka: obsessing over) many crafty Instagram accounts that feature their Passacaglia quilts from Millifiori Quilting. I have my eye on this book, but at the moment, can't afford to drop the money to obtain it. So my sights will have to be set a little lower in the meantime. I made a couple practice flowers to make sure EPP was a technique I was capable of doing, and enjoying. It turns out..... I love it! It is so relaxing and gives you a good sense of accomplishment when you see your pile of finished pieces (and they add up quick!). Also, who doesn't like fussy cutting? Excellent. Decision made. EPP is coming to Hawaii with me! Now I just have to come up with a way to transport my supplies and works-in-progress in a compact yet stylish carry-all. 

Enter this portable handsewing kit! 
Front view
Back view
I had an idea in mind of what I wanted (small and compact, accordion pockets to hold supplies), but didn't have a pattern to work with, so I decided to wing it and see what happens. While I am trying to be more creative and original in my crafting, sometimes I find that difficult. I don't live in a void, and it seems like everything has been done before! So, full disclosure, I was inspired by similar totes I saw on Pinterest, and I did have to research how to make the accordion pockets. 

I made three pockets inside, two small and one big, to hold my mini sewing kit, pieces, and fabrics.

Inside view
 My mini sewing kit is contained in the packaging from a small eyeshadow palette I bought from Sephora last year. I love interesting packaging, and couldn't bear to throw it out, so I'm glad I found a use for it! (Otherwise I'm a hoarder....) My kit includes a bobbin loaded with silvery-white hand quilting thread, small embroidery scissors, my grandma's old needle threader, a magnetic mouse to hold my needles, two binder clips, and pieces for sewing. 

Mini sewing kit
Also, I made a little view finder for fussy cutting hexies. Worked like a dream!

Spot those fussy cuts
I used my trial flower blocks of fussy cut Charley Harper hexies to decorate the front and back of my kit. I used fusible web to fix them in place, then stitched over the edges with a short, skinny zigzag stitch. Thank goodness for fancy stitches on my sewing machine, because I have Singer to thank for those adorable arrows on the sides. Finally, two snaps to hold the cover closed, and I have a delightful sewing kit to travel with!  

I am please with how this tote turned out, and am even more proud to say that it's a Laura original! Now I am super excited for our trip. Getting to show this tote off in exotic locales is going to be so exciting!