Friday, December 26, 2014


My recent frenzy of potholder making was inspired by a post on Film in the Fridge on a rainbow of log cabin potholders she made for gifts. My thoughts went immediately to the stained and scorched black potholders in my kitchen. How embarrassing for an avid quilter and fabric lover to have such eyesores when I'm able to make my own with beautiful fabric! And, as a person who probably all too often eats reheated leftovers in front of the TV, I use them a ton. Once I had potholders on the brain, I figured I should make some for Christmas gifts, too. (Full disclosure: I finished handsewing down the binding on Christmas Eve and Day. Now that's some last-minute holiday crafting!)

The first is for a friend and former boss who also loves Hawaii. I cut into a FQ bundle of treasured Hawaiian fabric, settling on simple patchwork. There's a thin plus on the back due to a little math oopsy when I cut it the same size as the front. But now it's a nice detail we'll pretend was intentional, right? I'm going to wrap it up with a candle and pretty candies I got in Spain.

Then I made a pair of smaller ones for an old neighbour who brought me a tin of the most delicious shortbread cookies. I'm not sure how I didn't eat them all in one sitting. These are some of those fabric oddities occasionally found in your stash - you have no idea why you bought them because it's not at all your style, but it is absolutely perfect for someone else. I like the wee dragonflies on the orange.

Then finally I made some for myself! I'm probably way too excited about potholders, but as you can see replacements are much needed. I just need to stitch down the binding, then I can eat leftovers in style!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Another in the mail

Yesterday I sent off my latest swap - this time a mug rug to Australia. The lovely Gnome Angel hosted this festive mug rug swap and I couldn't help but sign up even though the deadline was fast-approaching and my crafty to-do list is long. Along with the mug rug (which I'll talk about below because I'm over-the-moon happy with it), I made a zippered pouch with the cutest sheep in sweaters. Inside that I tucked some chocolate - including a Coffee Crisp bar stamped with a big maple leaf and the slogan "The Canadian Original" - and a lovely silvery bird ornament from Ten Thousand Villages.

I wrapped the mug rug in the snowman fabric (my partner said she liked snowmen), and added a pretty letterpress card. Although now I'm realizing I sent a "Happy Winter" card to Australia, where it's now summer. Oops! I'm on a roll - I sent hot chocolate to my last swap partner in New Zealand.

The mug rug is tiny, but a whole lotta thought and effort went into it! The actual making took the better part of a day because I tried a bunch of new things and had to figure it out as I went along.

My partner said she liked Cotton + Steel basics, and right away I thought the X fabric in navy blue would be perfect for a snowy night sky. I envisioned a tree and snowman on the blue, with a twinkling star in the sky and snow on the ground. I had a plan, but could I make that reality?

I started with the tree, piecing two different C + S greens for the boughs. Then onto the star - the biggest smallest challenge. I've never made a wonky star before, so why not start with one that's 1.5"?! Once I had the sky part pieced, I quilted straight lines through the star in a variegated thread to make it sparkle. Then onto the snow-covered hills. Those curved lines were a bit tricky and turned out not quite perfect, but I love the effect. Lastly, time for the snowman. Hexies seemed so perfectly obvious that I was surprised very few popped up in an online search. I added fusible batting behind the hexies so the blue wouldn't show through, then top-stitched him onto the snowy ground.

Finally more of the silver netorious became the binding. On the back, I used Alison Glass fabric since my partner said that was a favourite designer and orange was among her favourite colours. (Blue was the first colour she listed.) And a quick little label finished it off!

I really hope my partner likes it. I'm super proud of how it turned out. And amazed that I actually made just what I imagined! I'm more of a pattern-following sort, but this is 100 per cent my own design.

As for the zippered pouch, I made two more with the same cute flannel for friends. And I have two more to make!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Now what?

The fifth and final border went on my mini medallion this week. I love it! This last border sure was a lot of work with all the triangles and trimming. But it sure looks great! I mostly used Arcadia fabric by Sarah Watson, but threw in a few solids and the polka dot print, then varied the background fabrics.

This medallion was a fun quilt-along held by Clover and Violet. I really liked seeing all the others people made on Instagram and how different they all were. You can see on the back just how much piecing goes into a medallion when you see all the seams!

Now the question is just what to do with this mini, which isn't so mini at 36" square. Add a border for a lap quilt? A wall hanging? I guess it's good I have plenty of other quilting projects I need to tackle, so I have time to consider this. And deciding how to quilt it will be a whole other dilemma!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Quilting for a cause

This mini quilt is for a co-worker who asked if I could make something quilted to donate to the fundraising raffle for her choir. Right away I thought of the Moda Love Quilt, and my bundle of Up Parasol fabric. I also pulled another print, the green and yellow bubbles and waves, from my stash. So much of my fabric is rather girly and modern, and I wanted this mini to have a more broad appeal.

The wavy bubbles showed up again on the back, highlighted with a bit of simple piecing and corners for easy hanging. I used two matching prints in blue and green for a kinda scrappy binding. I'm finally getting smart with the binding and lay it around the quilt before starting to stitch to avoid a seam popping up right at a corner. Why does that always seem to happen?!

Straight-line quilting in mostly blue with a bit of yellow-green added a whole new dimension. The plan when I started was a minimal crosshatch, but I got all of three lines before thinking it just wouldn't do. I guess I just can't help myself when it comes to straight-line quilting.

But look how beautiful it is! How can I resist!?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Happy mail!

After months of anticipation, my first ever swap came to an exciting conclusion this week when the mini made for me arrived in my mailbox and mine made it all the way to New Zealand to its new home.

I've never been so excited to get a package in the mail! This is kinda silly, but I honestly skipped a little bit on my way home from the mail box. I was just bursting with excitement to open the package. My partner crafted the most amazing just for me. I can tell she watched my Instagram feed closely for ideas because she really captured everything I love. Here's all the goodies I found in the package:

The beautiful mini with lots of blues and teals - my favourite - was finished with handquilting (So lovely - I need to try that!) in two colours. She added in a bicycle print too because anyone stalking my IG couldn't help but take note of the many pictures from my bike rides in the countryside and proud odometer posts. Looking at it now, I realize the choice of other prints was very intentional too, since she also noticed my love of nature and picked fabrics with flowers, leaves and other plants. How nice! The mini really is a treasure and I was overwhelmed to receive it. Many times on IG, I liked the sneak peeks she posted - and then surprise, surprise it came to me! I plan on hanging it in my dining room, right across from where I sit every morning for breakfast so I can admire it every day.

Along with the mini, she sent along a red, green and sparkling evergreen garland for the holidays, a zippered fox pouch (no doubt after seeing the foxy pillow I made recently) and milkweed bombs to plant. That's the favourite plant of Monarch butterflies, and its dwindling ranks have greatly affected the Monarch population. By coincidence, not that long ago I was looking at ways to give the butterflies a boost after several close encounters while out cycling.

Almost as beautiful as the front of the mini is the label. I love, love, love how she personalized it. And wow! It's stitched by hand! My mom and I spent quite some time looking at it closely. And more bicycles on the backing fabric!

I couldn't be happier with what I received, which made me very eager for my partner to get my package. Thankfully and amazingly it was just a little over a week making its way from Canada to New Zealand. My partner said she liked colour, modern and bright, traditional with modern twists. I think I got all those in the mini I made. The pattern was inspired by the barn quilt trail my mom and I followed in the summer. I took the traditional Jacob's ladder block, and turned the four-patch into a nine-patch and swapped quarter-square triangles for the middle. And I made it bright! Mostly pink prints, with some purple and then orange and pink solids. I love how it turned out, making mailing it off a bit tough. But a variation on this may just pop up again, since I have lots of fabric left over.

Here's a close-up of the quilting. I started with straight lines echoing the square, then did closer lines in the points and a cross-hatch in the big middle patch. In hot pink, of course!

I sewed a few extras, too. I already shared the doggy zippered pouch with a hexie flower I made using fabric I spotted while on vacation in Barcelona. As soon as I saw my partner had a Westie, I knew I had to make something with the cute white pup on it. A little online searching and I sketched out a simple patchwork pattern for a Westie mug rug. I had to do some very small piecing for the dog and bow, but it turned out super cute. I love the butterfly by its nose.

I gathered a few other goodies (pink note pad, pretty pencil covered in Japanese paper, cute metal clips, ballerina bear button, colourful bunting stickies, flower chocolates and fancy hot chocolate with a chocolate-dipped spoon) and here's the whole bundle I mailed off:

This swap was so much fun! If you're on the fence about joining one, do it! Getting something wonderful in the mail is only part of what makes them great. I loved following the hashtags on IG to see what everyone was making, and boy there were some jaw-dropping quilts! Lots of people used the swap as a push to try new techniques or patterns. I certainly had never used such a bold colour scheme or so much black, and I loved how it came together. Now that packages are being mailed, it's so much fun to watch the hashtag as everybody is receiving their minis.

With this first swap behind me, I can focus on the three others I'm signed up for. Three! And I'm chomping at the bit for the sign-ups to open for a rainbow mini swap. I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about what to make for each swap, then getting really excited when I come up with the perfect idea. The beauty about swapping something smaller is that it's a great chance to try out new things or make your own designs. And I have some big plans for my upcoming swaps! I'm itching for the fabric to arrive so I can finally turn my festive mug rug vision into reality. So yeah, I'm hooked on swaps.

Oh, and here's the back of my swap mini, which is pretty freaking fantastic. I got this crazy wild fabric ages ago and finally the perfect project came along. No piecing needed here for an interesting back! Plus it's got my first ever quilt label, embellished with a few of my leftover bits from the patchwork.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Pretty pretty pillows

Can there be anything more lovely than quilted pillows? I made this pair for a dear friend's birthday, although I admit it will be tough to let them go. I love everything about them - the fabric (Arcadia by Sarah Watson), the patterns, the soft grey. Perfection, if I do say so myself!

And even the backs are pretty!

This was my first time adding binding to a quilted pillow and I really love the look. The binding really finishes the pillows nicely and the extra time is definitely worth it. Plus it saves you some brain strain making the pillows because you sew them together right-side out before adding the binding.

Now to prepare myself to give these away in a week. Luckily I have another one started for myself. Finally one I can keep!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bon voyage

Yesterday I popped the mini quilt I made for an Instagram swap and a few extra goodies into the mail to start its long journey half way around the world. Now I'm really excited! I can't wait for my partner to get it! I hope she loves everything I made just for her after a close examination of her IG feed. I'm only going to show one of the extras because I don't want to spoil the surprise - not just for the mini quilt but also the mug rug that is so personalized the recipient likely would guess it's for her (although admittedly the chance she happens to check my blog is remote).

A lot of firsts went into this package - my first swap, my first hexies, my first open wide zippered pouch. I love this pouch and definitely recommend the tutorial. I had some trouble with tension on the canvas because of my diva of a sewing machine, but otherwise this pouch was a breeze.

I picked up the doggy canvas while in Barcelona in October, knowing it was perfect for my swap partner. I grabbed a vintage-looking floral from my stash for the inside, and stitched a hexie flower made with my favourite bunting fabric onto the front. I wish I put the flower up a bit higher, but it looks fine (and after the headache I had getting the tension right, I did not have the heart to try again after sewing the pouch together). Finally I dipped into my bead stash to make a zipper pull to finish off the pouch, which I stuffed with little goodies like chocolate, a pretty notepad and pencil. I definitely need to make some more of these, and already have some cute flannel in mind for little gifts for friends.

Now all there is to do is wait! I'm looking forward to seeing what my swap partner sends me, and super excited for my package to reach my partner's mailbox. Oh, I hope she loves everything as much as I enjoyed making it for her!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Back to reality

I recently returned home after a wonderful two-week vacation in Spain. We started in Barcelona, then took the train to Madrid for the second week. I couldn't suggest it more as a destination. The people were friendly and helpful, the food and coffee great and there were so many amazing things to see in the two cities. Like the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, roughly translated as music palace and rightly declared a UNESCO world heritage site. Can you imagine a more beautiful place? How could you even pay attention to the music with all this to admire? Just look at that stained glass ceiling, nicknamed the glow worm.

I used the vacation as a great time to finally jump into hexies. I fussycut a whole bunch of this great Japanese fabric I've had for quite some time. Hexies seemed like the perfect project for all its quirky little creatures. I stitched my first hexie while waiting in the airport, and then just kept basting until I got through the whole batch - a little over 100. It was the perfect craft while relaxing after a busy day of sightseeing.

The flights home made for a long day, but I wasn't too bothered because I started stitching my hexies together. The flight attendants and other travellers were quite intrigued by what I was doing, and a few even asked questions. I love when people are curious about handwork and genuinely admire what you're doing. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what I was doing. I read several tutorials on how to baste hexies before the trip, but not so much how to put them together because I didn't think I'd get that far. But it all worked out just fine. You really need to figure out how best to do something for yourself, anyway.

When I finally got home, the top priority (after a good night's sleep) was picking up my sewing machine. Reunited at last! It languished way too long at the repair shop, but it's sewing like a dream again. First I got back to the mini for my swap. It got pieced and quilted and now I just need to handstitch the binding. I love how it turned out! But you'll have to wait to see a picture because I don't want to ruin the surprise. I also made a mug rug to go with it and I picked up the perfect canvas I still need to make into a zippered pouch, and I'll put all the little goodies in there. Also since then I've joined two more swaps - how exciting!

Next up, I got back to two minis from Canoe Ridge Creation's mini quilt club. I pieced the October mini I cut out before my trip, then quilted both. The bulk of the quilting was with grey thread, then I decided to add in a bit of bright green. I think it looks great, although it's a bit tough to see in the photos.

This one I did simple straight lines with some wider spacing in parts.

The other is very densely quilted. I started by creating an X through the middle and then just had fun and kept switching what I was doing when I got a new idea. I really like how it turned out.

Here's just a close-up of the mini to show some of the quilting. You really need to have a good look at the whole surface to see all the interesting patterns that emerge from the intersecting lines.

So I'm back to reality, but thankfully that includes sewing!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A couple surprises

Today I was quite happy to give away two surprise gifts. The only thing better as a crafter than giving a handmade gift is when someone is really surprised.

The first was a wee quilted pink heart. Full confession - I meant to make it twice this size, but I've been using so many 1.5" squares lately in different projects I went into autopilot at the cutting table. It was only after I had the strips all ready to sew together that I looked at it and thought, "Hmm. This looks small." So instead of a wall-hanging, it became a mat for a teapot. Which actually worked out perfectly because it was for the lovely ladies that own the bakery and cafe next to my workplace. They kindly offered to host a high tea for a friend and co-worker who is soon going on maternity leave, along with me and another co-worker who are all addicted to their coffee and baking. The heart went under the pretty floral teapot as we enjoyed our finger sandwiches, cookies and then a scone topped with jam and cream. Yummy!

I knew I had the perfect fabric for the back - a bright pink with floral panels that turned out to be just the right size. Here I am assisted by a kitty who decided to stand in as Vanna White:

The mini looks a bit wonky in the picture, but it was quite square. Honest. And look at how perfectly the binding matched in one spot. You couldn't do that if you tried!

The next gift was for the high tea's guest of honour, who is soon having her second baby. I made her a sock monkey rag quilt that she insisted she buy the fabric for, so I still wanted to sew something as a real gift. She told me the baby room theme was safari, so I was thrilled when I looked in my stash and found a bright bundle with elephants, giraffes and polka dots. I picked up a couple more polka dots in different colours for the needed yardage, and white with multi-coloured dots for the back. The result is such a wonderfully bright and cheery quilt good for a girl or boy.

I quilted simple straight lines on both sides of the seams in bright yellow and used every last scrap on the back. I wasn't sure about using a predominately white fabric for the back, but I love it!

The binding was done by machine because I thought that would be more sturdy for a baby quilt that will be washed often and really handled. That's starting to go a bit better for me now after a bit of practice. This time I also pressed the binding toward the front, which I think was a real help. I don't know why I never thought to do that before.

Today I also hit 3,400 kilometres on my bike - thankfully a rain-free ride after getting drenched yesterday. Although the weather is iffy now that fall has truly settled in, I'm trying to get in as much cycling as I can. Autumn is my favourite season and I just love riding through the countryside and soaking in the fall colours, the moody October sky and the farmers busy harvesting the last crops.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Trials and tribulations

This should have been a quick and simple border on my mini medallion. Just strips of alternating squares. Easy peasy, right? I knew right away I wanted to pair up the gold Netorious print from Cotton + Steel and teal and gold from Carolyn Friedlander's Botanics collection because they looked so nice together where I used them in the medallion centre.

I hesitated for a moment because both prints are favourites, making me oh so reluctant to cut into the precious FQs. But cut I did. Nine 1.5" strips according to the instructions. And here's where the wheels fell off. And then the wreckage caught fire and became a raging inferno. Well, maybe that's a bit too dramatic. But I sure did have that panic sweat only a sewing problem can induce.

Right now I am working with a borrowed machine since mine seems to be stuck forever at the repair shop. Mine has a special setting for a scant quarter inch you use with the quarter-inch foot, the borrowed machine does not and so I had to adjust the seam allowance myself. Apparently it was a bit too scant because when I sewed together the first strip of 28 squares it was 3/4 too long! Boy that difference adds up quickly with a bunch of wee blocks. What to do? Thankfully, I thought, at least I don't have to rip out all that stitching. I can just change the setting and sew right alongside the first line. Well, guess what? That made it almost a half-inch too short. Really!?!

Then things got more desperate. I ripped out the original sewing so I could press all the seams open because pressing to the side shrinks it a bit. That brilliant idea gave me about a 1/16" more. Sewing rage rising. What happened to my quick and easy border!?! Look at the two seams in the photo below. Who would guess such a teeny difference would add up to such a gigantic headache?

I ended up blending the too scant and too wide seams on each strip, sewing a few and then ironing and measuring until it was the right length. I was so relieved to finally get this border sewn on. I was not going to let it defeat me!

Oh, and as I was resewing all the seams, I realized the instructions told you to cut double what you needed. DOUBLE. So half my seam allowance aggravation was totally unnecessary. Plus now I have all these orphan bits with seams of various widths to remind me of the experience. But my medallion sure is looking pretty!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Crafty like a fox

Do you have any fabric in your stash, just a few FQs from a collection, waiting for the perfect project to come along? I've been holding onto this cute fox and quail fabric from Birch for some time now. Just look at this fabulous little fellow sitting in tufts of long grass:

Finally the perfect project appeared this week. A friend's relative is going through a tough time, and I asked what were her favourite colours with the thought of sewing up a little cheer. Orange! And what peeked out of my stash, but these foxes and quails in orange and blue. I knew I wanted to fussy cut the foxes and I settled on a simple patchwork pillow. I picked up a lovely shiny orange thread to quilt simple straight lines. (The first photo most accurately shows the colour.)

On the back I used a bright zig zag fabric with a bit of orange and blue, and the orange thread appears again.

I'm really happy with how it turned out. Quilted pillows are so nice - soft but reassuringly sturdy at the same time. (I couldn't help but pat it every time I walked by.) I hope it will bring some cheer and comfort to its new home.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Crafty photo acrobatics

A quilt photo assistant sure would be handy sometimes. Instead I had to spread this quilt top on the grass, run back inside before the wind caught it and perch on the ledge outside my sliding doors to get all of this in frame. And now I'm realizing I really should have got a close-up because you can't see the background is teeny multicoloured polka dots. Sigh.

This pinwheel quilt came together pretty quickly in a week of not even concentrated sewing. But now I think it will have to go out for quilting because it's a bit too unwieldy for me to handle on my machine at 71” x 54.5". I was thinking swirls, like wind blowing through the pinwheels.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Weekend round-up

This was a busy weekend packed with sewing, cooking, cycling, shopping and lots more. I'm not sure how I fit it all in!

Let's start with two new soups I made in the slow-cooker, both I'd recommend because they're simple and tasty. Both are those great slow-cooker recipes where you don't need to brown anything, just dump it all in and let it simmer. First up on Saturday was vegetarian lasagna soup. This was super tasty. I added extra veggies because why not? A spoonful of a ricotta and mozzarella cheese mixture on top makes it even better. The last few leaves of basil from my herb garden were stirred into the cheesy goodness.

Then Sunday I made chicken enchilada soup. Mmm! I topped it with a dollop of sour cream, minced red onions and cilantro and had some blue corn chips on the side. Instead of canned corn, I picked up a few fresh ears from a nearby farm. That tastes so fresh and it's wonderfully crisp. On Sunday I also pedalled to a few kilometres shy of doubling my cycling distance from 2012. Tomorrow I'll pass 3,100K. Woohoo!

Although I have several sewing projects on the go, I just had to make this Cat Star block that popped up on Instagram when I realized how perfect suited the Cotton + Steel kitties were for the design. I also got bold and cut into my Essex linen, which was really nice to work with. I love how it turned out - especially the odd kitty peeking in from the corner. I think I'll make it into a pillow.

I also finished the binding on a baby quilt for a friend, whose baby shower is next week. That counts as working way ahead in the crafty world - done a whole week before the deadline! There was even time for wash before the photoshoot.

A strip of the leftover bits add some interest to the back.

This was the first time I quilted with Aurifil and I think the bright pink looks great with the more muted shades of the top. The kitty fabric (Here Kitty Kitty by Clothworks) really is lovely, very light-weight and almost silky. Now I see the appeal of making a quilt out of voile. That would feel like heaven!

I also finished my pinwheel quilt top, but it was dark by the time I sewed on the last border and the grass was too dewy this morning. I'll post a photo later.

I love this shot of my progress on my mini quilt swap. So much colour! So many teeny pieces!

I put a halt on all my works in progress, including the swap mini, when I reluctantly had to part with my sewing machine after it went cuckoo bonkers and a tune-up became a necessity. Hopefully it will be home very soon. My mom was kind enough to lend me her travel machine (likely sensing the desperation in my voice when I said my machine would be gone for at least two weeks. Two weeks!) Knowing each machine has a slightly different idea of a scant 1/4" seam, I thought it best to work on new projects like the pinwheels that I could start and finish on the borrowed machine.

And boy do I have a bunch of projects on the go! I recently joined a block of the month club for the Moda Modern Building Blocks quilt. The first four blocks are done (I should really get a picture of those to share) and soon October's fabric should arrive. I'm also waiting on a gifted collection of Aurifil to get started on the quilting for a couple more baby quilts. What a treat - thanks Miss C!