Sunday, December 27, 2015

One nearly done, another starting

Here's my latest bee block, Abacus. I like the colour scheme the queen bee picked with grey, purple and black. But a black background sure is unforgiving, especially with all those points. I think I did pretty well, though. Although I've been working over the holidays, I was able to make a fabric basket and the signature block last night so I can get my package out on time.

The first year of the Bee Hive is almost over with just one month left. But that's the same time a new one starts! This bee has been lots of fun. And it spurred me to try new blocks and techniques, including paper piecing. And boy that has opened up a lot of options for me! My last couple swap minis were paper pieced (Mariner's compass and New York Beauty) and that's what I've got planned for the second round of the rainbow mini swap with one block from Arcadia Avenue.

Still I definitely do prefer patchwork and I'm always happy to get back to that after a paper-piecing project. This coming year I've decided to sign up for fewer swaps. After a couple less than stellar swapping experiences and just feeling overwhelmed at times by the deadlines, I think it's best to focus more on making things for people I know. Maybe even for me! I am doing the rainbow swap and two private swaps, but that's all I've got in the works for now.

I am planning on a second round of the Polaroid Greeting Swap sometime in the new year because people really seemed to like that and it was low pressure (with blessedly few flakers), although not so much the hosting! That was a steep learning curve hosting a swap, and continues to be even after the mailing deadline. I also said earlier I want to host a mini quilt swap just for people who got burned, although now that my swap outrage has simmered down a bit it seems like a lot to take on. Hopefully I haven't bitten off more than I can chew. I guess I'm a bit sad that swaps have been tainted for me by a few people who obviously didn't care to send good packages to their partner. I was so excited about swaps when I first joined IG and met some amazing people through them, so I really would like to regain that good feeling. Anyone else feeling a bit burned out by swaps, and sad about that?

Here's the bee package before I got it into the mail, just under the wire this month because it was a busy one crafting wise. It's a little blurry because yet again the best I could get was early morning dim light. I don't mind the cold of winter, but it sure is tough getting good photos of things I make with such short days.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Soft and subtle

I've long wanted to make the raspberry kiss block, and making a mini for a friend's birthday seemed like the perfect occassion. I've been holding onto a bundle of Denyse Schmidt Flea Market Fancy forever, and it was the perfect soft shades for my friend Tara. The shimmery print went so well with the blues, and I actually picked up at an L.A. fabric shop while on vacation with her so some good memories with that one! And then I grabbed five different text prints from my stash for the background.

The blocks themselves were pretty tedious. A lot of little pieces to cut out and a lot of ironing. Also I wasn't especially fond of sewing on those triangles in the last step because no matter how careful I was, the blocks seemed to end up a bit wonky. But I got them all together fairly well with a bit of fussing.

I really love the effect of using several text prints. It adds a whole new dimension to the quilt. I really need to make something similar for myself, although I'm not sure I'm up for more raspberry kiss blocks.

The quilting is simple to let the blocks shine. I love how soft and fluffy it felt compared to minis I quilt densely. Then I finished it with a wonderful Grunge teal for the binding. I picked that up on a whim and I'm so glad I did because it's perfect. So I'm gonna use that as an excuse to grab those random FQs because you never know when they'll come in handy!

I love the bit of "Love" peeking out in the middle block, and thankfully the disjointed deer aren't too noticeable. This mini is definitely far more soft and subtle than my usual wild colour scheme, but I adore it. A good reminder to try new things!

Pillow parade

Suddenly I had the urge to make a few Christmas presents and with not a lot of time left, I knew it needed to be something I could make fairly quickly. I decided to go with quilted pillows - because what's better than a quilted pillow? - and I'd use a modified version of the Tic Tac Toe block from the quilting bee I've been doing this year, and signed up for again next year.

I made four different ones, fabric combos picked out to suit the recipient. I made a plus-sized version of the bee block so they'd be 15.5". If you want to make the same size, cut 5.5" and 3" squares.

Then I got quilting! I used a light blue thread on this pillow, which reminds me of sunshine and green grass, and the joy of cycling again when spring finally arrives. It's fitting I finished it on a day when we got our first real snow for this winter.

This one has two of my favourite fabrics - a great newsprint and the amazing saturated colours of Alison Glass. I fussycut the text fabric to capture some of the nice messages. Then I quilted with a favourite teal thread.

I pulled out my neon yellow thread for this Tula pillow. It goes so wonderfully with her bold colours.

The back is pretty too. I love this fabric that makes me think of all the great European cities with lovely sprawling parks. I usually finish my pillows with an envelope back because that's fast and I don't need a zipper, so if the mood strikes to make a pillow I can just dive in.

Then I lined all my pretty little pillows up in a row (to get this oddly fuzzy photo. I really need to get out my real camera more often).

I still have one more to finish, but I'm just about there.

And here it is, magically added later!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Playing at the sewing machine

Sometimes when I sew, I really feel like a kid. But instead of a colourful array of crayons, I've got fabric. Back when I did the modern fabric postcard swap, I got my first taste of quilt-as-you-go. I made a mental note that I needed to try that on a much bigger scale than a teeny 4" x 6" canvas.

While scrolling through Instagram recently or maybe it was a blog post (so many sources of quilty inspiration!) I was reminded of it again. Good timing because I was also trying to come up with an idea for something to make for a fundraiser hosted by an IG friend to help out a woman going through a rough patch. I made a Hazel pouch for the last round and it was a popular auction item (the top bid was $70!!!), but wanted to do something different.

I grabbed my bin of Alison Glass fabric and got started. I had seen some examples of quilt-as-you-go and found this tutorial to give me a few tips. But, as usual, I mostly just dove in and figured it out as I went. Unlike my usual M.O., I didn't really have a plan for the fabrics or colours. I just started with the orange and went from there, cutting about 2" strips as I went of fabrics I thought would look good next.

I soon realized this would be far from a quick project. Suddenly the 16.5" batting I cut out seemed enormous! But I just kept plugging away, adding layer after layer. I used a soft blue Aurifil thread for all the quilting. Oddly it's a colour I probably would never pick myself, but it was a generous extra in a swap package and I find myself often reaching for it. It's almost a neutral that seems to go with everything.

All told, it was at least four hours of quilting to cover the batting. Also I should have cut the batting bigger because it shrank a good 1/2". But I was being lazy and just wanted to use my 16.5" square ruler. I still trimmed it to 16.5" because I figured the edges without batting would be hidden in the seam anyway.

How awesome is this?! Such saturated colours and great movement and texture.

Then I made it into a pillow. I am over the moon happy with how this turned out. It's always so fun to try something new, even if it is a bit nerve-racking not being sure how it's going to come out in the end. And now I definitely have to do this again.

Monday, November 23, 2015

All for me!

This weekend I decided to do something totally crazy - making something just for me! Ever since I picked up this awesome neon thread in the summer, I knew I wanted to do matchstick quilting on white with it. I just needed the time and plan. Then while laying in bed half asleep on Saturday morning, an idea came to me. The inspiration came at the end of a disappointing week, so I knew making something for myself was just what I needed!

First I grabbed a few Tula Pink Eden prints, even yellow! Then I started cutting out the pieces for my shapes. Kinda an '80s vibe with the circle, triangles and rectangle.

In no time, my Tula banner was together! Clearly I'm a big fan of that orangey pink. That's the wall colour in my craft room and the perfect backdrop for my banner.

Then came the really fun part - quilting! I did have a moment's hesitation about the neon thread and was gonna go with more matchy aurifil, but soon I knew it was the perfect choice.

I mostly alternated the orange and pink, and green and yellow. I'd say the quilting lines are about 1/8" apart. And I love it! The matchstick quilting gives the banner a whole new look. I like the furry trimmed edges too. So very many threads.

Then I took it outside into our first real snow to capture it in the sunlight and let those colours shine.

Now to get the binding on. I'm gonna go for the blue/green in the top left to balance all the pink.

I think now I'm gonna dream up new projects for that neon thread. It's totally rad!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Blocks and basket

I really enjoyed making the block for this month's queen bee. Good thing too, since I needed to make four for her because she did the same for me. Jackie picked a Christmas theme with bright green and red and I think I did well, considering my trouble finding those fabrics. I may pick the Homebase Block next year when it's my turn to be queen bee again.

As usual, I made a fabric basket to send as well. And I decided I really need to write a tutorial for my fast and easy way to put one together. I like the popular one-hour basket, but found a few steps in there that can be simplified to get a basket together even faster. And I like the look of the folded-down cuff. Or handles could be added, although I don't find those especially useful for the added time.

So add writing a tutorial to my to-do list! I just need a few daylight hours to take photos as I put one together.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Stash shortfall

The past two months in my quilting bee have been a bit of a challenge for me fabric wise. And I find it simply baffling when I don't have something suitable in my stash. There's so much in there!

October's queen bee wanted her Checker Block in black and white fabrics, colourful designs on a predominantly white background, and black sashing. I knew right away I had zip in B&W and straight black, but I was surprised to find I didn't have much in the way of the other. Guess I really do like colour.

So then I was on the hunt. I found the black and white no problem, but the other proved tricky. And oh I looked in so many shops. After a fruitless search, I found this bird and building print in my stash. The queen bee said it was fine, so I went with it. I sent her two blocks since it was almost as easy to make two as one once you had the HST. I wish I paid more attention when cutting the owl fabric because they kinda disappear. I love the print for the basket - little sprouts!

All along I have been making practice blocks from a bundle of Meadow. Now I have nine blocks, including these recent additions. (Sorry for the poor lighting. It's getting so tough to get photos with the rapidly shortening days and then the daylight saving switch.)

Now I am on the hunt for fabric for the November queen, who wants a red and green Christmasy block. That green is proving elusive. And to compound the problem I need to make four blocks because she accidentally made for for my month.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Hazel helps out

I whipped up this zippered pouch this weekend to be auctioned in a friend's Instagram fundraiser to help a lovely woman gain some financial independence while she's going through a rough patch. I cut into my precious Lovely Hunt and Abacus prints I just got in the mail, and added in bits of Tula, C+S and AMH. I love how it turned out! Those rich colours are offset so nicely by the text print. This Hazel's purple eyes and her silver nose have a bit of sparkle, too.

I quilted the front in a crosshatch and then the back is a combination of dense straight lines and waves in the blue. The top bid was $70! Can you believe it?! Why am I not selling these puppies?! Oh wait. I hate making pouches. They're so much easier on my new sewing machine, but I still do not like tangling with zippers. Not sure why, but it's something I dread. Yet still I keep making them! Go figure.

All things Alison

This round of the Schnitzel & Boo swap was a breeze for me. My partner said her favourite designer is Alison Glass - plenty of that in my stash! - and she'd love a Mariner's Compass. Coming up with a swap plan is often the tough part, so I was happy to know exactly what to make. I found a lovely free pattern for the block and I was still in a paper-piecing groove after my New York Beauty. (Unfortunately I've got some bad feelings with that swap after my partner couldn't be bothered to post a thank you, but I'm trying to put that behind me.)

I started with the colourful AG Ex Libris print in the centre, then started pulling co-ordinating fabrics in blue, purple, pink and orange in AG prints and solids. Along with bold colours, my partner said she also likes dark greys and black, so I incorporated lots of that too. I love how this turned out, and it was tough sending it off.

She said she likes anything hedgehog, so I made a zippered pouch and tucked the mini in there along with some Smarties. Alison Glass fabric for this, too.

And when I mailed that yesterday, all my swaps were done. It feels odd and wonderful at the same time. Thankfully another round of my favourite swap - the Rainbow Mini Swap - hosted by one of my favourite IG friends is opening soon!

Ps. This post joined the weekly link party over at Blossom Heart Quilts. Be sure to check out Alyce's great blog.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Storm At Sea

Oh, it makes me so happy to see this quilt again! This modern twist on Storm at Sea is definitely one of my favourites I've made, so of course it's the first I thought of when another instalment of the Blogger's Quilt Festival hosted by Amy's Creative Side opened. I've entered it in the Mini Quilt Category.

I made this for the Alison Glass mini quilt swap. I'd been wanting to make a Storm at Sea quilt for a while, then I read my partner liked "traditional blocks iwth modern colours/arrangments" and I knew it would be perfect. I played with the design to highlight the waves in the bottom right and the circle in the top left. I stuck with the green and blue fabrics and all is Alison Glass, including the text print and white on white in the background.

Then I was brave and veered away from my comfort zone of straight-line quilting and did a spiral and wavy patterns in blue, green and white thread. That took quite a while!

On the back, the dense quilting stands out on the mostly solid fabric.

I am really proud of this mini. Best of all, my partner loved it! It really is wonderful when you send a swap package out into the world, and then you can tell the recipient genuinely appreciates the effort you put into making something just for them.

You can see all the amazing quilts in all the categories for the Blogger's Quilt Festival on Amy's blog. Don't forget to vote for your favourites! Voting is open Oct. 29 to Nov. 5 and winners are announced Nov. 6. Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Feeling blue

Last time I have my family over to my place, my middle sister went on not so subtly about how she really liked my quilted pillows. I got a quick yes when I asked if she'd like one. Together we picked out fabric in primarily blues for a Hazel pillow. This pattern is so much fun to make, it really is a pleasure to sew with that cute little face looking back at me.

Wavy lines again, which seems to be my go-to quilting for Hazels. It is wonderfully freeing, especially for a perfectionist like me. I just go at it with no guides, and I go fast! Then it was a quick task to add the envelope back and it was ready to give.

I really need to get around to finishing the Hazel pillow I started for myself way back in the spring. It's all quilted and only needs to be turned into a pillow. But projects for myself always simmer on the back burner.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Keep it simple

Here's my latest finished swap mini. My partner said she loved paper piecing for it's intricacy, which fit perfectly with the pattern I'd had my eye on for a while - the New York Beauty. I found this lovely one made by In Color Order as part of a quilt along.

I think the swap's name - Simply Mini Swap - unconsciously influenced me. Really it meant that we were only sending a mini to our partner and no extras, unlike most swaps where that become a big part of the package. For my mini, I decided to use a simple design and colour scheme. It's so tempting to get crazy and pull a big stack o' fabrics, so very tempting. But because the New York Beauty pattern is so striking, I really wanted that to be the focus and so I stuck with a three-colour scheme - purple, red and turquoise.

I really love how it turned out. My partner said she likes a bit of whimsy, so I couldn't resist including a smattering of that super cute C+S panda print. It adds a nice dimension to the mini as well. I had a bit of a fail on the outside arc when I tried using a low-volume print that was just too busy. Then I found this light mottled grey with a bit of sparkle that worked much better. It was a bit tricky getting the four blocks together and lining things up, but I think I did pretty well. Luckily I had the perfect fabric for the binding - purple mirror ball dot that I just picked up on my L.A. trip.

I've also been plugging away on making Polaroid blocks for my #polaroidgreetingswap. These are so much fun to make, and go really quickly with chain piecing.

First I made a batch for everyone in my group of 20, with a couple extra to send two to my international #pgsbuddies.

Then I made a whole bunch more for my swap mamas to thank them for helping out, and some extras for a few people in the swap. A young girl joined her first ever swap and is doing a great job and is so appreciative of the blocks she's getting in the mail, so I wanted to encourage her in the craft. And then a few more for friends who joined.

I'm even trying my hand at making the cards. I remembered I had a pack of vintage paper scraps and dug into those to make these collage cards. I like a little arts and crafts time that leave my fingers sticky from the glue stick!

Friday, September 25, 2015

That escalated quickly

Another month, another bee block. Last month I was queen bee and I've started getting blocks in the mail from my teammates. What fun! The September queen bee picked a nifty block called Jagged Little Pill. It's fast and easy to put together. I made a practice block first before moving onto the real deal.

Instead of the usual charm squares I've been sending each month, I cut rectangles the queen can use to make more blocks. As usual, I included a signature block and fabric basket.

Then, perhaps in a moment of craziness, I decided to host my own swap! Thankfully I was smart enough to recruit some help with the endeavour, the very sweet Anita of Daydreams of Quilts. I had a simple idea based on my love of swaps and sending cards. I imagined there would be groups of about 20 and you'd make a Polaroid quilt block for everyone on your team and slip each one into a pretty greeting card with a nice handwritten note. Then you'd get months of happy mail from all over the world, and enough blocks to make a mini quilt or pillow! I called it #polaroidgreetingswap.

I had no idea how many people would be interested in joining when Anita and I posted about it on Instagram. We planned to have sign-ups open for a week, but within just one day 240 signed up! Wow! To keep things manageable, we decided to close the sign-ups early. But that also meant I could get started on assigning groups early, and those emails are going out with the help of my swap mamas. This swap is just getting started but already I've learned so much and had several hurdles, like Google flagging me as a spammer for the flurry of emails sent out from a new account.

It's so fun though to see so many people super excited about my idea. I can't wait to see how this turns out! Already there are calls for a second round!

Monday, August 31, 2015


Here's my latest swap finished, dropped in the mail this morning. This is for the #textmeminiquiltswap. The only requirement was that we use text fabrics in our mini. My partner said she likes all colours, but not rainbow designs or pinks and purples so much (which is so much of my stash), and bold geometric prints. The gears started turning.

Since I don't have a lot of geometric prints, I decided to get that through the mini design. I went with a Canoe Ridge Creations pattern again, this time A New Direction. Then I picked one fabric (the triangles on grey) and began grabbing others from all different designers that co-ordinated. I'm pretty happy with what I pulled together - bright and bold with a lot of variety.

It took a bit of planning to do this pattern with different background fabrics (each text print goes diagonally across the mini) to make complete chevrons and get the text going the right way on the HST. It was a relief when I had it all laid out and there were no mistakes! My partner also likes C+S fabric, so I used one of their geometric prints for the binding. I just realized I forgot to take a photo of the backing, but it's a yellow text print that looks like typewriter letters.

I really like the added dimension the text prints give the mini, and how it softens and ties together the bright colours. I kept it pretty simple with the quilting, just straight and diagonal lines echoing the design.

Oh, and all the team names had texting abbreviations in them. I'm on #textmeteamikr. I felt a bit old that I had to look up what that meant, along with some of the other team names. Sigh.

Not in the plan

I love joining mini quilt swaps, although I will admit sometimes it can feel a bit daunting with the endless deadlines. I even have a swap list to keep track of what I'm signed up for and when they're due. A few weeks ago I mailed my package for the dog mini swap (when, oh when will that arrive?!), but I began to worry that one person in the group I was looking after had a partner who flaked. This woman made the most lovely and thoughtful mini for her partner and I didn't want her to be disappointed, so I decided to make a mini for her as well.

My inspiration came in a flash when I saw this new dog block pattern. So cute! And I knew the style would go perfectly with the famous cat blocks. The person I was making for has one dog and five, at current count, cats. Right away I knew I'd make a dog and five kitties to go around it, then write below "surrounded by love." I am so happy with how this turned out! Especially considering I got it together in a weekend. The doggy block is a pretty good likeness of her dog too, a brindle with big floppy ears.

I will admit I enlisted my mom to help me with the letters. I've never done applique before and figured out how to use the sticky stuff to get the letters on the background (the only boo-boo being I made two Bs instead of two Ds when my dummy brain forgot about how they're reversed). But then I just did not have the skill to top stitch around those teeny, curvy letters. I might still be working on it if my mom didn't jump in to do it. And she stitched down the binding, to boot!

So now I've got two dog minis out in the mail, and me waiting anxiously for them to arrive. Oh and I just popped my text mini swap package in the mail this morning, so another to wait for!