Thursday, November 25, 2010


Today is our day to reflect upon all that has been given to us--all the good things in our lives.  It's true, we often get caught up in the things going wrong with our lives, the economy, jobs and such.  Today, though, is different.  Sure we hide the holiday behind piles of mashed potatoes and slices of pumpkin pie, scoreboards and parades, but there is more to it--and we all know it!  We surround ourselves with friends and family (at least as many as we can stand for the day) and we do something many Americans have become woefully slack in doing--we talk to each other.  We're actually face to face talking, not tweeting, not texting, not IMing.  For those who live far away, we pick up the phone and use our voices to reach across the distance.  We interact with each other in person, whether it's in the kitchen, playing football (or watching it), or any other number of terrific traditions. 

To me, Thanksgiving is the most appropriate beginning to the holiday season.  We pause before the hectic shopping, the parties, the stress of finding gifts.  Here is our moment to review our lives, our year, and find the good.  Then will begin a season of giving, hopefully with the spirit of love and generousity.  Hopefully, not so much materialism, but rather giving that truly makes a difference in the life of another.  And after a month of trying to put some of that good into the lives of others, we face the new year where we evaluate ourselves and make goals to change.  Thanksgiving is the beginning to a season where we try to be better individuals in this world.  Sure, tomorrow will be crowds and insanity as we try to save some money, but today--today is good.

Happy Thanksgiving!
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Squared Away Quilt Tutorial Part 1

I thought I'd share my method for making my Squared Away quilt.  Perhaps you remember the little doll quilt I made for Aurora? 

I call the pattern Squared Away.  There are many variations on this design out there, but this is my easy, no-pattern-necessary way.  You can make the blocks any size you want and if you want a larger quilt, just add another row or column.  The quilt pictured above begins with 5.5 inch squares, but if you don't want a larger quilt to take forever with lots of little squares, simply increase the starting size to 10 or even 12 inch squares. (Really, any size will work.)  If you don't like doing a lot of math, I recommend picking a size that is easy to divide by 2 and 3--such as 6 inches or 12 inches.  I didn't do this and it led to some really funky measurements, so just make it easy on yourself!

Tools you will need: 
rotary cutter
cutting mat
quilting ruler (I have 3 rulers I use for all my quilting:  4x14, 6.5x24, 15x15)
sewing machine (well, you could hand sew if you really wanted to)

For fabrics, choose a variety of coordinating prints that are at least as big as your intended square size and at least one coordinating solid fabric for the alternating squares.  (I chose white as that went with the particular prints I was using, but feel free to bring in another color.  I tend to like contrast, but you could certainly go for something more subtle.)  The greater the variety of prints, the more scrappy your quilt will look.  You could also have a variety of solids for a really scrappy quilt!

Fabric Prep:  I prefer to prewash my fabrics to remove the factory sizing and to make sure there is no unexpected shrinkage or bleeding.  This is really more of a concern if you work with vintage fabrics than with modern good quality fabrics which don't tend to bleed dyes.  I also press all fabric to be used.  It really will make a difference in the accuracy of your cutting and the squared-ness of your blocks.  Wrinkled or unpressed fabric can lead to squares that aren't, well, square.

Next, carefully cut your starter squares.  You will need one solid square for each print square.  The doll quilt shown above uses 18 print and 18 solid squares.

Now to begin the cutting.  Take one print and one solid and layer them, right sides up, one on top of the other.  (I like to put all my pairs together at the beginning--the more you make the process like an assembly line, the faster it goes!)  Your first cut will be to cut vertically straight up the middle of the blocks. (Measure the width, or across the square from left to right, divide by 2.  Whatever you get after dividing, use as the measurement to measure from the left towards the center and cut.)  You should have two equal sections like this:

Slide the left half to the side so that you don't have it in the way.  Next, take the right half and make two cuts so that you have three equal pieces.   To do this, measure the length (from top to bottom) and divide by three.  Cut each piece horizontally using this measurement.  You should have three pieces on the right like this:

There is one final cut to make.  Take the middle section from the right column and cut vertically once.  Whatever the length is, use for the width--you are cutting a square!  Your block should now look like this:

Now separate your layer of print from your layer of solid.  You should have two block sets that look like this:

Now, take the center square from the print and the center square from the solid and swap them!  Easy peasy!

Cut all your sets this way.  Part 2 will cover sewing the blocks.  Have fun and feel free to ask any questions!
Squared Away Quilt Tutorial Part 1SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bee White Black October & November

I'm catching up quick with blog posts and bee blocks.  Here's a look at the Bee White Black projects for October and November.

For October, we were requested to make a block with hearts or flowers using the colored fabric and the black and white fabrics for the rest.  I went through like a bajillion ideas (anyone else that way?) before I settled on this block which I love.

Isn't it pretty?  I love that the hearts make a flower.  I first saw this pattern at the Heart Circle Quilter's Retreat webpage.  Do go look and see their stunning quilt using this block.  All I can say is "WOW!"  The pattern comes from a book called The Signature Quilt: Traditions, Techniques and The Signature Block Collection by Pepper Cory & Susan McKelvey.  Something for the Christmas wishlist perhaps?

I did a simple nine-patch piecing for the back with the center square being a square on point.  You can't really see that the center has different corners than its middle, which was fine.  I really did that because there wasn't a piece quite big enough for that last center block.  But, hey, that's what being a quilter is about, right?  Creativity and making do with what you have on hand!  The hearts and leaves are appliqued using some Steam-A-Seam Lite and a zig-zag stitch (sadly, no fancy blanket stitch on my machine).  I really like how this one turned out--and so did the recipient who told me it was one of her favorites!  (Doesn't that just make you feel good when someone says that?!)

November's bee member didn't want a block, she wanted lots of little blocks.  She's making a quilt for her daughter (lucky kid) involving a Sawtooth pattern--which means LOTS of half-square triangle sets.  Wisely, she decided to preserve her sanity by splitting up the job amongst her helpful bee group.  Each of us only needed to make 36 blocks. 

She gave great instructions too.  Take two 3-inch squares, one light and one dark.  Put them right sides together.  On the lighter one, draw a line with pencil diagonally from corner to corner.  Sew a scant 1/4 inch seam on each side of the line.  Cut on the line.  Press open.  (She also opted for the seams to be pressed open as well.)  Trim to 2.5 inches.  Doing this 18 times gives you the 36 squares.

You're probably wondering why my pile of squares looks bigger than 36, that's because there are more.  I was filling in for one of our sweet members who's recovering from surgery this month, so I did enough for two.  Plus, there was enough extra for 12 more sets, so I did them as well.  (In my mind I was just thinking, "oh, its only 12 more", in reality, that makes 24 more squares, oops!  I'm blaming my math on the Benadryl that I had taken for my cold.  LOL  I really didn't mind though.)  In all, I made 96 squares, which I'm sure she will be happy to have.  If you chain piece, and assembly line the tasks of cutting and pressing, it's not so bad, but I definitely think she was smart to divide it up--a whole quilt might be a little much all at once!  I can't wait to see the whole thing put together though!
Bee White Black October & NovemberSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hoop Up! Project 1

The first of my three swap projects for the Hoop Up!  Stitch & Send Swap was sent off to its new home a few days ago.  This one goes to Lydia who request a mandala type design and sent along a particular green to be used somehow in the design.  This was a fun design request as it allowed for lots of color options and embroidery stitches.

Here's my design still in the hoop:

The design comes from Eye Pop Art.  I chose one that had an organic feel to what is otherwise a very symmetrical geometric style.  Kind of reminded me of flowers.  The blog has quite few lovely designs to try out, I'll probably do a few more.  I think a white worked one would be lovely!

Here's a closer (although not very good) shot of the stitch work.

You can see the satin stitching in the green floss.  I also used a backstitch for the pink and the orange points.  There are lavendar circles of palestrina knots and the dots were made like cross stitch.  The majority of stitching, such as the blue stitching and the "floral" parts, is the stem stitch--my personal favorite for outlining.

For those who could use some stitch options, try Sarah's Hand Embroidery Tutorials.  I find her work to be well photographed and easy to follow. 
Hoop Up! Project 1SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, November 8, 2010

October Fun Remembered

I never posted a photo of the October block I made for Sabrina in our Moody Blues Bee.  She requested wonky stars out of her fabric.  I think it turned out quite lovely--she had such good choices of fabric.  I used the Silly BooDilly tutorial for any of you who haven't made one of these popular blocks.

While I was being sick in October, one of my sisters made some spooky cookies--yum!  They are a peanut butter cookie with candy decor and so adorable that I just had to show them off.

Some creepy spiders.

Some frightening ghouls.

They tasted good too!  Who knew I'd like eating spiders?!  ;)
October Fun RememberedSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Marvin the Elephant

I've been sick lately, hence the lack of blogging.  But, I didn't want you to miss what I've been up to, so the next few entries will be for catching up on projects and swaps from October and November.  I also have some new block patterns and a blanket tutorial coming up for you to enjoy.

I recently purchased a new toy pattern, Simplicity 2613, to try out.  I loved it.  It was so quick and easy--perfect for last minute gifts!  JoAnn's was having their typical pattern sale for $1 and this was one of the ones I picked up, so worth it.  I'd recommend everyone have this one in their stash.  My full review is over on Pattern Review, but here are just a couple of quick photos of the elephant I made using some vintage cheater cloth fabric sent to me by a friend.

He's been named Marvin and has black plastic safety eyes (very easy to install), vintage fabric body and a navy blue grosgrain ribbon.  Marvin is the perfect size for hugging and carrying around.  My sister loves him, so Marvin ended up with her as part of her birthday present (hey, you're never too old for an adorable lovie).

I plan on trying the giraffe from the pattern next with some more vintage fabric from my stash.  The cost of Marvin was 1.50 because I was given the fabric, stuffing and ribbon, so I only purchased the eyes (.99 for two sets) and pattern (.99 on sale).  He's only around 13-14 inches tall, so this softie really doesn't take much for stuffing and fabric supplies, most of you could probably make him out of your stash.  Marvin would also be super cuddly made from a minky fabric.
Marvin the ElephantSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
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