Sunday, July 17, 2011

A simple quilt with less than simple process.

You're probably wondering why it took me 4 days (actually, we're at a week now..) to put together a small baby quilt done in simple squares, so I thought this is a good opportunity to talk about my process..
this is a crappy pic, should I install better lighting in my sewing room?
Like I mentioned in my last post, this was a quilt idea that I had in my head for a long time.  So long, that I had been pulling fabrics and cutting squares sporatically over the last year.  I even sat down and cut borders and pieced some strips of random squares in a few mindless sewing sessions.  But now, when I decided to actually throw it up on the wall and make the quilt, I wasn't starting from scratch, but instead, with a pile of half-assembled pieces and a lot of holes in my quilt design. 
I started by sorting through my pre-assembled strips (and yes, at the time of assembly, i was heavily influenced by that Marston/Moran book..) to find the ones that read clearly "boy" because this quilt is for a friend's baby, and I haven't met her husband or talked to her at length in 10 years, and I didn't know how open they would be to having pink or hearts in their baby quilt (FYI, I'm all for gender mixing in George's toys, in case you were planning to make him anything ;)  ).  I had some strips of 6 squares, and a bunch of twosies. 

I started filling in the gaps with any bright fabrics lying within arm's reach of the cutting table.  At first it was just colored fabrics, then I sifted through the bin of 3.5" squares, and then I remembered the entire pile of novelty fabrics in a bin in the closet.. (seeing the dino print left over from george's apron reminded me).  I didn't really dig for fabrics, but I knew I had a lot of cute prints that would be fun for this baby and his parents to find as he grows.  I fussy cut into a scrap of  sock monkeys from V's retreat, added in a dino from the apron scraps, and just pulled fabrics from around the room, being drawn to something if it was the right size or had a fun print.  I gave George a couple of squares at a time and told him to put them up on the wall.  Sometimes I'd leave them where he put them, sometimes I'd come up with a creative "reason" that we should move them around.
Most of the time he was content to hide in my new Ikea scrap bin..
When it came time to piece my rows, I had to deal with the two 6.5" maverick stars I added, plus the pre-assembled twosies strips that were going horizontally and vertically.  I tried to press my seams so they'd butt up nicely when the rows went together, but it wasn't always possible.  Sometimes I'd sew a 4 patch and attach it to a twosie, then piece the remaining half-rows and stitch them together before adding them to the first bit.  (sorry, no photos of the piecing, George went to bed late that night and I was piecing after midnight..).  It ended up being a complicated process, a game sort of, but I didn't mind.  I was happy to spend time with the quilt as I assembled it.  Sure, it would have been easier if I just had a mess of squares to chain piece, but that's not how I work.

I pieced all the squares and then started in on the letters..
See, I'm a frugal (stingy?) quilter.  I wanted to know how big my center would be so I could trim the borders and use the border edges to assemble the letters.  I am not really one to plan things out with measurements and numbers, I would rather just feel it out.  I have a pretty good eye when it comes to estimating how much fabric I'll need, and even though I love scraps, I don't like to waste fabric. 
The letters came together pretty easily, but it has been a while since I pieced letters and I could tell I was out of practice. (my "L" has way too many seams..).  When the name was all done, I put two borders on and then pinned it back to the design wall.  I thought I'd go to sleep, but instead I pulled fabrics for the backing, laying out a strip of squares to piece in with a label.  Then I went to bed..
(backing photos in the reveal post..)
I think it's a really good idea to piece the backing before the top is complete because so often my quilts stall at the top stage because I just can't push myself to piece a back.  Does that happen to you?  I guess it's like forcing myself to clean the bathroom before I can take a shower.. ah, the little games we play to get things done..
I basted and quilted it today and all that's left is to stitch down the binding.  The family's coming for a visit on Thursday, I think it'll be done by then.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Simple squares

I've been working on a pattern (in my sketchbook) with 3.5" squares for nearly a year now.. This week I decided to take George and throw a bunch of them up on the design wall..

 Working on it for 4 days now, and it's starting to turn into what I had imagined.  Cheerful, lots of hidden surprises.  The squares aren't pieced yet, and ever time I leave the sewing room I close my eyes and hope that the wind (or ceiling fan) won't blow them all off the wall. 
I've been pulling fabric from the depths of my stash for this one, all those novelty fabrics that I never use, and as I look around the room, I realized that I have A LOT of fabric.  Not too much, but I really better start making more quilts, like, right now.  How did this happen?  I haven't been intentionally buying for stash in a lonnng time.  Does the fabric multiply while I sleep?  I should start sleeping in the sewing room to stop that from happening..

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tale of a two-sided apron

Before I had George, I spent a lot of time reading blogs and clicking through flickr, oohing and ahhing over all the cute things people made for their kids.  When I found out I was having a boy, I sighed in crafty disappointment, would I ever get to make those tiered skirts and pillowcase sundresses?
Lately George has taken an interest in cooking with me, and one night it occurred to me, he needs an apron..

We went up to the sewing room together to choose fabric.  He picked the dino print for the front, I chose the shamrocks for the back.  I measured across his chest and the lenght I wanted it to be, then handed him the tape measure so I could go about writing up a pattern.  I drafted one half of the apron pattern on freezer paper, positioned it on the dino fabric to get the best dinos centered, then folded it in half and cut it out.  I used the dino fabric as a guide to cut out the shamrocks. 

At that point, I told George we should go back downstairs and I'd finish it after he went to bed.  No, he wanted it NOW.  Ok, ok, we'll sew it now. 
I hastily made ties from the selvage edge and a neck strap out of the green, whipped up a pocket for the shamrock side only (I knew he didn't have patience for me to fussy cut and place a dino pocket on), and he sat on my lap as we stitched it together.  BTW, the Janome has way more buttons than my old Kenmore, so trying to sew with George on my lap has become increasingly difficult.  Thankfully he's easily distracted by asking that he remove straight pins from what we've just sewn..
"Wow, that was fast and easy!" I thought as I finished up the top stitching and shook it out to admire my work.  I went to slip it over his head and.. it didn't fit.  When I took the neck measurement I measured from where I wanted the top to hang, and around the back of his neck.  I didn't add any in for how big his head was.  I wanted to cry.  And he wanted to wear the apron.  I don't remember how I distracted him and got him back downstairs, but I needed time to think about how to fix it without ripping out a bunch of stitching.
Clearly, he was done with the photo shoot..
I ended up slicing the neck strap in the middle and adding a piece of fabric covered elastic, scrunchie style (tell me you made scrunchies when you were a kid..), and it worked out just fine.  He loves it and wears it whenever I'm cooking, or when he's "cooking" in the play kitchen.  I'm so happy I could make something he would use, and there's the added bonus that he chose the dino fabric that I bought for this quilt, in 1994...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A good start to July

4th of July weekend was awesome~  A little beach, a little baking (2 BBQs with friends), and enough sewing to make me feel normal again.
Orient Point State Park, Long Island, NY.

Dessert Pizza
 I made a couple leaves for Glen for the Scrap Bee over at 15 minutes play.. challenging, but I think I needed a challenge after mindlessly stitching all those diamond stars.. see more over on that blog.
I also whipped up something really adorable for George, but he's treating me like the papparazzi and won't pose for a good photo.  Maybe he'll be more cooperative after naptime..

Travel Quilt #6 and some public crafting

I have been working steadily on Travel Quilt #6 since last fall and it is growing.  I got a chance to piece a few units while I was in Manha...