Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gifts in the Mail, Pianos and Dolls

My birthday was this past weekend and I usually don't get gifts from anyone, so I was really surprised when a package came for me in the mail. Even more surprising was the fact that the return address showed that it was from a very dear friend of mine who I haven't seen in some years! When I saw what was in it, I quickly sealed the package back up until Laura came home. She was visiting at her sister's and she's the "official package opener" around here. Normally, however, the packages don't contain anything for her--but THIS one was different!

Kim had discovered my blog and my love of quilting. Her sister-in-law, Geralyn Powers has written and published a quilt book (Patchwork Plus) and Kim sent me a copy. I LOVE the book--it has a combination of both patchwork and applique and the projects in the book are just wonderful! I'm looking forward to making some of them. But look at what else Kim included--lots of little goodies for Laura!

Actually, I think the chocolate was meant for me and Charles, but you notice that that was the first thing Laura grabbed! We DID share with her!

And how did Kim know?! Laura has a real thing for watches, so that was her second choice among all the goodies! That and the bracelet even match her shirt! We've had lots of fun playing with and exploring all the fun little things--it was the best birthday surprise EVER!!

On a different note, but still birthday related: Last year I decided that I wanted to get serious and learn how to really play the piano well, so even though I knew the basics, I began taking lessons. I've been carrying my various music books back and forth to my teacher's house each week in a canvas tote, but quilter and bagmaker that I am, I knew I had to have/make something with a little more class.

Then  months ago I discovered this paper-pieced piano by Soma Acharya of Whims and Fancies and just fell in love with it. I decided that I would make my own version of the pattern and incorporate it into a tote bag for piano. As time marched on, I knew I needed a deadline to get me moving on this project. So I decided that I would make myself a piano tote bag for my birthday...

I looked the pattern over carefully and realized that I could easily divide it into 4 major sections. In September, I put together one section each week. That actually ended up being a good plan because I think I would have gotten totally burned out on paper piecing if I'd tried doing it more quickly. I also didn't want to get tired and sloppy by doing too much at a time and that part of my plan worked very well--by the end of September I had a completed paper-pieced piano!

The next challenge was to incorporate my block into a bag. I had been collecting various music and piano themed fabrics for a while and I carefully cut some of them up and sewed them as borders to my block. And then the whole thing sat on my design wall for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I was scheming and planning how I might make this into a bag and not make a complete flop of it.

Last week, I decided it was time to get busy and started putting things together. I thought the front was pretty good as it was, but I needed to do something for the back of the bag. I decided to continue the top and bottom borders around the bag to the back and then just use plain black fabric between them, since the emphasis was meant to be on the piano on the front. However, I found I had a treble clef stencil, so I quilted a few of those onto the back, along with a few lines.

On the front, I just quilted a 1/4-inch outline around the piano and left it like that. I added two thickly-padded handles and boxed the bottom.

I left the top of the bag open, but I did add a zippered pocket in the lining to hold my wallet and a few essentials. The lining is another music print I had found. The whole bag is quite sturdy and holds my books perfectly--I LOVE how it turned out! Happy Birthday to Me!!

This weekend Laura and I went to a quilt shop with my mom and discovered some fabric panels printed with clothing patterns for American Girl-sized dolls. Laura has one of those dolls and even though she doesn't actually play with it, she does like to change her clothes occasionally. Needless to say, we left the store with a couple of panels. I was afraid Laura might think she could sew them herself, so I bought a back-up set in case they ended up getting ruined. Fortunately, she let me sew them while she "supervised!"

The little slippers were the most challenging part to make, mostly because they were so small. I goofed on the second one, which Laura wasn't too happy about, but I wasn't about to take it apart and re-sew it!

We have one other set of doll clothes to make, which I've actually hidden from Laura for now. I bought fabric that matches it and I plan to make the doll and Laura matching pajamas for Christmas. She'll be just thrilled!

It's rather late, so there won't be any more done today, but we'll definitely Get More Done...tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Missing In Action

To anyone who actually takes the time to read my blog, I owe a sincere apology. During the summer when life was busier than normal and I was unable to write any blog post, I sort of got out of the habit of doing it. I thought about it many times, especially as I would complete a project and family and friends asked for pictures. I even added a reminder to myself to "write a blog post" on my weekly to-do list, but then just kept putting it off. So now the stars have finally aligned themselves in proper order and I'm back!

Although I haven't been reporting it, I've really been very busy and sewing almost daily. One of the things that I've done is taken the idea of the "quilt along" and used it to my advantage. On my dry-erase board, I keep a list of "Works-In-Progress" (WIPs) and assign each one a day, Monday through Friday, that I will work on them. Some of the projects are already broken down for me, but some of them I've broken down into sections to make them easier to accomplish. For example, I've been working on Judy Laquidera's "Road to Llano" quilt. She wrote it as a quilt-along a few months ago and posted steps three times a week. I'm doing one step each week (on Mondays) and I'm about halfway through. But this particular process has really helped give some definition to my time and deciding what I should be working on.

With that thought in mind, one of the projects that I have been working on this year is the "And Sew On" Block of the Month over at Quiet Play. I kept up with it all year until June. Then, for some reason, I just stopped...and stayed stopped (kind of like my blogging!) So in September I decided that I would add the "And Sew On" blocks to my weekly WIP list and it worked like a charm! I made one block each week and on Friday I completed the last one!  I had a lot of fun making it and choosing all the different fabrics to fussy cut. I like things to be realistic, and I was able to find just the right fabric depicting a scene I would love to see out my sewing window.

This is the final block--"Sewing Sanctuary"

The first week of September, I finished the block for June, "A Stitch in Time." That was where I had originally stalled, so I was relieved to get it done and then move forward.

June's Block--"A Stitch in Time"

Once I got June's block done, I was on a roll and continued to get one of the blocks made each week. Of course, they got more complicated and more time-consuming as I progressed, but I was determined to complete them. The second week saw me finishing the July block:

"Cut it Out"--July's Block

The third week's block was a bit more challenging, than the others had been and took longer to do, but I got it finished in one day.

August Block--"I Like Big Stash"

Now that all the "And Sew On" blocks are finished, the next challenge will be to come up with a way to put them all together. I'm thinking of maybe a dark green sashing but I'll have to audition a few fabrics and see how it looks. I'll be SURE to post a picture of it here when it's all done!

Not to leave Laura out, she made a pillow this summer using some of the hot air balloon fabric from our friend in New Mexico. The pillow stays in her room and sometimes even on her bed! She also finished her quilt she had been working on:

I had thought that this quilt would be great to donate to a charitable cause, but Laura had other plans:

When it was finished, she immediately took it upstairs to her room and put it on her bed! So I guess we'll have to do something else for charity!

I'm glad to be back and hope that everyone can forgive me for my absence. I'm going to try and be a better blogger from now on! And today...there's still time to Get More Done!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Jumping onto the Bloglovin Bandwagon

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

In order to have your blog on Bloglovin, you have to "claim" your blog. I guess this is sort of like in the early days of the U.S. when squatters would move onto a piece of land to claim it. So I'm now claiming my little part of blog land!

Secret Tote Bag Swap

Laura and I (and Dad who joined us yesterday) just got back from a busy week of camping with a couple of Laura's sisters and some nieces and nephews. Laura has discovered a new love--fishing! She learned how to cast and reel in and spent HOURS doing it! She was only slightly disappointed she didn't catch anything (we actually didn't even bait her hook!), but just as with sewing, it was the PROCESS that she was enjoying!

And as usual, Laura made several new friends at the pool--it seems there are always some girls around who are just fascinated by learning to communicate with someone in sign language. And with swimming and playing in the pool, you really don't have to communicate much to have fun together!
That's Laura in the middle
Before we left, I finished the tote bag I had made for someone who wanted "anything pink or cute." Charles mailed it for me while we were gone, so I hope my swap partner has gotten it by now.

For some reason, it had never occurred to me to involve Laura in the swap too. She would have loved making a tote to send to someone and then getting one herself in the mail. The lady who made a tote for me had her daughters make and swap totes and I thought that was such a great idea. So the next time there's an opportunity to participate in something like that online that Laura can do too, I'll have her do it. I know she'll be thrilled!

Before we left, I made myself a new stitchery case. It wasn't difficult to make, although it was rather time-consuming with the piecing and quilting on the front and then having to hand-sew the lining in it.

But I love how it turned out and how deep it is--that way I can cram lots of stuff in it and nothing will fall out!

The top folds back and you can see that it's deep enough that those spools of thread can stand up inside it. It was very handy for taking to the pool and doing some applique work while watching Laura and the grandkids from the sidelines.

I'm working on my June Small Quilt group's project for this month. I'm almost done with all the leaves and stems and then I'll add the flowers. It doesn't look like much here, but I think it will be just lovely when it's done.

We had a WONDERFUL time this week while camping, but we're worn out and happy to be home again. I'm looking forward to being back in my quilting studio next week to....Get More Done!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bags and other Fun Stuff

Why is that most of the bag/purse/pouch patterns out there all seem to be named after girls? This week I made the Tammy bag and the Susie pouch and a couple of weeks ago I made the Belle bag for my granddaughter...and there's so many others There's nothing wrong with naming bags after girls--after all, it's usually girls who carry bags and who obsess over bags and even who make bags! Just a curious trend right now, I guess.

On that note, I thought I would present my bags of the week:

Here's my version of the Tammy bag. When I saw the one that Madame Samm made, I just fell in love! I thought it was so cute! So I bought the pattern, ordered a couple of purse frames and chose my fabrics and cut them out. Then this week I finally sewed them together. It really was a very easy to bag to make. I added ruffles below the pocket binding and cut the binding on the bias. Sewing the bag to the frame was a bit challenging, but mostly because my thread kept wanting to break!

Here's the inside of the Tammy bag. The interior pockets actually go all the way to the bottom center--see those gingham triangles at the bottom? Those are the pockets! This bag is incredibly roomy--the sides expand so it can really hold a LOT of stuff. Because of that, it's more of a challenge to keep things organized inside it. I'm not sure what I'll use it for, maybe just to store some things. But I still think it's just adorable and looks absolutely lovely just sitting on a shelf being pretty. Hey...maybe that's why bags are being given girls' names--they look so beautiful that they don't even have to be useful!

Today I spent a few hours working on this bag--the Susie pouch. What's unique about this bag are the pleats in the front and back that give you a little peek at a contrasting fabric. I used a green and yellow stripe inside my pleats. The challenge with this bag is that you have to watch a video with English subtitles to know how to make it, since the original instructions are all in German. I didn't mind that, the problem was that my internet kept quitting on me! I really wanted to have the instructions written down so I could refer to them at any time, so once the internet began functioning, I would sew along with the video and take notes on each step. That made the whole process take much longer than it normally would.

Here's the inside of the bag. It's really a cute little bag--with the emphasis on "little." I had thought I would use it as a makeup bag, but it's so small that it won't hold much (and I actually use very little makeup!) I started drafting a larger version, when I found that someone else had already done it! And she also gave instructions for adding pockets. I like this bag enough that I want to make another one, just larger.

In our SmallQuilt Group swap, my partner sent me a kit for making these potholders (in addition to the lovely quilt and other goodies she sent!) On Monday I got busy and cut out the pieces and started sewing them together. In less than an hour and a half (and many, MANY interruptions!) later, I had made both potholders (they're both exactly the same). I don't think you can really tell from the photo, but the green peppers in the center are a square of fabric underneath the others. The other 4 fabrics around the sides are actually squares that have been folded on the diagonal and then sort of woven together around the square. Then each folded edge is turned back on itself and stitched down around all sides. I think it turned out really cute and I anticipate making lots of these for Christmas presents this year. So easy and quick too!

Last week I showed the three different quilt options I had made for my granddaughter, Jennifer to choose from for her 12th birthday quilt. Saturday morning we were all at the church for another granddaughter's baptism and I showed Jennifer the quilt samples I had made. After looking them over, Jennifer chose the "Bali Sea Star" which is also my favorite (and I didn't influence her choice because it's also the most time-consuming)! Jennifer's birthday is July 15th, so I have exactly one month to get this quilt finished. I cut out many of the pieces yesterday, but I really need some more pinks and purples to give it a little more variety. I also need some more background fabric. I guess I'll just have to go shopping!

Laura did a LOT of sewing this week. She had previously made 16 blocks of the fabric line that the block on the left is made of. Then this week she made 16 more blocks using a different but coordinating line of fabrics. My plan is to have her make a twin-size quilt to donate for charity. Next week I'm going to have her start adding sashing and putting the blocks together.

We made a quick trip to our LQS where Laura picked out this kit and pattern to make a table topper. She set everything up, hoping I would help her start sewing on it! But I was ready to work on my own projects for a change and wouldn't help her, so she just went and jumped in the pool with all her clothes on! It's just a 4-foot above-ground pool and Laura can swim, so I wasn't too concerned. And fortunately we live in the country because eventually she stripped down to just her underclothing!! There's never a dull day with Laura around!

I've sewn together a couple of quilt blocks this week and planned lots more stuff. I also cut out a sewing kit that I'm really excited to make. It's been a good week and I plan to Get More Done...Next Week!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Projects and Presents

Yesterday Laura and I spent much of the day in the quilt studio, just cutting out project after project. I like doing a lot of cutting at one time because then I can just sit down and sew like a madwoman! Also, I've realized that probably the greatest challenge at starting any new project is deciding which fabrics to use. I'm sure that's why so many people like buying quilt kits--the decision-making is already done for you! And I have to admit that I've gone that route many times myself. It's just easier to do. But yesterday I made decisions, cut fabric and today I was ready to start sewing!

Last week I mentioned my granddaughter, Jennifer who has cerebral palsy. I want to make her a quilt for her upcoming 12th birthday. My son (her dad) said Jennifer would be happy with whatever I made for her. But there are so many things Jenn CAN'T do, that I thought she would enjoy the process of planning and selecting that went into HER quilt. And she has been SO excited about this! When I saw her on Saturday, we went through fabrics and quilt patterns. We looked through the book, "Scrap-Basket Surprises" and the biggest surprise for me was that Jenn liked almost ALL the quilts in it! So I chose three of them and made 4 sample blocks of each and basted them together. This pattern was Scrap-Basket Blues because it was all done in blues in the book. Well, Jennifer likes pinks and purples, so that's what I used.

This one is called "Bali Sea Star" because they made it with batiks in the book. This is also on the cover of the book. This is my favorite and I would love to make myself a quilt with this pattern. It's also the most time-consuming of the three patterns I chose.

This last one is called "Summer Breeze." It was the quickest and easiest to make. I made all the samples fairly scrappy, but I'm going to give Jennifer the choice of just how scrappy she wants it to be, or even if she doesn't want it scrappy at all. I'll be seeing her tomorrow and get her decision of which quilt she wants and how she wants it made and then I can begin the business of creating it for her. Which one would YOU choose, if it were up to you??

These are the blocks that Laura has made. She's getting better and better at sewing decent seams. She even catches herself now when her edges aren't lined up--and so she doesn't have to rip nearly as much!

Today she sewed 16 sets of 2.5-inch strips together to add to the blocks above. We're going to put sashing between the blocks and then add borders to make a twin-size quilt. When it's done, we'll probably donate it to someone in Oklahoma. I don't know if Laura really understood what I was telling her, but she seemed very happy at the idea of giving the quilt she made to someone in need.

For the past couple of months I've been working on a small quilt for a swap. My partner and I decided to make each other wall hangings for the 4th of July. I'll unveil mine once she gets it. Today I got my package from my swap partner. Laura usually opens any packages that come in the mail, even knowing they're not for her. She opens them, sees what's inside, then turns them over to me. Well, when the box came today, there were several wrapped packages inside and one of them was labeled, "Laura"! She was SO excited--she squealed and gave me a big hug and a kiss that I'm sure were really meant for my friend! It really didn't matter what was inside, she was just thrilled that something came for HER!

Laura's package had 2 fat quarters--one of hot air balloons and one of chili peppers (my partner is from New Mexico and these are both symbolic of her state.) Laura and I are still discussing what we'll be making with these, but I think one of them may become a pillow for her room.

These are all the goodies that came in the package--in the back is her beautiful 4th of July quilt and in the front is a cute Valentine's doily she made. There's a kit for making 2 hot pads and several note cards with scenes symbolic of New Mexico. And on the side are Laura's fat quarters. Everything is just wonderful and it was so kind of my friend to include Laura!

It's late tonight and we've got a busy weekend of non-sewing activities ahead of us. But come Monday morning, Laura and I will be back in the quilt studio to...Get More Done...next week!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Goal Setting

It's so easy to forget the importance of goal setting. For some reason, when we actually set a goal, our motivation to accomplish that goal is increased. Today Laura and I participated in a Walk/Run event. It was actually an event that had been planned and organized by my older son, Stephen. Stephen decided that instead of having participants compete against each other, they should set a goal and compete against themselves. He said it was very interesting to see how that seemed to challenge everyone.

Since Laura and I usually take about 45 minutes or more to complete our 2 mile walk through our neighborhood, I knew that I better set our goal to take the full 90-minute allotment for the 3 mile walk.

And it was a good thing I did, since this ended up being our walking group--I pushed the stroller with the two cousins in it, Rebecca (my daughter) carried 4 year old Gwenna on her back, Noah (age 6) walked his aunt's dog and we all worked together to keep Laura out of the path of bikers. Even with 3 water stops, 2 photographs and 1 skinned knee (Noah), we managed to get our walk done in less than 90 minutes!

Laura loves to give people "rabbit ears" in pictures and she had no idea I was doing it to her, so she's going to be tickled when she sees this photo!

Stephen's daughter, our oldest grandchild, Jennifer will be turning 12 in July. I told her I wanted to make her a quilt for her birthday. So I brought a bag of fabrics and a couple of pattern books to the event for Jennifer to look through and choose what she wants for her quilt. Jennifer has cerebral palsy, so she stayed in the shade at the registration table while the rest of us were out walking (or running). She's so excited for us to work together on this quilt!

Here's Jenn again, when we all went to Bloop for frozen yogurt after the event--it's one of her favorite places to go!

As for quilting goals in particular, I keep this white board in my quilt studio. It's a great visual reminder for me of what I need to be working on--it really helps me stay on track. And if I come up with an idea of something I'd like to make in the future, I can write it on there so I don't forget. Before I planned my goals for June, I reviewed what was already on the white board, then I looked through my WIPs and my UFOs so I could make sure nothing important slipped through the cracks. It really does help me to keep focused on what I SHOULD be doing.

So for goals for this month, my number one project is Jenn's quilt. These were the fabrics that she said she liked. This quilt book had MANY quilts that she liked--so many, in fact that my first plan is to make up sample blocks from 3 different quilts (especially since it's often challenging to visualize quilts in other color choices) in the fabrics that she chose and then let her pick her favorite. Then I'll start putting her quilt together, with the goal being to get the top finished this month.

This funny looking stack of fabrics is the beginning of my Tammy bag. I didn't sign up for Madame Samm's blog hop, but I bought her pattern because I loved the bag and wanted one of my own. I've been making so many projects for everyone else that I thought I would make this one for me--and that's another goal this month.

I have several other projects planned for the month of June: I want to finish the Bloom Bloom Pow top and I also have a couple of Swap projects in the works to do.

Even though I've already made a quilt for David and Sabina's baby, I want to make something else for him, for when he's born. This is some minky and fleece and I'm going to make a little elephant blankie toy for baby Linus.

And not to leave Laura out, she's got a couple of projects started that we'll be working on together this month. She bought this set of patriotic strips at our LQS and sewed them all together. In the shop, they had made them into a table runner (I have them folded up here, but they're full-length). Looking at this picture here just gave me some inspiration--I think I'll just make them into placemats! Great idea!

Laura has been working on these pieces and she's really done quite well. They're ready now to be sewn into blocks. I'm not sure what the finished project will be or how big it will be but we'll just work with it and find out!

I'm so much more motivated now that I've established these goals! And I'm ready to Get More Done...in the month of June!

Paper Piecing Pleasure

This week I've been trying to catch up with all my monthly quilting projects for May. I hate doing them at the last minute, but they'd been pushed aside while I was busy on other projects. I'm hoping to do better during June--maybe I'll get real ambitious and get June's projects done next week! We'll see how that goes!

This particular block is NOT one that I made this past week; in fact, I made it a couple of months ago. But I just didn't like the contrast between the spool and the background.

So I took out that section and just redid it. Now I think the white is just a bit too bright, so I may go back and change it again!

The May block for the "And Sew On" project was "Keep Calm and Press On." I finished my block yesterday--the last day of the month!

I think I'm getting a bit smarter with these paper piecing projects. This time, before I began sewing, I put my fabric selections up on my design wall and stepped back to look at them. It really seemed to help me avoid the contrast mistakes I've made with previous blocks. I REALLY only want to make each block once!

This was the May block for the Lucky Stars block of the month. I thought that center fabric would go well with the others (and it does), but what I didn't bargain on was having such a big section of it right in the middle of the block. It kind of overwhelms the other fabrics.

What I'm finding with paper piecing is that getting the technique down is the easy part--the challenge is choosing fabrics that go well with the particular pattern and with each other. I really need to utilize my design wall for its intended purpose--putting up designs and previewing them, BEFORE I sew my fabrics together. And I need to do it with EVERY block. I didn't do it with this star and I should have.

Laura and I will be participating in a Walk/Run event today--walking 3 miles! We normally walk 2 miles so it will be interesting to see how we do. But there will be other people there which always provides Laura with plenty of motivation! And the walking course should be relatively flat, whereas here at home we've got lots of ups and downs when we go walking.

I don't know if I'll get more sewing done today, but the day is still quite young (I woke up too early and couldn't get back to sleep), so there's PLENTY of time to Get More Done...Today!

I'm linking with Kristy at Quiet Play for the "And Sew On" Block of the Month.