Monday, January 26, 2015

Cross-Stitch Madness

So I've been crafting quite a bit lately, just not necessarily sewing. I did get a little farther on the braille alphabet quilt at our last DCMQG Meeting, and continued to work on it more when I got home that night, but for the most part I've been more interested in something more portable. Something I can do sitting in bed, which for me is currently the most comfortable place to sit, or downstairs in our "new" glider (new to us). Or in front of my computer while I'm waiting for something to happen in World of Warcraft. So I'm back to cross-stitching. I've tried a variety of hand quilting things, including EPP and hand-binding quilts, but none of that has held any appeal to me.

So here's what I've been working on lately:

This is the 2015 Story Time Sampler from The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. I actually ordered and then waited for the background fabric to come in before starting this one. I also have all of the floss I need and I'm very dedicated to keeping up with this one this year, partially because besides one banner across the top, each month has its own frame and I can do the frame along with the inside of each frame without my OCD nagging at me. I made a few minor adjustments to the pattern, but otherwise this is January's Alice in Wonderland.

I've also been making some progress on the 2014 Once Upon a Time Sampler from The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. This one my OCD would not let me progress to the insides of the boxes until the entire border was done, which didn't happen until earlier this month. I've been filling in the bigger areas of color and will then go back in to do the smaller areas. I still don't know what to do about the white on white, since I just couldn't wait for the background fabric I had ordered to get here before starting.

Finally, I've been making some progress on my Phoenix. I started this ages ago when we still lived in Florida and I've been working on closing out some of the colors in this. I'm completely done with the reds, working on the blues right now, and will continue from there. The most tedious part is the three different tans in the background, so I'll probably leave those until last.

I also started an Excel spreadsheet with all of the DMC floss numbers I have in my possession, although I cannot for the life of me find two of my WIPs. This is bugging me to no end, because our house really isn't that big and you would think I'd be able to find two gallon bags of floss and cross-stitching instructions. Everything else I've sorted through and logged, realizing that I have a lot of duplicate skeins. That list is now accessible to me on my phone and computer, so next time I go to Joann's I can pick up a few floss colors I'm missing in my stash.

In other news, I'm officially an aunt. My sister delivered her baby boy, Henry Erich, on January 20th and I couldn't be crazier about the little man. I think the only thing that will trump having a cute little nephew is giving birth to my own kid in about four weeks (hopefully). My sister ended up being 10 days late, so I'm hoping not to follow suit with that. Here is the cutie:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2014 Finish - Bright Modern Baby Quilt

Final Stats
Name: Bright Modern Baby Quilt
Dimensions: Unknown
Pieces: 16
Pattern: My own
Technique: Patchwork
Materials: 100% Quilting Cottons
Quilting: Machine quilting done on my little Euro-Pro

This quilt started with some "unusual" inspiration. I had asked my coworker about nursery theme and such, and if I remember correctly, she just said they were doing bright colors. Upon further prompting she did share that they have several modern art prints in their apartment by Kandinsky and Morris Louis, that they adore. So I did some Google searches on those artists and came up with a whole slew of ideas, but the ones that stuck with me the most are the colorful lines that Morris Louis often uses in his paintings. I drafted a basic design in EQ7 and once I was satisfied with the general color placement, I went and bought several Kona solids.

Cutting and sewing the quilt top was the work of about one day (sewing day with the DC Modern Quilt Guild followed by an evening sew-in at Capital Quilts). Which ended up being fortuitous, because I hadn't picked a background color. So I bought some Kona Bone during the sew-in. I had bought the backing fabric at the same time as the fabric for the stripes and ended up finding a lightly dotted fabric at our next DCMQG meeting at Patches. Quilting is straight line, outlining every stripe and then roughly 1/4-1/2" apart in the background area. As per usual, I embroidered my initials and the year into the lower right corner. I'm happy to say that despite the modern and graphic nature of the quilt, my coworker loved it.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Once Upon a Time

So I've been sick this week and I have this thing about working on baby quilts when I'm sick. I know that the likelihood of germs (or in this case likely a virus) sticking to the fabric is slim and then it surviving the wash I put it through before gifting is even slimmer, but something about it just skeeves me out. So I just don't bother. Instead I've been flexing my creative muscles by continuing to work on my cross-stitch Once Upon a Time Sampler by The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. It is their 2014 sampler and every month I would get a new box to fill in with a fairy tale. The sampler is adorable and I've loved seeing what they've come up with every month, but the end of 2014 came and I didn't even have the border done. So after some serious work, I did manage to complete that. And then also finished stitching all the month names in the boxes. Next up, starting to fill in the other colors. I'm thinking of just skipping around for a bit to fill in the larger areas of color and then going back in for the smaller areas.

I've done a lot of the stitching while sitting in bed on the weekends, when I'm too lazy to get up. Or sitting in the glider that will eventually go in the nursery but is still sitting in our living room in the evenings when I'm ready to stop playing World of Warcraft but not yet ready to go to bed.

Here's how I keep my thread organized. Every time I start a new color that I haven't cut apart yet, I cut the skein into lengths of about four rotations (one rotation = one length of the skein from fold to fold). This either leaves you with one length of six rotations, or I usually cut the last several rotations in half, so it ends up just a bit longer than the other strands. Then I thread it onto a small ring with the number and keep it all on one large project ring in order by number. Once the project is done, I just open the large ring and dump all the little rings with thread into a bin that I can then dig through for the next project. I need to find a better way to store these. I had a great idea for an over-the-door organizer, but the reality of having to sew several hundred hooks onto two layers of duck cloth has kept me from completing this project. Maybe eventually this will turn into some sort of toy organizer for the seedling as the base is already hanging over the back of the nursery/craft room door.

Monday, January 5, 2015

2014 Finish - Community Quilt

Final Stats
Name: Community Quilt
Dimensions: 60 x 72"
Pieces: Unknown
Pattern: Skyline Block Tutorial and Others
Technique: Paper piecing, Patchwork, Applique, Curves
Materials: 100% Quilting Cottons
Quilting: Machine quilting done on my little Euro-Pro

So I realized while updating my completed quilt lists that I haven't blogged about two of my 2014 finishes. One I had definitely promised everyone was the Community Quilt that I put together in February. So the story is this: I started a bee in 2013 and one of our members had to drop out due to increasingly severe medical issues that prevented her from sewing. After hearing all the details, I figured what better way to remind her that she was part of a community in the wider sense, than to get all the quilters in our bee and in another bee she was in together to make a quilt for her. I had a lot of interest and created a private Flickr group so we could scheme brainstorm.
After looking at her Flickr favorites, I found a lot of house and skyline blocks, so that started my creative wheels a'churnin' and I sketched out a quilt with skyline blocks on top and various house blocks on the bottom with a road running through the whole thing. I figured this would give the quilters enough creative freedom to come up with something fun. There was also a metaphor in there somewhere about getting out of the dark city of pain and medical procedures and into this bright, diverse, global community of quilters.
It took far longer than anticipated to get the blocks I needed, and I finally gave up on the original layout (I think I was going for a 7x7 block layout originally) and just worked with what I had. But I did get blocks from Illinois, France, and California just to name a few. I made the road blocks, set the signature blocks that people sent me into the straight road sections, squared up the house blocks to be 12.5" square, and put everything together over the course of a few weeks. The curved road segments and the disappearing road segment gave me the most headache, but I ended up paper piecing the disappearing road segment using a piece of scrapbooking paper as the base and used another piece to make a template for the curved segments. Actually sewing the curves was less hair-raising than I thought it would be.

I made the backing from fabric I had bought specifically for the quilt a while back and then decided to go ahead and quilt it myself because it had been over half a year since trying to get everyone together to make the blocks. And although I'd had an offer from one of the group members to do the quilting, I just wanted to get it done instead of sending it off to someone else. I also made the scrappy binding and sewed it on myself, despite someone else's offer to do that part as well.

I sent it off with a heartfelt letter about how we all wished her well and that we were sad that she couldn't sew currently. I got back the sweetest email saying that the quilt had arrived at the perfect time when she was feeling really down and that it reminded her that there were people out there rooting her on. It just reminds me of how important it is to make the effort, no matter how big or small, to remind the people in our lives that they matter to us.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 in Review - Plans for 2015

So this is a quilty year in review. I only finished six quilts, but I also spent several months this year with very low energy due to growing a tiny human. I doubt next year will be much more productive, what with giving birth to said tiny human and actually trying to then keep it alive. So without further ado, here's a look at what quilty finishes 2014 held for me.

Riley Blake Fabric Challenge Baby Quilt at the beginning of February:

The Community Quilt at the end of February:

The Weekend Star Quilt for a coworker who lost her younger brother in a car accident in March:

This was my one and only commission quilt this year, the Blue and Black Cross Quilt for my husband's aunt:

The Bright Modern Baby Quilt for a coworker in July:

And my last quilt finish of the year was the Grey Basketweave Baby Quilt for my sister:

My plans for next year include the following:
  • Make the back and send the Michigan Pixel quilt to be quilted (if we can scrounge up the money).
  • Finish the braille alphabet quilt for my coworker and send it to her in Portland.
  • Finish at least the top of my Charming Kate Spain quilt.
  • Make the back for my brother's wedding Plus Quilt and find someone to quilt the monstrosity  for a reasonable amount.
  • Make progress (maybe finish) my sister's wedding Hexie Quilt (barely started cutting fabric for this), but that will also be a king sized monstrosity, so that may need to be sent out for quilting too.
  • Make at least the top for my brother-in-law's wedding Scrappy Swoon Quilt (pieces are all cut and some of the parts are already put together), queen sized so I might be able to do the quilting myself.
  • Attempt to make a baby quilt for myself, we'll see where that falls on my list of priorities.
What are your quilting plans for 2015?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Last Finish of 2014: Grey Basketweave

Final Stats
Name: Grey Basketweave
Dimensions: TBD
Pieces: Front - TBD
Pattern: Basketweave, elephant and birds inspired by a picture on Etsy
Technique: Patchwork and Rough Edge Applique
Materials: 100% Quilting Cottons
Quilting: Machine quilting done on my little Euro-Pro
So this quilt started like most of my baby quilts, by me subtly (or in this case not so subtly) requesting information about the nursery and sex of the baby from my younger sister. She told me they were doing grey and white sheets, with jungle animals, and that for a boy they would add accents of navy and for a girl fuchsia. Like me, she doesn't care much for the "normal" baby shades of light blue and pink. She also sent me a picture of the rug she had purchased for the nursery, but said that might not be the final rug. I drafted some ideas in EQ7, sent them to her, and waited to hear back about the rug. Once she confirmed that she was keeping it, because nothing better had come along, I started cutting the grey and white pieces and sewing together the blocks. Then, once she told me the sex, I added in the two "ribbons" of navy. Usually I keep things a secret, but in this case, I sent her pictures of everything from my fabric choices to the steps along the way, which was a bit like working with a committee. In this case, one whose opinion I actually valued. Also everything she commented on coincided with thoughts I'd had myself, so it was nice to have things confirmed.
Once the top was done and the edge pieces trimmed down, I used the trimmed edges on the back to disguise the seam between the two halves of the flannel elephant fabric I had bought for the back. It turned out so neat that I may need to try that pattern for a larger front at some point. After basting the quilt, I used a largeish pebble design to free motion quilt in the grey and navy areas. I was originally going to do a design in the white areas as well, but my fabric got all puckered in the first test square and I ended up ripping out all of the stuff in the white area, which took way, way longer than the original quilting had done. I think it took about 15 minutes to quilt and 4-5 hours to rip. I was not a happy camper, at all. The pebble quilting, however, went quite well. At first, I just traveled along the seams from one square to another, but after a while, my OCD kicked back in and I stopped and started each square and buried the threads afterwards.
Once the quilting was done, I added the applique on top of the quilting. My sister and I had agreed that the quilt looked a little "sad" with the navy, grey, and white. So she suggested adding some lighter greens and blues, and approved my color choices for the animals. I added in some darker pops for the ear and wings. I tried to free-motion around the outside, but the iron-on stuff I used was too thick and my machine kept dropping most of the stitches. So I switched back to my walking foot and used that to tack down my applique pieces. I went around the bodies twice and added touches like feet, beaks, and tails on the way. I only went once around the ear and wings, because those seemed a little less important. The only thing I didn't add was eyes, because I couldn't stomach the thought of twisting the quilt in a tiny 360 degree circle three times.

For the binding, I grabbed my pile of 2.5" strips of grey and tried to do light/dark, light/dark. I machine sewed it to the front and then hand sewed the binding in the car on the way to Kentucky and while we were in Kentucky on the way to Mammoth Caves. I ended up hand embroidering the eyes after I embroidered my initials and the year into the bottom right corner, once the hand binding was complete. I even managed to convince my 36 week pregnant sister and my hubby to help me get some pictures on the way out of the Mammoth Caves National Park. Although it's a little dreary, because December, I'm rather happy with how it turned out. I even got context shots in the nursery when we got back to my sister's place, something I almost never have, even though my quilts are almost always meant to go in a specific setting. So this time I could actually see my grey and white background against the grey and white sheets in the crib, the matching elephant on the mobile to my applique elephant, and the basketweave pattern next to the brick pattern of the sage green rug. I have to say, I'm quite happy about this finish.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stuff and Things

So life has been interesting lately. We spent Thanksgiving with our family in Michigan last week. Our trip there was alright, except we had snow from Washington, DC all the way through the mountains of Pennsylvania. We passed a car in a ditch and a jack-knifed semi truck on our side of the road which caused a traffic backup. We made it to Michigan shortly before midnight on Wednesday and looked in on my parents and then proceeded to the in-laws to sleep. The next morning, we headed out to my sister-in-law's for Thanksgiving Day, which was filled with amazing food and even better company. Friday we spent with my family, Saturday we went to my husband's cousin's wedding and spent some time with friends, and Sunday we drove back home. We made really good time until we hit a parking lot type traffic jam in the mountains of Pennsylvania due to an earlier accident and another one on I-270 in Maryland about an hour outside of Washington, DC because some idiot decided that the Sunday after Thanksgiving would be a great time to close down a whole lane on a two-lane highway.

On Cyber Monday, I looked for new computers online and was looking at various pre-built models, when my husband finally spilled that he had used his motorcycle fund to buy me a new computer. My brother-in-law had already ordered the parts and they would be arriving within the next several days. Everything but the monitor had arrived by Tuesday, so yesterday my hubby and I put the hardware together. He then spent most of today dealing with the software, installing all the drivers, and the games we play together (i.e. Guild Wars 2 and Civ 5), because... (his) priorities. When I got home, I also installed EQ7 and moved all of my files for it over from our external hard drive. Tested it out, and they all load perfectly. Because... (my) priorities. I did play a bit of Guild Wars 2 with him, to see how good the graphics and speed are (they are both phenomenal).

The last two days at work have been both great and horrible. Horrible because as a night owl, I usually get to work around 9:30 (which is the latest we're allowed to get to work in the morning). The last two days I had to get there by 8:30 because we've had an all-staff strategy meeting. Now, if you think that's not a big deal, getting up an hour earlier than usual sucks big time! People keep laughing at me about how much I'm going to hate having a little baby, who will wake me up at all hours, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there. Until then I want to sleep as long as possible in the mornings, thank you very much.

They have also been good, because I think the strategy meeting was quite productive and at times downright fun. I also got to see a lot of people from our partnership offices, that I've either never met in person, or whom I do know and haven't seen in a while. We also had our Christmas party today, which was fun as always, even though I couldn't drink this year. While I'm not above drinking a glass of wine or a hard cider occasionally (and slowly enough for my liver to process) even while pregnant, everyone just assumed that I wasn't drinking at all. Oh well, I wouldn't have had more than my usual one anyway. The noise also got to me and so I ended up leaving by 5.

Several of my coworkers are expecting right now, including one of my friends from Portland. So I'm making her a quilt. Her theme is ABCs and her color scheme is grey and white. So I decided on some sort of alphabet quilt with a grey background. I ended up going with Thomas Knauer's braille alphabet quilt, cut all the fabric, and put it up on the design wall. I've even sewn a few of the blocks.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stash Bee Blocks

I finished up the second quadrant for the Stash Bee yesterday. I also made an extra component piece and will be sending the queen bee the rest of my cut background fabric.

I feel a little bad that I didn't finish the whole 24" block, but it was putting a massive crimp in my style and blocking me from doing anything else. So it had to go. Two more blocks left to make for November and then I will bid the Stash Bee a fond farewell. I will not be participating next year, because newborn (first one at that, so I expect some serious quilting downtime until I get the hang of things).

Also got some work done on my leader/ender project. Here are a few more blocks (I did not finish these yesterday, but I did work on the project).

Finally, I got the HSTs done for the DCMQG Charity Quilt and am sending those off today as well. I am hoping to get back to the Charming Kate Spain quilt soon, as it's just begging me to play, hanging in all its rainbow-y glory on the design walls. Here are the first two blocks which I finished over the last two weeks:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Current WIPs

So here's what I've been working on one weekend at a time.

My sister's baby quilt is finally basted. I had to run to Joann's the night before Halloween (huge mistake!) to get basting pins because I couldn't find mine. Or rather, that was the night I finally couldn't take not having some anymore and ran out to get them. I literally had a box in my hand two minutes after walking into the store and then stood in line for over half an hour to pay for my one box of pins. Since all of my sister's baby showers are now done, here it is in its full glory (minus elephant and birds):

Unfortunately, I have not yet found the motivation to start quilting it. So it's just sitting folded over the back of my sewing room chair. Oh yeah, my sister is expecting a boy that they are going to call Henry.

So in my effort to find something to keep myself busy while I wait for my quilting motivation to arrive, I pulled out all of my Kate Spain charm packs and took out all of the duplicate fabrics. I am using the following: 35 pieces of Honey Honey, 40 pieces of Daydream, 19 pieces of Serenade, 40 pieces of Cuzco, 38 pieces of Terrain, 36 pieces of Good Fortune. Because this did not add up to even close to 256 (I blame the Serenade), I also pulled out my charm pack of Sunnyside even though I'm already using a Layer Cake of that for another quilt, which garnered me an additional 40 charms, and then I filled out the remaining 8 pieces with some loose charms of Verna, of which I have a FQ Stack that I'll be making into a quilt someday. I sorted everything into colors and arranged them roughly in rainbow order (had some brown, pink, and grey to fit in).

I have sewn together the first two 4x4 block. Once I get all the blocks done, I am going to decide if I want to sash the blocks. I'm thinking of sashing them in 2.5" black strips to take the finished quilt from 72" square to about 82" square, which seems like a better size to me. But we'll see how I feel when I get the blocks done. I kind of like the way it looks without sashing.

Finally I've been working on my (late) October bee blocks for the Stash Bee. Here is the first quadrant complete:

Even though I've completed the first quadrant, it took forever. Something about my quarter inch seams is off, because the pieces are turning out too large, and each quadrant requires 20 pieces. I've cut all of the background pieces, but I'm not sure I can really convince myself to finish another three quadrants. Maybe I'll just finish one more (I've been making two blocks for each person and the finished block is 24" square, so I think two quadrants is plenty), and then send the queen bee the rest of the background pieces and whatever other odds and ends I've completed.

The November blocks are super simple 12" churn dash blocks, and I'm actually looking forward to those, but first I want to get this one out of the way.

Friday, October 10, 2014

It Worked!

So my hubby had an idea to get me motivated to make my September bee blocks and it totally worked. He told me to start by sewing my sister's baby quilt, which is what I'd wanted to do, and then switch to the bee blocks. And it totally worked! Not only did I get further with my sister's baby quilt (all the blocks are now sewn into rows), but I also made two blocks for the September queen bee (a bit late, but not as bad as August).

I really enjoy how they turned out too and I got them in the mail the next day. Whee! The tutorial for the block can be found on the Stash Bee blog here.

Progress shot from the baby quilt with all of the navy or magenta removed. I really hope I can use my long weekend to finish this quilt. I'm starting to get a little worried.

Here is my other work in progress:

The seedling had its 20 week ultrasound this week, but wasn't cooperating. So we know neither the sex (even though we didn't want to know, the ultrasound tech seemed to think it was a big deal that she couldn't determine this) nor could the tech get a good picture of the heart. However, the heart appears to be beating just fine (we saw it beating and she measured the heart rate), she just couldn't get a clear shot.

I'm getting more and more excited about our trip to Michigan next weekend and the chance to see my sister and have a joint baby shower with her.