Monday, April 30, 2012

Color Challenge Peach Block

I'm participating in the Color Challenge over at 15 Minutes Play. Short version, each week we're given a "challenging" color to use in a block design. Be sure to check out all of the other blocks shown there!
This week's color: Peach. 

I don't even like peach fruit or flavor. 
I struggled with this color and kept telling myself that I did NOT like peach. 

In fact, I had trouble finding peach fabric in my stash!  First I found an orange-ish peach and made this pile of fabrics. 

But I just wasn't feeling it. 

As I looked for another peach, and for colors to go with it (because nothing seemed to be working, probably aided by my anti-peach attitude of the moment!), I remembered a time when I had used peach in a color scheme and loved it: my wedding flowers. 

I had combined peach with a darker coral and a perwinkle blue (which was the dress color as well). Inspired by this photo, I dug through my stash again and recreated that palette.

From those fabrics, I made this:

and then this:

I got over my anti-peach feelings and I like the cheeriness of this block. Plus, it brings back fun wedding memories! While it helps that I ultimately chose a softer peach to work with, I had trouble successfully pairing peach with many choices, though I do love it with the periwinkle. I thought it would go well with green, but not any that I could find. 
I'm noticing that some of my blocks fall back onto the fail-safe color wheel art class color concepts--complementary blue and orange here, green/purple/orange triad for avocado.
To see my previous block, mauve, click here.
To see my next block(s) click here.

Color Challenge Mauve Block

I'm participating in the Color Challenge over at 15 Minutes Play. Short version, each week we're given a "challenging" color to use in a block design. 
I missed the first week (mauve) so here is my make-up block.

There's something about the word just sounds unattractive, doesn't it?! 

I found a mauve FQ in my stash (the middle fabric shown below, which here looks strangely pink) and then saw the striped batik. Right there, I knew what direction I wanted to take. I loved how the striped batik sort of "updated" the mauve, which I can't help but think of as an 80s color. I pulled a darker plum and another blue to balance things, and then was pleasantly surprised to work in the light green/yellow/whatever you want to call it fabric--another fabric of mine that I can't decide if I like or not! 

I used those fabrics to make this:

and then this:

I liked seeing that mauve could receive a style update and join us in the 21st century! :) Seriously though, I found it interesting that pairing it with very gray-ish blues really helped to "un-gray" (dare I say brighten?) the mauve up, making it less gray.

Click here to see my previous block using avocado.
Click here to see my next block using peach

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Color Challenge Avocado Block

To read about the Color Challenge I'm participating in, click here.
I found my avocado fabric pretty near the top of my green bin. When I pulled it out, it fell onto an orangey-pink batik I had on the floor, which immediately intrigued me. I ended up using mostly batiks in this block. I pulled out the purple mottled and two additional batiks with purple because I liked how they made the green pop. I rounded out the group with a dark orange/white dot and a darker avocado green. While I was looking for that darker green, I came across the butterfly fabric you see in the photo. I thought that the fact that the colors in it so closely mirrored mine was a bit of a validation of my color choices, which was fun. Here's my fabric pile: 

And then here's a pic of my "made" fabric. I had no idea how much fun this is--just random sewing with no worries about seam allowance, matching points, etc. And I actually kind of like this just how it is, without cutting it up.

But I did cut it up, and made this block:

I actually love these fabrics together so much (the avocados, purples, oranges, etc.) that I'm going to keep them in mind for a future quilt project! 
Click here to see my previous block, in ochre.

Color Challenge Ochre Block

To read about the Color Challenge I'm participating in, click here
I started a week late and need to go back and make my mauve block (and this week's peach block). But here's my fabric selection for the ochre block:

Not only was this my first block for this color challenge, it was also my first time playing with made fabric. So if it seems like there's not alot of ochre in my made fabric, that's why--I didn't have a real good feel for how much needed to be in my made fabric so that it would show up plenty after I cut it and used it in a block! Anyway, about the ochre. When I saw the color choice, my mind immediately went to this fabric. It's a print that I have a love/hate relationship with. I used it in a big block quilt full of Kaffe fabrics, but the entire time I was using it, I couldn't decide if I liked it or not. But it worked with the other fabrics, so I just tried to ignore that little voice in my head. I can't pinpoint if it was the color I didn't like, or the pattern, but happy for the scraps to have another purpose! This was an easy one to start with because I used the colors in the print as a guide for choosing other scraps to go with. 

And here's the block I made from it. I'm using the khaki solid as the background for all the blocks so that they will "go" together when they're finished. 

I'm not nuts about the celery green, particularly where it touches the ochre, but I love the fuchsia/ochre combination! 
Click here for block #3, avocado.

One Person's "Ugly" Is...

...another person's beautiful. I've joined the Color Challenge over at If you're not familiar with this site, it's a fun and always busy place to "play" with fabrics--it's run by a wonderfully creative woman, Victoria, and she comes up with challenges, block exchanges, etc. and followers post what they've made on the site.

Much of the piecing on this website centers around "made" fabric...sewing little scraps together to make a large enough piece to cut squares/triangles/whatever you need. I happen to love this description in particular right now because my 3-year-old has taken an interest in my quilting and calls it "cutting squares into little pieces," which is exactly what quilting and made fabric are all about!

In this 12-week Color Challenge, Victoria posts an "ugly"/less popular/hard to work with color each week, and everyone makes a block using that color and whatever they can find to look good with it. The first four colors:
Ochre (click here to see my block)
Avocado (click here to see my block)

Monday, April 23, 2012

This Nursery's a Zoo! Quilt Tutorial, part 2

This is the second post in my nursery quilt tutorial. For the first post, click here.

It's time to make the appliqué blocks!
You'll see several tips scattered throughout this section. Let's just say that most of them were born of mistakes I made during my first few appliqué projects!

Making the Appliqué Blocks
1. Print out the templates (click for the liongiraffe and elephant patterns) and trace onto the paper side of fusible web. Cut out around each animal shape, leaving approximately 1/2'' past the drawn line. 

Pair up your fabrics for each animal block. Once you've decided what fabric to use for which animal parts, follow the manufacturer's directions and press fusible web to the back of the appropriate fabrics. 

Tip: Position your animal shapes carefully to keep (or avoid) certain elements in the fabric. Cut out each shape on the drawn line.

2. Fold and lightly press each 8'' background square in half in both directions to find the center point. Use this point as a guide for centering the animals on the background square.

3. Remove the paper backing from the fusible web. Tip: I sometimes have trouble with this, so whenever possible, I choose an initial separation point that will be covered by another appliqué element.
4. Press the shapes to the background square. I prefer to press one shape at a time, beginning with the base layer (so, first the lion body, then the mane, and then the face).

5. If desired, press lightweight interfacing to the back of the square to serve as a stabilizer, making sure it goes beyond the area the appliqué covers. Tip: Even though I use fusible interfacing, I still pin the corners because I've had the interfacing ''unstick'' before, which just makes a mess when it doubles up as you're stitching.
6. Choose a coordinating or contrasting thread color (or colors!) for zig zag stitching the appliqués in place. I chose turquoise because I knew it would tie in nicely with my sashing fabric. 

Choose a stitch length and width. Tip: Audition the stitch size on scraps first. I like to choose a happy medium because it's more forgiving of my stitching errors. Stitch the animal pieces on each block and press.

If you used a stabilizer, trim the interfacing around the stitching.

Assembling the Quilt
Note: My sample only has two blocks rows and three sashing rows because I'm making a smaller wall hanging. You will have four block rows and five sashing rows.
1. Lay out the blocks in four rows of three blocks each, alternating the pieced and appliqué blocks in each row. Add four 2-1/2'' x 8'' sashing strips to each row, alternating with the blocks. Sew the sashing strips and blocks together in each row to make a block row.

2. Lay out three 2-1/2'' x 8'' sashing strips alternating with four 2-1/2'' sashing squares to make a sashing row. Make a total of five sashing rows.

3. Lay out the block rows alternating with the sashing rows and sew together to complete the quilt top.
I'm showing you my finished quilt here rather than my sample so you can see the layout for 12 blocks.

Finishing the Quilt
Layer the quilt top, batting and backing and quilt as desired. Use the four 2-1/2'' x 42'' binding strips to bind the quilt.

Pictures of my finished wall hanging to come later...I need to get some backing fabric to finish it! 

In the meantime, I've joined the talented quilters at 15 Minutes Play in a 12-week Color Challenge. I'll be sharing my blocks here as well each week, as well as some other things I'm working on, and adding photos of my finished quilts to this blog's gallery page.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

This Nursery's a Zoo! Quilt Tutorial

Remember my post about the nursery and this quilt?

Today I'm starting a tutorial on how to make this baby quilt, which I've called "This Nursery's a Zoo!" Here's an image of the whole quilt. It measures approximately 31" x 40-1/2", featuring four rows of three blocks each. You could make yours smaller or larger by adding or subtracting blocks and sashings, but the tutorial below focuses specifically on this size.

Since it's more fun to quilt along with you, I chose some brights from my stash and I'm making a wall hanging version of this quilt to help me illustrate how to make these blocks. Plus, it's fun to see the pattern in something a little different. I think you'll like how cheery it is in bold colors; I know I do!

Let's start out with what you'll need, fabric-wise. 

  • 1/2 yard of a light dot (for appliqué block backgrounds)
  • 6 coordinating fat quarters or 1/4 yard cuts (for pieced blocks and appliqués)
  • 1/2 yard of a coordinating print (for sashing) Note: This is a fun place to use a stripe like I did!
  • 1/4 yard of a coordinating print (for sashing squares)
  • 1/3 yard of a coordinating print (for binding)
  • 1-1/3 yards of backing fabric
  • 37'' x 48'' piece of batting
  • Fusible web

I chose these bright prints below--the bright dots on a cream background for the backgrounds of the appliqué blocks, and the bright prints, already sorted into pairs, for the pieced blocks. I'll choose my sashing, sashing squares and binding after I've made the blocks.

And now it's time to get out that rotary cutter and ruler!

From the light dot:
Six 8'' squares

From each of the fat quarters (or ¼ yard cuts):
Three 3'' squares
Two 3'' x 8'' pieces

From the sashing fabric:
Seventeen 2-1/2'' x 8'' pieces

From the sashing squares fabric:
Twenty 2-1/2'' squares

From the binding fabric:
Four 2-1/4'' x 42'' strips

Ready to make the easy blocks, the pieced ones? (Did I mention that I am not a fan of appliqué? Why did I choose to make a baby quilt with appliquéd animals for my baby, you ask? Good question. I'm still not sure.)

Making the Pieced Blocks
1. Sort the 3'' squares and 3'' x 8'' pieces into six block piles. Each pile should include two 3'' squares and two 3'' x 8'' pieces cut from the same fabric and one 3'' square cut from a contrasting fabric.

2. From the first pile, sew the match 3'' squares to opposite sides of the contrasting square and press. Sew the 3'' x 8'' pieces to the top and bottom to complete the block.

The finished block:

3. Using the remaining piles, make a total of six blocks. I'm just showing you three here to whet your appetite. Can you tell I love dot and circle prints?!

That was easy, right? Next up, the appliquéd blocks and quilt assembly. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Behind the scenes, or quilting with effort

Here's an update on my wonky log cabin blocks, which I've been sacrificing sleep, neglecting my husband and kids, and skipping showers to work on because I'm so obsessed. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that my sewing machine and I were living in different zip codes for six months. This is the second half of the post, How to Make Everything Seem Effortless...or not.

12 blocks done, complete with sashing strips. Yay!
Only 11 are pictured because I'd already taken lucky #12 off to be cropped.
And they're on the floor because I haven't had time to put the design wall up yet. 

It's time to make a 15-1/2" square of clear plastic template material and give the blocks one last twist. Except that in my quick run to Hobby Lobby, I could only find 12" x 18" clear plastic template material. No problem--I'll buy two and make my own large square. Not effortless.
So I'm busy working on this when I should be doing something else, because it'll only take 10 minutes. Twenty minutes later, I'm still.cutting.through.the.#&$(#$.plastic. Not effortless.
Taping the pieces together--accidentally taped it to create a 15" square first. Second try, the tape I'm using wrinkles and puckers. Not effortless.
I finally get to cutting. Here's a mental picture: I like to cut on the floor. Putting my knee on the ruler/template. And then I rotate around the board so I'm always cutting at the most comfortable angle. 
Not effortless.
And, even though I had so much trouble cutting through the template material, I am positioning my ruler on top before each cut, because it would be just my luck to have the rotary cutter suddenly cut through the plastic like butter if I didn't use the ruler. Lining up two transparent pieces of plastic to cut a straight line? So fun. And, all together now: Not effortless.
An hour after I start, I have one block cropped to template size and two pictures taken to share the process with you. I left the wrinkles in on the cropped block just to keep it real. Don't want to set too high of expectations!
11 more to crop, and then it's assembly time! Note the pieced template square. 

I'll get better at this semi-professional blog show and tell. But in the meantime, hope you enjoyed this little behind-the-scenes peek at reality, while I sit here with my feet up, eating bon-bons.

How to make everything appear effortless...or not

There's a link going around Facebook right now to an article called "Your Children Want YOU!" by April Perry of (read the article here). It begins by pointing out the pressure that Pinterest, blogs, Twitter, parenting magazines, etc. put on parents by showing images and telling stories of uber-put-together moms who keep toys alphabetized, create specially shaped sandwiches and pancakes every morning, and so on.
Star Wars pancake and cookie cutters from William-Sonoma.
Very cool, but not on my agenda at the moment.
The gist of the article is that your kids would rather have plain old time with you rather than less time with super mom and her fancy pancakes. I get this--as a mom of young kids, it resonates with me. I'd love to do all that cool stuff and focus my creativity on my kids. And sometimes I do. But between the kids, a full-time job, dealing with the house, spending time with my husband and friends, and, oh yeah, quilting, more often than not, it's just not gonna happen. But there's always that illusion that it could, isn't there?

As I was working on my wonky log cabin blocks this week, I had that same feeling of pressure settle down on me. I'm so eager to see where these blocks are headed that I'm giving up sleep at night, and I definitely want to share the process with you. But. A big but. How do I balance between quality, quantity and sanity? That is, quality of photos, quantity of blog entries (gotta keep you interested!) and my sanity ('cause my husband sure isn't staying up making sure I sew those seams straight!).

I LOVE looking at other quilting and sewing blogs. In fact, that's part of why I started this one, so I could join the fun. But I'm often blown away by how much sewing time these other bloggers find, and how seamless (pun not intended) everything they create looks. Are they all professional photographers? The step photos they post are well-lit, fabrics are pressed, no excess clutter crowds in. My photos so far have been only a little dark and  wrinkled, and that's with maximum effort and way too many attempts to count. How do they have time to sew AND take photos of what they're sewing as they go every day?

So I present to you my wonky block update and my template plastic experience, here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nursery Take Two

The beauty of a new house is a blank slate for decorating. When it came to the boys' room, I wanted to use the same nursery decor that I'd used for my first son, but I knew that I'd need something more grown up in a year or two. And I really didn't want to repaint down the road!

So I tried to plan long-term as well as short-term. The original nursery was painted a much lighter teal. I wanted something bolder, more little boy-like, so I chose the darker teal. (See my paint sample journey here.) It still matched with my baby quilt, bumpers, and wall art, but I had a color palette in mind for the room's next look. We'll get to that. But first, the fabric parts of the boys' room:

I designed this quilt before my first baby was born. I loved the teal and mocha combination as a gender-neutral nursery. I wanted an animal theme, but I didn't want cutesy fabric. I created these animal appliques and chose Back Porch Bouquet from Bate & Taylor for Maywood Studio. I'll be sharing the pattern for this quilt here on the blog shortly...check back!

Besides the fact that I really liked all of my nursery stuff, check out these pieced stuffed animals--way too much time invested in this nursery to choose a different route the second time around! I love these animals--from Rumpled Quilt Skins patterns.

Wall art I'd made, to coordinate with the quilt and stuffed animals. So technically it's not yet up on the wall here, but I didn't want to wait for it to be hung to write this post! I bought blank canvases and acrylic paints at Michaels, cut the animal shapes out of fabric, and created wall art.

Hard to see the fabric here, but we replaced the accordion closet doors with fabric panels. The boys love to play in these curtains, and the light pin dot print (from the same collection) nicely breaks up the deep teal walls.

I love being able to use all of these elements again, but with a fresh feel because of the new paint color. And, I'm even more excited about my plans for a "big boy" bedroom after we're done with the crib and nursery look. I found this, from one of the Sherman Williams inspiration booklets.
What a great color scheme! I'm in love with it.
The boys' closet, though you can't see from the pictures (and believe me, with the mess in the closet right now, there's no way I'm taking a photo to share!), is actually a huge walk-in closet. We've transformed it into a bit of a toy room like what you see in the photo--little boys don't have a lot of hanging clothes. I'm going to paint it that butter yellow color, and then make matching quilts using the four colors shown here. I can't wait! I've already got some designs in mind... Think we should try the barn door too?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Permission to Play

Most of the quilting I've done has always been purpose-driven. It's either a gift for someone or yet another quilt for my own house, so I pick a pattern, buy fabric, and make the quilt, following the pattern. I've made a couple quilts without patterns, sort of making up the design as I go, but they were still made for a purpose.

Recently I've decided to spend some time just playing for the fun of it. I'm using fabrics from my stash and experimenting with some different types of blocks. Sure, I'd like to use the blocks to make a quilt rather than adding them to my UFO list, but there's no set purpose (and more importantly) no hard and fast timeline for finishing.

Last week my husband was working late, the kids were in bed, and I had some time. I pulled out my batik scraps (my favorites...I could write a whole blog entry about batiks, but I'll save that for another day), some Kona white, and started playing. I knew I wanted to try some wonky blocks. After reading through some quilting blogs, I found this from the Quilt Dad. Perfect!

I sorted my batiks to pull out "my" colors (delicious blues and turquoises and lime greens!) to go with the white solid:

It needed something, though, so I grabbed these to add a "pop" to the center of each block:

And six blocks into my playtime, here's what it looks like:

I love how they turned out, and it's so much fun--just freeform and liberating to grab strips and sew. My left-brained self decided to time how long it took for each block: 20 minutes. I'm planning to sash 3 sides in white and the last side in the orange again and then lay them out, but first I want to make some more blocks. Here are close-ups of all 6 blocks: