Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quilting with Friends, aka Momma's Day Out

I have a confession to make...
With the exception of my mom and one of my best friends, I've never sewn with other people. No retreats, no quilt classes, nothin'. It's not that I'm anti-social...just more that my sewing time is squeezed in bits and pieces, at random times, and not many retreats start at 11 pm!

But until I joined the quilt blogging world this past spring, I didn't realize that I was missing out by sewing all by myself. But then I started seeing how much fun everyone else was having, meeting their blog friends in real life, having sewing days, and I wanted in.

Add into that the fact that my sewing output has ramped up considerably since I've started blogging, and I've been left feeling that these projects I'm making need a purpose--that they need to go to some greater good, rather than just for my own creative pleasure. Giving quilts to charities was the easy answer.

Now, as Joey on the show Friends said in an infamous quote that gets used frequently at my house, "Put your hands together." (He was talking about jam and girlfriends, but it works for group quilting and giving away quilts too!)

So needless to say, I've had this past Saturday marked on the calendar for most of the summer. A group of West Michigan quilters (along with some out-of-towners from Chicago, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Cincinnati) convened at Queen Bee Quilt Shoppe in Grand Rapids to assemble 1000+ blocks into quilts for Margaret's Hope Chest.
Here's the sewing table. One concerned husband wondered about having all those high-powered sewing machines plugged into a few power strips. Happily, fuses only blew once or twice.

We took these blocks:

Sandwiched them around batting squares, and sewed them into rag quilts.
Jill and Jessica show off their quilts--they were both FAST sewers!

Check out the vibrant colors!

Stephanie and her rainbow beauty! I was thrilled to find out that Stephanie is part of the Kalamazoo Log Cabin Quilters Guild, as I'm very slowly getting to know people there.

Here's the quilt I assembled. I readily admit that I chose an easy color combo rather than going for the rainbow effect because I wanted to soak up all of the conversations going on around me rather than be distracted by block order.
That being said, I still managed to pair one pink block with one purple block when making sandwiches, so the pattern on quilt back is slightly off. (Shh...don't tell!)

These lovely ladies made everyone feel at home. At left is Amanda Jean Nyberg of Crazy Mom Quilts, who brought her book and some show and tell quilts, as well as plenty of enthusiasm for the day of sewing. Next is Carol and her daughters Carin and Amy. Carol and Carin run Margaret's Hope Chest, and Amy, as she describes it, provides emotional support.
Carol, Carin and Amy have turned a family tragedy into an outpouring of love and hope, giving quilts to people in need. It is such a neat organization--if you're looking to give a quilt to charity, please check them out! Margaret's Hope Chest also collects blocks to be assembled into quilts (like the blocks you see here). This fall, another block design will be posted on their blog if you're interested in making some for future quilts.

Here's Amanda Jean, showing off one of the quilts from her book. I have just the triangles saved to make a version of this quilt!

And talking about her book, Sunday Morning Quilts.

All in all, it was a thoroughly delightful day, full of neat women, friendly conversation and quilting for a good cause. I didn't do a final count, but I think we made at least 10, maybe closer to 15?! Ladies, let's do it again soon!
p.s. Posting to Fabric Tuesday on Quilt Story and Confessions of a Fabric Addict's Can I Get a Whoop Whoop to share our fun!
p.p.s. I have spent all my free time this week machine quilting a quilt for a book tour blog hop next week. Can't wait to show my quilt next week, but it made for a quiet blog this week! 

Monday, August 27, 2012

I'm Gonna Need a Bigger Mailbox...

(Shades of Grey Charm Square Fabric Swap update!)

Hi all,
The envelopes have started arriving! Today my mailbox was stuffed full. I have never had so much fun going down to get the mail! Will you all keep sending me packages even after the swap is over?! just kidding...

First, the administrative stuff: 
I have started a discussion thread on Flickr listing whose envelopes I've received. I will try to update it every day if I can, but at least every other day. Sometimes life (and by life, I generally mean a 3.5-year-old and 1-year-old, and that fun little thing called a day job) fills up every minute of my day/night.

If you signed up for the swap, are reading this post, and haven't received the email with my address and other details yet, please leave me a comment. I sent an email out a few days ago and I want to make sure everyone has the information they need.

Now on to the fun stuff...what are you going to do with your charm squares? 

I started this swap with absolutely no idea in mind--I just thought it would be fun to do. But then I saw this design by Lindsay's mom over at the Cottage Home last week, and right now it's at the top of my list. I'm thinking about pairing the grays with lime/bright greens--either solids or scrappy, from my stash (unless someone wants to host a "shades of green" swap???).
If you've got a pattern in mind for your squares, please add it to the Flickr page (I started a "Design Ideas" topic).

Eagerly awaiting the mail lady's arrival tomorrow....

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Winner, Swap Update, & Mini Paper-Piecing

First, thanks to all who commented on the watermelon coasters! Thanks to friendly Mr. Random Number Generator, the winner is:
Amy of Amy's Crafty Shenanigans! Amy, I'll be emailing you for your address and coaster color choice. 

Second, the Shades of Grey Charm Square Fabric Swap is now full! I emailed all of the participants with shipping information. It's been fun watching all the gray swatches appear on the Flickr site. Check them out if you haven't yet.

Finally, my "little" project over the weekend was to stitch my nametag for my quilt guild. The group is the Log Cabin Quilters, so the block is a log cabin. I did mine wonkily, and then decided that I should paper piece the letters of my name. Besides the fact that I'm not really an embroiderer/hand stitcher, it just seemed like the look of paper pieced letters would go well with the wonky log cabin. I used patterns I found online, resized down to 1" square finished. Talk about tiny pieces! The letters had a lot of bulk.I must really hate  hand stitching to choose this instead.  
Here are two of them: 
They actually turned out pretty well until I sewed my name tag front and back together, pillowcase-style, and turned it right side out. The bulk was just too much. I think I'm going to have to redo it before the next meeting. 

The irony of this whole story? The guest speaker tonight at the guild meeting was a paper piecer. I kept my name tag covered! :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Juicy Watermelon Tutorial & Giveaway

I came up with this idea at the beginning of the summer, and purposely chose to save it for August, thinking how appealing a refreshing watermelon design would be during sultry summer days. Well, joke's on me, apparently, because at least where I am, June and July were super hot, and today it barely hit 70 degrees.
Regardless, I wanted to share my ragged edge watermelon block with you, shown here in coaster form, and linked to Confessions of a Fabric Addict's Can I get a whoop whoop!

Perfect for a thirst-quenching glass of pink lemonade on a hot day...or a cool day...

These coasters were inspired by a table runner I made about 5 years ago.

In the runner, I used traditional colors and some feedsack-style prints. I wanted to update the look a bit and play around with some brighter palettes, hence the coasters. 

(Note: Scroll to the bottom of this post for the giveaway and an update on the Shades of Grey Charm Square Fabric Swap.)

Watermelon Block Tutorial
The beauty of this block is that you make one larger block and then cut it into four quarters, so it goes quickly!
1. To make the coaster, I started with an 8" square of background fabric, and fabric squares measuring approximately 6-1/2", 5-1/2", 4-1/2" and 3-1/2" for the circles (3 red and 1 green).
2. Go through your kitchen cupboards, ruler in hand, to find cups/bowls that measured approximately 6", 5", 4" and 3" in diameter. Here's what I found:
Depending on your bowl/cup/circle template options, you can make the outer (green) circle closer in size to the second circle, making a narrower rind. 

3. Trace the circle shapes onto the wrong side of the appropriate fabrics and cut out. 

4. Press each circle and the background square in half in both directions to make creases for lining up the pieces.

5. Line up the 4 circles right sides up on the background square, aligning the creases, and pin in place.

6. Stitch across the circles to secure to the background square. I simply eyeballed it, making sure I crossed the center crease every time. You can either stitch once or twice through each quadrant of the circle. If you stitch twice like I did in the photo below, think of the circles as a clock, with the creases at 12, 3, 6, and 9. Stitch from 10 to 4; from 11 to 5; from 1 to 7 and from 2 to 8. If you choose to stitch one line through each quadrant, center it between the creases (so between the 10 and 11 to between the 4 and 5). Don't bother stitching on the creases because that's where you'll be cutting. 
7. Cut the square in half along both crease lines (but measure, don't just eyeball this based on the creases!)

8. Add a framed border. I chose to use 1-1/4" wide strips. Sew to the sides and then top and bottom of each quarter-circle.

9. Cut backing and batting squares the same size as the coaster front.  Layer back and front right sides together, add the batting, and stitch around the outer edge using a 1/4" seam allowance and leaving an opening for turning (marked with red arrow in photo).

10. Trim corners, turn right side out and topstitch around outer edge, catching the folded in edges from the opening to secure. I topstitched a second line around the inner edge of the border as well. 
11. Wash and dry to enhance the frayed edges of the watermelon curves. Trim excess fraying if needed. Enjoy!

I was having trouble choosing between two different fabric groups when I made these coasters, so I made a second set.

I used a slightly smaller background square for these (7" instead of 8"), so the watermelon takes up more of the block. You can see the difference:

Just for fun, I'm going to give away one of these sets of coasters (if I can wrangle them away from my 3-year-old, who is calling them "hotpads" and begging me to let him use them in his play kitchen!) 

To enter, become a follower if you aren't already and then leave me a comment telling me what summer activity you're still hoping to do before fall (and school) comes lurking around the corner. 
If you're already a follower, just leave me a comment telling me about that summer activity you're still trying to sneak in here in August. Giveaway closes Monday, August 20 at 5 pm EST. 
At that point, I'll use our good friend random number generator to pick a winner!

p.s. Are you signed up for the Shades of Grey Charm Square Fabric Swap? I was just over on the swap's Flickr board and I am so excited by the different fabrics participants have posted! I like each one better than the next, and I haven't even bought mine yet! 
Join in the fun while there is still room! 
Sign up HERE
The swap is now full.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shades of Grey Fabric Swap update

Hi everyone!
I'm so excited about the gray charm square fabric swap, and thrilled to see that you are too!
A couple questions have come up, so I'm going to do a short FAQ here. Let me know if you have other questions; I can always add to this.

8/22/12: The swap is now full! First, there are still 7 spots open in the swap (as of August 17 at midnight EST). Tell your friends! Let's get this swap filled up!

I have been trying to keep up with sending Flickr group invites to participants as they sign up. I'm also going to post the link so you can simply visit the page yourself.

Visit the Shades of Gray/Grey fabric swap Flickr group HERE

See the original post about the swap HERE, and if you want to join in, sign up on the spreadsheet HERE. Please feel free to leave a comment as well to share the excitement, but you need to sign up on the spreadsheet to be a part of the fun. 

Now onto the FAQs:
Q. Can I use two different 1/2 yard cuts, or 4 different fat quarters rather than 1 yard of the same fabric?
A. I'd prefer you just used one fabric. However, if you have 2 generously cut 1/2 yards (my math says it'll be hard to get more than 24 squares out of a 1/2 yard), you can use two different prints. No fat quarters, please.  

Q. Do black & white fabrics count, or should it be just gray fabrics?
A. If the black & white fabrics "read" as gray (i.s. small pattern), that's fine. If it looks distinctly black and white, please choose a fabric that reads as gray instead. 

Q. What is the due date for sending the fabrics in to be swapped?
A. September 20. Once the swap is filled, I'll email everyone with details and my home address for sending the squares.

Q. What's the deal with the Flickr page?
A. We're trying to avoid duplication so that all participants have a wide variety of gray prints to work with. Please take a photo of your fabric and upload it to the Flickr page so that everyone else can see what you bought. If you can, also list the collection name and fabric company. I'm excited to see all the different grays that people are finding! 

Any other questions? Let me know!
Thanks! I look forward to swapping with you!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday: It's all about the mod baby!

My sister's baby shower was last night (yay!) so I'm finally able to share photos of what I made her. And, even better, because frankly a boppy cover and hooter hider are not that exciting, I have photos of the gorgeous quilt my mom made for her. This is going to be one stylish mama/baby pair!

p.s. Scroll to the bottom for a photo of the cutest pregnant girl ever!

My sister doesn't know if she's having a girl or a boy, so she wanted something fairly gender neutral, but not cutesy. I chose this great Lark print from Amy Butler for the boppy cover, and another Amy Butler print, Midwest Modern, for the hooter hider. (And if you're not familiar with the term "hooter hider," yes, it is exactly what it sounds like, for breastfeeding.) 
 I wanted prints that would go together without looking excessively matchy. I may be skirting the line a bit on the "matchy" part, but I loved both fabrics.

 Are you admiring my lovely invisible zipper? I admit that the only part to admire about it is how well it matches the fabric. Inserting it into the boppy was a disaster, and it's not terribly invisible, so it's good that it matches so well. This hole is one of four that I discovered after stitching the fabric's raw edge to the zipper. I learned my lesson though--bigger seam allowance next time!
And then I learned another lesson the hard way. Shortcuts are great. Self-created shortcuts, not so much. I couldn't be bothered to print a boppy pattern off the Internet and tape all those pieces together, so I decided I'd simply trace my own (recently retired) boppy cover. It didn't go so well. Extra fabric in, let's face it, all the curved parts created a not-so-snug fit.
So I tried another self-created shortcut to fix it. With the cover on the boppy form, I simply pinned how I wanted the boppy to fit on the inside of the "C" shape. There was no way I was redoing that #$#$*(#$)%# zipper! I removed the cover, turned it inside out, and stitched a basting stitch, roughly following those pins. Happily, this shortcut worked and I was able to resew the line with a regular stitch, trim the excess, and have a fairly snug boppy. Whew. The other good news--the shower was Thursday night. I was actually doing this Tuesday night, so I had an entire extra day/night of wiggle room!

And now, on to the quilt that my mom made. My sister requested a (gender neutral) non-baby quilt. I helped mom choose the fabrics--24 different ones, I think--and she created this quilt. Gorgeous, isn't it? I want one!

She even fancies up the back with a pieced section.
And seriously, how adorable is my sister and her preggo belly? Have you ever seen a cuter one? To repeat an overused expression, it's like she swallowed a basketball! She loved the quilt, and we can't wait to meet this little one in September!

Linking up to show off all the mod baby fun at Confessions of a Fabric Addict's Can I get a whoop whoop!

p.s. Do you want to join my Shades of Grey Charm Square Fabric Swap? Click here for more information!

Shades of Gray Charm Square Swap!

As I mentioned recently, I was inspired by all the talk around 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James.
Now that I'm done reading the first book, I'm hosting a Shades of Grey Charm Square Fabric Swap!

Here's the short version: 
1. Sign up to be a part of the fabric swap.
2. Buy a yard of some shade of grey fabric--a grey print, a black with white print, a white with black print...you get the picture.
3. Cut that yardage into charm squares and mail them to me.
4. Once everyone has sent me their squares, I'll divide them up and you'll get a lovely variety pack of shades of grey charm squares for your next project!

If you're interested, see the bolded link below and read the details below that. Once the sign-up is complete, I'll email all the participants with details--timing, addresses, etc.  (And a huge thanks to Jennifer of Ellison Lane Quilts for her super-helpful tutorial on how to host a fabric swap!).

Click here for the spreadsheet to sign up for the fabric swap. 
The charm swap is open to 56 participants. U.S. mailing addresses only, please.

NEW, 8/17: Click HERE for an update on the swap. 
NEW, 8/22: The swap is now full.

Charm Swap Details:
  1.  For swapping 5" charm squares, each person will purchase 1 yard of fabric and cut it  into 5" charm squares. 1 yard = 56 charms.  (I recommend buying 1.25 yards- never hurts to have a little extra in case you make a cutting mistake.) 
  2. Choose a fabric that has a small print suitable for an 5" charms. Scale of the print is very important as smaller works better in this case. A larger print has a larger repeat and you want each charm to have enough of the print showcased on each piece. If you are swapping larger cuts of fabric such as 10" squares, you could have a larger scale print. 
  3. Fabric should be designer label, 100% cotton, quilt shop quality fabric.  No Hancocks, Joanns or Michael's fabrics. For a fabric swap, the fun is receiving quality fabric that you might not be able to pick up around the corner. 
  4.  Fabric must be new and unwashed and must come from a smoke free environment.
  5. Before mailing, cut your fabric into 5" x 5" charm squares.  Press your fabric before cutting. 1 yard = 56 charm squares (5" x 5".)  Here's a great tutorial on how to cut fabric into charms by Elizabeth Hartman.
  6.  Put your fabric in a ziplock bag and include an index card with your name and email address. 
  7. Upload pictures of your fabric to the swap Flickr group (more details to follow!) and include the name of the fabric, designer, etc. This ensures that there are no duplicate fabrics chosen and allows everyone to find out more about the fabrics in case they would like to order more once they have received their charms. 
  8. Participants must include a prepaid self-addressed, stamped envelope along with their charms when mailing them. A very easy way to handle this is to include a SAS priority mail envelope for $5.15.

All right...time to shop! And to get you started, my friend Jackie Kunkel over at Canton Village Quilt Works put together a little sampling of the shades of grey fabrics she has available for purchase in her shop. Head over to her shop and she'll be happy to help you out!

I hope you'll join me as we explore all the shades of black, white and everything in between. Oh, and does anyone have a copy of 50 Shades Darker? I need something to read while I plan my grey quilt. :)

p.s. If you decide to join in, grab the Shades of Grey Fabric Swap button in the sidebar to the upper right and post it on your blog! 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

July Look-back

I'm taking a moment to reflect back on July--not bad progress, considering I was out of town for one of the weeks!
From top, left to right:
Charity blocks for Margaret's Hope Chest
Stars and stripes door quilt
14 of my 16 Color Challenge blocks
My beloved beach bag
My design wall--finally up after 5 months in the house!!!!
Red scrappy hotpads
Nautical flag quilt top
Turquoise scrappy hotpads
Quilted travel bag for my best friend's birthday

I'm linking up with Lily's Quilts Fresh Sewing Day with this look back on July. Here's to August, and lots more sewing!

p.s. Inspired by a certain book series, I'm hosting a Shades of Grey charm square fabric swap. Want to play? Check back next week for details!