January 29, 2015

City Girl Sew Along

What's new? Join me for the City Girl Sew Along, where we will sew together blocks that celebrate life in the city! I will keep it modern - you can use anything you would like. Take a look at some of the beautiful fabrics Riley Blake Designs just sent me for this Sew Along:

I have set aside a few other fabrics to mix in with these, many also by Riley Blake which I used on another project.

The blocks will be 8" x 8" and will feature piecing and machine applique. Blocks will be posted every week or so along with tutorials explaining how to put them together, measurement of fabric pieces, templates, etc. These are perfect stash busters and are Fat Quarter-friendly.

All the blocks will be posted to the City Girl Sew Along tab to keep it organized should any of your friends decide to join in after we have started or if, halfway, you decide you want to make more than one quilt - you will find completed blocks in one place. I will also create a Pinterest board for them. When all the blocks are completed I will suggest options for quilt design. Of course, you may split the project and make table runners, wall hangings, table toppers, bed runners.

Are you ready? Here is the first block:

City Girl Sew Along, Block 1: Subway
 What you will need:
(1) 1-1/2" x 22" strip of gray solid fabric
(1) 1-1/2" x 22" strip of yellow print fabric
(1) 2-1/2" x  25" strip of blue/gray print (I used Mini Quatrefoil C345 by Riley Blake)
Neutral thread (I will use Aurifil throughout project as it is my favorite thread!)
Basic sewing supplies

From gray fabric: (6) 2-1/2" x 1-1/2" rectangles and (2) 3-1/2" x 1-1/2" rectangles
From yellow fabric: (3) 2-1/2" x 1-1/2" rectangles and (2) 3-1/2" x 1-1/2" rectangles
From blue/gray fabric: (8) 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" squares and (1) 2-1/2" x 1-1/2" rectangle

 Place fabric pieces next to your sewing machine according to photo above.

I suggest aligning the pieces to a small scrap of fabric and beginning to sew onto the fabric scrap, then sewing straight to the fabric pieces. This way you won't have problems as you stitch small pieces: fabrics won't be stuck under the plate ripping your block, and if the thread bunches up under the plate, it won't happen on your block either. The fabric scrap will be specially helpful when we machine applique future blocks, plus they keep your sewing area neater, as beginning threads (and ending threads, if you choose to use them after stitching every seam) will be sewn onto the scraps and not getting stuck to your clothes...

Sew pieces column by column as shown above using 1/4" seam allowance, and pressing after stitching each seam. Press seams as you like, as the direction of the seam may change when you stitch columns together.

With RST (right sides together) pin one column to the other, making sure seams butt where the long rectangles meet. I used two thin pins (one placed across the seams and one straight) to hold seams in place. Notice how one of the seam allowances was flipped to the other side, as that was the best way to ensure stitching lines were next to each other.

Before you stitch the columns together, check the right side to ensure seams are aligned.

Stitch over the pins...

...press seams well and there you have it! The first block for our City Girl Sew Along. Easy!

I look forward to your comments, to seeing pictures of your blocks, and having fun together. In the meantime, have a great day!

January 21, 2015

Free motion quilting for beginners

Martingale - Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners  (Print version + eBook bundle)I have always quilted my projects using my Bernina machine. At first I relied solely on the walking foot. In time I got more confident and used the stitch regulator. Nowadays, I use the darning foot most of the time. Although practice has made free motion quilting easier for me (not many feathers yet!), I still buy books or take classes on free motion quilting whenever possible.

If you want to start quilting your own projects but are afraid to give it a try, I just got this book for review which might just help you get motivated: Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners by Molly Hanson.

Here are some things I really liked about this book:
Martingale - Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners  (Print version + eBook bundle)
Photos by Brent Kane for Martingale.
- The introductory sections cover all the basics which usually intimidate beginners: tools you will need, how to prepare your project for quilting, how to set up your machine (she addresses thread tension, yeah!).
- I like her idea and examples of sketching free motion designs - I had no idea it was a good way to improve free motion quilting.
- Molly proved I am not totally crazy: it is OK to practice on actual projects (which I have always done with few exceptions, such as when I am testing wild ideas as in here).
Martingale - Free-Motion Quilting for Beginners  (Print version + eBook bundle)- The photographs are very clear, important because we can see that not every stitch needs to be perfect in order for us to end up with beautiful free motion work.
- The [great] projects are perfect for the techniques she is demonstrating - their manageable size will increase confidence as we try each free motion design.

I totally feel like quilting now! I might use some of her designs when quilting my king-size flannel quilt. Anyone interested in preparing 'that' sandwich for me? :-)

Have fun today...

January 16, 2015

Noah's Ark Baby Quilt

It has been two years in the making, but I finally finished the Noah's Ark quilt for my grandson Nicholas. I am doing the happy dance today! Best of all, I will get to see him holding it as they are on their way to visit us from California. Yes! You have been very patient with me as I slowly embroidered each block...
The blocks were pre-stamped for embroidery, made by JDNA in St. Louis, USA. The pattern name is Noah's Ark. I had to wash the quilt as soon as it was completed to ensure all the pattern marks would come out as the package promised, and they did. Relief!
In order to reinforce the block and hide thread transition from place to place, I basted a piece of muslim to each block.
I embroidered additional details to each block using DMC floss of many colors.With every stitch I dreamed of my grandson - there is so much love embedded in this quilt!
I found fun fabrics by Henry Glass (Two by Two and In the beginning collections) for the sashing and the backing. I think my daughter-in-law will like this quilt as teal is her favorite color.
I used my favorite thread - [white] Aurifil (50wt) - for quilting this project, stitching crisscrossing lines all around. Super happy I finished it before their arrival. Nice way to start the New Year, huh?

Now I am headed to the linky parties at Crazy Mom Quilts and Confessions of a Fabric Addict to check out other bloggers' finishes...

Have a fun weekend!

January 12, 2015

Quick dinner recipes

For our dinner last night I prepared Tilapia fillets using a new recipe I had just found online. I read the recipe, shut down the laptop, and went to the kitchen.

The fish was defrosted so I grabbed a pie Pirex dish (my preferred dish for dredging food). In went the Parmesan cheese, then the Paprika (or so I thought). I was surprised when I realized I was pouring Old Bay seasoning instead of Paprika (the tin cans looked alike from above when I reached for the seasoning on my lazy Susan!). Oh, well.
I added fresh chopped parsley and mixed it all up. After rinsing the tilapia, I dredged it on the cheese mixture, arranged it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, drizzled olive oil, and put it in the oven.

The asparagus I was going to roast had had their tough bottoms snapped off and had soaked in water to remove the sand. After draining the water, I prepared another cookie sheet with parchment paper, arranged veggies in one layer on it, drizzled olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and cumin. Into the oven they went.

As the tilapia and asparagus where baking, I placed the sweet potatoes in the microwave. In 13 minutes I had all of it ready to eat. My family loved it! Here are the recipes:

Parmesan-crusted Tilapia
(adapted from Everyday with Rachel Ray)

4 fillets of Tilapia
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp Old Bay seasoning (or Paprika!)
1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
lemon wedges for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 Celsius). In a shallow dish, combine the cheese, Old Bay, and parsley. Dredge fish in the cheese mixture. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and bake until the fish is opaque in the thickest part, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve it with the lemon wedges.

Roasted Asparagus

Olive oil
Salt, black pepper
Cumin (or curry powder, fresh rosemary, garlic powder, or your preferred seasoning)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 Celsius). Arrange asparagus in one layer on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, black pepper and cumin, and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Baked Sweet Potatoes

3 medium sweet potatoes
Butter or margarine
Brown sugar

Place washed sweet potatoes in microwave and cook them for 5 minutes. Turn them upside down and cook them for another 5 minutes or until tender when you test them with a fork. Cut them in half lengthwise, sprinkle brown sugar and dot them with butter before serving.
I snapped this picture in a hurry because my mouth was watering to eat all this goodness, and I wanted it all still warm! You've got to give it a try - delicious! Perfect for when you plan to sew all day and still want to have a yummy (and quick to make) dinner.

Have a fun day,

January 9, 2015

Scrappy Fat Quarters

I have a lot of fat quarters, many of which I purchased a long time ago and have not used because I love the fabrics and don't want to cut them! My determination to use the fabrics from my stash as much as possible before I buy new fabric is forcing me to pull those favorite pieces out and (OMG!) bring the rotary cutter next to the ruler, all along thinking "I am going to regret this!".
Martingale - Scrappy Fat Quarter Quilts (Print version + eBook bundle)
This is probably why I have been so attracted to books with ideas for using fat quarters (see my review of Take 5 Fat Quarters here). I just got for review another book, this time by a collection of great designers presented by Fons and Porter, called Scrappy Fat Quarter Quilts. The quilt on the cover reminds me of a post I read on Mama Love Quilts this week where Nicole shows these same blocks in a beautiful combination of oranges, pinks and other fun colors:
(Photo by Nicole of Mama Love Quilts, used with permission.)
What a great pattern to use a lot of my precious fat quarters (Spin City is the name of the one in the book)! Scrappy Fat Quarters has beautiful designs, with plenty of diagrams and photographs to make the quilt making process very easy. I specially appreciate the "Sew Smart" boxes throughout the patterns with time-saving tips, and the "Sew Easy" technique explanations at the end of the book - two invaluable resources.

My other favorite patterns? Check them out:
Martingale - Scrappy Fat Quarter Quilts (Print version + eBook bundle)Martingale - Scrappy Fat Quarter Quilts (Print version + eBook bundle)
(Photos by Brent Kane for Martingale)
Martingale - Scrappy Fat Quarter Quilts (Print version + eBook bundle)Martingale - Scrappy Fat Quarter Quilts (Print version + eBook bundle)
The top left quilt would also look great with a print in the center block and the strip blocks featuring colors from the print...

I noticed Martingale is having a 40% off sale on many of their books through January 11, and 50% off calendars. So, after giving gifts to your friends and loved ones, here is a chance to get some for yourself (No, I do not make any money from your purchases, but when I hear of a sale I like to spread the word just in case some of you where shopping for the items!).

Have a great weekend!

January 5, 2015

Thrifty January Craft blog hop

Thrifty Craft Projects | January Blog Hop
Stitch Craft Create is hosting the Thrifty January Craft blog hop, giving all their readers a free copy of the January issue of their magazine featuring 15 craft projects you can make as you upcycle cardigans, plastic bowls and tin cans, fabric and yarn from your stash... you get the idea. When they invited me I quickly said YES, as I was ready to make time for crafts after being busy with the holidays.
Description: LIONSTD:Users:johnsr:Desktop:BLOG HOPS:January Mag:SCC_Jan2015_cover_portrait.jpg
I saw the Winter Body Scrub in the magazine and was transported back to this past summer when I visited my family in Brazil. My mom's hands felt so soft and, yet, she has no dishwasher. When I asked her for the name of her moisturizer, she told me that after doing dishes she pours 1/2 teaspoon of sugar on her hands and rubs it all over them, as my grandmother taught her. So, I decided I would make the body scrub and use sugar instead of salt (the recipe suggested it as a substitute, too). I am using it already! I had leftover rosemary-infused oil to make an extra batch of body scrub and for cooking...
 I labeled the jars, added ribbon and a small spoon, and will give them to my friends as a New Year's treat. 
The January Crafts magazine has easy to follow instructions for efficient use of your time and materials, so head over to their site and download your personal copy of the magazine (claim it using the discount code SCCFREE). While at Stitch Craft Create, check out the Free eBooks tab with downloadable books for more inspiration. I learned last month that Americans spend yearly about $65 billion on Christmas gifts, so here is your chance to get freebies to offset some of that spending!

This is the blog hop schedule - stop by these blogs for more crafty zen moments...

Fri 2nd – SCC
Sat 3rd – Knits and Crosses
Wed 7th – Crafting Not Cleaning
Fri 9th – SCC
Mon 12th – Imagine Gnats
Wed 14th – Diary of a Quilter
Fri 16th Crafts from the Cwtch
Mon 19th – Dotty Doily
Wed 21st – Yarn Demon

Speaking of zen moments, crafts are my all-time favorite cure for the blues. This time of year we can have a lot of grey, cloudy days so I keep the lights on, surround myself with supplies and inspiring magazines and books, keep crafty websites within reach, and craft away. Give it a try and you will be whistling (or humming, in my case, as I have long given up learning how to whistle!) in no time...

Happy New Year, with my wishes of good health and beautiful crafty things!

December 22, 2014

Kid's room wall hanging

"Sandbox" is the name of this 27" x 18" wall hanging. The balls seem to be floating or rolling in the sandbox... It is snowing today - this is the best I could do for a picture.

I pieced the background from scraps of beige fabrics, just adding pieces here and there until I had fabric of the size I wanted. It was a fun way to use all those scraps! Making my own fabric was very relaxing as there was not a lot of measuring or planning going on.

Then, I had apple cores from a class I took two and a half years ago using Quiltsmart interface. I had wanted to use them to make beach balls but did not have the right background for them, until this one came together. I positioned the apple cores to form the ball, fused and machine appliqued them using monofilament and a small zigzag stitch.

I used Aurifil 50wt for the piecing and Aurifil 28wt for the quilting, making loops as I imagined the balls' trajectory. I really like Aurifil threads for piecing (hardly any lint) and for quilting (I have quilted with 50wt, 40wt, and 28wt, depending on the effect I want - always easy to handle and my Bernina likes it, too).

This wall hanging provided a good break from Christmas shopping and baking. Now I am ready to prepare some more goodies: this year I am giving Brazilian sweets to friends and neighbors:

I found the boxes at Hobby Lobby, perfect for what I had in mind. Today I am preparing more sweets, so no time for sewing.

Merry Christmas!


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