April 10, 2014

Embroidering blocks for a quilt

Two more blocks finished for my grandson's quilt. I started embroidering them in January 2013, and my grandson turns one next week! Ai, ai, ai...
Yep, it is all about Noah's ark, which I am embroidering now. I will add sashing and borders, but it will not be ready by Monday. You can find the other blocks I embroidered here, here, here, here, and here. I only have three more to go. The pre-printed blocks only had the animals so I added grass, water, and other elements to enhance them, unless the animals were large.

I am not stressing about it. I will give it to him when it is ready. In the meantime, I found cute summer clothes for him at Gymboree yesterday, including beach sandals, shoes, beach clothes... It is all neatly wrapped up, along with four stuffed animals which belonged to his daddy. I had washed, dried them, and put them away for this occasion, long before a grandchild was even a dream.

That is all I can think about this week: hugging and kissing my grand baby, who is coming from California. Oh, yes, I want to see my son and his wife, too. :-)

Happy Thursday!



April 4, 2014

Spring wall hanging


Hey, it is sunny here today! It is quite possible that Spring weather is here to stay... This clear day is putting me in the mood for playing with colors, speaking of which - how do you like my latest wall hanging? The colorful border has all the hues I chose for the hexie flowers, and it brightens the whole thing up.


I love attaching the hexies with a zigzag stitch using contrasting color. I used monofilament to quilt the grey background (can you tell I was craving jelly beans as I was quilting?), and also to quilt around the paisley shapes on the border. A single block is all it takes to come up with a wall hanging, a pillow, a bag, or an apron, and it is perfect for those days when you want to sew but do not want to work on a large project.

Martingale - 25 Patchwork Quilt Blocks Volume 2 (Print version + eBook bundle)

This fun block came from the cover of "25 Patchwork Quilt Blocks, Volume 2" by  Katy Jones, which I received from Martingale for review. Yep, I have been getting a lot of inspiration from their books lately... Katy used traditional blocks and techniques, such as applique and English paper piecing, livened them up with modern fabrics, and gave us 25 great ideas for quick projects as well as larger quilts. Each block finishes at 6" (8"with borders), although I made mine really big: the center block measures 11" and the final wall hanging is 19" x 19". 


Martingale - 25 Patchwork Quilt Blocks Volume 2 (Print version + eBook bundle)
 Photograph by Brent Kane for Martingale

I love her choice of fabrics for the block above (Little House)... Fussy-cutting here not only adds detail but enhances the 'story' the block is telling. Newsprint patterned-fabrics appear in most of her blocks: can we read and sew at the same time? :-) Whether you can multitask or not, you will enjoy the updated look of each block. Then...


Martingale - 25 Patchwork Quilt Blocks Volume 2 (Print version + eBook bundle) 
 Photograph by Brent Kane for Martingale

 ...how about this dresden plates and hexies quilt? It is called "Field of Daisies", perfect for a girl's room, although Katy says she designed it for picnics, a usually rainy affair in her native United Kingdom. I am really tempted to start on this project today... and I have the right fabrics in my stash.

If you are a beginner quilter, the introduction gets you through the details you will need to get started. The pattern instructions will make your work easier, as they are clear and have many diagrams. As a seasoned quilter, you will enjoy her new ideas.

I have just a couple of hours to quilt before my kids get home from school. Enough time to work on the first dresden block!

Enjoy the weekend,







April 1, 2014

Sewing pouch and pattern


I love how this sewing pouch turned out! The colors are bright and cheerful. I have made and sold dozens of these pouches to my friends and family, and many of them have one for each handwork project. Here is what it looks like inside:
It has room for pins, needles, threads, buttons... whatever you may be using on your project. It is fun deciding which fabrics to use and where to put them. I had cut the fabrics a few weeks ago for this one but never had the chance to put it all together until today. I needed another pouch for an embroidery project I want to take on a trip (they are so portable), and it is finally ready!

I am no longer taking orders for these sewing pouches, so I wrote a pattern for them (downloadable, $6, you can find it here). Unlike other pouches, this one has a sturdy, flat bottom so it won't flip over. I also like the way the drawstring works, keeping everything in and the dust out.

This sewing pouch provides a neat way to organize hand sewing projects, and makes a great gift. Ask my quilting friends! When we get together to hand quilt, we each have our supplies in these, and the quilt is dotted with pouches of different colors...

Do you have a bag or box where you like to keep handwork supplies?







March 31, 2014

Quilting and Dreaming: 1930s




Candy Store and MoreWhen I read a quilting, recipe, knitting or other craft book, I read it from cover to cover including pattern and recipe details, general instructions, etc. I enjoy every bit of it provided it covers a subject of interest to me. I am often surprised at the things I learn, which I would have missed had I only read the pattern or recipe I was looking for or liked.

Such is the case with "Candy Store and More - 1930s Quilts Made New" by Kay Connors and Karen Earlywine, recently published by Martingale. Surely, I expected to see patterns with dresden plates, pinwheels, baskets and pieced flowers made with era-inspired prints. What I found was an eyeful of beautiful quilt designs, as Kay and Karen deliver on their promise to make 'new' treasures out of old favorites. The icing on the cake: their commentary at the beginning of each pattern, showcasing original newspaper clippings and information about block origin which, along with their book introduction, took me on a journey to the Depression Era and helped me see those blocks under a new light.

My favorites of the 10 projects featured in Candy Store and More:

Martingale - Candy Store and More (Print version + eBook bundle)Martingale - Candy Store and More (Print version + eBook bundle)Martingale - Candy Store and More (Print version + eBook bundle)
                                              Photos by Brent Kane for Martingale.

If you like 1930s-inspired fabrics and quilts you will be delighted with this book. To get you in the mood, grab a box of Sugar Babies, a couple of Musketeers bars, sit comfortably and enjoy!


March 26, 2014

Strip Quilt: quick, easy, and fun!



Here is my latest finish still on my design wall, waiting for a hanging sleeve. The name of this quilt is Teenagers in our House - see if you can guess why! I had fun making this quilt using 2 1/2" strips left over from a queen-size quilt I made for my son's wedding (see it here). It is an adaptation of a quilt I found in a book I received for review: "Strip Savvy - 2 1/2"-Strip Quilting Designs" by Kate Henderson.

Martingale - Strip Savvy (Print version + eBook bundle)
 Photo by Brent Kane for Martingale.

Kate Henderson presents fun ideas on how to use up pre-cuts or leftover strips, turning them into amazing quilts which are quickly put together and sure to please everyone. Her 18 inspiring modern designs will get you running to your stash, as I did to mine. I especially appreciated her innovative techniques for constructing traditional blocks, something I always look for to ease and speed up my projects. What, with only two hands and hundreds of quilts I want to make, I need help!

I read the General Instructions section carefully and got many tips for improving my quilting experience. The pattern instructions are clear, with lots of diagrams to ensure we understand the process.

Martingale - Strip Savvy (Print version + eBook bundle)Martingale - Strip Savvy (Print version + eBook bundle)Martingale - Strip Savvy (Print version + eBook bundle)
Photos by Brent Kane for Martingale.

Do you see what I mean? These are my favorites. The quilt on the right, "Little Houses", is the one which made me put the book down and start working. I opted for orienting my little houses in one direction and making the roofs all the same color.  This wall hanging measures 40 3/4" by 26 3/4", was pieced with Aurifil threads, and quilted with Isacord polyester thread. Freemotion quilted on my Bernina, and the binding was hand sewn.



As a contrast to the straight lines of the pieced blocks, I quilted 'rocks' on the 'wall' sashing, wavy lines on the roof, wonky lines on the house, and swirls next to the roof. All the while, my teenage boys were making a racket in the basement. Thus, the look and the name of the quilt...

"Inspiration", in my dictionary, is the spark 'something' causes in my brain to make me run to my studio as fast as possible and start working. Books provide lots of it, and Strip Savvy did the trick for me this time.

Happy sewing!


March 24, 2014

Bake yummy, healthy snack for a quilting afternoon


While shopping at Costco the other day I found organic coconut flour, a by-product of coconut milk production which is gluten-free, very high in fiber, low in carbohydrates and a grain-free alternative to regular wheat flour. It is also much less expensive than almond flour, another ingredient I like to use in baked goods. Since I love anything which has the word 'coconut' in it, I eagerly bought a bag. Over the weekend, unable to control carb cravings and feeling adventurous, I got the bag out of the pantry, put on my apron, hung on the kitchen the sign "Experiment in Progress" and embarked on an afternoon of pure baking deliciousness.

Although I had most of the ingredients required for the muffin recipe printed on the bag's back label, I decided to change things a bit (I can't help it!). After a short while, I pulled out of the oven a velvety, [not overly] sweet and light muffin, that almost burned my mouth as I took the first bite - my mom wasn't around to make me wait until it was totally cool!

The  recipe yields 12 muffins. Somehow I had enough for that plus 4 extra ramekins.The ramekin version was perfect accompanied with whipped cream. The muffin-sized version is delicious with hot chocolate in the morning, or as a quick pick-me-up snack during a quilting afternoon.

Here is the recipe:

Coconut Craisins Chia Muffins
(adapted from Nutiva Coconut Blueberry Chia Muffins)

1 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk
6 eggs
1/4 cup oil
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp chia seeds
3/4 cup craisins

- Preheat oven to 350*F. Spray muffin pan or 10 ramekins with cooking spray. Mix first 3 ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together honey, milk, eggs, oil and vanilla extract. Gently stir egg mixture into dry ingredients, then add chia seeds and craisins. Fill muffin tins or ramekins 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick, inserted in center, comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped cream, or at room temperature.

The original recipe called for coconut milk, coconut oil, blueberries... I think my changes made the recipe a little lighter and not as 'coconutty' as the original. My family is not as wild about coconut as I am, so I figured these changes made the muffins more appealing to them.

Come on over for a snack - it is time to eat a muffin!

Enjoy this Monday...




March 20, 2014

As I try to bind a quilt

Usually, binding a quilt is a very relaxing part of finishing a project. I sit on my comfortable chair in the bedroom, place my feet up on the ottoman, turn the music on, and stitch away. Except today...

The cording to the blind covering the large window in my bedroom broke this morning, so I cannot pull it up. When I pause to rest my eyes and look out the window, all I see is white, accordion-style nothing.

I am running out of the perfect color thread for the job. After carefully using Thread Heaven (I found it here) to condition the last piece of thread so it can glide smoothly through the layers, I make a few stitches before it tangles into an almost invisible knot. Argh! When this happens, if I cannot untangle the &$@!#$& thread, I tuck it into the binding and make sure it will never slip out. I continue the work for about another inch.

I cannot wait to show you the quilt - the result of a round robin effort and the first quilt I had someone quilt for me with a long arm machine. Two teenage boys will soon be arriving back from school, the laundry keeps saying "Wash me", there is an article floating in my head and just waiting for my fingers to find their way to the keyboard... Still, I am determined to finish the binding.

Walking gingerly to the kitchen, I grab my bag and car keys as quietly as possible and proceed to the door, hoping the puppy will stay asleep and not notice my leaving the house without him. Woof woof! "Nice try," he is telling me. Do I go out to JoAnn's anyway, forgetting the fact that he 'needs' to go to the park as we don't have a fenced in yard, or do I just bag the whole quilt binding idea?

My stomach growls. If I keep this puppy in the kitchen a few more weeks as I try to get things done, I will probably lose weight, publish a book about my experience, and appear on the New York Times' best sellers list. Woof woof!

I am off to the park.



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