December 31, 2012

Wool - newest addiction?

This is the first block for a wall hanging I am designing using wool and embroidery. I worked on it the other night until 1 am... I only stopped because I knew the boys would be up very early in the morning (6 am or so as usual), and I'd better get some shut eye.

Wool applique using slip stitch is very relaxing to me. Then, figuring out how to embroider each piece is fun as you decide on stitches and floss colors. I am so glad I organized my embroidery floss the way I did (see picture below)!
Three-ring binder with plastic sleeves for storing film negatives. The plastic sleeves are from The Container Store.

Here are more details on the block. Yes, I am courageous with the embroidery as I try stitches I've never used before - I need to practice somewhere, right?
Trellis couching on the blue dots, outline stitch on the stems, running stitches around the cool buttons (I am so happy I got those buttons! See previous post here),
glass beads on the light blue oval flowers.

How do you like the butterfly? Not all embroidery stitches will work with wool, due to its thickness: the white back stitches on the butterfly wings look more like running stitches... but it looked OK to me so I left them that way. 

What do you think? I have no idea what the next block will look like, but I will start working on it right away.

In the meantime, best wishes for a healthy, creative, and successful New Year!

December 30, 2012

What to do with 'orphan' blocks

I joined these leftover four patches a while ago but had no idea what to do with the block. After Christmas, I was looking for a project I could work on quickly, as all the interruptions I was sure to have would not be conducive to a more involved quilt.

So, I decided to make a small wall hanging using a block I already had. This one jumped at me, and this is what I did with it. I framed it using osnaburg fabric (also spelled osnaberg...) because I liked its open weave.

The embroidery sort of (I can't draw!) mimics the motif on the black floral fabric. I added small buttons to the vine, emphasizing the circles on the inner border.

BUT, the highlight of this project for me are the buttons I got from Lots of Buttons. They are fantastic!

I placed one on the center of each flower. I love the button's pattern and colors, a perfect fit for this project. When I went to their website and picked these (and others which I will show you when the projects are finished), I had no idea what I was going to do with them.

Speaking of Lots of Buttons, have you ever seen their site? They have an amazing selection of synthetic, wood, metal, horn and other buttons, and their prices are very competitive.

I hand quilted around the inner border using Presencia # 16 thread. It was the first time I hand quilted using large stitches and thick thread, and am pleased with its effect on the project.

What do you do with orphan blocks??? I would love to hear from you, as I still have a few I could turn into something fun!

December 29, 2012

Hand Quilting with Stab Stitch

In 2010, a group of ladies from my quilt guild was hand quilting a project to be donated to, and auctioned by, the Intermountain Research and Medical Foundation (previously known as Deseret Foundation). One day, they asked me if I wanted to join them. Although I did not know the first thing about hand quilting, they told me I could learn. And so I did, from the pros!

Since then we have quilted many projects together (including a beautiful queen-size quilt for my son and his wife Daniela - read post with picture here). To be sure, I am still learning and striving to make consistent stitches. That is one of the reasons I was attracted to the book The Art of Stabbing - Hand Quilting the Stab Stitch Method, by Cheryl Doody, which sent me for review.

Sometimes, when you are hand quilting over seam lines, the only way to do it is by stabbing the needle down and bringing it up, one stitch at a time until you pass that thick spot. Then, you can continue loading the needle the usual way. Cheryl Doody, however, uses this stab stitch to quilt an entire quilt!

She describes her stab stitch method of hand quilting in conversational style and with many pictures. Using a hoop and keeping your dominant hand under it the whole time, you can achieve beautiful, consistent stitches, and the pictures of her work are a testimony to it. Her method is very intriguing... As I was reading her book, though, one question kept creeping up - how can you stabilize a quilt in order to quilt its borders and corners using a hoop? Her creative way to do it blew me away!

The book includes two bonuses: a section on 'Unpiped Piping (also called Beading)', and 'Joining the Ends of Binding'.

If you are as curious as I am about learning new techniques to improve my workmanship, you must check it out!

December 27, 2012

Mug rug

Melanie, from our quilt guild, gave us mug rugs for Christmas. Isn't it cute? It is made of flannel, with a small button on one of the corners of the cuff.

I have seen square or rectangular mug rugs, but this is the nicest one yet. Not quite seven inches, it is perfect for small spaces.

Now I do not need napkins on my cutting table...

Thanks, Melanie!!!

December 26, 2012

South America Blogosphere

Hello, bloggers in Brazil! I am hosting a giveaway for Maria do Carmo (tubilinha tiacarminha) who is offering some cool prizes for lucky visitors to my blog (is she nice or what? If I weren't so old I would say she has decided to adopt me!!!).

Just leave a comment on this post for a chance to win one of her prizes. For a second chance,  leave another comment telling me you are following my blog. She will ship prizes within Brazil after I randomly pick the winners. You will have until January 16, 2013 to enter.

Here is a peek at the prizes:

Hexagon flowers, ready to be used on your project...


More fabric for your stash...

Pillow covers with zippers...

As for all bloggers in the US and around the world, stay tuned for another of my own giveaways in January!

Fleece Blanket Tutorial

Fleece feels good to the touch, but it is sort of weird to sew: regardless of how careful you are when measuring and cutting it, as you sew it, one side will stretch and the whole thing will look wonky.

Since I do not like fleece blankets with knots, sewing is the solution for me, although I have used a couple of different alternatives to knots when I did not have time to sew it. So, here is my version of a fleece blanket, which includes one fringed side.

You will need:

Solid fleece, 72" x 60"
Matching colorful fleece, 72" x 60"
Contrasting thread
Walking foot
Basic sewing supplies

 With right sides together, pin the selvage (long) sides, and then one short side. You will trim off the selvage later, so pin away from it.
Start by sewing one long side - here the fleece with flowers is on top.
Next, sew the other long side - now with the back, the solid fleece, facing you. Sew on the same direction you sewed the first seam. I find that by sewing this way, if the fleece stretches, the difference will show on the short side we are not sewing, and it will be easy to trim it later. I am using a glove on my left hand, as it helps move the fleece better.
Now, sew the 'top' of the blanket, one of the 60" sides. So, three sides are sewn and one is open. Trim the selvages on the long sides, and flip the blanket inside out, smoothing the seams and the corners.
It is time to top stitch. Do it the same way you sewed the seams: first one long side, flip the blanket so the back faces you, sew the other long side, then top stitch the short side.
Now, let's stitch some lines over the blanket, like quilting it, so when it is washed it won't look funny! Without marking anything (this is just a blanket!), eyeball about 4 inches from the edge and stitch all the way to the bottom, open side.
Flip the blanket and do the same thing on the other long side, this time sewing with the back of the blanket facing you. Then, do the same thing on the 'top' side of the blanket.
Now, sew a line down the middle: fold the blanket in half lengthwise, and pin lightly (you do not need to have the pin go through both layers). Open the blanket so you can now follow the pins as you sew, pretty much sewing a straight line. Now, your blanket will have a line on each side, about 4 inches from the edge, a line on the short side, also 4 inches from the edge, and a line down the middle.
As I mentioned above, both fleece pieces were cut to the same measurements, sewn using a walking foot, and still the edges do not match on the side that has not been sewn. Now, just trim this side so the excess fleece is removed and you have a straight edge.
Using sharp scissors, and working on the unfinished short end you just trimmed, cut the fringe: 4 or 5 inches deep, about 1/2" wide.
Finally, stitch across the fringed side, about one inch above the fringe, and you are done!

I made four of these blankets, and my hands did not hurt from cutting fringes all around them. And no uncomfortable knots!

December 24, 2012

Nativity Scene

I finished this beautiful wool applique project just in time for Christmas! It is called O Holy Night, by Under the Garden Moon. I haven't appliqued with wool in a long time, and could not wait to do this one.

Once you have the pieces cut out, it comes together rather quickly. I happened to have the right floss colors, too, so no last minute shopping trips. The frame will be ordered on Wednesday, but at least I will be able to display it today and tomorrow.

Here are some close up shots:

The vines and the staff were embroidered using the outline stitch, the berries were made using french knots, and the applique pieces were stitched using slip stitches. There are no embellishments, as it is supposed to look very primitive.

This project kept me focused on the true meaning of Christmas... and I hope all of you remember it, too!

Merry Christmas!

December 20, 2012

Christmas Row Quilt

This row quilt was another project from our quilt guild this year. Most of my friends must already be enjoying theirs. I was hoping to get this quilt quilted before Christmas, but I am not sure I will have time. It turned out super nice, though.

My favorite rows are the stockings and the presents, although the entire quilt has cool features such as buttons on the vine, star buttons as toppers for the Christmas trees, yarn draped over the trees as garlands... One of my friends sewed buttons in the shape of Christmas gifts under some of the trees. I loved it!

This quilt is too big for a wall hanging... I may back it with flannel and turn it into a lap quilt, which my boys can then fight over.

We were supposed to make it scrappy, which is usually not my forte. However, I managed to include assorted background fabrics, made the stockings very different one from another, and for the gifts I picked fabrics I had not used before. Maybe I am learning!

December 19, 2012

Simply Successful Applique

I bought this beauty on Monday and just about finished reading it. What a spectacular book on applique!

Simply Successful Applique by Jeanne Sullivan (I found it here) presents a comprehensive description - with very detailed photographs - of her applique method. I have not yet had the pleasure of being taught by Jeanne, although I felt as if we were in the same room as she, patiently, introduced me to her techniques.

This very well written book walks you through every imaginable detail of the applique process, from the necessary tools in your arsenal to turning that pesky little corner in a V-shaped applique piece so when you stitch it, it will look perfect.

Unlike other works I've read before where the author briefly introduces the reader to a technique before featuring his/her projects, this book is truly a HOW-TO book as the entire book is dedicated to making sure you understand every aspect of her techniques. Expect to be excited and not bored!

This 2012 book includes a CD with patterns which I haven't checked out yet as I am trying to finish Christmas projects. After all that eye-candy (the photographs on each step, as well as the gallery depicting applique executed by others but based on her patterns, are gorgeous!), my fingers are itching to start on a project... I wanted to have seen more of her own projects, though, and will go to her website to feast on them as soon as I have a chance.

Have you read this book? If you love applique and want to improve your work, this IS the book for you!

[A disclaimer: I get this 'excited' about books I love, and am not paid to write these reviews. I have an extensive library of books on quilting, embroidery, applique... which keeps getting bigger and bigger at the rate I am going. When a publisher sends me a book for review, I will always let you know!]

December 18, 2012

Wednesday Quilt Group Video

I belong to a quilt guild called Piece of Heaven. A few of my friends from the guild (Sue, Rosemary, Lee, Diana, Connie, Sandi) and I have also been meeting weekly on Wednesdays to hand quilt projects to be donated, for someone's wedding gift, for our guild's auction, etc.

A few weeks ago, Jeffrey, Rosemary's son-in-law, asked if he could interview us for a project - he is a communications major at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, and an intern at the Deseret News. Being the fun, loving ladies that we are ( ! ), we said "Sure, why not?" He hung around us for maybe an hour or so while we were busy working on our snowman table toppers for Christmas.

Last night, Rosemary emailed me a link to the short video Jeffrey put together, and told me he got an A on his project. Great job, Jeffrey! Of course, you picked the right subject! To watch it, click Wednesday Quilt Group, and you will know what I am up to on Wednesdays!

So... are you ready to start your own quilt group? If not yet, maybe you can help us: we need a more creative name for our Wednesday group. Any ideas? :-)

December 17, 2012

There is a baby coming...

... and it is my first grandchild, a boy! I have been up since 2 am this morning, and look what I came up with:

A baby bag - huge, for all the stuff my son Michael and his wife Daniela will put in it. Right now it is filled with Christmas gifts for the little one, which I had a blast wrapping. I used drunkard's path blocks from a quilt I am working on - I did not want more orphan blocks!

How will I wait another 4 months until I can hold him? Anyway, here is the back of the bag:

Those are charm squares... so you can tell it is big. It is lined with a soft blue fabric, and it has lots of pockets inside. I quilted it using monofilament, SITD (stitch in the ditch) to make it simple.

I found a perfect trim for the handles at JoAnn's, in the home decor department. And, I added a special touch:

... which is my first son's last name.

Man, this grandma thing is going to be so much fun!!! When I think about the baby I feel happy inside - it reminds me of how I felt when I was expecting my own boys.

Now, my grandma girlfriends, do you have any words of wisdom for the novice here?


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