Quilts from the past

It appears I haven’t been doing a very good job of keeping up at my blogging; although I have a reasonable excuse. Last week I took the professional engineering exam for the old day job. It will be a while before I find out if I passed, so back to quilty things. On a somewhat day job related note…

A coworker of mine brought this lovely quilt top into the office a while back and asked if I would be able/willing to finish it for her. She had recently found it in a family hope chest, and didn’t know anything about it. She assumed it was made by a grandmother or great-grandmother. I told her from the looks of the hand stitching and types/prints of fabrics used it was likely from the 1930’s or 1940’s, and the pattern is traditionally called a trip around the world.

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I, of course, was more than happy to finish up this beauty for her. I have to admit that although I shy away from this scrappy trip type quilt, I really loved working on this project. There is just something about the smell and feel of an antique quilt.

There was no major damage that needed repair and those hand stitches have held up pretty well over the years. So it was straight to basting. I decided on a navy, green, and yellow dainty floral by Denise Schmidt from Joann’s for the backing and a simple warm and natural batting. Where I normally would spray baste a quilt (especially one this size) to get a nice smooth finish, I decided to pin baste this quilt (with what seemed like hundreds of pins – my fingers are still recovering). I was sure it would not hold up well to a machine washing (which I always do to remove any residual spray baste funk).

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When I started basting I envisioned a traditional Baptist fan quilting design, but as I worked my way out the edges seemed fairly wavy, not to mention the fact that I didn’t think the delicate hand stitching would hold up to all the push and pull of free motion quilting. So, I settled on simple diagonal lines in a dusty green thread. I didn’t use any markings or guides I just eyeballed the center of every other square and went for it. (The squares were fairly small, at around 2”, so it wasn’t too difficult to stay centered).

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I could not find just the right dusty green to match the outside border of squares, so I settled on a light yellow, which I think turned out really nice. It was even a little hard to give back to Deb once it was done.

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Easy Hexagon Star Quilt

I recently posted some snapshots of this quilt in various places… 9

…and I have gotten some great feedback and requests for a pattern.  So I thought I would put together a little tutorial.  This quilt is very simple to construct with no Y-seams despite being constructed from hexagons.

One comment I got a lot was that the photos make the quilt look big, but it’s not.  This pattern is for a baby quilt, but is easily adaptable to a larger size.  My quilt finished at approximately 40-inches square.

Materials:

2 Moda Honeycomb Solids packs (or 72 6-inch hexagons)

Cut 5 of your hexagons in half.  These will be used to finish of the edges of the quilt.

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Various prints cut into 3.5-inch equilateral triangles (23 groups of 6, or 138 total)

You can make all of the triangles different for a scrappy look or make groups of 6 matching triangles to get the star look that I used.

If you would like the star look I HIGHLY recommend laying out the entire quilt before sewing anything together.  You could also work from a sketch, but I think it is just easier to lay it out.

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7Now comes the fun part, construction.  This quilt is worked in columns (or rows depending on how you look at it), and can easily be chain pieced.  I place the top left triangle on the first hexagon (or half hexagon), and the top right triangle on the next hexagon down the column.  Then repeat this all the way down the column.

 

 

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Then stitch the triangles to the hexagons to form diamonds.  When you are stitching the triangles to the Hexagons make sure the corners of the triangle extend a ¼ inch past the edges of the hexagon.  Press the seams towards the triangles to aid in alignment in the next step.

Next stitch the diamonds together.  The seams where the triangles are stitched to the hexagons should just overlap; this will result in perfect points that meet in the middle.

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photo 1Press this seam open, to reduce bulk, and repeat for each column.

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Finally, stitch your columns together.

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See, wasn’t that easy?  Once you have your rows together you can baste and quilt.  I left my edges angled, but you can trim them straight or add extra triangles to make your quilt a little larger.  Once my quilt was quilted I trimmed the extra half hexagons to make my quilt square.

To finish this quilt I backed it with this cute Heather Ross frog print, and “straight line ” quilted wavy vertical lines.  If you make a star quilt of your own, please share it on Instagram or flicker and tag me.  I would love to see your creations!

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Sewing Circle Tote

As some of you may not realize sewing is a very social activity.  Quilters and Seamstresses alike love getting together on a regular basis to eat, drink, and most importantly to sew.  So it should come as no surprise that we love to make tote bags to carry around all of our sewing supplies to various retreats, classes and meetings.  Lately, I have noticed a ton of great bags popping up on blogs and Instagram, and even in my own sewing circle, so I just had to jump on the bandwagon.

I wanted something big enough to carry a cutting mat, rulers, and an iron but with pocket for my smaller items like scissors and pin cushions.  Being a quilter I decided on Elizabeth Hartman’s Sewing Circle Tote.  She is in the process of redesigning her patterns but they will be available as a pdf download soon.  Her pattern is great for quilters because she gives a straight forward list of block sizes that can all be cut with a rotary cutter (i.e. no pattern pieces).  It’s also nice and big with LOTS of pockets.  Three interior zipper pockets (with great instructions for installing them), and five interior pouch pockets.   She also includes instructions for these great quilt as you go pocket panels for the exterior.  I decided to use some of my favorite Heather Ross and Echino scraps for these.

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The construction is a bit difficult, with several layers of interfacing and its bulky three-dimensional structure (quilters are used to working on flat surfaces).  But with a little time and patience, it is easy to see it through.  I did make a couple of minor modifications, because that’s what I do.  I found this great cotton webbing at my local quilt shop, Crimson Tate, and paired it with brown peppered cotton for the exterior and and orange Sun Print by Alison Glass for the interior.  And FYI, if you haven’t seen the peppered cottons, they are AMAZING.  Super soft and lovely shot colors.  These are going to be my go to solids from now on I think.

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The webbing is a little wider than the 1” webbing that the pattern calls for, but it saved me having to make fabric covered straps, winning.  And I decided against the short set of straps.  I am tall enough that I can hold the long set of straps in one hand at my side and the bag is still off the floor, so I didn’t feel that the second set of straps was necessary.  I also think they would just get in my way when putting things in and out of the bag, which would basically just make me bonkers.  (And we all know I am bonkers enough on my own).

Once I got my bag all put together and was ready to finish the top edge I felt like it was a little too floppy.  All the pictures I saw online looked so structured and crisp, so I cut two pieces of peltex interfacing and slid them into the sides of my bag to add a little more structure before I finished the top edge.

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All in all I am super happy with my new Sewing Circle Tote, and I can’t wait untill my next sewing get-together to show it off.  Who am I kidding, this will probably be my new all-purpose travel bag as well.  (Dreaming of QuiltCon 2015).

Long Distance Hugs

The hardest part of moving away from home is leaving behind friends and family. You miss the little things; afternoon coffee dates, girls night sappy movies, spa days for new haircuts after a crappy breakup. But you miss the big things too; 30th birthday parties, bachelorette parties, and baby showers. Well for me it seems like the last few years it has been a lot of the latter. I suppose I am just at that age where everyone I know is having kids. I would love more than anything to be at every single baby shower and to visit each and every friend in the hospital to see their new bundles of joy. (Although, as most of my friends know I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW ANY DETAILS. I think being pregnant is terrifying and gross).

Unfortunately, I have a demanding day job (and I don’t make millions, so I can’t hop on a jet for a day trip out-of-state). So into boxes I squish the best long distance hug I know how to give, a baby quilt. I spend hours picking just the right fabrics for the mom to be. I want to match her nursery, fit her style, and be cute for baby, but not too cute. I choose a pattern that I think will fit my fabric choices, but will still interesting for me to make (I do have to spend hours working on it after all; it may as well be entertaining for me). I spend even more time choosing a quilting design, and I will admit that I have used baby quilts to practice and expand my free motion quilting skills. I machine wash and dry each quilt once it’s done to make sure it will stand up to daily use. Then I carefully fold each quilt, pretty side out, place it in a box with tissue paper just like a real shower gift, and cringe as I drop it off at the post office (I worry it will get lost in the mail every single time). It may not seem like much, but each hour I pour into making each quilt, is my way of cuddling up with those cute babies.

Here is the newest addition to the baby quilt line-up.  This one is for a dear friend that I even tried to con into moving closer to me.  She did, eventually, in a round-about way, but she’s still too far to make girls night practical.  Personally, I really love this quilt.  It has a great sophisticated feel and I LOVE the three blind mice on the back.

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But this is all I have, a pretty picture of a quilt hanging on my wall. So wrap those babies up tight ladies and send me a picture, that’s my favorite part.

What could be better than a baby quilt?

photo 1How about twin baby quilts?!  That’s right, twin baby quilts, one boy and one girl.  These lovelies were made from two fat quarter bundles of Zoe and Zack by Bethany Berndt Schackelford for Quilting Treasures. Each time I look at these fabrics it reminds me of the kids song “ten little monkeys jumping on the bed, one fell off and bumped his head.”   The pattern I used is my favorite go to for baby quilts, Yellow Brick Road by Atkinson Designs.  It is simple and quick, but gives a fun complex look.

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Although I think my favorite parts are the backs and the quilting.  I wanted the quilts to match, but still be unique.  The backs are both a super soft flannel in tone on tone prints, but the girl has polkadots, and the boy has stripes.  And for the quilting the girl got straight lines, and the boy got large circles.

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How cute are these monkeys?

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do.Good Stitches February Blocks

For the month of February the Promise group of do.Good Stitches is making half square triangle blocks.  Sounds kind of boring right…WRONG.  Camille Roskelley of Simplify has an amazing set of 25 blocks all made from simple half square triangles (found here).  There are so many possibilities with this.  I was so excited to get started.

Our queen bee this month said she wants to use oranges as a background and blue/green/gray for the contrasting colors.  She wants 16 inch finished blocks using whichever layout we would like.  I immediately went to my stash and pulled out my stack of random 5 inch squares.  This is what I came up with.

February do good stitches fabrics

Because these quilts are very scrappy I just went with my initial instincts.  I think my favorite part of being in a group like this is I actually get to put my scraps to good use, where I normally wouldn’t touch them (I personally hate making scrap quilts).

With fabrics in hand I quickly made up my half square triangles using the traditional draw a line down the middle, sew both sides and cut method.  Tested out some layouts…

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and landed on this one.  Loving it.  and off it goes to hopefully warm someone’s heart this cold cold winter.

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Makin Mail Sacks

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things I worked on over the holidays were Mail Sacks, using Pink Chalk Studio’s pattern. After I made one, I completely fell in love with this pattern….for lots of reasons…let’s count (and no, I wasn’t paid for this endorsement).

1)  The pattern is very well written and easy to follow. I think even a novice sewer could easily tackle this project.

2) The pattern offers options for different sizes, pockets, and fabric choices.

3) The finished bag is the perfect size (at least I think). Not too big and bulky, but big enough to carry all the things you may want (wallet, keys, sunglasses, cosmetics, first aid stuff…I sort of have a mom purse even though I’m not a mom).

4) Most importantly (to me) the pattern is easily modified to create even more options and variety.

With that last point in mind I decided I was going to really challenge myself and make as close to a fancy store-bought bag (think Fossil or something found at Anthropology) as I could.  So here is a little info, so you can make a fancy grown up bag of your own.

First I moved the exterior seam between the yoke and bag base down so I could add a leather base to my bag.  Leather always seems fancier to me, and I just happened to stumble across some leather at a fabric store in my home town when we were home for the holidays.  If you would like to get some of your own you can buy it online here.  I decided if I was going to go all out with the leather, the rest of the fabrics should be high quality as well, but I wanted to keep that Fossil vibe.  I just happened to find with was probably the last piece available…anywhere…believe me I’ve looked…of Elk Grove canvas in the dusk colorway.  I love this fabric.  It is made by Birch Fabrics and it 100% organic.  And I paired it with Elk mod basics in Sun, also by Birch fabrics.

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(image from: http://www.birchfabrics.com/The_Grove_Decor_p/the_grove_decor.htm)

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On one of the first versions of this bag that I made I discovered how to add an exterior pocket.  The pocket I added in much the same manner as the hidden pocket on Jessica Abbot’s Waterfront Park Pleated Tote Pattern.  I really love this exterior pocket, because it is just the right place to put a cell phone.  I wanted to keep this pocket on my fancy bag, but with the yoke seam moved down I wasn’t sure what to do.  That’s when I decided to put in a floating inset pocket.  Again, a great tutorial that I followed is here.

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The final decision was shoulder bag versus cross body bag.  I was really torn over this one.  I usually love a cross body bag, especially when I am out and about running errands.  It keeps you hands free.  But, sometimes I like a shoulder bag, especially when I go out to eat (a cross body bag hanging on the back of a chair usually ends up on the floor).  So ideally I like a bag with an adjustable strap.  But how was I going to make an adjustable strap with the Mail Sack Pattern, and if I could modify it, where the heck was I going to find the right hardware for it?  Well I looked and looked online and had a good think on it and came up with a fairly simple solution.

birch mail sack

I changed the top curve of the yolk piece of the bag and the strap to be asymmetric.  The left hand side narrows to approximately 2 inches and extends up an extra 3.5 inches, and the right side I left the same (for both the exterior and lining).  The strap I left one end the same and just kept the rest of the strap straight for the length that I wanted (approximately 53 inches total).  I constructed the bag just like the instructions state, but when the bag is turned right side out at the end I was left with one short stub and one long strap.  I used a 2 inch wide rectangle ring and a slide to connect the square end of the strap to the short stub on the bag body.  The hardware I found on Etsy, here.

adjustable strap detail

The final touch is a simple magnetic closure to keep the bag closed.  But you could use any number of closures for this bag.  And here is the finished product.  I LOVE IT!  And for once I feel like I have a handmade bag that looks grown up and not hand made.

finished birch mail sack

wallet

And what is a new bag without a new wallet to match?  I found this great pattern by Wood Violet Handmade on Pink Chalk Fabrics website.  It has all the features I need in a wallet; lots of room for cards, room for a checkbook (I almost never use it, but I still like to keep it handy in case I ever have to leave the country unexpectedly) and a zipper pocket for change.