Sunday, October 21, 2012


I don't have a new quilt to post. I have my polka dot zig zag I am still working on. But lately I have been working with oilcloth. I've made several table cloths for the breakfast table, dining table and the patio, using both oilcloth and laminated cotton. So easy to wipe clean, and so many fantastic prints.

Yesterday I made a new lunch bag. As with most of my functional projects, it started with my specific goals and I designed it around those. My last lunch bag I made in grad school; it had to be pretty small because we had such a small fridge, and I wanted to be able to throw it in the wash.

Now I have to accommodate more food, because I work longer shifts. I bring my own plastic ware, because not all locations that I work in have it (a funny, annoying quirk of the huge institution I work for). I've been keeping all this stuff in my lunch bag, which meant that my lunch sat on top of about 5 inches of clutter. I wanted it waterproof and easy to clean, but I didn't think oil cloth would work for both the outside and the lining, and I wanted to put pockets that would be hard to work in oilcloth.

The result: a slightly larger bag, with an outer shell of red checked oilcloth, an inner lining of blue PUL, and pockets of laminated cotton (Little Kukla print, from which I recently made a lovely tablecloth). The pockets are all different styles. One is gusseted and has snaps (leftover from my failed attempts at making diapers). One has an elasticized top for the plastic ware. The other two are flat pockets. I can keep my pager, pens, notes and iPhone charger in these pockets and have the inside free for my meals. And I made these straps long enough that I can wear it over my shoulder, which is way easier when I am also carrying my sleepy 2 year old to and from the car.

What do you think?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Quiltastic Hiatus

Things got pretty busy, and I haven't had a chance to sew for a long time. I have summer sundresses to make for my toddler, and my polka-dot zigzag quilt is half pieced. And now our basement has a problem with the electrical outlets, and I can't sew in my sewing corner! Disaster. An electrician is coming today while I am at work to fix it. I have been working a lot lately, but have a 4 day weekend coming now and then 2 weeks off in mid August! So I hope to get my sewing mojo back, finish my current quilt (confession, I bought a kit for a new quilt from Fabricworm...!)

I also have another project in mind. I have some good friends who recently moved to the Oregon coast and started new careers. They just bought a big house in hopes of opening a bed and breakfast but then suddenly found themselves becoming legal guardians of their 4 nieces and nephews! They went from no kids to 4, ages 4 to 9. The kids have been through a lot of hard things but now finally have some stability and some things of their own for the first time ever. So I am thinking of doing some sewing for them, either some simple quilts or some minky blankets. I'm leaning toward the latter, but even that is a lot of time, so I'm still planning how to attack the project. I'm psyched for this family, though.

Enjoy your summer, we are!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sidetracked: Chicken Apron

So there's this yard sale coming in two weeks. It's not just our yard sale, it's our whole neighborhood, and I've been planning on participating for most of the last year. It's in two weeks, like I said, so yesterday I was researching how to have a yard sale successfully (having never done one before) and somehow this led me to thinking that I need to make an apron to hold my change. Don't ask how. Anyway, this being Portland, it's only fitting that it be a vintage style apron. Besides, there is nothing modern about aprons.

So, tonight I was supposed to watch the Game of Thrones finale and go to bed, but instead of going to bed I made this apron. And now, instead of sleep, I am blogging it.


Anyway, this involved a print from Modern Whimsy, no, two prints, and my ruffler foot in its maiden voyage. Rickrack and pockets, and chickens. One of these times I'll explain how I made it. But here are some quick tips: first, let the ruffler do its job, don't try to control the fabric too much. My ruffles are best at the end because I finally figured that out. (of course I could have taken out the stitching and resewed it, but no. ) second, when placing pockets, use a spray of quilt basting spray to keep them in place. I used a couple pins as well, but the spray really helps when getting the placement right so they don't slide out of position before you can pin. That has happened so many times to me.

I haven't had a half apron before now because they didn't seem useful for cooking. I only recently started using one at all, and that's just when I bake. But now that I made this, I can see that it will be good when I'm washing dishes, or having dinner with my daughter(which tends to be a full-contact sport a lot of times) or just to have pockets for my phone when I don't otherwise have pockets at home. (like my pjs).

Anyway, it was a quick project and I'm off to bed. Good night.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


I finished the Vintage Summer cheater quilt last night. I love the magic that happens when I wash and dry a new quilt. It goes from being a fairly flat piece to a soft, crinkly quilt. The quilting shows up nicely, and the soft shadows and folds make it look like an heirloom. And all my little tucks in the backing become practically invisible!

I love how this turned out. I wanted to take some nice photos outside today, but it's raining, so here is a sneak peek. The quilting is simple, 1/4 inch on either side of the "seams" of the patchwork blocks. The backing is also simple, but the blue print with flowers and birds was one of my favorites in the line. More later!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dreaded Tucks

Is this the proper quilting term?  Those little folds that accidentally get sewn into the backing sometimes when you are machine quilting a quilt?  I used to really obsess about these.  I spray-baste my quilt, securing the backing to the floor and smoothing out the batting and top layers.  It's pretty secure.  But no matter how much tension I use on securing the backing, when I take the quilt up after basting there are little bumps--not folds, but just like pruned skin when you've sat in the bath too long.  The best way I have found to avoid these ridges on the backing turning into tucks is to stretch the whole quilt sandwich firmly while I sew the quilting.  This takes care of most of them, but I still get the occasional tuck.

But I have finally noticed that when there are a few tucks sewn into the backing, once I wash and dry the quilt they are rarely visible, especially if the backing is printed.  I know they are there, but they remind me that I'm not perfect.  I've made peace with the occasional tuck, although I still try to avoid making them in the first place.  They prove that I made the quilt, I guess.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Vintage Summer Cheater project

I am actually working on two quilts right now.  The first one is a project I have had in mind for a long time, after seeing (somewhere on the interwebs, how I wish I had the photo still!) a beautiful zigzag quilt in a whole color line of dots and white.  I've been keeping my eyes peeled for the right collection of dot fabric, and finally knew I had it when I saw this a few months ago.  I bought a yard of each and am making a big zigzag quilt.

But then, a few weeks ago, I saw the new Little Yellow Bicycle line called Vintage Summer.  (I currently have the cheater as my blog background, but that will probably change at some point.)  I absolutely fell in love with the line.  I mean, the fabric sang to me, you know?  I was obsessed.  At that moment I really couldn't afford it, but I had to have it.  Especially the cheater print.  (If you don't know, a cheater print is a fabric that is printed to look like a patchwork quilt already.)  I don't normally care for cheater prints, but this one was so summery and nostalgic, and was exactly like what I would make out of the line of fabrics.  It was perfect.  I'm not the only one who thought so--it sold out in all the outlets I could find after a day, when I realized I hadn't ordered enough.  (I was able to order more the next week though.)

I hate that they are called "cheaters."  Usually, piecing a quilt top is not the bulk of the work of making a quilt, at least to me.  Of course, I tend to like, and make, pretty simple quilts.  But it's kind of a demeaning term, isn't it?  Makes me feel like my quilt is cheating somehow.  It's not.  I'm keeping the top simple--just sashed it on all sides with one of the red on white prints from the line, used some of the leftover blocks and some of the other prints for the backing.  But you could do a lot of different things with it--cut it into nine-blocks and sash them all, for floating blocks, or cut a whirlygig template and repiece it into smaller whirlygigs, for example.  (Ha! I sound like an actual quilter, I so am not one.)  To me, most of the work is in the quilting.  I'm halfway through mine now.

Everyone must have a favorite part of making a quilt--planning it, or piecing the top, or doing the quilting.  Mine is binding.  Why? I don't know.  I love binding quilts.  I really love the hand-sewing at the very end.  I machine-sew the binding onto the back of the quilt and then do the finishing on the top, and I love sitting with a quilt in my lap for an hour, watching a movie and hand-sewing my binding.  And then throwing it in the washer and dryer and watching it magically become a scrunchy, real quilt.

Anyway, this project put the other one on the back burner.  I'll be able to show it to you soon.

What's your favorite part of making a quilt?

Why I Sew

I've been sewing since I was about 7 or 8.  My mother is an amazing seamstress.  She is meticulous and painstaking and her garments look perfect inside and out (although she will point out the 3 tiny errors she made that she insists ruin the whole thing).  So I grew up with sewing being a normal and enjoyable part of life.  Later, when I was in junior high or high school, she got a second job in a fabric store, and I spent a lot of time there.

I think I first picked up a needle and thread at about 7, and figured out how to sew something together using a simple running stitch.  That must have been the point at which my mother decided I was ready to learn to sew.  I got a refurbished Singer sewing machine for Christmas that year.  I remember it well:  it had a fold-out wooden cabinet and a knee lever that operated the machine.  It had a lever that adjusted the stitch (straight or zigzag, or reverse) and it had little plastic discs that were supposed to enable it to create decorative stitches, but I was never able to figure out how they worked.

That year I also received a sewing basket made by my grandmother, some brick red knit fabric and ribbing to make a t-shirt, and a pair of Wiss scissors that I still use today (if you look at the image in the link, mine are the ones on the right with the black handles. Just googled them, they appear to have been made in the early 60s.).

I started sewing more in high school, when I started getting tired of waiting for my mother to finish a project for me.  Her meticulous sewing meant that projects took much longer than I wanted to wait.  If I ran out of clothes to wear to school, I would make a simple skirt or some leggings.

There have been times I have sewed more or less in my life, but I really started to get even more into my sewing when I was pregnant with my daughter.  I sewed everything in her nursery--curtains, crib sheets, quilts, pillows, crib bumpers.  (I used the book Little Stitches for Little Ones by Amy Butler to make the Modern Crib Set.)  When Lucy started getting bigger, sewing became even more of a creative outlet, and a means for solving problems.  I wanted a hanging wet bag in the nursery for her cloth diapers but wanted one that I could snap in a mesh drawstring bag that I could snap out to wash the diapers all together--so I designed and sewed one (I'll show that in another post).  For a while, her cute polka dot sheets seemed too chilly when I was trying to get her used to sleeping in her crib, so I sewed some big pieces of minky fabric in the middle to lay her down in.  When she was tiny, I paid a ridiculous sum of money for a Woombie, which she loved, but when I wanted another I made it myself.  I made her about 10 Minky baby blankets (ok, probably more), and when the weather got warm I made some thin blankets out of quilting fabric (using this tutorial for perfect corner blankets).

Then I decided she needed more cloth diaper inserts for her g-diapers, so I bought a serger (this fabulous little machine, which has worked perfectly for me and was the best-rated machine I could find for less than $1500) and ordered some fabrics to sew my own cloth inserts.  I saved a lot of money over buying the G-cloth inserts ($30 for 6!!) and had stacks and stacks of them.  (Not including the cost of the serger, of course.  :)  I use that so much, I felt pretty justified buying it.)  Recently I tried my hand at sewing PUL diaper covers, with mixed success.  I've made lots of clothes--some with patterns, some upcycled from something else, some designed outright by me, some from online tutorials.

But what in here is "Quiltastic"?  I've made more quilts since having a baby than ever before.  I'll feature each of them here later on.  I do consider myself a "Modern Quilter", as those types of quilts tend to be the ones I love the most.  Right now I am working on two--one from the newest line by Little Yellow Bicycle called Vintage Summer (instantly fell in love with these fabrics!), and another, a large zig zag quilt with the cream dots line from Jay-Cyn for Birch.  I'm about 1/3 done quilting the Vintage Summer quilt, and only about 1/3 done piecing the zig zag quilt.

There it is, why I sew.  While I have a lot less time to sew these days, I have a lot more inspiration, so I sew.