Monday, October 31, 2011

Sewing Room Update

Serious progress has been made in setting up my sewing room.  So far, we have ...

Shelving for some quilt books, patterns and supplies:

Peg board #1 and a magnetic bulletin board:

Sewing table #1:

Metal shelf that houses the scraps (green containers), quilting and craft magazines (finally organized!) and dyeing supplies:

Cutting station with containers that will house notions like zippers, buttons, ribbons, etc.:

What's left to do:
  • Sewing table #2, which will be wider and eventually hold the serger.
  • Peg board #2 which will smaller and on the other side of the room.
  • Organizing the fabric closets.
  • Organizing sewing and quilting patterns.
  • Making the design board.
  • Finding room for the rest of the quilt and craft books.
It's a small sewing room, but it's my favorite room in the house!  It's almost done!  I can't wait!

Baby Quilt #3 - Simple and bright!

Happy Halloween!

Lots of people around me are having babies, so I've been busy making baby quilts.  I'm working on my third baby quilt and it is for a boy.  I spent as much time selecting and arranging the fabrics as I did sewing.  Half of the green and blue fabrics are from my stash, and the other half are new.  Here is the quilt ready to be prepared for quilting:

The quilt design is super-simple.  I cut 5" X 6" rectangles and arranged the blocks by alternating green and blue fabrics.  The sashing and border were tricky because most of the fabric I had for this quilt weren't large enough to cut a 5 1/2" border for it.  It's amazing how the quilt changes when different fabrics are placed next to them.  I wanted to use a darkish sashing to contrast with the bright fabrics, but I have some concerns about the border, even though it was the best out of some very limited choices. 

The quilt is going to be backed with fleece, which I tend to do for baby quilts.  I wanted this quilt to be simple because I wanted to spend most of my time working on the quilting.  It's going to be quilted like the Hexie Sewing Kit, and since the quilt will undoubtedly be washed numerous times, I'm going to use cotton thread for quilting.  Usually I like to use rayon thread when I machine quilt.

The deadline is tight since L will be going on maternity leave any day now.  Hope I get it done before she has the baby!

Can you believe that it's November tomorrow?  Where has this year gone?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ready to Dye!

The dye finally got delivered! Whoo-hoo! Couldn't dye fabric without it!  Everything else is in place.  Now to only find the time ...

I bought a little too much dye because I didn't think through what I was doing.  I was so excited about dyeing fabric that I bought whatever colors appealed to me.  Unfortunately, I remembered that the process I'm using requires only the 3 primary colors after I placed the first order.  So I had to place another order, which was annoying since the 3 primary colors can be mixed to create any color in the rainbow.  There wasn't actually a need for any of the extra colors I bought.  Nothing like thinking ahead!  :)

Nevertheless, I'm so looking forward to Saturday evening when I can begin this process.  Can't wait!

Hexie Sewing Kit - Done!

Well, here it is - the Hexie Sewing Kit!  It was pretty easy to make and I really enjoyed quilting the cover.  I also modified the pattern.  In the original design, the thread holder was velcroed down, but since I didn't have velcro, I used a coordinating ribbon; it works fine and was easy to sew in.  I also didn't make the scissor pouch since I didn't make the cover wide enough to fold into thirds.  The interior of the kit is simple, but it suits my needs.

If I made another one, I would definitely take a refresher tutorial on how to sew on continuous binding.  I thought I remembered how to do it, but by the time I realized that I really didn't, I was already facing my first corner!  Oh well, hope the mistakes aren't too noticeable.  Now, the kit only needs ... hexies! LOL

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hexie Sewing Kit

I've been spending a lot of time in the hospital lately, which is why I've been rather sporadic with my blogging.  My brother is in the hospital, and I've been looking for a portable project that I can do while I'm in the hospital.  Joining the hexie movement seems like a good idea.  Practically every blog I visit features some sort of hexie project in progress!

Not only is this project portable, it also gives me an excuse to buy more red and aqua fabrics.  I love this color combination, and I LOVE any excuse to buy fabric even more!  Is that bad?  Am I addicted? :)

Unlike those dedicated hexie-ers, I'm only making a small wall hanging for my sewing room.  Thanks to Texas Freckles, I figured out the number of hexies I need by using the hexie grid that you can download from her blog.  For my project, it looks like I need to make about 200 hexies, which is manageable.

The pattern for the hexie kit is from the blog, Lots of Pink Here, as part of the the 12 Gifts of Christmas Blog Hop.   I'm making the kit in the same way, but a little bigger to store the templates for the hexies.  I'll post pictures when I have a chance.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Trip Around the World - Done!

I spent some time today finishing up this quilt, and it's done!  Hurray!  While I was quilting it, I was convinced that my quilting was going to ruin it, but after I washed the quilt and put on the binding, I was happy with the results.

The finished quilt:

I machine quilted in pink thread so that the fleece could have some definition.  A close up of the back:

The quilt, all ready to be wrapped and given to Baby G!

Enjoy the warmth, Baby G!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WIP Wednesday

I've been going through my UFOs and found these three almost-finished squares, and decided to finish it.

This pattern is from the book, The Cat's Meow (I know, it's out of print too, but you can still get it from used booksellers.  If you love cats, this book is for you!).  I actually saw all the quilts in this book when I visited Seattle years ago, which prompted me to buy the book.  It has the cutest cat quilt patterns EVER!  This is one of my favorites.  The applique is simple, but what makes this wall-hanging adorable is the details.  Each cat will be entangled in yarn, and their faces embroidered with a simple running stitch.  I'm not up to embroidery today, but I'm going to put on a sashing and border.  Not sure which sashing and border works best, so I'm going to play with some fabrics.  So happy this UFO is now a WIP!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hand-Dyeing Fabrics

 After I finish the Trip Around the World baby quilt, I decided to make a star quilt.  I was inspired by the quilts that I saw on the blog, Ellison Lane Quilts.  I loved how she used bright color fabrics to modernize traditional blocks, and I wanted to make some quilts in this style.  However, when I went through my fabric stash, these were the brightest fabrics that I could find:

As you can see, my selection is limited.  The majority of my fabrics tend to be muted colors in the blue, purple and pink families or Japanese floral prints, which were perfect when I was making floral quilts.  Now that I want to make patchwork wall-hangings, I need to get brighter fabrics.  My basement was just renovated, and though it gets a lot of light, I want to brighten up the space with modern, colorful quilts.

Usually when I need to buy a bunch of fabrics, I'll make a trip to Lancaster, PA, but I don't have the time right now.  And since the local fabric stores' selections are limited, I decided to dye my own fabrics. 

I dyed some fabric years ago, and still have a good amount of the the PFD fabric that I bought.  I remember the process to be labor intensive, but I loved the results.  It took me a while to find the book that I used as a guide, but I wanted to use this process because the author uses very few dyes to make a wide range of colors and ziploc bags as containers. 

The book is called Hand-Dyed Fabric Made Easy, by Adriene Buffington, but it is no longer in print.  You can still buy it through used booksellers though.  I highly recommend this book because it's so beginner-friendly and the results are fabulous!  I'll share my fabrics once I receive my shipment of dyes from Dharma Trading.  I can't wait for the package to come!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sewing Room Update

Work has been really hectic and I get home too late to spend any significant time on quilting.  The Around the World baby quilt is just screaming for me to get started.  I've already drawn the quilting lines, and all I have to do is sandwich the quilt and begin machine quilting.  But I'm too tired at the end of the work day, so I'll save it for the weekend.

The time that I do have is spent organizing my sewing room.  I like to do my research, and there are some seriously amazing sewing rooms out there.  Check out this site if you want a comprehensive list of sewing rooms.  Beware that you might experience a severe case of turning green with envy! :)

Remember my father's work table that I'm keeping?  Well, it now looks like this:

Still an eyesore, but an organized one!  I particularly loved some of the containers that I'm using.  They're from my collection of Pyrex glass containers and '50s melamine dishware.  I love the bright colors and simple shapes of these containers, but there is really a finite number of dishes you can use at a time.  As a result, the majority of the collection is housed here:

If you noticed, I have multiple versions of the same dishes, and was excited that I had a use for the small Pyrex refrigerator containers.  One holds pattern weights, and the other holds clips to keep the quilt binding in place. 

This little blue melamine container holds my presser feet. 

The ceramic containers are from Ikea and are designed to hang from a rod.  I like them lined up against the back of the table, but I will probably get more to hang from the peg board that is going to be installed next to the work table.

On the other side, I'm going to create a work table for pattern cutting by buying two wire containers with baskets and placing a countertop across it.  Now I really regret telling my sister she was nutty for suggesting I install cabinets in my craft room when it was still under construction.  If I listened to her, the cabinets and countertop would already be there.  Don't tell her I said this because her head will get too big to get through the door, but hindsight sucks!

Now I have to figure out where to put the bookshelf, since I want to organize my magazines and craft books.  Bottom line - I want more space! I do love what I'm doing with my small space though.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Oops! Forgot to mention ...

If you're doing the Trip Around the World quilt using tube quilting, you have to remove the final square on the bottom horizontal strip of the quilt in order to ensure that the bottom half of the quilt is symmetrical to the top half.  The center horizontal and vertical strips are the only strips that do not get repeated.  Thus, my quilt was 11 (3") blocks by 15 (3") blocks.  The odd number accounts for the center strips. 

Sorry I forgot to mention it while describing the construction of the quilt!

Craft Room Design Ideas

My craft room is bare except for 2 sewing machine tables, my dad's work table, and two large built-in closets that I use for fabrics.  The 2 sewing machine tables will be removed once I can find someone to take the industrial sewing machine and serger, which both need a little work.  My dad's work table is an eyesore, but I'm keeping it for sentimental reasons because I remember spending many hours with my father in his workroom tinkering with camera parts on this table.  Right now, I'm using it as a cutting table, but it's really not big enough.  It has a shelf though, which I'm using to store some of the sewing notions. 

As I figure out what my design and storage needs are, I'm slowly adding elements to the room.  I've been doing a lot of research on other people's sewing rooms to get ideas, and am particularly interested in the type of design boards that people have installed in their rooms.  I've seen everything from a curtain-like sheet that hangs on a curtain rod to boards that are screwed into the wall. 

Since my wall space is limited, and I'm reluctant to screw boards into my new walls, I decided to make a blank artist canvas for my design board.  I bought stretchers from the art store to make the frame for the design board, but instead of using canvas to cover the frame, I'm using 2 layers of fabric: a heavyweight, tighly-woven fabric and flannel.

The stretchers that I bought are 54" and 84", so the top layer fabric has to be at least 60" wide.  The tricky part is finding a thick flannel that is 60" wide.  My local fabric store doesn't have it, so it looks like another trip to Manhattan ...

Once the design board is done, I'll hang it like a painting, which will become both a design element and a functional board.  I can't wait to get started!

I'll add a tutorial on how to make this design board as soon as I am done. 

Around the World top done!

I worked on the Around the World quilt some more and finished the quilt top.

When it was just finished:

And then with the sashing and border:

A close-up of the sashing and border:

The quilting pattern is a cross-hatch across the entire quilt.  I'm currently drawing in the lines with a water soluble marker.  I know some people skip this step, but since I'm still new to machine quilting, it's a good support.

As usual, the quilt is much larger than expected.  It is currently 45" X 57".  How does it always get so big?

Cute bag!

I went to a street fair in the upper west side of Manhattan today while I was visiting my sisters and nieces.  I'm glad we went because there were alot of Japanese vendors who were raising money for the relief efforts in Japan.  One of the vendors was Tesage Tote Bags, where I bought this adorable purse organizer:

Here's another view so you can see the front pockets:

Of course, I had to see how the bag was constructed because it was so cute.  The design is pretty simple.  You know where I'm going with this, right?  I'm envisioning working on some Christmas presents in the near future ...  :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Still loving the tube quilting!

I was working on the black, white, and blue tube quilt when I ran out of strips.  Since I was too lazy to find the fabrics to cut additional strips, I started working on a baby quilt that is long overdue.  The quilt pattern is Trip Around the World and I'm going to use the tube quilting technique to make it.  At the request of the grandmom, the quilt will be in shades of purple and pink for a baby girl.

I decided that I wanted the squares to be 3" so that the quilt top would be 33" X 45" before the sashing and border.  I thought this would be a good size for the baby quilt, and would only require that I cut 2 strips of 8 different fabrics.  The fabrics I selected are (the colors are much more vibrant - I'm still learning to use my camera!):

I played with the sequence of the fabrics until I was happy with the order.  I then cut 2 sets of 3 1/2" strips from each fabric.  I split the 8 fabrics into groups of 4 and sewed each group in the order that I wanted.  Once I had 2 sets of 4 strips, I made the tube by placing the 2 sets together with right sides facing, and then sewing both the top and bottom 1/4" seam.  The tube was now formed.

I pressed the tube to flatten and straighten it, and then cut 3 1/2" strips from the tube.  A 45"long tube made 11 strips.  Each set of 8 strips only makes half the quilt.

I placed the strips next to each other and began the pattern.  I opened the first tube strip by removing the stitches on the square that was the center of the quilt.  Then I placed the second tube strip next to the first one to determine where to remove the stitches so that the Trip Around the World pattern can begin. Thus, for my quilt, the solid purple that framed the light purple floral square began the pattern:

By placing the strips next to each other, you can see where the tube has to be separated.  In this case, the blue-purple square had to be separated from the light purple floral square, and I did this with a seam ripper. 

Once that seam was opened, I had the second strip of the quilt completed.  I continued these two steps for the remaining 3 strips on the right side of the quilt.

Since this is the Trip Around the World pattern, whatever you do for the right side of the quilt, you have to do the same for the left side.

Now that all the strips are prepared, I'm going to sew them.  Remember, this is only the top half of the quilt.  The bottom half is done in the same manner, but on the opposite side of the center strip.

Stay tuned for the next part ...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Love the Tube Quilting!

I tried the tube quilting method that I saw on the tutorial below.  It was one of the easiest ways to make an abstract geometric quilt.  Since I cut 1 1/2" strips instead of the 1 1/4" strips like I intended, I had to add a 1" strip to make up the difference.  Thus, my two strips looked like this:

I sewed the two strips together:

Cut out the triangles using the 45 degree line on the ruler:

And ended up with these squares:

Then I played with the arrangement of the squares and came up with this combination:

Nice, huh?  I even had some great company in the form of my cat, Ms. Lola, who graciously supervised while I worked.

I guess she approved because she didn't do anything to my fabrics. :)

Tomorrow I'll finish the quilt top, which will be a 3 X 3 wallhanging.  Haven't decided yet how I'll quilt it though.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New Technique - Tube Quilting

Yes, I know what you're thinking - what about the Circle of Geese quilt?  I didn't abandon it, but I had to try this new technique.  Right now my "season" is quilting, so of course I'm doing a lot of reading about it, trying to catch up with all the things I missed during my hiatus.  I've also been watching videos from the Missouri Star Quilting Company, which has a wide range of quilting tutorials.  The technique that is intriguing me is tube quilting, which is really sewing some strips of fabric into a tube, cutting triangles from the flat tube of strips and piecing the square blocks together.  Watch:

You can use this technique to do strip quilting by varing the width of the fabric strips that you sew together.  For example, I'm trying out this technique with 1 1/4" strips of black and white fabrics with a 2" strip of blue fabric.  I'll share some of the different block combinations that I make tomorrow when I cut out the squares. 

You can also use tube quilting to make bargello quilts.  I'm going to try that for my next baby quilt, which I will work on this weekend.  I'm enjoying making baby quilts with fleece backings.  It's super soft, warm, lightweight, and easily washable - all the things a new mom would want in a baby quilt.  This quilt is going to a baby girl who is long overdue for a gift.  More to follow tomorrow ...

Baby Quilt - DONE!

During this past weekend, I finished the quilt!  Not only is this quilt for a special baby, but I experienced a lot of "firsts" with it - first time I used different presser feet, first time I actually quilted a quilt and most importantly, the first time I did a quilt from start to finish entirely by myself.  Usually, I make the quilt top and someone else finishes it or I put it in my UFO pile.  I was really anxious because I wanted the quilt to look nice, and I'm happy with the end result!  Here it is:

It was much larger than expected.  It's almost as big as a full-sized bed, which explains why it took hours to sew straight lines across the quilt.  I did stick to my plan of using a black patterned fabric for the binding, but don't look too closely at it!  You can tell when I first started using the bias binding presser foot, and when I finally figured it out.  What a fun and colorful project! Quite a departure from my usual ...

May this quilt always be a source of comfort and warmth to you, M's baby!  It was my pleasure to make it for you!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Baby Quilt - Almost done!

The top is done!  I'm very happy with how the quilt came out.  And I'm relieved that the quilt is almost done.  My friend gave birth yesterday, so the baby will actually get to use it since the quilt will be on its way to him by the end of the week.

To get the quilt top ready for quilting, I had to sandwich it with the alpine fleece, which is the backing.  Alpine fleece is a little thicker than regular fleece and washes well, but it is easily stretched, so I taped it to the floor to make sure that it was completely straightened out before placing the quilt top on it.

After I smoothed out the quilt top, I pinned the two layers together with quilting safety pins, which are angled safety pins that go through the quilting layers easily.

For once, I didn't change my mind! :)   I kept the original idea of quilting straight lines across the blocks.  Because my sashing was not all straight, I drew in all the quilting lines using a blue water-soluble marker.

The quilt ended up much larger than I anticipated, so I ended up only quilting the blue sashing.  I decided to use gray thread because it picked up the colors in the black and white fabrics, and it also went well with the blue and orange fabrics.

What was surprising about this quilt is that I didn't use a walking foot to quilt.  Instead, I used a roller foot, which is usually used to help feed fine fabrics like silks and chiffons evenly when you sew.  Since my quilt only had two layers, I didn't want to use a walking foot because I don't have a good track record with it.  Instead, I tested the roller foot on a swatch of fleece and fabric and it worked beautifully.  I was happy to forgo the walking foot!

It took several hours, but I'm done with the quilting.  Now the quilt is in the wash and I will finish it tomorrow when I put on the binding.  Whew!  Glad it's almost done!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Paper Piecing Tutorial - Circle of Geese Pattern

The Circle of Geese Pattern consists of 4 identical blocks.  Each block is assembled separately and then joined in a 2 X 2 layout.  I'm going to use this pattern for the paper piecing tutoring using vellum.  During the course of the tutorial, you'll see how important it is to be able to see the pattern from both sides of the paper.  Here goes: 

Step 1:  Copy the pattern onto vellum paper.

 Step 2:  Pin a piece of fabric that generously covers Piece 1 and flip to the back of the paper.  Cut approximately 1/4" away on the yellow dashed line from the sew line that connects Piece 1 to Piece 2.

Step 3:  Flip to the front of the pattern.  The fabric for Piece 1 should now have a seam allowance that overlaps onto Piece 2.

Step 4:  Place the fabric for Piece 2 with the right side facing Piece 1.  Pin in place.

Step 5:  Flip to the back of the pattern.  Make sure that the fabrics for Pieces 1 and 2 are flat.  Sew on the line that connects Piece 1 to Piece 2.

Step 6:  Pull the paper back so that you can see the seams of Pieces 1 and 2.  Cut the seam allowance to about 1/4".  You don't have to be exact, but if you are using a light fabric for the background, you must make sure your seam allowances are neat.  They will show through the fabric.

Step 7.  Lift the fabric for Piece 2 and press flat with the tip of an iron.  Many people prefer to finger-press, but I find that if I use the iron, the seams are flatter, which help keep the block flatter.

Step 8:  Flip to the back of the paper.  Some of the fabric from Piece 1 and Piece 2 will overlap Piece 3.  You need to trim it down to about 1/4" so that you know where to place the fabric for Piece 3.

Step 9.  Flip to the front of the pattern.  Place the fabric for Piece 3 right side down, but don't pin in place yet.

Step 10:  Flip the fabric for Piece 3 up to make sure that it covers Piece 3 adequately.  If the piece meets the outside border of the block, you must ensure that your fabric overlaps the outside border by at least 1/4".  If it does, pin in place, flip to the back and sew on the line for Piece 3. 

Step 11:  Repeat steps 5-10 for all remaining pattern pieces.

Step 12:  Here is the finished block before trimming.  You can see that it's not neat or squared.

Step 13:  Place the ruler 1/4" from the outside border of the block and trim with the rotary cutter.

Step 14:  Your outside edge should now look like this:


Step 15:  Once all the sides are trimmed, continue making the other 3 blocks.  To join two blocks together, pin in each corner first, making sure to match the corners, and then in the middle.  Sew on the line.  Repeat this step once more.


Step 16.  Before you join the top two blocks and bottom two blocks together, remove the paper seam allowances.  It will make joining the top and bottom blocks easier.  However, this is just my preference.  You might find that it is easier to keep the paper seam allowances on the blocks until all the assembly is done.  Test it out and see what works best for you. 

Once the block is complete, use a pin to score the back of the paper pattern to help remove it from the block.

Step 17.  Removing the paper pattern is tedious, and if it is not done carefully, the thread of the sewn lines can be broken.  Score the paper as many times as needed to help aide in the removal of the paper pattern.  Do one square at a time, and check carefully for any remaining pieces of paper.  You don't want to leave any behind.  One block done ... three more to go!

Step 18:  TA DA!  Finished block:

The beautiful thing about paper piecing is that you can vary the size of the block to whatever size you want.   Below is a comparison of the 4" and 6" blocks.  The pattern stays the same, as you can see.

Enjoy!  Even though it seems really involved, give the process a chance.  You'll love the results and the your speed will pick up as you become more comfortable with it.