Mini Quilt Madness & Bad Math

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Generally, I'm not into making mini quilts or anything less than snuggle-able. Seth, my husband, radiates heat like a human furnace and keeps the thermostat on arctic blast year-round. Consequently, burrito quits are a critical survival tool in my life. On a side note, I feel that "burrito" should be added to the list of standard quilt sizes. It sounds far more enticing than a throw. But I digress. 

Mini quilts, while not part of my usual project list, have been serving as sources of near-instant gratification when I need a mood boost.

In May, I joined my first quilt swap in the form of Schnitzel & Boo's mini quilt swap. My partner listed coral as her favorite color and also cited red and aqua combos as something she enjoys. Aqua and turquoise dominate my stash, but I had to acquire some more reds/corals for the project. The final product is this wonky star mini, with some echo quilting. This was the first project I quilted on Brienne, my new machine, which is my way of saying "Please forgive the mistakes!" 

Thanks to #thegreatfabricdestash on Instagram, a huge pile of Heather Ross prints have joined my stash. Some of them were used to make The Treasure Box quilt, but I still had a lot in need of a worthy project. After reminding myself of Quilt Dad's words of wisdom (use your favorite fabric instead of hoarding) I started on an impromptu wall hanging. 

Heather Ross's illustrations have the uncanny ability to make me smile no matter how many times I've seen them. That may sound a bit trite, but bear in mind that I'm one of those people who runs about 25% grouchier than the general population. My name, Felice, means "happy," and my family has always joked that I should have been named Grumpy instead. Characters like Grumpy (from Snow White), Tinkerbell, Grumpy Bear, and Oscar the Grouch were featured heavily on childhood gifts. My unofficial resolution this year is to be more positive and upbeat, so having this mini hanging on my wall may make that a easier. The finished size is 23 x 26".

My older brother, Stephen, texted me recently with the request that I make him something quilty for his birthday in September. I agreed, mostly because it had been my plan anyway. I picked the rolling stone block because it reminds me of electron clouds and covalent bonds. Umm...what? The backstory here is that Stephen and I attended the same university (with him being two years ahead of me), where he got his degree in biochemistry/molecular biology and I got mine in studio art (I disappoint my parents). I did have to take a chemistry class at one point, and electron configuration was about the only thing I really got a firm grasp on. So this is my attempt at something sciencey for him. It's a 24" square wall hanging with some serious scatterbrain quilting. Seriously, don't try to figure out what I was aiming for. I don't have a clue either.

I have to put my "be positive" resolution aside for a moment and share the negative side of making this mini. Quilt-opedia...I'm talking about you. 

Stylish Dress Book: Dress T & F

Yoshiko Tsukiori's Stylish Dress Book has been both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, I haven't purchased any clothing since Patty loaned me the book about a month ago. The negative is that I can't stop making dresses! 

The third dress I made after dress Y and E was dress T, the style I had wanted to start with, but worried would be too difficult. Looks like I made a good call on that one! It was the most challenging of all the dresses I've made so far (the count is up to 6 right now, including two that I have yet to photograph).Turning the collar facing was fiddly, especially at the center point. I had the same problem with my crazy cat lady dress. The sleeves were frustrating, but I'll admit it was my fault. I have a hard time walking away from unfinished projects even when I'm mentally exhausted. It's like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I just can't stop! Thanks to my persistence, I sewed a sleeve to the bodice inside out, not once, but TWICE. Ugh. Learn from my fail and know when it's time to take a break!

As with my previous two dresses, I took in the side seams about an inch on either side. I also cut the skirt shorter than the pattern indicated. Since I'm only 5' tall, a typically short skirt goes a long way on my frame. In fact, a quick Google search shows that most people have worn dress E as top with pants or at least paired it with leggings. Without any alterations to the length, mine hits me right at the knee! Judging by the pattern, dress T was going to hit me mid-calf, which is not a flattering look for a short chick like me! 

Dress T was followed by dress F, a simple tunic top with open sleeves and ties. On a recent fabric shopping trip with Patty, I scored some lovely Domestic Bliss fabric by Liz Scott in the clearance bin. The bright and cheery colors seemed perfect for this relaxed dress. Sewing dress F was relaxing too...well...the bodice anyway. The sleeves were a chore. For some reason the instructions have you sew the top and bottom seams before hemming the open edge. It practice, it feels backwards and complicates the process. I made one sleeve as instructed and made the second one my way (bottom seam first, hem edge, sew top seam) which felt more natural. 
I didn't need to take in the side seams on this one because the style was less tent-like to begin with and I intended to wear it with a belt anyway. I need my waistline, thank you! As with all the dresses I've made from the Stylish Dress Book, dress F is divinely comfy. Ladies, be honest: being stylish is nice, but being stylish and comfy is heavenly! 

Costumes are Coming

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Both my husband, Seth and I are huge Game of Thrones fans. Now that season four is all wrapped up, we feel the familiar emptiness of waiting for the next season to begin. This time however, we have a little something to look forward to that may help the time go by faster: Texas Renaissance Festival.

One of the benefits of living in Houston is being so close to the Texas Renaissance Festival every fall. We went twice last year, including our first time in costume. I was a mushroom, and Seth rented a costume. He couldn't decide what he wanted to be in time (and my sewing skills weren't that strong), and was a bit bummed to have to rent his outfit. We decided to get an early start next year so we could both go in cool costumes.

We were interested in going as characters from Game of Thrones, but daunted by the complexity of the costumes. Armor? Yikes! Jon Snow? Too hot for Texas! Thankfully Seth got a new favorite character this season with a much more manageable costume. As soon as Oberyn Martell was introduced, Seth's costume might as well have been written in stone. 

I went to Jo-Ann's last week during a good fabric sale and got lots of supplies. They even had this cool snake-skin material for $3.50/yd! I've started working on drafting the pattern for his robe, and so far it has been rather simple (except for getting Seth to put up with all the fittings). For the suns on his robe, I'm going to try to do the embroidered parts on my sewing machine and use the metal studs for the center.

I know which character I plan to be, but I'm keeping it a surprise until I actually start working on it. :) 

The Treasure Box

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My quilty fairy godmother, Patty, recently loaned me her copy of Quilt Dad's book, Beyond Neutral (which features a lovely quilt made with her Les Amis collection). One of the things that struck me right off the bat was his use of large pieces of fabric within his quilts. In his introduction to the Triton Cove quilt he says:
"I'm a big fan of fabric. A big, big fan. And admittedly, many of my projects begin with the desire to cut into and use a particular fabric or fabric line. I tend to create blocks and quilt layouts that show off the prints, patterns, and textures of my favorite fabrics so the quilts become long-term ways for me to continue enjoying the fabric designs that I so love...My recommendation? Stop collecting and hoarding your favorite fabrics and make something from them instead."
the squirrel scrap was leftover from my first quilt

The issue of hoarding fabric hit home with me. There are fabrics I buy and scraps I hang onto, refusing to use until I can find a project "worthy" of them. More often than not, they stay unused. I had hope to use more of them in my Scatterbrain quilts, but I worried that these precious pieces wouldn't shine once they were trapped in the chaos. And unlike Quilt Dad who uses large pieces of never-cut fabric, I have lots of small special pieces in addition to the big ones.

it took me months to finally find this Prince Charming

I needed a way to use both the large and small pieces of treasured fabric. I started sketching, and pretty soon I had the layout for The Treasure Box. The pattern uses eight 8" squares for the large scale prints, eight 8" "treasure blocks" for the small scraps, and twenty-eight 2" squares for the corner borders. I'm working on preparing a pattern, which will hopefully be completed within the coming week. 

there's treasure everywhere.

I did a meandering stitch for the quilting, which was so much fun to do on Brienne, my Juki. I used rayon Sulky thread instead of my usual 100% cotton because I wanted something a bit more delicate and shiny. I like that it generates barely any lint. With cotton thread, I find myself having to brush off my needle bar because lint builds up so quickly. I think I may start trying out new kinds of thread and see where it takes me.

Name: The Treasure Box
Size: 48 x 48"
Fabric: All the precious fabrics I hold dear. Lots of Heather Ross/Munki Munki, Tula Pink, Patty Sloniger, Sarah Watts, and more.
Pattern: The Treasure Box (by me!)
Quilting: Meandering
Completed: June 14, 2014 

Mendocino Mermaid Embroidery

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Since the current seasons of Vikings and Hannibal wrapped up, my husband and I have started watching American Horror Story to fill in the void. Unfortunately I'm a bad TV-watcher who can't sit still for more than five minutes. My mother thought I would outgrow my fidgitiness, but I really think I'm beyond help at this point.

Having no quilts to bind or fabric to iron, and all of AHS season 2 ahead of us, I opted to take on another embroidery project. I wanted to do something by Heather Ross after I saw Aneela Hoey's embroidered Mendocino mermaid on Pinterest. Then I figured, why not do a different Mendocino mermaid? 
tracing the mermaid

To make the pattern, I simply traced an image of the mermaid in Adobe Illustrator, printed out the line art, and traced it onto my fabric with a water soluble marker. Stitching this beauty was quite a relaxing experience!  

mermaid in progress
After I get a few more projects cross off my to-do list, I think I might use some of my Mendocino scraps to turn this into a nice wall hanging for my someday sewing room. Sigh, but right now buying a house seems as realistic as a mermaid.

Scatterbrain Quilt No.3

Sunday, June 8, 2014

It looks like I'm turning into a repeat offender with my Scatterbrain quilts. After I completed No. 2 for Patty, I had an inkling that my crazy quilts were going to pop up again. My newest Scatterbrain Quilt, No.3, was made as a belated Mother's Day gift for my mom, which explains why it has been the most time-consuming (about three weeks from start to finish) of the three.

Being the crafty rolling stone that I am, I wanted to mix up my process for this project. First off, I opted to piece the quilt top in the traditional manner and forgo the QAYG method. I wanted to do all-over free motion quilting, mainly in order to give large-scale FMQ a go on my new Juki

using all my oddly-shaped scraps

Second, I resolved to make this a true scrappy quilt by using only fabric from my scrap bins. I tend to cut into my stash out of laziness more often than I should. It's easier and faster to cut a nice neat 8 inch square out of a fat quarter than it is to rummage through my bins and piece together a bunch of tiny little scraps to get that same 8 inch finished square. Seeing how this quilt was for my mom though, I was willing to take the time and make the effort to use all those little pieces.

Scatterbrain Quilt No.3 was primarily an improv quilt. My previous two quilts employed a loose pattern (*Capt. Barbarossa voice* More like guidelines really!) that were 50% pre-planned blocks, 50% improv QAYG blocks to fill in the blanks. This time, I only planned a few blocks (liek the envelope, the green star in the lower right corner, and the hexie block). A few were semi-planned, like the white star on the postage stamp and the heart in the center. I didn't know I was going to do those blocks when I started the quilt, but the idea came to me somewhere in the interim. I avoided planning anything simply due to the scrappy nature. It's hard to make a detailed plan when you don't know what tools you have to work with!

My mom's favorite part is Crafty Chloe by Heather Ross
For the quilting, I did simple meandering loops. My Juki, Brienne, preforming beautifully! I had an afternoon of agony a couple weeks ago while working on my mini quilt for the Schniztle and Boo swap (need to blog about that closer to mailing time) thanks to a new FMQ foot, but since I got that hiccup ironed out, it's been smooth sailing! The auto-tension eliminated about 50% of my FMQ frustrations, as I could never seem to get my tension just right with Broseph. Broseph's foot pedal also felt freaking hyper-sensitive which made it hard to keep a steady speed. I would apply a teensy bit more pressure in a effort to speed up gradually, and I might as well have set him to warp speed! The sudden burst of speed would always catch me off-guard and result in some ugly heart attack in the middle of a smooth curve. Brienne has none of that herky-jerky nonsense and can keep a steady pace without issue.

lovely loopy quilting

I finished up No.3 with my usually scrappy binding and an embroidered quilt label. My mom loves is and even showed it off to some of her friends already! 

top it off with a simple label

Name: Scatterbrain Quilt No.3
Size: 44 x 52"
Fabric: Every dang scrap I had.
Pattern: Improv
Quilting: Meandering loops
Completed: June 7, 2014