Kitty Mini Quilt Swap

Thursday, July 31, 2014

If you follow me on Instagram, it's no secret that I'm a cat lady. I have two adorable fur kids who love to "help" me with my sewing projects. I know I'm not alone here, because I see similar photos pop up in my feed on a regular basis. I guess quilting and cats go hand in hand...or paw in paw?

I thought it would be fun to spread the kitty love by hosting a swap...a kitty swap! No, not your actual cats. I'm sure they love playing in boxes, but I doubt they'd tolerate being shipped across the country. It's a kitty mini quilt swap! 

There are so many cute, modern fabrics out featuring cats, and I'm always seeing new quilt blocks featuring kitty shapes. Who wouldn't want to hang a quilty kitty up on their wall? Besides the dog people.

In addition to a mini, I thought it would be nice if our beloved pets could get in on the fun. My cats love playing with softies and other handmade toys, so why not include some goodies for our fluffy friends? The questionnaire you'll fill out has a section to tell us about your cats (if you have any) and what they like, so your partner can include something to amuse them. 

Of course, we have to have some rules:
  1. Mini quilts should be MODERN. No batiks, traditional prints, etc.
  2. Quilts should either be made with fabric that features cat or blocks that form kitty shapes.
  3. Mini quilts should measure between 12” x 12” and 24” x 24.”
  4. Keep your partner secret! Post as many photos of your projects as you like, just don’t reveal who your partner is. We want them to be surprised!
  5. Use the hashtag #KittyMiniQuiltSwap when sharing photos on Instagram. And do share those photos, because the anticipation is half the fun!
  6. Answer the questionnaire carefully and thoughtfully. Your partner will be using this info to make you a mini you will love!
  7. Read your partner’s questionnaire response and make a sincere effort to make them something they would like.
  8. Mail your package in no sooner than October 1st, but no later than October 14th. If you miss the deadline, you will not be allowed to participate in future swaps until you’ve been a successful swap angel in at least one swap.
  9. If something comes up and you know you can’t make the deadline, email your moderator ASAP so we can find a solution.
  10. Try to include at least a few extra goodies, even if they’re from the dollar store.

This swap is open to US residents only and will be limited to 60 swappers. This will be my first time hosting a swap and want to keep things small for this first round. If there is demand, I will do a second round with more slots and open it to international swappers. If you are not a US resident and you sign up, your response will be deleted. So don't do that.

I've set up a Pinterest board with inspiration for fabric choices, quilt blocks, and extra DIY goodies.

If these rules work for you, head to the questionnaire to sign up! Please note that the questionnaire will not begin accepting responses until Aug. 2nd at 8:00 AM central time. It will also no longer accept responses once we have 60 swappers. If you don't get in, don't worry, because I'll host another round if there is demand.

=^w^= Click here to sign up! =^w^=

My goal is to have swap partners assigned by Aug. 11th, so remember to check your email!

How My Sewing Adventure Began

As a kid, one of my favorite places to go was the bookstore. While my dad was very careful to make sure my brother and I didn’t turn into spoiled, greedy monsters, he appreciated the value of books. Most books anyway. He would happily buy us any book we wanted as long as it was a “real book, not some picture book.”

I treasured my “real” books dearly, but that didn’t stop me from drooling over the craft book kits at the bookstore. You’ve probably seen the kits with the tiny, 50 page  “How to paint rocks” book and the kit that includes a cheap set of paints, one paintbrush, and a bag of rocks that will never look like the photos on the box. I must have asked my dad to buy me one of these kits at least twenty times. “That’s not a book, that’s a box of toys,” he say. “If you want paints you have a box full of paint at home.”

Looking back at those exchanges, I know I wasn’t interested in the paints alone. I wanted the whole package. I wanted to learn how to do something and have all the tools to make it happen.

When my requests for the craft kits were met with a winter of “no,” I scoped out a new object of desire: Klutz books. Specifically, Simple Sewing. A cover-mounted plastic pouch contained pieces of felt, tiny spools of thread, needles, and ribbons in a miniature rainbow. It was perfect!

Since the book was the focus and only had a small pouch of “toys,” surely my dad would buy it! The book even contained instructions for seven hand-sewn projects, which I cleverly argued would keep me busy for the whole summer. “Nice try,” he said, leafing through the book. “It’s just a picture book. You’ll go through this in a weekend. If you want it, save up your money and buy it yourself.”

I turned the book over and looked at the price printed in the corner: $19.99. “$20?!” I whined, “I have to save twenty WHOLE dollars?”

“Plus tax,” my dad added, “which will be about another $2.”

I just about collapsed under the economic reality. Both my brother and I received a $5 weekly allowance during the school year (if we got straight As on our report cards). During the summer, we got nothing and had to grovel for extra chores that would earn us some cash. The only chores my parents would trust me with at the time were to wash the car, fold laundry, and separate zinnia seeds from the petals for my dad’s garden. The problem was that none of these tasks needed to be done more than once a week, and I wouldn’t get paid more than $5 for each chore. It ended up taking me two weeks to save the money, an eternity to an 8 year old.

The moment I tore the last zinnia seed from the petal, that earned me my last $2, I shouted, “That’s $22! Now take me to the bookstore!” He made me wait until the next afternoon as punishment for being bossy. The humanity.

The entire car ride to the store, my dad and my brother teased me. “Maybe the book will be gone! Someone else may have bought it.” I sat with my fingers in my ears for the rest of the trip.
At the bookstore, I speed walked to the kid’s section with the fury of an 80 year old grandmother at the mall. I was ready to claim my prize. It was right there on the shelf waiting for me, and I proudly carried it to the cashier. My sewing adventure was about to begin.

I made every silly project in that book. I’m not sure why an 8 year old needs a scented sachet, but I made one. I didn’t even know how to pronounce sachet. My mom was in hysterics when I showed her my “sach-it.” The strawberry pincushion was my favorite, and I must have made half a dozen. My stitches on my dishtowel apron, were so wide that my mom restitched my seams while I made my seventh strawberry.

When I see IG friends post about teaching their young children to sew, it touches my heart. I had so much satisfaction from my horribly constructed felt monstrosities. When see pictures of a 6 year old sewing on a sewing machine, I can only imagine the sense of pride and accomplishment that child must have. If I have a kid one day, I hope I can share the joy of making and crafting with them.

8 Ways to Challenge Your Quilting Perfectionism

Monday, July 28, 2014

Last week, I shared my struggles with perfectionism in my post, How Heather Ross Made Me the Quilter I Am. I was touched by all the warm responses! More importantly, the comments further showed me that perfectionism is a struggle many creative people share.

When I started doing improv quilting as a means to escape my perfectionism, I gave myself small goals to prevent backsliding. Here are eight fun ways to help you challenge your own perfectionist tendencies!

  1. Ban your seam ripper. There’s no going back. Do not undo any stitches. If you make a mistake, find a way to fix it by adding, not subtracting.
  2. Blindfolded scrappy. Throw all the scraps you want to use into a bin without too much pre-selecting. Pull a scrap out without looking at the bin, and attach it. No sneaky swapping.
  3. No measuring. Put your ruler away or only use it as a straight edge for trimming. Don’t square things up!
  4. Build it up. Only use pieces of fabric that are 5” square or smaller. Force yourself to find new ways to build up your piece.
  5. Hack and Slash. Make some traditional blocks like patchwork stars, churn dashes, HSTs, etc. Now slice them apart and reattach them in a new way.
  6. Pick a muse. Pick a subject that you can find in many fabric prints, like a cat for example. Make a project using only cat-related fabric, regardless of color, scale, or substrate.
  7. Sew the rainbow. Use every basic color family in your project. I organize my fabric scraps in bins by color, and I like to make an effort to pull pieces from each bin.
  8. No new cuts. Use only existing scraps. Do not cut into yardage or fresh fat quarters.

EPP Ferris Wheel Mini Quilt Tutorial

Friday, July 25, 2014

I've been noticing a lot of pretty English paper pieced pictures (pbthhhh!) on IG, in magazines, and at the last HMQG meeting. EPP has been on my radar for a few months but I never bothered to try it. The hand-sewn aspect didn't appeal to my impatient personality, but last Saturday the scales tipped. The geometric puzzle charm outweighed my impatience. 

I wanted something to make into a mini quilt for my wall that would reflect the time and care that went into it. I decided to go with a rainbow Ferris wheel after reading about the first Ferris wheel at the 1893 Chicago World's fair. That sucker was 264 ft tall! In case that doesn't sound impressive...the individual cars (the ones we usually expect to hold like 8 people at max) could carry 60 passengers! And there were 36 cars total. Yeah. I'm a dork. Moving on! 

I used pieces with 1" sides for a 10.5" x 11.5" finished mini quilt. I made a PDF with templates and a diagrams that you can download here. If you print the PDF at 100% scale, you'll get 1" sided pieces like mine. I'm not going to bother re-hashing to EPP process since there are already lots of great tutorials out there. I personally like these two from Sometimes Crafter and Patchwork Posse. There are lots of different approaches to EPP though, so feel free to experiment. I opted to use a dab of glue from a clear archival glue stick to lightly adhere my paper template to the back of the fabric before I trimmed a rough square. 

After I prepared all of my hexies, squares, and triangles, I whip stitched them together following my diagram, pictured above. Next I removed the basting stitches, pulled out the paper pieces, and pressed the entire thing with an iron. Don't worry about how the outer shapes fan out without the basting stitches. They'll be trimmed.

Now for the fun part. I pin basted my quilt top, batting, and backing together to make a quilt sandwich. I opted for simple, organic wavy lines with my walking foot to keep the focus on the piecing. When you're finished quilting, it's time to trim your quilt down as indicated by the red dashed line on the diagram. Line your ruler up with the points shown and trim with your rotary cutter. Actual measurement aren't important; you just want to follow the diagram visually.

Just let the diagram be your guide...

...and voila! 

I finished the mini off with low volume binding I had leftover from my Solstice Medallion. I didn't want anything taking the focus off my Ferris wheels!

Such a pretty little finish!

Now it's hanging on my wall with my growing mini quilt collection. Going from the top left corner we have: my improv Heather Ross mini, a mini version of Crazy Old Ladies' Best Friends by Alyssa from the July HMQG swap, the cutest sewing machine from Jen (also from the HMQG swap) using DuringQuietTime's pattern, a super tiny scrappy mini I made in my early quilting days, my Ferris wheels, and the mini I received from Melissa Irvin in the Schnitzel & Boo mini quilt swap. It's mini madness!

How Heather Ross Made Me the Quilter I Am

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

it all started with a book cover...
Before I started quilting, I had never heard of Tula Pink. I didn't know who Denise Schmidt was. Or Amy Butler, Joel Dewberry, Anna Maria Horner, or any other fabric designer that most modern quilters can rattle off. The only name I knew was Heather Ross.

The cover of Heather Ross Prints caught my attention as I browsed Amazon for art books. The illustrated unicorn made my finger freeze on the scroll wheel because...unicorn. I'll admit it. I didn't fall in love at first sight. It wasn't some dramatic stroke of lightning that shook me to the core. It was just some peculiar, sketchy unicorn with a head that did not seem to be at the right angle. My pre-quilting exposure to Heather Ross began and ended with that weird little unicorn. The book cover popped up in my Pinterest feed at least once a week, which meant I never had a chance to forget about it for very long. As a result, Heather Ross' name lingered in the back of my mind the way some names do. Just a familiar name with no connections. Except for maybe a funny-looking unicorn.

When I started to get interested in quilting and fabric, I saw her name listed frequently on online fabric stores. They stocked her most recent collection, Briar Rose. When I started choosing fabrics for my first quilt, something made me want to pick a Heather Ross print. This artist was the first fabric designer I knew by name, and I thought that alone deserved a nod in my first quilt. I selected the print with the cricket and clovers. I made the quilt. I paid my due to the first name I knew, and that was that. For a couple of months anyway.

Patty brought a bag of fabric scraps to work to feed the hatchling quilt monster I was becoming. I leafed through the pieces of blenders, dots, florals, and stripes. Then I got to a tiny, pale blue scrap with a gnome on it that made me squeal and stomp my feet. Gnomes have fascinated me since childhood thanks to the books and illustrations of Rien Poortvliet my mom read with me, and further compounded by the movie Amélie I watched a dozen times in high school with my Francophile brother. I asked Patty who the designer was, and she answered Heather Ross.

the little gnome that changed me (and a kitty paw)

"I thought her only collection was Briar Rose," I said. It was the only collection I saw on any fabric store's site. I didn't yet understand that fabric collections have limited runs. She told me about all of the collections she did for Kokka and Free Spirit, her cult following, and how people bought $80 Munki Munki pajamas just to rip them up and sew with them. "I once paid $20 for a piece of a pant leg. It's crazy," she said. As a new quilter who already had a tough time swallowing the $10/yard price tag of high quality quilting cotton, I recognized that Heather Ross would be an expensive person to admire. So I avoided her. I never even did a Google image search to see what I was missing, because I knew that would be the end of it. In my universe Heather Ross was just Briar Rose and a tiny gnome.

It was that little piece of the gnome print that led me to make my first Scatterbrain Quilt. I needed a way to put him to a quilt that didn't make him look out of place. In the end, he may have been lost in the chaos, but I knew he was there. And so did Patty. When she gave me a bin of fabric scraps to make a Scatterbrain Quilt for her, she pulled out her treasured scraps of the nanny bee from Briar Rose, and the VW vans from Lightning Bugs & Other Mysteries, asking me to feature them. I have to explain the significance of this. Patty has a forest of fabric. I'm not exaggerating when I say I daydream about the stacks of gorgeous prints she has in her studio. When Patty, the fabric queen, said she treasured these pieces, they took on a whole new level of meaning.

I can't blame Patty for my affliction though. Instagram put the nail in the coffin, and once I saw a quilt block made with pieces of her Mendocino collection, the coffin was dropped into the hole and buried 15 feet under. I scoured #thegreatfabricdestash for weeks before I was able to snag a Heather Ross scrap bundle that included pieces from Mendocino, Nursery Versery, Far Far Away 1, Munki Munki, and Briar Rose. I used those pieces to make The Treasure Box, which was designed for the purpose of showcasing these scraps.

i love the movement of the underwater sisters 

Since that first scrap bundle, I've been on a constant scavenger hunt for Heather Ross scraps and my collection has grown quickly, but carefully. As a twenty-three year old graphic designer, I'm not exactly making bank. Shocking, I know. That is why I became a *scrap* collector. The problem with scraps is it's hard to use them in patterns. They come in odd shapes and sizes. That's why I started making scrappy improv quilts.

I don't think I would be the quilter I am and am proud to be if it weren't for Heather Ross. Her work pushes me to find creative solutions. I can't objectively explain why her work means so much to me. It’s a far more emotional story.

Heather Ross + Disney = Pure Joy

I think people naturally try to find similarities between themselves and their heroes. They'll look to even the most superficial things to bring them closer, to feel like they could be that hero themselves.

I don't even know that it's possible to do that with Heather Ross.

I purchased How to Catch a Frog shortly after its release. With every page I read, I found that I had less in common with Heather Ross than I did the page before. She grew up in poverty, with a single mother who rejected every norm. I grew up privileged with a stay-at-home father who had a list of rules and expectations that resembles a roll of toilet paper and a working mother who was so loving it’s almost suffocating. Ross loved being outdoors, swimming in ponds and rivers. I drove my swim team coaches crazy when I woudn’t get into the pool because it was littered with floating dead crickets. Ross remembered being hungry and cold. I complained when my dad cooked fish and ate peanut butter sandwiches instead. She was independent at an early age. I'm twenty-three, married, and we live with my parents while we're saving money for a house. She dated bad boys and bearded men who don't find front doors to be a priority. When I was nineteen, I married my husband who is total homebody. She lived in a log cabin with no power for more than a year. I can’t last more than a couple hours without internet, let alone power. She is adventurous and tenacious. I am anxious, calculated, and borderline reclusive.

The only similarities I could find is that we both like animals, drawing, and sewing. How many millions of people could say the same thing? Given this list of overwhelming differences, what is it that made me feel so close to Ross while reading How to Catch a Frog?  

I made a conscious effort to read the book slowly, a chapter per night at max. I've learned that reading too passionately is like drinking out of a hose. You just can't take it all in. I savored every story Ross told. There was something that really spoke to me in those stories that I could relate to. The tone of her writing undulates from nostalgia to a strange sadness. I think it's that feeling of looking at your childhood through the lens of an adult. Looking at who you used to be from a standpoint of who you are.

as a sagittarius, i can attest to this statement

The impression I got from How to Catch a Frog was that Ross felt her mother deprived her of a “normal” life. I think if I had known Ross as a teen or young adult, I would have been completely unable to relate to her because her life wasn’t just was completely off the map from where I was standing. And that has a lot to do with my father. He has a rigid definition of what it means to be “normal.” Had Ross been a classmate of mine, he probably would have branded her family a bunch of eccentric nutjobs who are never going anywhere in life.

While Ross may have felt her mother denied her a “normal” life, I feel that my father denied me a creative life. I learned very young that if I showed him my drawings, he would just remind me, “that won’t get you a job.” He indirectly taught me to be critical of myself. To this day, I feel internally dysfunctional because I need to constantly monitor my negativity to keep it from stifling my creative spirit. Sometimes I wonder if things wouldn’t be this way if my father had been different. Sometimes I blame him for feeding my cynical side. He didn’t try to stamp out my creativity, but he made it clear that I should never expect it to amount to anything. He raised me to see things in black and white. He was an accountant after all. Maybe he couldn’t help himself.

Improv quilting with my treasured Heather Ross scraps is a way for me to let go of the anger over the past and anxiety about the future. I can create without structure or rules, and the artwork reminds me to tune out the self doubt and criticism. While Ross may have longed for something to ground her, I look for something to set me free.

That’s why I can’t hate the unicorn anymore. It’s flawed. It’s rough. It’s something I would have erased a thousand times and eventually given up on. It represents something I am still learning to do: embracing imperfection.

my super-special-awesome scrap bin and Heather Ross FQs

Solstice Medallion Quilt Pattern

Friday, July 18, 2014

Two weeks ago, I found myself aimlessly rummaging through my basket of super-special-awesome fabric scraps. I keep most of my scraps organized into plastic containers by color, but the SSA basket is reserved for pieces that need special attention. I've been on Heather Ross and Munki Munki kick, scouring Etsy and Instagram for those hard-to-find pieces for sale in a manner not unlike...a junkie really. So that's the main contents of the basket at the moment. I've been a HR fan as long as I've been quilting, but reading How to Catch a Frog really put me into overdrive. Being able to recognize elements in her prints that she describes in her book brings a whole new level of appreciation. 

This block is one of my favorites!

I designed this medallion quilt with the intent of featuring some of my favorite HR pieces along with a few others. Patty's mini quilt for the Schnitzel and Boo swap made me want to use the evening star block from Swim Bike Quilt as my center. From there, I just sketched until I had a design I liked. I named it the Solstice Medallion because it reminds me of our solar system with the sun at the center. Plus, it's hard to be in Houston and not be painfully aware of the seasons! It's just too damn hot! 

I can't get enough low volume

A couple of people on IG asked me if there would be a pattern, so click below the image for the quick and dirty pattern for the Solstice Medallion!

Name: Solstice Medallion
Size: 53 x 53"
Fabric: Lots of Heather Ross/Munki Munki, but also some Tula Pink, Patty Sloniger, Teagan White were featured pieces. Assorted low volume fabrics.
Pattern: Solstice Medallion (by me!)
Quilting: Spiral
Completed: July 18, 2014

Stitch Your Cares Away

Sunday, July 6, 2014

In the past two weeks, I've been making an effort to get back to my roots by drawing more. My free time has been all but consumed by sewing projects, and I realized it had been a while since I put a pencil to paper. The result was this cute sketch I came up with on Friday evening. I hear a lot of quilters say that sewing is like therapy for them, and I can't disagree.

On Saturday, the sketch evolved into a vector illustration:

And by Saturday evening I had even embroidered it!

Seeing the evolution of the design is always exciting for me. I went ahead and turned this piece of wisdom into a hand embroidery pattern, which is now available in my Craftsy shop for $2. Click here to check it out!

Also available for sale is my Treasure Box Quilt pattern! It's only $5 and includes lots of visual instructions.