Scrappy QAYG Foldover Tote

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I am starting to notice a pattern in the way I approach new kinds of sewing projects. Maybe it will sound familiar. When I start thinking about branching out to something new, like when I started quilting or sewing clothes, I find myself making excuses for why I can’t and shouldn’t try this new craft. A little voice inside keeps saying it’s going to be too hard, that I’ll just be wasting money on materials, etc. Thankfully, I’ve gotten better at telling that little voice, “Shut up, loser. We’re going shopping.”

One of my latest sewing adventures was sewing myself this lovely patchwork foldover tote bag. I’m always delighted by the pictures of handmade bags I see in books, magazines, and online, so maybe that’s what motivated me to try making a bag.

I started off by browsing bag patterns, but I couldn’t find a design that met would meet my needs as an everyday purse AND be easy to make. I knew I wanted a crossbody bag that would allow me to keep my hands free while out and about. It would have to be large enough to accommodate at least my giant sandwich-sized phone, fatass wallet, and my water bottle (which I take literally everywhere). Sometimes, I travel with my iPad mini, a small sewing project, or my sketchbook, so I wanted it to be big enough to fit those things in there too. A foldover tote seemed like a perfect solution.

some simple sketches

I did some basic sketches to determine the shape, size, and position of the D-rings, and everything else fell into place. The exterior of my bag was made with two QAYG panels on 100% cotton batting with a layer of medium-weight interfacing on the back. Right after finishing the bag, I regretted including the interfacing because it made the bag a little stiffer than I wanted. However, as I’ve used the bag over just a few days, it’s become more supple, so it worked out.

I did small boxed corners after sewing the shell together, just to give it some dimension. The hardest part of the whole bag was attaching the D-rings just because there were so many thick layers in a tiny area. I did a ton of backstitching just in case those d-rings had any escape plans!

Super pretty lining!

The lining was really simple: I cut the same shapes as the exterior from the Patty's Big Blooms print from her Emma's Garden collection and added a basic pocket to one side before sewing them together. Then I added a magnetic snap to the top before I moved on to assemble the bag. I put the lining inside the bag shell (wrong sides together), and stitched around the top with a .25” seam allowance. From there, it was exactly the same as binding a quilt. On a side note, trying to photograph the inside of a bag is just...not fun.

Although I did by the hardware to make the strap, I ended up just stealing the strap off another one of my existing purses. Thankfully, most of my bags have detachable, adjustable straps, so I can swap them out as I please!

I’m really happy with my finished bag, and the fact that I made it without a pattern makes me even more proud of it. Maybe this project will give me the courage to try making more bags!

Free Geo-Kitty Pattern

Monday, August 25, 2014

I'm super excited to be hosting the Kitty Mini Quilt Swap on Instagram! I hope you've been following everyone's progress on the #kittyminiquiltswap hashtag. I just finished up my mini for my partner over the weekend, and I wanted to share a super cute kitty pattern I came up with.

my finished kitty mini

When I started on my mini for my partner I knew I wanted to make something that would be one of a kind. I started off with some Scatterbrained QAYG blocks, but I didn't feel like there was any real superstar in the craziness. I started sketching some ideas for a paper-pieced cat. I'd like to say the rest was a cinch, but oh was not. 

I've only made like...three (?) FPP blocks in my life, and never designed my own. It was a struggle on both frontiers. But as they say, persistence prevails. Don't worry. The pattern isn't hard. I'm just a FPP tard. 

You can download the PDF for the Geo-Kitty pattern HERE

Click the download icon at the top of the page and print at 100%. There are four templates, and once you finish them all, join A & B. Stitch that unit to template C. Lastly, stitch that piece to unit D. The finished block (illustrated above) is 8" wide and just shy of 4.5" tall. You'll want to add some borders to the top and bottom, but you can make those any height you wish. 

Enjoy and happy stitching!

My Sewing Project Wish List

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My quilt guildie Anna recently introduced me to the Modern Sewciety podcast, which I've taken to listening to during my daily work commute. In one episode (can't remember which one) Stephanie talks about how she keeps a sewing project wish list. It's good to know I'm not alone! I have so many projects I really want to make, so keeping a list helps me keep them loaded in the chamber. Since I just finished my Starfield Quilt, I have to pick some new projects to work on after I wrap up some swap projects and our Ren Fest costumes. Here's my running sewing project wish list!

Image credit - Jeni Baker (In Color Order)

1. Lined Drawstring Bag by Jeni Baker
I'm working on an EPP project right now that is getting progressively problematic to keep together. One of these desperately needs to happen so I can stop carrying it around in a tacky ziploc bag.

Image credit - Jeni Baker (In Color Order)

2. Dreamin' Vintage Quilt
While I was familiar with this fabric collection since its release, I only recently came to really appreciate its beauty. I used to avoid rainbow-y palettes because they felt too childish to me, but now I can't get enough of pale, pretty rainbows! This collection is so happy and it reminds me of my mother's teenage bedroom at my grandparent's house. I remember her vintage linens and I'm kicking myself now for not keeping them when we cleaned out my grandparent's house a couple years ago. I really want to make a quilt with this collection because it does remind me of my mom so much. I have 10/20 fat quarters, but I planning on asking the fam for a FQ bundle of this collection for my birthday.

Image credit - Violet Craft

3. Forest Abstractions Quilt by Violet Craft
My hubby is like the super critic of quilts, but he really loved this quilt from the moment I showed him Instagram pics of it at spring Quilt Market. FPP is not something I'm super comfortable with yet, but I really want to make this quilt for him someday. Maybe for his birthday in February? We'll see!

Image credit - Noodlehead

4. Divided Basket by Noodlehead
Since hubby and I are living with my parents while we save for a house of our own, we're basically living out of a single bedroom (and the guest bedroom I commandeered for my sewing room). That means clutter can build up fast, and both of us are easily stressed by messes. I need something like this to stick near my bed to keep small, portable sewing projects in. I already made one last night that I shared on Instagram, but I think more are in order! I'm tired of my dresser being buried in crap!

Image credit - Pink Stitches
From Patchwork Please!

5. Large Boxy Pouch (or Triangle Patchwork Pouch from Patchwork Please!)
I made a TON of these bags in college, but they were small sizes good for pencil bags and the like. I need something larger to stash other WIPs in, so it would serve a similar purpose as the drawstring bag. It would be nice to have a more structured option too.

Image credit - Wild Olive

6. 50 States Stitch Club Quilt by Wild Olive
My fellow quilt guildie and paper piecing princess, Julia, introduced me to EPP when she was working on this project at the July meeting. It's from Wild Olive, so you know it's just too stinking cute to resist! I love how it combines sweet embroidery and EPP. The thing that's holding me back is that the patterns are released on a weekly basis, meaning this project is at least a year-long commitment. Knowing my scatterbrained personality, there's a good chance I would forget or move along to another project without finishing this one if I had to wait a week for each new pattern. Hopefully once the year is over and all the patterns are over, there will be an option to purchase the entire pack in one fell swoop.

Monarch - Sarah Watts

7. Sarah Watt's Monarch Dress
When I pre-ordered my August FQ bundle by Sarah Watts for Cotton and Steel, I also ordered 2.5 yards of the turquoise Monarch print with the intention of using it for a dress or top. I ordered 2.5 yards because that's how much I need to make dress E from the Stylish Dress Book #1, but now I'm not so sure I want to make that dress with this fabric. I'll have to look at my pattern collection and figure it out.

Image credit - Sometimes Crafter

8. Fabric Scrap Bins by Sometimes Crafter

I generate (and use) a ton of tiny scraps, so I have a lot of open containers to toss them into near my sewing machine. I would like to make a few of these to help keep my messes under control.

How about you guys? What projects are on your list?

Starfield Quilt Pattern

Sunday, August 17, 2014

If there is anyone that can inspire me, it's undoubtedly Heather Ross. Last month I shared how I stumbled upon her work and fell in love. She's a inspiration that always pushes me to find new ways to explore her artwork through quilting. While I've already made two HR-heavy quilt patterns (Treasure Box and Solstice Medallion), I still don't have enough snuggley Heather goodness in my home.

My two Far Far Away blocks

Enter, the Starfield Quilt! I wanted to make a bright, happy quilt to feature a smaller number of HR prints. The idea for the star-centered design was inspired by Jeni Baker's (my other new quilting crush) quilt pattern, the Shining Stars Sampler. I love the simplicity and clean lines of her quilts (so unlike my natural style!) and the way her fabric choices bring a modern feel to traditional patchwork stars. 

These horses are one of my favorite HR prints
I started with the traditional patchwork star, eight-point star, and ribbon stars at the core of my design, and added HSTs, chevrons, and arrows to make them really sparkle and shine! I love how the blue center star gives the illusion of a circle. It reminds me of a sparkler!

The unicorn that introduced me to Heather Ross

For my fabric choices, I selected nine Heather Ross fussy cuts, including some of the Far Far Away bundle I got in the mail last week. Including the unicorn felt very full-circle for me, seeing how it's design that introduced me to Heather Ross.

Picking the lucky fabrics

For the backing, I used the flat sheet from one of my college twin sheet sets! It was the perfect size, plus it's super soft and snuggley! I love how my quilting stands out against the solid gray. 

Look at all those wiggles!

The Starfield quilt pattern is available for sale on my Craftsy store, here. It's fat quarter friendly and perfect for featuring your superstar fabrics!

Name: Starfield
Size: 54" square
Fabric: Heather Ross Prints (Far Far Away, Briar Rose, Nursery Versery, West Hill, and Munki Munki), Wee Wander by Sarah Jane (blue star), Tula Pink (green stars), etc.
Pattern: Starfield (by me!)
Quilting: Meander
Completed: August 17, 2014

Emma's Garden Giveaway Winner

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Thank you to everyone who stopped by the Emma's Garden blog tour! And the winner is...

#52, Jennie! I sent you an email regarding your prize! 

Review: Juki HZL-F600

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It’s been a few months since I brought home my new sewing machine, a Juki F600. They say all the best sewing machines have names, so I named her Brienne after one of my top three favorite Game of Thrones characters. Why? Because like Brienne, this machine is big and badass! Now that I’ve had plenty of time training with my new BFF, I wanted to share my thoughts with everyone on this machine!

What I Love Most About My Juki

Automatic thread trimming with the foot pedal - I used to keep a “trash bowl” next my machine with the intent of of throwing trimmed threads into it. Intent be damned, because less than 10% of my trimmed threads ever made it in, and my desk was a filthy. Automatic thread trimming means I don’t have a million pieces of thread adding to the mess. The other bonus is the saved time since I don’t have to stop, raise the presser foot, pull my piece out, and trim the threads by hand. A push of the heel, and snip!

Roomy extension table - This was number one on my list for a new machine. I had previously stacked a dictionary and an old textbook beside my machine which worked about as well as you’d guess: pretty crappy. Having the extension table makes HUGE difference for quilting and you’re missing out if you don’t have one. Even when I don’t need the extra support, I like to use it as a “staging area” for piecing. 

Clean “lid” design - I worry a lot about dust getting into my machine so being able to close the lid on top helps ease those concerns. It also just looks nicer. :)

Adjustable presser foot pressure - I used to think I was just a crappy quilter when I got puckers. Okay...I may be part of the problem, but being able to reduce the presser foot pressure (say that 5 times fast) makes straight-line quilting less stressful. 

Auto-tension - This item was second on my checklist. Broseph (my old machine) could be finicky with tension and FMQ created even more headaches. Remembering to check my tension is not one of my strengths either, so I wanted a machine that would pick up my slack. I rarely have to adjust my tension manually now (the tension dial goes from -3 to +3), and it takes a lot of guesswork out of the equation.
...but the option is nice.

Speed control - I didn’t think I was ever going to use with this feature. I’m such an impatient person. Why would I want to limit my speed? I was so wrong. This feature is great for starting FMQ projects when I’m not 100% comfortable with the motif. By limiting the speed, I can still press my pedal to the floor, take it slow, and not worry suddenly hitting warp speed. Before, attention would be split because I was half concentrating on how much pressure I was applying to the pedal, and half on my quilting. Now I can focus on the quilting and turn up the speed when I have it all figured out. 

Bobbin winding - I like that I can wind bobbins without having to stand on the foot pedal. The F600 has a separate motor so you can just start your bobbin and walk away...not that you’d really want to, because it winds bobbins fast! It usually gives me a few seconds to tidy up my work area instead of standing there like a sack of potatoes.

Needle up/down button - I don’t think I’ve touched the flywheel on my Brienne much thanks to this button. With one tap, it takes your needle to the highest or lowest position. Another time saver.

Knee-lift - I haven’t been able to make the best use of this since my current sewing station is a tad bit too high, but it’s very handy for situations where I want to slightly easy up the presser foot while I’m sewing.

Things I think could be improved

Quilting guide - These are small gripes, because I honestly don’t use the quilting guide often. However, when you pay nearly $1K for a machine, you’d expect a simple quilting guide to meet your expectations. Right off the bat, I don’t like the style of the guide. It only works when positioned on the right, unlike the quilting guide Brother makes. I still use my old one with my standard presser feet. When it’s attached to the walking foot, the Juki quilting guide sits WAY too far back to be useful. Compounding the problem is the looseness. While the guide fits snuggly in the standard shank, any little bump may reposition your guide while used with the walking foot. Talk about counterproductive. The Brother quilting guide is just as loose on the Juki walking foot, so until I can janky-rig myself a solution, I won’t be using the guide with my walking foot.   

Reverse stitching (with auto lock stitch/thread trim function) - Reverse stitching is slow when the automatic lock stitch/thread trimming function is used. I liked using the feature since it’s meant to be another time-saver, but in practice it ends up being a moot point. For some reason, the reverse lock stitch goes at a low speed by default in this setting (pushing the pedal doesn’t actually do anything at this point; you don’t even need to push on the pedal at all). If you were to do the same thing manually by holding the reverse stitch button, the speed would be the same as if you were stitching forward (which depends on how much pressure you apply to the foot pedal). I guess this is a safety feature, but it just seems to defeat the purpose by being slow.

Tips for Sewing with Sentimental Scraps

Monday, August 11, 2014

As you may know, fussy cuts are my quilting weapon of choice. I've never been able to turn down a cute animal print or storybook scene. My fixation probably stems from my passion for storytelling and fondness for all things nostalgic. 

Around the time I finished my fourth quilt, I found myself holding back when it came to my fabric. I don't have a very big collection (small budget, lack of storage space), so I felt the need to think carefully before I used any of my materials, especially the ones I only had tiny pieces of. 

It's important to balance your desire to preserve your fabrics with the excitement of using them. Here are few ways I find that balance.

1) I organize my scraps in clear bins by color family, but I put my favorite pieces (regardless of color) into my super-special-awesome scrap basket. I carefully consider how and where I will use scraps from the SSA basket. However, I do make an effort to use pieces from the basket in almost every project.

2) Give your scrap some breathing room. Add borders and frames that contrast (but don't compete) with the print you're trying to feature. Low volume is always a nice option.

    3) If your piece oddly-shaped, try an QAYG bloom block or a paper-pieced pattern that lets you use the most of your scrap. You could also use fusible webbing and turn it into a raw edge appliqué.

    4) For extra special pieces, make a mini quilt or small project to feature a few scraps. Choose supporting fabrics that keep the focus on your treasures!

      5) When there are multiple elements that you can fussy cut from a larger scrap, consider which one you choose.  I always use my clear quilting ruler to check which “extraction” will be the least destructive to the remaining fabric. I try my best to reduce collateral damage.

      6) Think about how you want to quilt your project before you use a scrap. If you are going to be doing dense or elaborate quilting, you may want to save your scraps for a different project. Too much quilting over a scrap may detract from it’s appeal or compete with it. I like to keep my quilting simple so my scraps shine.

      My Solstice Medallion started off with pebble quilting...

      ...but I ripped them out and went for a spiral.

      Emma's Garden Blog Tour + Giveaway

      Sunday, August 10, 2014

      It’s August at last! After months of waiting, I finally get to share these exciting projects with the world! What makes them so exciting? They all use fabric from Emma’s Garden, the newest fabric collection of amazingly talented friend, Patty Sloniger!

      My "Wing It" quilt and other Emma's Garden pretties

      I need to start this post off by making a tearful virtual toast to Patty. I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have such amazing coworker and mentor! She’s the one who got me interested in fabric, which in turn made me start quilting. I owe her so much, which is why I wanted to make some extra special projects for her Spring Quilt Market booth and her blog tour! (Check out Patty's post for the blog tour full schedule!)

      Taking my inspiration from Patty's butterfly print, I started sketching butterfly blocks, which grew into a baby quilt design. I had been quilting for only three months at the time, which is a testament to how simple it is to make! I named it "Wing It" because that's essentially what I was doing as I designed my very first quilt pattern.

      You can download the FREE Wing It pattern here!

      Want more? We're giving away a fat eighth bundle of the Emma's Garden prints I used to make this quilt! To enter, leave a comment on this post, and I'll select a random winner on Friday, Aug. 15th! Exciting!

      From @michaelmillerfabrics via Instagram

      After I finished the quilt, I had some tiny scraps left over. Being the person I am, I couldn't let them go unused. I opted to use them in this gorgeous cathedral window pillow. I used Jo Avery's pattern in issue 6 of Love Patchwork and Quilting as a guide, although I changed the sizes to suit my scrap assortment.

      With Karri's lovely mini

      Cathedral windows look way more complicated than they actually are, so even as a newbie, I was able to make a dramatic, posh pillow! I used the same variegated thread from my Wing It quilt to do some decorative hand stitching. I think it really takes everything to the next level. Even my overly-critical father loved it!

      My pillow made it into Michael Miller's catalog!

      Emma’s Garden also has great prints for clothing. I made this comfy summer blouse using her Big Blooms print, which may be my favorite design out of the whole collection. The pattern is from Yoshiko Tsukiori’s Sweet Dress Book. The construction was a breeze, taking me less than three hours from start to finish. I omitted the bow added ties to the sides which I think was a more grown-up touch.

      Hopefully my projects have inspired you and done justice to Patty's beautiful collection! 

      6 Tips For Scatterbrained Quilters

      Sunday, August 3, 2014

      Name: Scatterbrain Quilt No. 4
      Size: 38 x 39"
      Fabric: Totally scrappy.
      Pattern: None except for mix tape block (from issue 10 of Love Patchwork & Quilting)
      Quilting: QAYG
      Completed: July 26, 2014

      Last week I completed my fourth Scatterbrain Quilt. I get a lot of questions from friends and family about my Scatterbrain Quilts. Not so many specific questions, but often broad ones like, "The hell is that?" Just kidding! ...Sorta.

      I came up with the idea of Scatterbrain Quilting, because I always have a million ideas floating around in my head. There's a new quilt block I want to try, a cool print I want to feature, and bin full of scraps that I need to use up! With Scatterbrain Quilting, I can knock out a lot of these goals with a single project! I wanted to share a some of my favorite tips to help you put your own Scatterbrained head to use.

      1. One and Done - I often come across one-block projects that look so fun and unique, like this cool mix tape from Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine. Sadly, I lack the patience to make the same block over and over. Instead, I like to make a single block, and stick it in a Scatterbrain Quilt. I get the satisfaction of making the block while avoiding the monotony. 

      My lone mix tape

      2. Framing Fussy Cuts - I love fussy cuts, mostly in the form of scraps. I enjoy finding ways to make them pop by framing them with other fabrics. Using them in Scatterbrain Quilts makes it easier to use them, because I don't have to worry about size or a color palette. 

      Make your scraps bloom!
      3. Play With the Rejects - I save scraps that most people would toss. I toss everything larger than 1" square into a bin. Oddly-shaped scraps can be exciting to work with, because they force you to get creative! Try pulling scraps out of your bin (no peeking!) and use whatever you grab. Sew scraps together to make an amorphous blob, trimming your seams as needed. Once you have a large enough blob, trim it down to a clean rectangle. 

      4. Use All Your Colors - I'm a graphic designer with a BA in art. I can tell you all about color theory...but I won't, because following the rules is boring. Use any colors you want, no matter how badly you think they will clash. This is not the time to be prim and proper. 
        Embrace color!
      5. You Won't Even Know He's There - I occasionally find myself with fabric that is just...fugly. Rather than tossing it or trying to make it someone else's problem, sneak that ugly piece into your project. Use it in a disappearing nine patch, or to fill in an empty space. If you keep the pieces relatively small and space them out, you won't even notice them in the finished quit. 

      6. Just Keep Swimming Sewing - When I'm making a Scatterbrain Quilt, I find that it's best to keep moving. I keep a scrap bin with small squares and rectangles next to my sewing machine. I grab pieces that have a similar sized edges and chain piece them together. Then I start piecing those pieces together, trimming as needed until I have a more substantial block. Even if you have no idea what you're doing, you're still being productive.

      Don't stop sewing!