Thursday, December 22, 2011

End of December Countdown!

More Christmas presents

I'm still making drawstring bags. I was able to sew up seven (7!) last night. (I did the cutting on Tuesday evening.) I only have one more, I think. I am waiting for my last order to trickle in (perhaps in today's mail!) to decide which size bag it will require. I love Amazon. I bought 90% of my gifts from them and when I get a package in the mail, it's like opening a present for myself, even though they're presents for other people.

More Christmas bags

I love Laura Gunn's poppy fabric. I had one yard and I already made a bag out of it. I was able to fussy cut this bag as well and that might be the end of it. But I hated to cut it up. I procured a Wii for myself and my husband (we are sooo not early adopters) and so, perfecting my MarioKart racing has kind of taken priority over sewing :) These bags-as-wrapping-paper are really all the sewing I'm doing for the holidays. Ahhh, the Cameo print from Parisville - another great one that calls out for fussy cutting.

More Christmas bags

And I am waaaaay bee-hind (get it?!) on bee blocks for the first time since starting the TwitterB was almost a year ago. I have a couple challenging fabrics to work with and I'm quite undecided as to how to approach them.

TwitterB November

November's fabric is this Amy Butler print from the Soul Blossoms line. The mint green is throwing me for a loop and I've sort of latched on to the orange/pink facets, as I'm auditioning fabric (although I am thinking about using some of that left over Cameo print from above, as it seems to go with it).

TwitterB-November audition

This butterfly print is the December focus fabric. It also has metallic thread... The December quilter picked Oh Fransson's Scrappy Hedgerow. I am thinking the best way to use this is to fussy cut a butterfly for the center since a 1.5" strip sort of chop up the motifs... We'll see. I have to focus on November first.

TwitterB December

Hopefully these will go out early in the new year. We had one member drop out, so I believe January will be the last month. I am not sure I received all my blocks, but I am going to try to get them together in a top by the end of January, so whatever I have is going in. I have one block that I'm still trying to decide whether to leave out or to unpick and re-sew...

Anyhoo - Happy Holidays to everyone. Enjoy this time with family and friends. New posts in the new year (unless I get those bee blocks done before Jan 1 :))!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Giftwrap Alternative!

Christmas presents wrapped!

Have you seen Jeni's tutorial for drawstring bags? If you are an avid blog reader or Flick user, you've probably seen versions all over the interwebs. And I am here to add to it! Jeni also offers a pattern to purchase with 7 different sizes and a formula for creating custom-sized bags.

The tutorial for one size is free on her blog. More enterprising folks who want to do more math could probably figure out how to enlarge and reduce the pattern, but I wanted to help a sister out (Jeni offers a lot of free content and lovely photos, which takes a lot of time!), so I bought the pattern. I've already made six bags of three different sizes and I feel that pattern has more than paid for itself.

Drawstring Bags

I'm the annoying aunt that gives books at Christmas and birthdays :) Well, until you are a teenager. Then you get a giftcard because I know that's what you really truly want - freedom to choose your own things. But the babies and the 9-year-old get books. And what better wrapping paper than these cute bags! The bags above are two "Project Bags" and one "Artist Bag" (the robot one). (Wow, do I tie terrible bows!) To give you an idea, the green/yellow/purple grass bag has three paperback chapter books and one Diary of a Wimpy Kid hardcover. I think I fit five or six board books into a different Project Bag.

Drawstring Bag

The Artist Bag (iron included for size reference) holds larger picture books that wouldn't fit in the Project Bag. Actually, I think the bag in the photo is tilted a little, so it is taller than it appears here. You could probably fit three irons into this bag!

I took this as an opportunity to use up some fabric that I thought I probably wouldn't use in quilts. They were either impulse buys or parts of assortment sets. They are still lovely; I just don't see them in any quilts I have planned right now. This is a great green alternative to wrapping paper, though if you are wrapping presents for lots of people, I can see how this would be a challenge :) But like any other gift bag, it has a lot of re-use/recycle/re-gift potential! Unlike another gift bag, it probably won't tear in the present melee come Christmas day! (And since I didn't use traditional Christmas fabrics, they aren't holiday/occasion-specific!)

Bias tape maker

You can use ribbon for the ties, but I really like the fabric pulls. I have this handy-dandy 1" bias tape maker that makes the process go pretty smoothly. The only thing is, my machine doesn't like to run over the bulk at the beginning of the tie (where the edge is folded over), but it's no big thang. Still looks cute.

Drawstring Bag

This is the largest size - the Laundry Bag. I have a sweatshirt and a long-sleeved t-shirt in there and it's still pretty roomy. I think I could have gotten away with an Artist Bag here, but I'm happy I got to try out another size.

Drawstring Bags

I am giving a number of Wii games - no, not to the kids - to my parents! So, I'll be making several of the DVD sized bags and a couple of the smallest bags for giftcards, as well.  Just have to determine which size would be right for two Wii wheels... 

Make this pattern! You will love it!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Diaper Bag Delivered!

Diaper Bag

I was able to deliver the diaper bag to my friend last weekend, as well. She is due in mid-January, so I am glad that she will have it when she needs it.

I initially thought I would make a modern funky diaper bag a la Amy Butler (seen here, here, and here). But there's a lesson here: know your audience. I volunteered to make my friend a bag and I asked her what she wanted. I have known this woman for 20 years. She has wanted a daughter for all her life and her aesthetic is not "funky" or "modern." So, I really should have known better :)

I sent my friend some links to fabric shops to get an idea of what she was looking for. She really liked the palette on a minky she found that was pastel pink, brown, and green dots on white. I thought about it for a long while and looked and looked for fabrics that would work. I wanted to use home dec for the outside because diaper bags get so much abuse. But there just wasn't anything in that vein. Lots of pink and grey, or brown and green, but not pink, brown, and green pastel.

I ended up chosing two Premier Prints for the outer - dots and a solid brown. I couldn't find anything in the pastel palette she preferred, so I had to go for a deeper palette. For the lining and pockets, I picked regular quilt-weight cotton. The background is magenta Moda Bella and some stripes, but I can't remember the maker. All fabric came from (I'm a girl on a budget and my friend respects that!).

This is a definitely a big bag! I used this pattern from the Warehouse Fabric blog. I did my standard messing-with-a-perfectly-good-pattern thing. I decided not to make a divider because if you are stuffing your bag with receiving blankets, diapers, and extra sets of clothes, I thought the divider would just get in the way. I also did not use homemade piping. I was able to use up brown and green scraps from other projects that just happened to work with the palette my friend chose.

Diaper Bag

I still could have made the Amy Butler bag, but my friend requested a zipper and since I only have magnetic closure experience, I wasn't sure how that was going to work out or if I could do it. I knew I couldn't figure out an alteration to the AB bag, so I am glad that the Warehouse Fabrics tutorial is available. For the zipper, I did the Google, as they say (what? only me?), and came up with several tutorials on recessed zippers. If you are looking to do the same, I perused posts by My Spare Time, Projects by Jane, and Arm Candy for You. Instead of connecting the zipper panels to the seam that joined the outer and lining, I decided to go with Lisa's method, similar to the one posted on her blog. She describes a different one in her book, The Bag Making Bible, which is easier and does not require you to take the zipper apart. That is the one I chose to use, since I happen to have that book at home from the library right now! Not perfect, but serviceable.

Diaper Bag

I mostly topstitched in variegated pink thread, but I used brown on the zipper. Not sure I would do the same the second time around, but I thought it would be a little stronger. Also, I tried to topstitch around the opening of the bag and under the strap pulls, but now I'm thinking I should have run over the top of them... Ah well. I also altered the straps/outer pocket arrangement. Firstly, I added pockets on the short sides - can't have enough of those. Then, I was concerned about the original design having all the stress of the weight at the seam joining the outer and lining panels. So, I made an executive decision and ran the straps outside the outer pockets and attached them at the bottom seam. This made the large outer pockets into smaller pockets, but the skinny ones are perfect for a bottle of water or some butt paste!

Diaper Bag

I interfaced the heck out of this one. Because the outer home dec fabric had a lot of body to it, I ended up just using lightweight interfacing to reinforce the weave and give it a little more durability. I used fusible fleece under lightweight interfacing for the lining, since those fabrics were quilting cottons and I wanted the bag to be scrunch-able but also keep its shape. For the bottom panel of the bag, I used fusible fleece and a piece of Peltex-style interfacing to make it sturdy.

Inside there are a ton of pockets. There are two elastic ones on the short ends and then a long straight pocket divided into smaller pockets and a set of divided elastic pockets facing the straight pockets. My only concern here is that the pockets are a little limp(?); they aren't fully flush with the sides of the bag. They could also be a leeeetle taller. The instructions for making the elastic pockets leave room for you to determine the length of elastic. I think I ended up testing out different lengths and then just chopping some off before sewing it up. I added a small zipper pocket - again, the brown topstitching (ugh). I think the goal of the zippered pocket is not to have the lining fabric show near the zipper, but the stripes make a cute frame, I think.

Diaper Bag

My friend has a 7-year old son (7, right?!) and I thought this would be a funny book for him. I think he's probably pretty excited to have a sibling, so he's not actually concerned that it's a girl :)

Diaper Bag fillings

Of course, a long-awaited little girl needs some pink things. My friend loves dance and I found this precious pink leotard at Old Navy. Then a couple warm pajama-type oufits. The newborn one with the elephants has the little flaps that fold over to keep the baby from scratching herself. So helpful, so cute!

Diaper Bag fillings

Bag filled and ready for delivery!

Diaper Bag

Hope it works out! Very excited to meet the little on in January!

Now, I seriously need to work on my Twitter B blocks because I am way behind. I'm taking advantage of the fact that the November person is away from home for several months! Plus, there are Christmas bags to make using Jeni's tutorial. And slippers to make...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December Surprise Delivered!

My Better Half quilt

This past weekend my husband and I attended our friends' wedding reception and we delivered their wedding quilt. And now I am sharing it with you! [This is a looooong process post.]

This quilt is obviously a version of Ringle and Kerr's Love Beads, from the Modern Quilt Workshop book. I borrowed it from the library, so I do not have a good photo of what the quilt originally looked like, but you can follow this link, where another quilter has helpfully taken a photo of the original. I have loved this pattern from the moment I saw it, but knew that I did not have the skill to attempt it (the book is from 2005). But with a number of years of quilting under my belt and an upcoming wedding, I knew the Love Beads would fit the bill.

This was my first real attempt at curved piecing (I did two Single Girl sample blocks). So, I did what every pattern suggests you do and what I never do, which is make a test block. Good thing, since I messed it up :) Here's the evidence:

December Surprise Sample Block

I was so pleased with my circle until I realized that my rectangle was too short. There are two templates: one for the half circle and one for the rectangle into which the half circle is set. But the rectangle template is only for cutting out the negative half-circle space. It is not the actual size of the finished half-circle rectangle block (does that make sense?). So, if you cut out the half circle and then cut the block to the 90 degree edge of the template, you've made your block incorrectly. Done and done. Yea for sample blocks. Lesson learned. Properly made blocks below:

December Surprise WIP

Also, I watched the youtube video on piecing curves without pins, but I couldn't get it to work out right and I went with the pin-like-crazy method. Even then, things didn't go quite as smoothly as I'd hoped. There were I few that I had to unpick because my seam allowance was a smidge too small, meaning that my rectangle blocks bulged out where the half-circle was inset. But I got a lot of practice and I think I'll be a little more confident the next time I try it.

I fully intended to follow the pattern and have the beads strung horizontally. But as I was arranging the circles on my design wall, I had to turn them 90 degrees so that they would fit (the width of the quilt being wider then my design wall). [Don't adjust your screen, they are on my design wall horribly crookedly!]

Love Beads in progress

As I was looking at the blocks with the strings hanging vertically, I decided that I really preferred it (in keeping with Ringle and Kerr's 60's theme, the vertical strings also look like those beaded door thingies!). So, once again, I changed things up a bit. Since it was a wedding quilt, I decided to call my version, "My Better Half" and make one of the circles out of the same fabrics to represent the newlyweds.

My Better Half quilt - detail

Speaking of fabrics, the background is Kona Medium Grey (a classic) and the print half circles are the Line Blenders from the Brooklyn Heights line from Benartex. I also used some Konas as well (artichoke, possibly celery, and a yellow, I ended up not using the blue from the photo below and using Coal for the "string" instead - Color Consultant/husband contribution).

Selections for new project

I did ask my friend to look at Design Seeds, so I could get an idea of whether or not the palette I had chosen was way off the mark. Here are a few she chose (click on the photo to go to the Design Seeds post):

Their house is full of warm toned neutrals and the quilt definitely came out on the cool side, but I think the palette reflects some of the colors she was drawn to. And it's a palette that works for men and women. The backing is a Studio E fabric with little leaves in white, grey, blue, and brown that I thought worked well with the front.

My Better Half-Backing

Basting and quilting. I basted on my carpet floor after vacuuming like crazy (my dog is a shedding machine!). I laid down an old sheet and then used cans and eventually a few hand-weights to keep the layers taut. My October Birthday Surprise was not quite smooth enough, so I really wanted this one to be better.

My Better Half-WIP

I spray basted using June Tailor because that's what I can get at Joann's. You can see in the photos how nice and flat the center portion is and how much wavier the sides are. I think the adhesive didn't hold quite as well as I'd have liked. But I think most of the waviness is due to the fact that the lines are continuous, whereas the lines in the center are interrupted by the "beads," so the lines are shorter and didn't pull as much on the fabric.

My Better Half quilt

I did some OK free motion quilting in the circles, using a basic wavy line. The stitch length varies, but overall I was really happy with the effect. [Front and back]

My Better Half quilt - detail My Better Half-backing detail

The original pattern calls for you to cut off half of the blocks on either edge of the quilt to make the design look like it continues "off the page" so to speak. After piecing all of those half circles, there was no way I was cutting four of them in half :) So, I just extended the string pieces and made the binding out of the background fabric to give it a little of what Ringle and Kerr were talking about. I decided to go with 2.25" strips for the binding to make it a little thinner than I normally do. I think this quilt could fit a twin sized bed, but I really just made it so two people could sit on the couch and snuggle under it :)

I really like this pattern and I could see it also being done with full circles using Dale Flemings six minute circles (which I have heard take more than six minutes), if you wanted the circles to be of the same fabrics. Or even doing some raw edge applique would give a similar effect. Yet again, a pattern I'd love to revisit, but there are so many quilts to make out there and so little time... I'm not sure if I ever will :)

Bride and groom received the quilt happily and I hope they enjoy it!