Monday, September 1, 2014

Festival Of Quilts :: The People

So I was lucky enough to head to the Festival of Quilts in the middle of August.  This was my first trip, so it was all very exciting.  I was looking forward to the quilt displays, the shopping...but most of all seeing my friends.

My good friend Susan was kind enough to invite me to stay at her house over the weekend so we could have a good catch up.  I could meet her wonderful family and then we could head into the Festival together.  Who could say no?  I was delighted!  I am pretty sure we talked non-stop from the airport parking lot, through all of Friday, and Saturday until she dropped me again in the same airport parking lot on Sunday.  We had a lot to say, clearly :)

It was really wonderful meeting Susan's family.  Those of you who read her blog know she has two beautiful daughters (Emily and Helen), a quick-witted husband (John) and (at that time) three gerbils.  It was wonderful to meet them all and get to know them in person.  Before going over, I made two little pouches for the girls and stuffed them full of American candy as gifts.

Emily is a Fimo master.  She had a little Fluffy Sheep waiting for me!  It's perfect.  You should see what she can make with clay.  Amazing!

I made tea towels for Susan using Heather Ross prints as per HR's book PRINTS.  I know Susan loves to cook and hates to clean, so these would brighten the kitchen and would (maybe) make it easier to do the dishes.

Stolen from Susan's IG feed.
On Saturday we headed off to the Festival and nearly immediately ran into smiling faces we knew.  Nicky joined us for the day through booth after booth and winding exhibits.  How she did it after her long journey to the festival I'll never know.  It was pure luck, too, that we ran into Mary and Susy.  Look at the awesome array of hand made bags and clothes in that photo.  Super.

With Susan being such a prolific contributor to Love Patchwork and Quilting, we had to pop by their booth for Susan to meet Jenny.  They hit it off, of course.

And like a group of monkeys we had to mess and see if the three of us could squeeze on the LP&Q booth's couch.  It was a good laugh.

Of course, when we got home Susan and I dumped our newly fabric purchased fabric onto the floor to fold/refold and compare.  We had a great dig through Susan's stash, I drooled over her HR collection and then we pulled out several of her finishes that have long been favorites of mine.  It's different when you see them in person.

Sunday I packed up all of my new goodies and said my good byes to the Standen family.  They were so wonderful to me.  To remember my super weekend, especially the fun I had with Susan and her family, I picked up a little souvenir and tucked it into my suitcase.  Lucky me!

What a super trip!  It was so good to see my friends, to pick up a few (*ahem*) pieces of new fabric and to meet the Standens.  There were quilts there, too...I'll tell you all about them in my next post.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Modern Irish {Scrappy} Bee Blocks: May v2

Yes. You are reading that correctly.  These blocks are for May.  I tried to make bee blocks previously for Erin using her own beautifully written tutorial.  With my continual struggle against the scant quarter inch seam, I made a mess out of the original blocks.  They were about an inch too small and no amount of unpicking and re-sewing would find that lost inch.

Instead I have been practising my scant quarter inch seams and have (are you ready for this!?!?) finally fell in love with the idea that it can actually help me!  I re-cut my scraps, cut fresh little Kona White squares and dove in again to make two 12 1/2 inch square block for Erin.

I hope these fit with the others a bit better, Erin.  Let's forget those little 11 1/2 inch shorties ever crossed your threshold.  xx

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Modern Irish {Scrappy} Bee Blocks: July

I did warn you that it is going to be a bee-block filled week, did I not?  Next up are bee blocks from July made for Fiona R.  She is a girl after my own heart asking for scrappy string blocks for her month.  I love quilts made from scrappy strings but never want to go to the effort of doing all of that cutting and piecing myself.  It makes for a perfect bee block, then, doesn't it?

Fiona asked that we use this tutorial to make eight 6 1/2 inch blocks.  As a personal twist, Fiona asked that we incorporate a selvage strip in the center diagonal.  Now, I have a pile of selvages that I save up and give away to selvage-loving friends when I see them, but I do not generally incorporate them into blocks that I make.  That was a whole new adventure for me.

I had only a few selvage strips that were long enough to go into the center, but I did find a few others I could incorporate into the edges for a bit of fun.  I found that if I sewed them in using a traditional 1/4 inch seam, I would loose the fun text or color dots that really are what Fiona wants.  So, instead I tucked the next scrappy strip under the selvage, placed the selvage on top and sewed 1/4 inch on top of the selvage strip itself.  It won't fray, clearly, as that's the one job a selvage strip does have.

Should I have done it differently?  Any hints for incorporating a selvage without loosing it's personality?

Fiona, I hope you like them!  They were good fun to make.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Modern Irish {Scrappy} Bee Blocks: August

I have been quite slow to blog lately.  There's lots of life to be living with little time to sit down and write about it.  Some I might tell you about eventually (like my visit with Susan and our trip to Festival Of Quilts) and other bits I will most likely let pass by.  Eventually we will be all caught up and back in real time.

Where to start?  Well, this past week I took a holiday from work to enjoy a week at home.  It was wonderful.  My main focus sewing-wise was catching up on bee blocks.  I am behind.  Really behind.

Let us start by showing you my Modern Irish Bee blocks for August.  Miss Fiona requested a modern, funky churn dash using warm, clashing fabrics. Although her inspirational quilt does not do much for me personally, I loved loved loved making these blocks and I think this will be one beautiful quilt when all of the blocks are pulled together.  Churn dashes always come together so nicely for me, so it is a pleasure stitching them.  The biggest challenge, to my surprise, is that Fiona requested we do not use flowery fabrics. I had not realized that most of my stash is flower-based!  An eye opener for me!

Regardless, I made two 9 1/2 inch unfinished blocks for Fi.  They even came out to 9 1/2 inches the first time around.  Now that's refreshing.  Do pop over to Fiona's post if you are looking for a churn dash tutorial. It is very nicely written.

The color balance is prettier in real life, Fi.  I promise :)
Hope you like them, Fi! I look forward to seeing how these come together from our bee buddies.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fat Quarterly Retreat :: Part 2 :: And a Giveaway!

Ready for part two of the retreat round up?  I promise there is no part three (whew!) and if you make it all the way through this post you'll find a prize at the bottom.  Bonus!  

Let's start with photos from not only one, but TWO classes with Jen Kingwell.  Oh. Yeah.  My first class was hand quilting with Jen (sure, we're BFFs now....) where we were each to bring a 20 inch quilt sandwich to practice our hand stitching.  

It was a pretty super class for three reasons.  First, there were only about 12 of us in the class so it was like having a one on one conversation.  You could ask any question you had and she was very relaxed chatting away.  Second, Jen demonstrated her technique for hand quilting using a clear plastic sheet.  You could see where her needle was going, what angle it was at and what her hand under the "quilt" was doing.  Such a simple idea and it made all the difference.  Finally, she took a good bit of time to discuss notions - what thread you can use, what needles she likes and why, how to use a thimble, etc.  Brilliant.

She discussed stitching while travelling.  As you know, I stitch on every flight I take, on all buses going by and when ever I am in my camper.  Apparently she does too!  Jen made for each and every one of us a little travel pin cushion that is shaped like a ring.  It just slips on your finger and holds all you need without it rolling off your seat.  I'm sure you look less like a psycho using that on a flight vs. leaving pins in the back of the seat in front of you.  Just sayin'.

AND we had a cheeky show and tell.  Jen Kingwell...yes, THE Jen Kingwell, pulls out Green Tea and Sweet Beans and Gypsy Wife from a small suitcase like they were random scraps she stitched together watching TV reruns of Friends the week before the retreat.  You should have seen us - the quilt junkies with our cameras flashing.  Hilarious.  There was no dignity.

She discussed her fabric choices, her quilting style,etc.  What an amazing learning experience. 

After class, she draped her quilts over the table in the hall so we could closely look at each of the blocks.  She let us flip them over, re-arrange them for photos and ooo to our hearts delight.

Gypsy Wife

Gypsy Wife

Gypsy Wife

Green Tea - the flower block in the center is my favorite!

Green Tea

Nicky and Jen, chatting away....

My second class with Jen was Green Tea & Sweet Beans where we were to learn tracing templates, hand piecing and needle turn appliqué.  Now, these techniques were not part of my repertoire going to the retreat and I dare say they will remain absent moving forward.  This is not my happiness.  But I wanted to give hand piecing and appliqué a try...who better to learn from then the master herself?  

Jen gave each of us a copy of her pattern and a quilter's wheel (what a fab invention!), gave us hints and tips on tracing a template, using sand paper to secure our fabric/templates, marking fabric and chatted about the possibility of using her pattern with machine piecing (now that's interesting!).  Jen stitched along with us, giving us plenty of opportunity to ask questions and observe up close.

Together we were to make this block that would require us to trace templates, cut our fabric, use hand piecing and appliqué the stems.  Right. 

After a three hour long class (I think it was three...) I made this:

One flower head.  Now, that said, I learned a tremendous amount and I will continue on with this quilt using my machine and raw edge appliqué.  It will be a long term project.

But what, you want to know, am I giving away?  To share the retreat with those of you who could not attend, I wanted to give away the contents of my retreat goodie bag!  That's right - a fat quarter of apples, solids from both Kona and Riley Blake, two mini charm packs, a pack of Makower Nautical prints, swatch buddies AND a COPY OF GREEN TEA AND SWEET BEANS.  Yes, it's all yours.  

This giveaway is open to anyone who did not attend the retreat.  Just leave a comment below telling me what your favorite thing is about stitching with friends and I will draw one winner on Sunday night (3 Aug) by random number generator.  Please be sure you are not a no-reply commenter - if you are and have not included your email in your comment, I am deleting your entry.

Good luck, everyone!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fat Quarterly Retreat :: Part 1 ::

I realize nearly everyone else who attended the Fat Quarterly Retreat has already posted about their time at the retreat, but took me a while to get that organized.  Please just play along nicely and let me reminisce.

About 10 days ago I woke up before the sun and made my way down to the airport to grab a flight to London.  I was really looking forward to an hour of quiet time to myself, a coffee, the newspaper and a little happy stitching.  I pulled out my Big Stitch Swap cross stitch and x-ed my way to the land of the Union Jack.

The retreat was just lovely - lots of old friends complimented by several new-to-me faces who were very enthusiastic, happy and chatty.  It was a lovely crew of folks to share a weekend.  I signed up for five classes, each of which was led by a really patient, excited, knowledgeable instructor.  Some classes really inspired me and others just did not suit me, but I am glad I tried them all.  It was a great adventure.  Quickly, let's run through two of them...I will save the others for a second post.

First up is Amy Smart's Fabulously Fast Tiles class where we started making a quilt top from her new book.  This is a very basic, straight forward pattern of strip piecing that will come together quite quickly if I could (or when I will) dedicate a weekend to it.   I am quite happy to have it in my tool belt for a go-to gift.

Amy was chatty, clear, friendly and was wonderful answering our many questions.  She gave us hints and tips as we went about how we could get more fabric variation in our top or which fabrics to choose.

There were also very clear instructions for cutting/squaring and piecing a top on point.  Look at Di there soaking it all in!

I stitched like the mad woman I am and came up with a few tiles and lots of pairings to give me a running start when I pick this project up again in August.  I love the fabrics here and can't wait to dive in again.  It's the perfect project to pick up and stitch in the evening after work.

I also signed up for Karen's screen printing class.  I was SO excited to take Karen's class as I've been a huge fan of her work for quite some time now.  She tempts me with her creations daily on that darned IG feed of hers!  We stared out with an overview of how you screen print with the stencil method and a few dos and don'ts from the master herself.

She looks like she's yelling at us here, but she's really very nice and cute!

And then we dove in, sketching cutting and taping.  To my right was the famous Hadley causing all kinds of trouble and to my right Nicky and Reene.  You know there was a bit of messing in the front row of class.  

I warn you now, that this class has taken over the creative side of my brain and I am obsessing about the next time I can screen print something/anything.  Nothing is safe in our house.  You will absolutely see me pulling out the paint and a squeegee as the summer moves on.

I brought with me a little clip art sewing machine that I could easily trace and print.  It worked relatively well, but as the printing went on I slowly lost detail like the needle.  I can just backstitch that in as I go.  I'm not worried.

The screens made by my class mates were just amazing.  There was a wonderful mix of birds, text, fruit, more traditional almost Dutch barn designs and household items.  These were the few that really caught my eye.

Really really liked the idea of printing on another print.  What a cool combo!

I lost my mind a small bit and went from my trial printing on newsprint to my little class supply tote...

And then onto my retreat goodie tote, followed by all of the Kona White scraps that I brought with me.  I don't know what came over me, but I was just delighted with the process and couldn't stop.  I will cut around the machines on the Kona White and use them in pouches, etc.  They're so darned cute!  

In the end, Karen helped me work through a stencil to print the my favorite fluffy sheep.  I just need to stock up on ink and find a sunny weekend and there will be a pile of quilt labels made with my small friend.  

Come on back later in the week and I will tell you all about my two Jen Kingwell classes.  She was AMAZING.  We even saw her famous quilts up close and personal.  There may even be a giveaway included!  Don't miss out.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ooops! I did it again.

It never fails.  When I am gathering up my goodies to go on a holiday or a fun weekend with friends, I suddenly realize there is something that I HAVE to make before I go.  Last trip it was the Alder Skirt.  This trip it is a (absolutely gorgeous must-have) tote bag.  How could I ever possibly live without it?  It would make everything that bit better, right?  I could bring all of my class supplies to the retreat in it.  And so I sew like a maniac to finish off a project before my flight takes off.  Why do I do it?   

I present to you my most recent obsession: the mahosive tote bag.  Ta da!

I took it out on my morning walk with Molly for a photo shoot.  

This was made using Judith's QAYG tote bag pattern.  I loved the colorful scrappy look of hers, but quickly realized I didn't have enough time (being a tote bag emergency and all) to QAYG the front and back panels.  I instead made two log cabin-esque panels for either side with Echino as the center focus, a Kona border, then Architextures (Curry) as the background fabric.  That piece of Echino has been held dearly in my stash for well over a year.  I've been waiting for the right project to use it in a large space to show it off.  This bag was the perfect project.

I will say, though, because I didn't QAYG (as the pattern clearly tells you to) my bag sides are a small bit squishy.  The bag can not stand up by itself.  I did quilt my side panels in 1/2 inch straight lines, but that's not enough to keep the sides rigid.  

As part of the pattern, there's a recessed zipper to close the top of the bag.  That's key if you're going to shove it under the seat in front of you on a flight.  This is my first recessed zip.  It's fine. It opens/closes and doesn't look awful, but now that I have made one I know my next one will be much better.  I used Dottie here and for the lining.

I wish I had a curry colored zip, but being totally unprepared for making this bag I had to run to the Galway shop to pick one up.  They only had browns, maroon and white.  White it is.

I was watching Sarah as she made her QAYG bag a few weeks ago and loved how hers came together.  She had added to the pattern two inner pockets, one slip pocket and one internal zip pocket.  In a bag this size, a zip pocket is an absolute must.  Sarah was such a huge help in giving me advice on placement, tutorials for the zip insertion, etc.  She's an absolute star.   This pocket is 8 inches wide, so I needed a rather large piece of fabric to make the pocket lining.  I wish I could have made it out of Architextures curry so that there's a piping effect along the zip and a fun surprise inside, but I had such a huge scrappy piece of the Dottie print I just had to use it.

And finally, for most trips I bring my ipad and travel docs slipped into a large external pocket.  I instead used a "scrap" of the Echino (12x12 inches) and made a slip pocket that will fit an A4 sheet of paper in a folder and my ipad.  Given that the external part of my bag isn't very rigid, the pocket does sag a big.  I will see how it goes for this upcoming weekend, but I think I may have to put a button on the top.  There's space, so that's easy to add in late.

That's my class supplies ready and my bag made.  If only I had clean clothes to pack and had the shop prepared!  Priorities, Cindy.  Focus.
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