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March 28, 2012

Block of the Month


I'm a really informal kinda gal, and I like to avoid a lot of rules and formality if I can. If the situation requires it, I'll lay down the law, but in general I prefer to keep things fast & loose and let everyone have a good time and do their own thing.

Where am I going with all this? Well, I'm the leader of our local New Orleans Chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild, and we're a pretty small group - maybe 10 members or less, and usually only about 5-6 people are able to regularly attend. We're all about the same age and have similar personalities, so we get along great and usually our meetings consist of chatting/gossiping, showing off our projects, and then sewing the remainder of the meeting. We've been doing that for about 2 years now, and I felt bad because I was worried people weren't getting enough out of the group, and that doing the same thing month after month might get a little boring. Our meetings are about 3 hours long, so I thought it might be fun if we used the first hour or so of each meeting to learn a new block from C&T's 99 Modern Blocks (not gonna lie, I might have been inclined to choose that book because my quilty BFF (and former member) Angela makes up a tenth of it *wink*)


We kick-started the block-of-the month in February, and our first block was the Pogo Stick (on left). Our March meeting was last Saturday, and we learned the Wonky/Parisian Star (on right). Can you believe I'd never made a Wonky Star block before? I've always liked the pattern, just never had an occasion to make one before. I couldn't believe how incredibly easy the pattern was!

I'm color coordinating my blocks each month so that I'll have a sampler quilt by the end of the year. And surprise! I'm using my new favorite combo - pink and navy (see here and here) - for this quilt.

And RE my post yesterday, hot pink is the only color pink that I openly love and endorse....pastel & "regular" pinks...not so much. I'm a giant bundle of contradictions - what can I say? LOL


I used a Free Spirit solid (Hot Rose) for the background, and that piece of Japanese loveliness in the center is a Suzuko Koseki scrap that Ayumi sent me. I heart Ayumi :)

March 27, 2012

Cherry Blossom Mini

 
I finally feel like I'm getting back into a groove with my sewing. I'm able to sew for short periods without having to wear my neck brace, and I'm not sore afterward - yay! I still have to limit myself to hour or so sessions, because I don’t want to over-do it and land right back where I was at the start of this whole mess...but I’m fine with that little compromise as long as it means I can sew again!

I started this project because I wanted something small and manageable that I could finish fairly quickly, and because I wanted to feel like I actually accomplished something for the first time in months! Binding this quilt has been slow going because it requires me to look down the whole time, which is the hardest thing for my neck (and it makes some of the fingers on my left hand go numb pretty quickly). So I wanted to start this small, second project so I could work on it when binding the other wasn’t in the cards :)

 


The finished mini quilt top measures 18" x 18", so each blossom is 6" square, and each "petal" is 3" square (pattern found here). I raided my pink scrap bin for the blossom fabrics, and for the center of the blossoms I used a leftover scrap of a Sweetwater "Sunkissed" print in Gray. The background fabric is Annie’s Seed Catalogue in black. I normally hate pinks and blacks (especially together, because it makes me think of Debbie Gibson and the 80’s), but in photography, art, and other mediums I always see those sweet little pink Cherry Blossoms paired with blacks and grays, and IMHO they just don’t look as pretty paired with anything else!




I have to laugh at myself over my color choices though, because I can’t help but think of what my friend Angela would say about it! I’m picturing her chuckling to herself at her computer as she reads this, since it contains so many colors I have repeatedly professed to hate, lol! I remember telling her on multiple occasions that I hate both pink and black, so she always enjoyed pointing out how much pink was in my stash whenever she came over ;) I told her it was a necessary evil, because a quilter needs a little bit of every color (especially if you sew mostly for other people!).

Well, despite all my protests to the contrary, it seems Angela knows me better than I know myself! Because I truly love this quilt :)



The next hurdle will be deciding on the backing...I have about 10 different ideas swirling around in my head, so I need to sit down and make some executive decisions this week. It's times like this I miss having Angela just down the road from my work - I really need another lunch-break brainstorming session with you Ang!!!

March 25, 2012

I'm in Stitch!


My pattern was accepted for the Summer issue of Stitch back in November, and I've been busting to tell someone (other than my husband) for months! Stitch is by far my favorite crafty magazine, and seeing my pattern in one of their issues is kind of like having the Holy Grail in my hands! Seriously...I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am - probably the most accurate way to describe it is like this...

Tom & Donna on Treat Yo'Self Day.



So without further ado, here is my project!


It's a laminated knee pad that doubles as a convenient tote for your gardening tools! Your gloves, spades, and other medium-to-smallish items can be neatly tucked in the front pocket, leaving your hands free for larger items like a watering can.


Once you've carried everything out to the garden, you can pull it all out and use the pad to cushion your knees. And best of all? The laminated fabric repels all the grody dirt & water as you kneel in the garden, and there's 3 inches of polyurethane foam on the inside to give you lots of cushion :)

I had some extra laminate left over from this project, so I made a few extras to give to my mom and mother-in-law for Mother's Day in May (both of them are avid gardeners). I can't wait to get my sample back so I can use it for myself while I'm planting our new herb/veggie garden out back!

And here's a little tip in case you decide to make my day & use this pattern! The price of 3" polyurethane foam at Joann's might make your jaw drop (I know mine did when I went to buy some for this project!), but if you wait until it's on sale for 40% or 50% off, you can use your VIP card to get an extra 10% off and get a cut for a very reasonable price (I think with 40% off + the extra 10%, my piece was around $7). If nothing else, find a 40% - 50% off one item coupon - because you do not want to buy this stuff at sticker price!


March 20, 2012

Plugging Along

More Cherry Blossoms

I managed to finish 2 more Tallahassee / Cherry Blossom blocks yesterday, which I should be happy about, but I can't help but be annoyed by my slow progress. I long for the days when I could marathon sew and finish this mini within a week! (*forlorn sigh*)

One thing I AM happy about is that pink Flea Market Fancy block. Even though that print wasn't included in the recent reprint, finally having my hands on a ton of new FMF has made me feel more free to use what's in my hoard.  It felt good to finally use my scrap of Pink Tiles for this project, because it looks so darn cute as a wee cherry blossom....much better than it did sitting folded on my shelf for years! Plus I like knowing that a good friend will eventually have this treasured fabric hanging on her wall :)

More Cherry Blossoms


And I guess I can't be too crabby about my tortoise-like sewing, when I receive giant packages full of Orla Kiely goodness from dear college friends (you know, the one I have annual craft swaps with...here and here)! My friend Dana lives in NYC, and as she was strolling through town the other day, she stumbled across a shop with an ungodly amount of cheap Orla Kiely goods!!! Knowing I'm as obsessed with Orla as she is, she offered to be my personal shopper and pick up an extensive list of goodies for me :) 

ORLA!!!

I have to admit, a few hours after I clicked "send money" on Paypal, a little bit of buyer's remorse kicked in, because I went slightly crazy. But as soon as I felt the scarves for the first time yesterday, I knew I'd been right to get 5 of them! They have an amazing hand and feel like wrapping a cloud around your neck. And I mean, c'mon, they were only $12 each! Yes, you heard right - only TWELVE DOLLARS for Orla scarves that feel like heavenly clouds of fluff.  Ahhh.....


ORLA!!!


And the tank tops are pretty darn cute too. Can't beat $20 for a designer tank with a stick! I bought an extra of the bottom one so I can turn it into a pillow for my sewing room :)

ORLA!!!


And being the wise and all-knowing friend that she is, a tiny trio of chocolate bunnies from a fancy NYC chocolaterie was slipped into my package. Unfortunately, Mr. Dark Chocolate Bunny met an untimely demise before this photo was taken. RIP - you were delicious Mr. Bunny and a credit to your kind.

ORLA!!!!

March 18, 2012

The great American weekend

I did a little more paper piecing this weekend! I find it's the easiest type of sewing for me to tackle right now with my neck issues, because there's no rotary cutting involved. I just grab some scraps, piece, and then trim the seams down.

I stumbled across this pattern a couple weeks ago whenever I was looking for star blocks, and bookmarked it for future reference. I didn't really have a set plan for using it, but then I had a moment of inspiration a few weeks ago, and thought maybe if I used different fabrics for the center and background, it would look like a little cherry blossom!


I tried it out with some pink fabric this weekend, and I think it totally passes the test :) What you see is just 1/4 of a complete block, so each block will contain a total of 4 little "cherry blossoms". It's intended for a mini quilt for a friend, and I think I'm going to make it 2x2, so the final measurements will be 24" x 24" and there will be 16 blossoms total. I haven't decided yet if I want to use 16 different pink prints, or do 2 each of 8 prints - we shall see...

So. Right about now you're probably wondering why the heck I titled my post "the great American weekend". Well, I couldn't help but laugh yesterday because I did some of the most stereotypically American things possible all within the span of a day. Not only did I quilt, but we had some apples that were spoiling, so I made an apple pie yesterday morning - and what's more American than apple pie? I totally wore my favorite flouncy apron while I was doing it. And gazed out my kitchen window while I made the crust.


It's basically a deep-dish apple pie that you bake in a cake pan (I used a springform pan instead because I thought it would make removal easier, and I was totally right). The filling was so rich and fantastic - instead of slicing and seasoning the apples and calling it a day, you place them in a dutch oven and cook them down into a soft filling with some butter, cinnamon and lemon juice. For those of you from the south, it was very similar to making fried apples. So yeah, imagine fried apples stuffed inside a thick pastry crust - pure heaven!

My husband and brother-in-law are are such good sons and spent the past two weekends helping their dad put a new roof on the house he and my mother-in-law just purchased, so I took this over to their new home yesterday morning. I figured there would be some hungry men coming off the roof for breakfast, so the 5 of us ate it as a sort of breakfast pastry with coffee. It was delish. And it was gone within 2 hours ;)

The recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Nick Malgieri's Modern Baker. I haven't found a bad recipe in it yet!




Item #3 on the list of uber-American things to do on the weekend? Grilling burgers. We made buffalo burgers with fresh basil, avocado and goat cheese. YUM!


So between the quilting, apple pie, and burgers, I should probably borrow Rex Kwan Do's American Flag pants to round out the weekend. "Nobody wants a round-house kick to the face while I'm wearing these bad boys!"


So what did you all do this weekend? The weather has been beautiful in New Orleans the past two weeks, and it makes me excited for summer to arrive! Hope you all have been having similar luck with the weather where you are :)

March 12, 2012

Warning: Cuteness Overload


One guess as to what was waiting on my front porch when I got home from work today....that's right! TWO giant boxes full of FMF happiness from my friend Brenda @ Pink Castle!

Whiskers and I spent the afternoon rolling around in it...well, actually, I rolled in it...he more or less laid there like a sack of taters. Such a good sport ;)

I just might have to frame this photo and put it in my cubicle - that's how happy it makes me! Adorable pup + FMF = instant workplace morale boost.

March 11, 2012

Tardy for the Party

Ulrike's Quilt Top

About this time last year, my friend Ulrike contacted me about finishing a baby quilt for her. She lives in Germany, and the recipient is here in the States, so as you can imagine, mailing a finished 60" x 60" quilt overseas would be quite expensive. Therefore she mailed me the top, and I promised to make the back and finish things up. Only, this simple project took quite a bit longer than I anticipated...

Ulrike's Quilt Top

You see....*insert sheepish grin*...I'm just now binding it (these pictures were taken quite a while ago and I never got around to posting them), and I feel really terrible about taking a full year to complete the project for Ulrike :(

Part of the problem is that it took me forever to decide on the backing. I got the quilt in late Spring/early Summer and the top was so completely fabulous that I couldn't just do any old quilt back, and it took me a full 3 months (!!!) to figure out what I wanted to do. I'd decide on one thing - and then the next time I'd walk in my sewing room and see it - I'd hate it! And that's pretty much how things went for a couple of months, until I finally found a combination I loved - some Kona Cyan, Ann Kelle rainbow stripes, and scrappy Suzuko Koseki paper piecing!

Problem was, it was early Fall by the time I got the backing together, and once the holiday season hit, I just didn't have time to do anything else with it. I emailed her at the start of the year and swore up and down I'd have it finished and mailed within the next few weeks, but then the ol' neck started acting up...and here I am...Mid-March and just now in the final stages of binding. Sorry Ulrike :( ...I'll try and track down that nun from Blues Brothers and have her rap my knuckles a few times for it...lol!

My Quilt Back

But for now, I like to pretend to myself it's a good thing I'm super late, because the recipient will be extra surprised about receiving a present this late in the game (it's been a few months since the baby was born and Presentpalooza ended). Ludicrous, I know...but it helps me sleep a little better at night ;)

Front & Back of our joint quilt :)

I wish I'd taken some close up shots of the pieced letters and numbers at the time, but alas, I didn't...I think my camera died on me or something and I didn't feel like fooling with it any more. I'm almost finished though, so once I have it bound and washed, I'll snap a bunch of detail shots.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I got the patterns for the text from Suzuko Koseki's 318 Patchwork book. That book is a treasure trove of awesomness.

March 9, 2012

"Paper" Hat Tutorial


I’ve got a brand spankin’ new tutorial for you guys today! It’s a reusable "paper" hat for kids made out of some fabric, interfacing, and safety pins or thread.

Since I don’t have any kids yet, Whiskers served as my model because he has a giant head the size of a small child’s, so it worked out pretty well. Ray was standing in the background laughing at me as I was trying to take this picture, because it took about 15 tries. Ray disagrees, but I actually think Whiskers enjoyed it because he saw it as a fun game. I think his inner monologue went a little something like this…Okay, she puts the hat on me, I sit here guardedly still for about 2-3 seconds, and then I flip out and buck around the sofa like a bronco. Delightful!

"Paper" Hat Tutorial

I'm really excited about this pattern because it's very kid friendly, and you can involve them in the process as much as you want! You can have them help you with the cutting, ironing and sewing (because it's really easy), or you can bring them in later at the folding part. Here's what you'll need...
  • Two 13.25" x 17" pieces of fabric
  • Two 13.25" x 17" pieces of fusible interfacing (I used Pellon 931TD)
  • Coordinating thread
  • 4 safety pins, or thick thread (depends on how you want to secure the ends)
I don't have pictures of the first few steps, because they're so easy I didn't really think it was necessary. Alright, so the first step is to fuse the interfacing to the back of each of your pieces of fabric. Then you'll put the two pieces of interfaced fabric right sides together, and sew a 1/4" seam around all four sides, leaving a small 3" opening. Clip the corners and turn the fabric right side out. Fold in the raw edges of your opening, and topstitch around the entire rectangle. When you're done, you should have a panel that measures 12.75" x 16.5" and looks like this...

007



If you didn't have your kids help you with the sewing, here's where you can bring them in on the project. Take your rectangle, and fold it in half along the long edge (will be 8.25" x 12.75" once folded).



008 

Fold down one of the corners, leaving about an inch and a half at the bottom.

 010

Repeat for the other corner.

 011


On both the front and the back, fold up that 1.5" flap you left at the bottom.


012 



Now, you have two options for securing the flaps and finishing the hat. You can take the quick and dirty route and safety pin them in place... OR you can teach your kids a little bit about hand sewing, and have them secure the four corners with a stitch or two using some embroidery thread or regular hand-sewing thread. It really depends on how old your kids are, and how much time you want to spend on the project :)

006


So there you have it! These come together really quickly, and I'm actually whipping up about a dozen of them for a friend to use as favors at her daughter's birthday party next weekend.  I'm sewing up the rectangles for her, and she's going to have "craft time" during the party and show the kids how to fold and pin their own hats to take home - FUN!

March 7, 2012

Spoiled.

I am beyond spoiled by my online friends. Not only did all those awesome care packages trickle in two weeks ago, but I got even more happy mail last week!


Remember when I gushed about Mark Cesarik's new line Cosmic Burst a while back? Well his awesome wife Cara sent me a surprise package of charms and I got it in the mail on Saturday! She's so nice, and when I was emailing back and forth with her a little while back, I mentioned that I was itching to buy one of his prints in particular, because I thought it would look amazing with the mustard Echo print. And guess what? Now that I have the real thing in my covetous raccoon paws, it totally does! I'm gonna have to buy some serious yardage of that print because I can't wait to make myself a bohemian summer bag to strut around New Orleans with...and maybe a hair wrap for my curly mop (my hair gets HUGE in the summer humidity...attempting to tame it is a pointless endeavor, so I've learned to embrace the madness).

Thanks for thinking of me Cara! Can't wait to sew up a saucy little number with these guys...I think I hear a mini quilt calling me ;)


My friend Kristy (Handmade Retro) was also sweet enough to pick up some Daisy Mae prints for me that are exclusive to Aussieland - yay!

Is all this bright, happy fabric making anyone else anxious for Spring & Summer? We had a really mild winter this year (it never dipped below 50 degrees), so our Blood Orange tree out front is already blooming, and it smells divine. Last year it produced about 500 oranges, so pretty soon I'll have them coming out my eyeballs....which for some reason, makes me think that Ray and I should go out in the yard and have orange fights with the excess oranges/gross ones that drop on the ground...because that's what we used to do as kids on my grandpa's farm...except that we did it with Concord grapes instead of oranges...and we didn't just pick up the rotten ones on the ground, but started ripping them off the vine when we ran out of nasty ones. I never recommend wasting hundreds of grapes that a decorated WWII veteran spent years cultivating. Never. He was not happy with us!


And I totally saved the best package for last! Remember waaaay back when when I found a copy of 318 Patchwork and suckered my new acquaintance Ayumi into forwarding it to me in the States? Welllll...she's so sweet that I couldn't help but slowly trick her into being my friend, and we've emailed back and forth the past few months about my obsession with all things Japanese, how Ray and I want to eventually move there as missionaries, how I want to steal every piece of fabric in her stash, and other random things like the Japanese tradition of eating KFC on Christmas day, which I think is pretty fantastic (and hilarious). Mainly because the original KFC restaurant is in my home county, and they have a "World Chicken Festival" every year in celebration of it (try not to be too jealous that I got to witness a Harlan Sanders look alike contest and eat fried chicken out of the world's largest skillet every year of my childhood).

But less about chicken, and more about Ayumi and her awesomeness. Where do I begin? Basically - Ayumi is amazing, and I wish I could siphon all her crafty powers like Rogue in X-Men.

Feast your eyes on this package full of happiness...



This little dish towel is so cute I can hardly stand it! It reminds me of that scene in Napoleon Dynamite when he finds the brown suit on the mannequin, and looks away at the end as if the suit's awesomeness is blinding him, lol! This dish towel is kind of like that. I have it hanging near my kitchen window where no one will soil it, and where I can stare at it in short snatches while I'm scrubbing. It makes me that happy :)



And she also made me this awesome pink & navy bag *swoon*. The inside is navy & white polka dot, with a wee little pocket.



And being well versed in my obsession with Scottie dogs (a few months ago she sent me a Suzuko Koseki paper piecing pattern that had a hidden Scottie in it!), she sewed a precious wee Scottie tag into the side of my bag. Be still my heart....


P.S. Is it bad that for a few wild seconds, I considered putting Whiskers inside the bag because I thought it would make for the most adorable photo ever? I quickly came to my senses when I had a second vision of me chasing Whiskers around the house with it hanging off his hind parts like some kind of strange doggie sack race.

P.S.S. Anyone else think it's only appropriate that two of Whiskers hairs somehow found their way below the tag, not 2 minutes after I pulled this out of the box? *sigh*

March 4, 2012

Back in the Saddle



Well I'm back in the saddle again (Aerosmith style, not Gene Autry style) and just completed my first post-neck-injury project! It took me about a week to finish, because I never allowed myself to sew for more than an hour at a time, and I promised my physical therapist I'd stop sewing any time I started to feel pain...so while I had to cut a few sessions short, overall my progress was pretty good!

I had my outpatient procedure last week and they gave me a steroid shot in my neck, so I've been feeling better since then (although the procedure itself was slightly traumatic...bad news is that I wasn't knocked unconscious with glorious drugs as promised, but was wide awake as a giant needle was plunged into my spine; good news is that since I wasn't drugged, I had my wits about me when I got home and was able to eat the last brownie before Ray walked in the door. You win some, you lose some.)

Anywho, I'm no longer wearing my neck brace except when I sew or sleep, which is awesome. But since I think the cone of shame was too hilarious not to share, here's a before and after photo for your viewing pleasure.

Sad Kaelin vs. World Domination Kaelin

But back to the block...

I stumbled across a Stained Glass Whirling Star block on equiltpatterns.com, and once I looked past the hideous marbled fabric, realized it had pretty good bones. It was a really easy paper piecing pattern and I highly recommend it for beginners who are looking to dip their toe in paper piecing - I think it would make for a nice first paper piecing project for those of you who haven't tried it before. My only suggestion is that when you trim your eighths, leave 1/4" overhang on the outside edge. For some crazy reason the designer made the block 12" square, so the final block measures 11.5" instead of 12". Weird, I know. So if you add a 1/4" on the outside edge only (but not the inner ones), your unfinished block will be 12.5".

Unfortunately, I didn't realize this was an issue until I was half-way done, hence the sashing on the outside of my block. Boo.

For my block I used some light blue Monaluna Mingle, Allison Smith's Peacock Dot, and yellow Denyse Schmidt prints (from Hope Valley and Aunt Edna, respectively). Although the solid looks black in this photo, it's actually Kona Navy. It was dark outside by the time I finished, so unfortunately I had to take an indoor shot and the colors didn't turn out that great. I would have waited until tomorrow, but I have to mail this in the morning because it's going to a friend :)


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