Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sir Bear Quilt

A few months ago I won some sweet fabric through Bernie's giveaway of Art Gallery Fabric on her Needle and Foot website. The line is Capsules Nest, a smooth poplin print in mostly black on white. The bundle included three panels about 35 by 43 inches as well as several fat quarters. I set it aside, knowing that eventually an opportunity would present itself to make a quilt for a wee youngster. 

That opportunity came in the annual Hands2Help Challenge hosted by Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict. One of the donation options this year is Little Lambs Foundation, an organization that provides quilts to children transitioning in a variety of situations to foster care, shelters or hospitals. 

I knew that the designs on this fabric would be perfect for a huggie quilt to give comfort in a stressful time. I chose the Sir Bear panel to start with. I should have taken photos before cutting, but I was so eager to get started that I completely forgot. Here's the link to the fabric as it was showcased on Bernie's website along with other fabrics that were provided by Art Gallery Fabrics. (An awesome array!) My first thought was to take the panel with Sir Bear in the center of it and quilt it in colorful thread. But almost the entire panel was white with just the bear and two strips of print along the edges. While this would be really sweet in a nursery, it did not seem practical for a quilt that might be traveling around. So I went to my Kona stash and found several teal scraps to fill in the white space. 

Here's what I made:

I cut Sir Bear out and surrounded him with cuts from one of the coordinating fat quarters, then added teal strips to each side (each about 5 inches wide, cut) and then to the top and bottom. I cut the printed strips from the sides of the panel and attached them to the top and bottom. I also cut the side strips from a similar panel with some cute sheep in the center. (Sorry, sheep. You'll find your way into another quilt, sometime, I'm sure.) I put those strips along the sides. There is still a fair amount of white in the quilt, but the print on it will hide signs of wear love better than solid white, I think. 

Since I had used up most of my teal scraps, I made a trip to the store for the quilt back. I was hoping to find a little print, but nothing seemed quite right, so I bought more teal. After I got home, I decided to add in just a bit of black and white to pep up the back. I had just enough of the fat quarter from the front to make a narrow strip to insert between the two shades of fabric I bought. 

This quilt went together so fast!! We had a rainy weekend, which was perfect for sewing. I didn't overthink the plan--just laid out my fabrics and cut the strips to sizes that fit the easiest. Making the back was really easy because the quilt top fit easily on a width of fabric. (Apparently the operative word here is EASY.)

For quilting, I knew I wanted to do wavy walking foot lines. I was going to stipple around Sir Bear, but decided at the last minute to outline him and then quilt around parts of his clothing. I was too lazy to change to my FMQ foot, so, I just worked freestyle with my walking foot. Then I filled in the background with wavy lines extending across the quilt. 

For the binding, I used the leftovers of the two solids from the back, reversing the colors, so that the lighter binding was against the darker part of the back and vice versa. I'm sure no kiddie will care how it was done, but it was a way to amuse myself while finishing the quilt. I was going to machine sew the whole thing, but my walking foot got tired and didn't want to sew the binding down, so yesterday evening, I competed with sunset and whipped that binding down by hand in time to get some photos outside before it got too dark. I think it will be sturdy enough to stand up to washings, I used short lengths of double thread so it should be pretty secure.

How about some tree shots?

And a close up of Sir Bear, himself--
Even closer--
And the signature--
 Now, some stats:
Pattern: Improv piecing. 
Fabrics: Capsules Nest from Art Gallery Fabrics: Sir Bear Panel, Finger Paint fat quarter and part of One Two Sheep Panel. Kona Solids in Jade, Capri and Azure for front and Jade and Pool for back and binding.
Batting: Leftover piece of Warm and White 
Thread: Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; Superior King Tut in Mint Julep in the top (yes, I'm STILL using that cone and there is still a little left) and Aurifil 40 wt Mako in Light Jade in the bobbin; Mint Julep for hand sewing on binding. 
Binding: Cut 2 1/2 inches wide and folded in half;. 
Size: Quilt: 34 5/8 by 41 1/4 inches pieced and quilted. I haven't washed it yet, but it will likely be a little smaller.  
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 Treadle for walking foot quilting.  

I hope a little child--maybe a baby or toddler will find comfort with the cute little bear and cheerful colors. I think it's just the right size for a huggie quilt that will fit in a backpack. I still have other parts of the fabric bundle left, so I think a similar kind of quilt with what's left of the sheep panel is somewhere in the future. Thanks to Bernie and AFG for helping me pay this forward. 

Here are three quick things I learned with this quilt:
--You can almost free motion quilt with a walking foot.
--Rainy weekends are great for making little quilts--especially ones that fit on width-of-fabric backs.
--I can hand sew a binding really quickly when I'm in a race with the sun.
--I really will make a panel quilt someday. I think. 

I'm linking up this week with Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social and with crazymomquilts for Finish It Up Friday. Later this month I'll also link up with the big finale linky party at Confessions of a Fabric Addict where we can all share our Hands2Help quilts.

Have a beautiful week, quilting, hugging, or whatever else you enjoy.

(I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products or services, I'm just documenting what I used or liked.) 

Friday, May 11, 2018

L's Sewing Lesson

We spent last week at my daughter and son-in-law's home doing daycare for the Grands (mostly our grandson--our granddaughter was in school most of the day) while their usual provider was on vacation. So much fun!! Also, sew much fun!! I had recently made a quilt for my daughter and son-in-law to top their bed quilt (you can see it here), and there was a lot of fabric left over. So I decided that the week was a perfect opportunity to do some sewing with my granddaughter. I wanted a project that was low stress (after all, we'd be sewing after a busy school day) but still useful. I bought a small pillow form (12 by 16 inches) and packed up the Featherweight, a few sewing notions, and small pieces of batting and foundation fabric for our week. During our grandson's naptime on the first daycare day, I cut some strips and squares from some of the leftover quilt fabric.

Here's what we she made: 

I didn't take pictures of the steps--too busy with the project itself, but I'll tell you what we did.  When it was time to start sewing, I layered a piece of batting and a piece of white fabric a little larger than the pillow form and put the gray sloth print on top, smoothing them out (no pins). Then L chose strips one at a time to sew on stitch-and-flip and quilt-as-you-go style. Other than a quick tip about color contrasts and alternating prints with solid looking fabrics, the order of fabrics was up to L. While I pressed the power pedal (to control the speed of the machine), L guided the fabrics under the needle. We used a walking foot to help her feed the fabric smoothly and to put a little more machine between the needle and her fingers. 

We divided up that part of the pillow into two evening sessions. Seams were not always straight, but we agreed that doing our best and having fun was better than perfect. 

QAYG was fun for L, but I also wanted her to have an introduction to sewing patches together. So for the back, she made two nine-patches. During the third session, she laid squares out in the arrangement she wanted for the nine-patches. She had had gymnastics class that evening, so we opted to limit sewing that day. I told her that some of the side patches would end up smaller in the back, so she chose her favorite fabrics for the middle columns that would show the most. During the fourth session, we continued to use the walking foot to sew the blocks together, and L was really impressed by how quickly she was able to sew the seams with chaining. We did use pins to hold fabric in place while sewing double hems in the nine-patches for the envelope closure. L got a kick out of taking them out as she sewed. During the last session I layered the parts of the pillow case and sewed with a long stitch length to join them. After checking that the case was the right size (we didn't worry about perfection with the corners), L went over my stitching with a shorter stitch. 

Here she is with her completed pillow and a smiley face to protect her privacy. She was so proud of herself!

And the back:

Here's how the pillow looks with the bed quilt and Mom and Dad's new throw quilt:

And with the other decorative pillows on the bed. 
This project worked out so well. It was fun to be able to spend some special time with my granddaughter after doing daycare with her brother during the day. Here's what I learned:

--Doing the project in little bits (probably no more than twenty minutes at a time) was just right for a little girl who had been in kindergarten all day and had bits of homework or other activities in the evening. 
--I'm glad I cut the strips and squares before we started the project. L is deliberative, and making too many decisions about fabrics before sewing would have really bogged her down. She did have fun picking out each strip as we sewed and arranging the nine-patches. 
--Using a walking foot worked really well to hold fabric together and keep patches aligned and feeding smoothly without having to use pins.
--Doing more than one kind of sewing technique (QAYG and chain piecing) held L's interest without overwhelming her.
--L learned a beginning lesson about sewing/quilting to give. She was fine with putting the pillow on her parent's bed (although I think she really hopes they will let her borrow it sometime).

I do have to say, L was unimpressed with pillows as decor. She couldn't understand why Mom didn't sleep on the new pillow. Mom said that Dad definitely agrees with her that pillows for decor are pointless. Ha! I'm sure many of us have heard that opinion. 

It remains to be seen whether L will become a sewist or quilter. Doesn't matter. Just doing this project together was enough. And sew much fun. I left the leftover scraps with her. We'll see if they do their magic. I know she will at least use them in her art work. A maker she is!

What kinds of sewing have you done with Grands or other special kids? Do you have any tips to share or other project ideas?

Have a great weekend, no matter who you are sewing with!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

TBT: Quilts from my Tiny Career

Yeah, I know it's not Thursday anymore, but I've been away doing the best kind of daycare ever!! I wrote this post during naptimes, intending to publish on Thursday, but I had forgotten my log book with details about this month's quilts and couldn't finish it until now. Sandra has kindly extended her timeline for Throwback Thursday on mmm! quilts so I could get it completed. A thousand thank yous to her. I love writing TBT quilt posts and reading about quilts others have in their pre-blogging archives.

A couple of months ago, I shared an audition quilt I made for an interview for a little quilting job I had in the 1980's and early 90's. This week, I'll share some the quilts I worked on during 1985. These quilts were made by Becky Schaefer, who was known in the quilting world at that time for her work on miniature quilts. In fact, when she interviewed me to quilt for her, she was working on a book called Working in Miniature: A Machine Piecing Approach to Minature Quilts. It was published in 1987. I think it might still be available online as a digital book. I have lost contact with her since I stopped quilting for her in 1992, but I think she has since worked in other fiber arts, most recently knitting from recycled/redyed yarns. At the time I quilted for her, she made quilts from antique blocks or reworked blocks as well as bits of antique fabric, all sewn on a Singer Featherweight. Every few months, she would send me a batch of her latest creations (first from California and later from Kentucky), basted and ready to hand quilt. Sometimes she would include quilt pattern stencils or instructions for how she wanted items quilted. Other times she left the design up to me, which was unnerving at first. She also sent me a chalk marking tool that, after all these years, still makes a wonderful line. Amazing!! Some of the quilts were throw size or (much) smaller and many were miniatures like the ones featured in her book. We worked out a payment system that went by the yard of quilting thread used, with bonus pay for marking or making minor repairs. (Sometimes seams popped or little tears appeared in fragile fabrics, and Becky taught me how to repair the tears with super thin fusible material inserted in the damaged area.) 

The quilts from 1985 are a good sampling of the kind of quilts I worked on. I hope you enjoy seeing these little creations. The larger quilts usually had cotton batting and pieces of antique fabric for the backs. The miniatures had light weight polyester batting and usually muslin backs. I used off-white hand quilting thread. I don't know a whole lot about historic fabrics, but a lot of these are from the 1800's, and I think it's fascinating to look at the prints (lots of shirtings) colors (browns, double pinks. turkey reds) and block designs. And just wait until you see the tiny blocks in the miniatures! These are all from scanned pre-digital photos. They came out better than I thought they might. I'll include fronts and backs for documentation purposes, and in some cases, to better show the quilting.

This first one is a variation on Capital T which I referred to as Inverted T in my notes. I think Becky reworked the T blocks (flipping the large half-square triangles, for a more pleasing design. Lots of shirtings. I quilted it with concentric squares, diagonal lines, and straight lines in the borders. I completed it in June 1985. It's 30 by 38 inches. (And for anyone who cares, it took 153 1/2 yards of thread to quilt. I needed to keep track of this detail, as that is how payment for quilting was determined.)

This Pine Tree quilt is a good example of Becky's miniatures. It's only about 11 by 15 inches, with 2 1/2 inch Pine Tree blocks. I loved doing those tiny feathered circles. Miniature quilts usually did not have quilting in the borders. (The quilt was rectangular--just laid out a little wonky here.) I quilted it in June 1985. (5 1/2 yards of thread.)

This cute little Variable Star is 20 inches square. I love these browns and double pink prints from the 1800's. The quilting outlines the star, and there is a ropy cable design in the border. Look at the detail in those tiny cornerstones. One has a slightly different design than the others. I love that creative use out of necessity. I quilted this one in August 1985. (37 1/2 yards.)

The quilting doesn't show much on this back, but what a sweet print.
I love the vibrancy of this one. It's 40 inches square. I did concentric stars in the middle, ditch work on the diamond shapes and grid work in the backgrounds. That is a striped fabric in the border with a vine design in the quilting. My notes indicate that the beautiful applique work was completed by a group of Hmong women in my community. Tiny, tiny stitches. These larger quilts were a real treat because they were unique among the dozens of miniatures I quilted. I'll share other widely varying larger quilts in future posts. I completed the quilting on this one in September 1985. (132 1/2 yards.)

This sampler blew me away. The blocks are 3 inches square. Becky's book has lots of tips and techniques for making these kinds of blocks.  Aren't they incredible? The whole quilt is 14 inches square. I did in-the-ditch quilting to stabilize each block and then tiny grid work in the background. I completed this project in November 1985 but have documentation of quilting three others like it in July 1987. I used approximately 14 yards of thread for each quilt.

Isn't this Rose of Sharon with the sawtooth border sweet? The applique work is exquisite. More grid work on this one. It's 10 by 11 inches. I quilted it in November 1985. (7 1/2 yards of thread.)

Another Variable Star. This one is 10 by 12 inches. I love how some of these very old fabrics look modern (except maybe for the color.) Becky talks about scale of print when working with miniature blocks. It's important to use small prints for such tiny pieces. But even tiny motifs are eye catching when isolated and highlighted in a block. This is another example of outlining the block in the background. Hand quilting through seamlines on these bitty blocks would be difficult, and hard on the seams, which have only 1/8 inch seam allowance (the width of a Singer Featherweight foot). I quilted this one in November 1985. (5 2/3 yards of thread--every snippet of thread counts when you are paid by the yard.)

I also quilted at least 11 of these samplers over the years. They varied slightly in border colors and overall size. Again, outline quilting because of all the seams. I never tire of studying the variety of prints and the fussy cutting. This whole quilt is 11 by 12 inches. (Some were 10 1/2 by 11 1/2 inches.) I finished this one in November 1985. (7 to 8 yards of thread for each of these.)

School houses. Isn't that fussy cut sashing neat? I quilted a number of these in various colors over the years. (I'll show a whole school house collection in a future post.) I did parallel diagonal lines in the backgrounds of the blocks. The quilts were about 8 1/2 by 11 inches. I completed the quilting on these two in November 1985. (3 2/3 yards of thread for each.)

I have lots more quilts that I'll share over the next few months. Quilting for Becky led to other quilting commissions for people she knew. Eventually, I started making and selling my own creations close to home  and did commission work with vintage fabric (much of it from the 1930's) for a woman I met at a craft fair at a local mall. So there are definitely more TBT posts in my future. 

Thanks again to Sandra for keeping the TBT link open on mmm! quilts extra long so I could squeeze this post in before it closed. I've been sewing a lot this past week--with my granddaughter!!! We both had a blast. I'll share what we made in the next post. 

If you have some pre-blogging archives, please share next month. (First Thursdays on Sandra's blog.) Okay, going to link up now. Better late than never. 

(I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products or services, I'm just documenting what I used or liked.) 

Saturday, April 28, 2018


I love yellow. Well, maybe not as a main color, but what it does to other colors, especially in a quilt. So bright and happy. Perfect color for this month as we have been waiting and waiting for spring. This month's RSC18 blocks started with this
as well as a drawer of folded pieces. 

And this is how it ended up, along with those little strings of other RSC colors.

I actually made these almost all at once instead of sprinkling them through the month. We were having some plumbing work done. What started as a simple project kept expanding until I was referring to the plumber as Eldin the Plumber (not to his face) after Eldin the Painter on the old Murphy Brown sitcom. (He had a never-ending painting project going on. I heard that sitcom is coming back. I wonder if Eldin will still be painting.)  Anyway, while the plumbing bill soared, I kept myself busy with strings. The plumber was actually interested, which was kind of nice. Good thing we were paying by the job and not the hour.

I worked harder this time to make sure I didn't have big triangles in the corners. Here's my favorite part of a block: honeycomb and a bee.
Here's the running total. I think I'll still add some strings to some of those bigger triangles on the other colors. 
Doesn't that yellow just pep things up?

Won't be long until we find out the next color. 
I'm linking up this week with Angela at soscrappy for ScrapHappy Saturday

Friday, April 27, 2018

SOC Quilt

 About a year ago, I set aside some fabric for a potential quilt. My starting point was a fat quarter of "focus" fabric I had purchased on a vacation. Here's a scrap. (There was more pink and coral in it than pictured.)

Now why would I buy only a fat quarter of focus fabric? Who knows. I was drawn to the fabric but had nothing in mind to make when I bought it. I pulled other fabrics in the same color families and lined them all up in a bin. Then they sat on a shelf. And sat. And sat. Until a couple of weeks ago when I decided that it was time to make the quilt. I spent some time trying to figure out a plan for a quilt. Each pattern I came up with got more complicated than I wanted. 

Then I got distracted by the need to make a couple of blocks for Quilts for Broncos. These blocks were being collected to make quilts for the families of victims of the terrible bus accident that took the lives of hockey players in Saskatchewan. 


I was so taken with the simplicity of the block and ease (speed!) of construction that I knew it was what I wanted for my quilt. I don't know who designed the block, and I hope that the good people who organized the Quilts for Broncos won't mind that I used the pattern for a different quilt. 

It took me a little while to cut the quilt blocks. 

I had a lot of smallish pieces of fabric and was trying to be frugal. Why? Because I am participating in the RSC (Rainbow Scrap Challenge) this year, and have become a fabric miser. Has this happened to anyone else? Fear of Using up Fabric (FoUuF). I am so afraid that I won't have a good variety of some colors to complete my RSC blocks this year that I don't want to cut into them. This is ridiculous!! The whole point of RSC is to use them up. Seriously, can you relate? So I very carefully cut block parts so that there would be strings left over for my RSCs. And in the end, I had plenty left over. Go figure. It just supports my theory that you never get rid of all of your scraps; you just make them smaller.

And here's another weird thing. After I cut pieces from my little fat quarter of focus fabric and got everything laid out, I hated how the focus fabric looked. It stuck out like a sore thumb, grabbing attention away from the other fabrics. So I took it all out and replaced it with more of my other fabrics. Since then, I've pondered on why that happened. The focus fabric was a strong geometric while all of my other fabrics were blenders. Also, since I only had a fat quarter, I could only sprinkle that fabric over the quilt top and that made it look spotty.

After that finicky cutting, this quilt sewed up in a jiffy. It probably helped that we had a plumber in the house for parts of four days,and there really wasn't anything else to do but sew. 
Pesky breeze and overcast skies, but you take what you can get in early spring.
Basting and quilting went quickly, too. I quilted it all in one afternoon with swoopy sort of flowery designs in the dark squares and meanders in the light areas since they wouldn't show up much anyway. 

And here's the neat thing. By making a pieced strip on the back of the quilt, I was able to use the focus fabric in just the right proportion. To fill out the rest of the back, I visited a nearby fabric shop and limited myself to the (very small) sale section. I found just what I needed in a minty print, and as a bonus, a candy striped (yes, striped!) fabric for the binding. 

See those flowers and butterflies? And the after-wash crinkles?
I like the back so much, I almost wish I had used all gray instead of gray and navy squares on the front, but it's really fine either way.

Just a few more pictures. We have just barely started some spring-like weather, so finding a way to photograph outdoors was a challenge. I first tried some usual shots on the fence, but when I crouched down, the humidity off the grass fogged up my phone and all the shots were hazy. 
Almost hidden signature block

You may be wondering why I called this the SOC quilt. It stands for Stream of Consciousness. Except for the pieces I bought for the back of the quilt and that focus fat quarter, these fabrics are almost all leftovers of previous projects, some quite old. So as I was cutting and sewing, it was kind of like this: "Oh, that's K and C's wedding quilt...there's a piece of J's dress for going to the one-room schoolhouse...those are that bookend fabric line I loved--I can't for the life of me remember what I used those for...there's the back of C's baby quilt...those are the fabrics I used in the perpetual calendar quilt...that was in T's quilt...I used that for those blocks I sent to California...I used that in the quilt for my next door neighbor years ago..." and on and on it went. I'm sure you've been there.

Some stats for this quilt:
Pattern: The block that was requested in the Quilts for Broncos. I scaled mine down from 12 inches finished to 9 inches finished. The back is a variation inspired by the front blocks.
Fabrics: Mostly scraps. The large minty fabric on the back is Sandy's Garden by Sandy Lyman Clough for Red Rooster Fabrics, and the binding is...oops, I don't have enough selvage to know.
Batting: Hobbs Premium Cotton 80/20 
Thread: All Superior: Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; King Tut for quilting--Mint Julep in the top and Temple in the bobbin; Mint Julep for hand sewing on binding. I have gotten a LOT of mileage out of that cone of Mint Julep. So many quilts--and there's still a little left.
Binding: Cut 2 1/2 inches wide and folded in half; 3/8 inch finished ( a little wider on the back). 
Size: Quilt: 45 1/2 by 54 1/2 inches pieced; 44 1/4 by 53 1/2 inches quilted; 42 1/4 by 51  inches after washing.  
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer 115 Treadle for free motion quilting.  

The three best things I learned from this quilt are:

  • Simple blocks can make a great quilt 
  • You don't have to use your focus fabric in the front of the quilt, and 
  • You shouldn't worry so much about "running out" of RSC fabric. 

Two more photos after washing:

I'm planning to donate this quilt to Little Lambs Foundation for the Hands 2 Help Challenge. The prints aren't juvenile, but I think there might be a young child somewhere who would be comforted by a minty, pinky, coral hug.

So I wonder what's next in my quilty life. I don't know yet, but I do know that there are two baby quilts in my future. My niece is expecting a baby girl, and...and... AND...WE ARE EXPECTING ANOTHER GRANDSON!!! (I had to yell that.) Whew, I can finally share that. We just found out the grandSON part last night. Both babies are due in September. Maybe one will be my birthday present?

I'm linking this up today with crazymomquilts for Finish It Up Friday and with Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get A Whoop Whoop. I'm linking up again with Confessions of a Fabric Addict during the week of May 20 for the Hands2Help linky party.

Have a beautiful weekend!