26 January 2012

cathedral windows

This is my favorite project of 2011. A pillow. A cathedral windows pillow. A pillow made with my sister.

My sister came out for a '4 day weekend' - a gift from her husband - over Easter weekend 2011. (She says it was more like a 6 day weekend, but I'm not counting the 2 traveling days.) It was the best 4 days ever. We made projects. Four lovely days of trips to the fabric store, cutting, sewing, changing plans part way through projects, more fabric shopping, ironing, burning fingers on the iron, talking, shopping, a little bit of running, and lots of fun.  We even finished all of the projects we started. (okay, we talked about more projects - but 'talked about projects' don't count.)

I'll have to post the HUGE swim bag she made. But this post is about the cathedral windows pillow. B and I have fallen in love with this pattern. We found a couple of tutorials on-line. Some looked hard, some looked a little less hard, and none of them felt right. Then B found it. A tutorial written by an engineer. 'Charming Windows' tutorial on Moda Bake Shop. Engineers appreciate tutorials written by other engineers.  It tells you where you have to be perfect, and where you can be a little less than perfect - with beautiful results.

We started out with 20 10.5" squares of white fabric and started ironing.  Two hours later, we had squares - and a couple of owie fingers.  (Yes, it really does take 2 hours to fold and iron the squares.  Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with slushies, popcorn, and a girl movie.)

The squares were sewed together - 9 squares per pillow. (We had two extras to choose between.) Now we had to pick the fabric. I had some charm packs of Kate Spain's 'Central Park' and Sanae's 'Arcadia'. We decided to go with 'Arcadia' and picked 12 fabrics.    B is way better at picking fabrics, so I just followed her lead.  Here's B's pillow laid out.

My pillow. 

We traded off pinning fabric in place and sewing.

Full windows are sewn.

1/2 windows added and sewn.

At this point we visited every fabric store and debated what fabric to use for the boarder and backing.  We tried every color combination that we could find that was contained in the fabrics.  Orange, yellow, greens, blues, browns.  Solids and prints.  We disliked all of them and hated a few. :)  Then we tried Kona charcoal.  I have no idea why the charcoal works.  There is no grey/charcoal in the prints.  The charcoal just works. 

The back has a zipper flap.  Tutorial found from 'House on Hill Road' zipper in your pillow tutorial.
It takes careful reading, but it works perfectly!

A beautiful pillow from a pretty perfect weekend.

15 January 2012

quilt for a friend

In October a friend from church called and asked if I'd like some fabric and thread.  She was cleaning out her sewing room and getting rid of all the unfinished projects she'd never finish.  She gave me 3 shopping bags full of denim jeans, flannel, and some fleece.  She mentioned that she was saving the jeans and flannel to make a quilt - but knew she'd never get around to it.  (Uh, busy Mom of 3 kids - she's got a lot on her plate.)

I sorted through it and knew I needed to finish it for her.  I've never made a denim rag quilt, but my sister has made several flannel rag blankets.  With a few tips from her, I got started.

I knew I wanted reasonable size squares - so I choose the size of my square ruler - 6.5".  At first I thought I'd rotary cut everything, but it was easier to trace around the ruler with an ink pen and cut out the fabric.

I picked two fabrics for the back (red check and red plaid) and the rest for the front and the size was dictated by the amount of fabric she gave me. 8 x 13 squares for 104 squares.

I layered denim, cotton batting (cut 1 inch smaller) and flannel.  Sewing the x's was easy using the walking foot and marking a line on my sewing machine with blue painter tape.  I just kept the point of the square lined up with the edge of the tape and the lines turned out really straight. 

Layout just about drove me insane - but that's normal because I like patterns and I don't do random well.  Unfortunately there wasn't enough of each fabric to do stripes, so it had to be random.  It took several evenings of rotating squares before I liked it.

I was aiming for a finish by Christmas, but that wasn't going to happen, so the squares were stacked up and shoved to the side for a January finish.

The first week of January I was motivated to finish this quilt.  My machine chunked right through the thicknesses and I had the rows stitched together in the morning.  A quick break for lunch and it was all sewn together.  But I didn't like the aspect ratio.  If I had 4 more squares, I could move the bottom row to the side and make it 9x12 squares (108).  I found a few more flannel squares, found a pair of old jeans that had a hole in them and made 4 new squares.  I ripped the quilt apart, swapped a few squares, and laid it out again.  My only problem was that I didn't have one more red plaid square for the back so the pattern would be interrupted.  Ack!  But I liked the aspect ratio better so I decided to live with it and had a finished quilt that afternoon.

I waited until Friday (and a good movie) to 'cut' the fringe on every square.  Ouch is the only word for it.  2 layers of denim + flannel is thick.  And the seams where there were 4 layers of denim was insane.  I tried every pair of scissors that I own - the fiskars with the spring worked the best, but it was still a long and painful process. 

After everything was cut, I flipped over to the back and on a whim counted the red check and red plaid squares.  And realized that if I had just added the column to the opposite side, the pattern would have completely worked out.  So I ripped the column off, swapped squares again, and sewed it back on.  I really don't recommend sewing after you've cut the 'fringe', but I knew I'd regret if if I didn't.  (if it's worth doing ... it's worth doing right.  Ugh.  Stupid engineering brain.)

A trip through the washer and dryer and it was done.  (I ran the dryer in 20 minute increments to clean out the lint filter.  I was amazed at how much lint this quilt generated.)

I think it looks pretty great.   (Home Depot spring clams work great to attach quilts to fences!)

I delivered it on Saturday 7 January (only a little after my goal date of Christmas) and my friend loves it - and was surprised.  Yea!
Size: 49.5" x 66".  Big enough to snuggle under while watching tv yet small enough to not feel like you are being smothered.  This quilt is heavy!

08 January 2012

M's quilt - double hourglass

Back in time to last winter. This is my niece M's quilt (my brother's 4th). Her oldest sibling insisted all along that the baby was a girl, so in August 2010 when I found and fell in love with 'Frolic' by Sandy Gervais, I bought it. (He was six at the time, but he hasn't been wrong yet!)

I wanted some type of hourglass pattern - similar to 'cluck cluck sews' double hourglass, but I only had two charm packs. 'Schnibbles Times Two' to the rescue.

October came and came and came and finally she was here. A girl! Yea! (She was late and came on her time table which is pretty much indicative of her personality.) Work could begin on the quilt.

Cutting was simple ... and luckily I had 'un-finished project night' with friends to pin all of the squares together before sewing.

The trimming wasn't bad - thanks to a triangle ruler and DVD of Bones. But sorting and matching the fabric back together drove me nuts. It's amazing how 2.5" squares of a fabric can look so different.

I got this far and started laying them out. I love the double hourglasses ... but I thought the quilt looked really busy. Enter sashing!

I bought this turquoise swirly fabric for the back ... but thought I could use it as sashing to break it up.
It's okay. But nothing great.

At this point it was Christmas 2010. I had a gazillion sewing projects and had to narrow it down to what was necessary and what could wait. Christmas gift pj's - necessary. Quilt for niece K born in July 2010 - necessary. Tote bags as gifts - maybe necessary. Quilt for M - bottom of the 'must be done by christmas' list.

I took the fabric home with me - just in case - and finished piecing the double hourglass blocks over the break. After finishing and quilting the dragon fly quilt, my sister and I would lay these out on the floor in different configurations and try to like it. We grouped them by 4's, we grouped them alone, we grouped by 2's, we tried different fabrics for sashing, we tried tilting them on point, we tried and tried and tried. We went through dozens of rejections before Mom tossed us a piece of light turquoise fabric from her stash and told us to try it. I liked it. I liked it a lot. Grouped by 9's, I loved it. But the fabric was really thin. The color was great, but the fabric wrong.

I wanted Kona cotton and visited every fabric store in northern Colorado - and none of them had what I wanted. Next option, maybe one of them had a Kona cotton color card I could look at to determine what color 'a light blue-y turqoise' was and then I'd order the fabric on line. Nope. No one had it. (One shop even informed me that "serious quilters did not use solids". Uh, I don't think so ... but if that's what you think, okay.)

On-line guess work shopping it was. I went to all sorts of fabric sites and looked at every Kona cotton 'turquoise blue-y/light blue' Kona cotton I could find. And 'mint'. Because I had 'mint' fabric. I held up the mint fabric to the monitor, tried to judge how they looked different and then apply it to the blue-y. Not real scientific, but it was the best I could do. I finally just took a gamble and ordered 'aqua'. (It was a tough choice between aqua and robin blue, but I finally choose aqua.) It came and was perfect. Yea for guessing!

I laid them out, double and triple checked rotations, added the aqua sashing and put it on the frames on February 6, 2010. (uh, the photo was date stamped.)

I just quilted the 'squares' and I looked great. It was finished, bound, and gifted by the middle of March. M was almost 6 months old, which to me is the perfect time to be given a quilt. (And I was thrilled I got it done less than a year after she was born.)

Two weeks later a very helpful 5 year old niece pointed out two blocks that are not rotated correctly. Look at the top. There are two that are not rotated correctly.

Here they are pointed out in case you can't find them:
Ugh. And once it was pointed out, that's what I noticed ... so it had to be fixed. I made a goof on A's quilt (her older brother) and to this day it bugs me when I see it. (yes, I am an engineer.) This mistake had to be fixed.

I took the quilt back, ripped out the hand quilting, opened the binding, fixed those two blocks, re-stretched it out on the quilt frames, quilt, and finish it while listening to April General Conference.

Finished size: ~45"x45".

06 January 2012

Seeing Squares - C's quilt

In August my 5 year old nephew informed me (very sadly) that he did not have a quilt on his bed like his sister. I tried to palm it off to Grandma, who made his sister's, and got the response "but she's on a mission". What my adorable nephew didn't know is that I had already been looking on-line for a pattern and had found one that I liked and thought would work. Seeing Squares by Empty Bobbin. C's favorite color is orange, I thought that the quilt looked 'boyish', and I thought the pattern would 'grow with him'. Win!

Fabric was ordered in May - Kona Cotton in lagoon, bahama blue, cyan, caribbean, orange, papaya, cactus, chartreuse, lime, and ash. (Just like the picture except for the ash substituted for white.)

I finally started working on it in November. The cutting, sewing, iron, trimming cycle just about drove me nuts ... but I love the results.

Here's the first layout I did (the top row of squares are for the back).

I changed a few things and added one more 6.5" column after this picture was taken.

It was finished in time to take home at Christmas to get Mom and my sister to help with the hand quilting. There was some debate as to what to quilt - but after doing a couple of squares, we realized we needed to quilt around every single square.

The quilt was put on Saturday afternoon and that night, one long side was rolled. It was moved out of the way for Christmas and brought back Monday morning. Tuesday afternoon it was done. (2 1/2 days!) There were lots of sore fingers (thank goodness for liquid band-aid!).

Binding was sewed on the back and hand sewed to the front. We were all tired of being stabbed by pins when Dad remembered a 'cup of clamps' he bought. 5/8" in size and _perfect_ for holding on binding while being hand sewed. (They really should market these to quilters!)



Quilting through the squares on the pieced back was miserable - but it looks wonderful ... and I might even do it again.

Finished size: 66" x 90", quilted with grey thread.

And for those who need to know how many squares it contains (like my nephew) - 1080.


This was supposed to be a record of what I'm working on. But it's a new year and I've got a back log of projects I'd like to remember. Now to just start posting again.