Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Stash That Keeps On Giving

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I had a pretty good size pile of remnants and scraps left over when I finished the latest Wonky Log Cabin quilt. The technique of building wonky log cabin blocks can also be applied to building a larger piece of fabric which is then cut using a pattern to make something else. I've used the technique to make everything from scrappy holiday oven mitts to bags.
Wonky Crisscrossed Bag

Basically you start in the center and just continue to add on strips of fabric until you have a piece large enough for whatever you want to cut out. For this project I built up about a half yard of the aqua colorway and another of the lime. For the lining I had pieces that were large enough to cut out of whole cloth, which is probably a good idea. I’m not sure how well a pieced lining would hold up with sharp items like pens and keys going in and out.
If you want to try something similar with your leftovers, the pattern for my crisscrossed bag can be found here.
Conventional Crisscrossed Bag
The downside of buying 11 yards of fabric because you love the entire line is that I’m still left with all of this.

I’m thinking about making some wonky pillow shams!

Monday, January 28, 2013

My Cotton Bole Quilt

Was it seriously September 11, 2012 when I posted this picture on Facebook with a promise to have the pattern together in “a couple of weeks”? Indeed it was and despite the fact that I don’t enjoy writing up the patterns for the pieces I design, I have to admit that is a bit ridiculous. Nevertheless it is finally here.
I do love this quilt which I find fresh and modern even though it’s based on a very traditional block. I call this my Wonky Log Cabin because the strips are all different widths and it doesn’t hold to the light on top and dark on the bottom pattern for a traditional Log Cabin block.
I also call it my Cotton Bole Quilt because for the life of me I can’t think of anything other than big old cotton boles ready to be picked when I look at the focus print I used for the center blocks and the backing.
Much like this earlier quilt, which I wrote about here, it was made as a quilt-as-you-go project, which makes it ideal for hand quilting on road trips or while attending those tedious community meetings. Did I say that out loud? With quilt-as-you-go, you quilt all of the blocks separately and then join them together For the earlier quilt I did, in fact, do all of the quilting by hand – mostly while sitting on the beach watching my husband learn all about surf fishing. This newer Cotton Bole quilt was in fact machine quilted and I can’t tell you what a joy it is to machine quilt on a block that is only 12 ½ inches square.
I really like the wonky log cabin technique for using up leftover fabric too. With the fabric I had left from this quilt, I made a crisscrossed bag which I will hopefully get photographed and show you soon.

Do you ever start a project thinking it will be a gift for someone and then find that your family has appropriated it before you can give it away? Such is the case with this little gem. Well I guess being able to claim your work is all done in a pet-free environment is overrated anyway.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Paper Pieced Ornaments

Am I crazy to be thinking about Christmas ornaments in January? Considering how this project is progressing, I might be.
This past year I worked on a block of the month club with Amy Gibson and one of our blocks was paper pieced. That’s not English paper pieced which is a whole different thing resulting in the hex quilt I was talking about earlier this week.
For paper piecing, you start out with a square of paper that might look something like this
Following the instructions, fabric is sewn directly onto the paper using the lines to indicate where seams go. Four of these pieces are then sewn together ending up with something that might look like this.
At least that’s what my twelve inch finished block looked like for the quilt.
All good so far. The problem started when I decided to take the designs I had come up with for a tree,
a star,

and a bow,
and make them all three inches square.
The tree wasn't all that bad if you can ignore the sloppy top stitching. But it took over two hours to sew one and I didn't think repetition was going to knock off much time.

Then I tried the star. Disaster.
I didn’t even bother to finish the star. Granted I could have managed the seams better, but with these designs and sizing, I’m always going to be trying to manage too many tiny little seams that are on top of each other.
No wonder I never liked making doll clothes.
So I’m going back to the drawing board. I think I might even need to study up on paper piecing tips and tricks. I’m sure someone has solved this problem before. Probably more than a few times.
I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Memory Quilts

I've been thinking about the idea of memory quilts lately. A friend told me a story about a quilt the kids in her family used when one of them was sick and grandma watched them. There were stories about all the different pieces of fabric in the quilt. I imagined stories about a dress made to wear to a special dance, and new curtains for the kitchen of a house the family doesn't live in anymore.

As I skip around the internet and look at other memory quilts, I find many with photographs printed onto fabric. Others are made of Grandma’s dresses, Dad’s ties, or hubby’s old band t-shirt collection. In one example a Mom took all of the baby clothes, blankets, etc. that were too precious (or stained) to pass on. She cut four inch squares out of these and stitched them together to make the sweetest memory quilt of her first child’s first year. What a treasure.

For my memory quilt I decided to sort my scraps into nine colors (black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) and to further sort them into dark, bright, and light (just like Mom taught me to sort laundry). That makes for one bright quilt top. I’m about half way through the brights.

Sadly, I’m taking an enforced hiatus from this project since the tendon in my shoulder is acting up and aggravated by hand stitching, but I hope to get back to it in a couple of months. It has little bits and pieces of almost all of the sewing and quilting projects I've attempted in the past ten years. That’s how long it has been since I picked up needle and thread again after a decades long break.

Since then I've made table linens and bags for family and friends as well as quilts for all their babies. The quilts for the little ones have been used from the nursery to the floor as play mats, and I have tried to make them big and sturdy enough to fit as the coverlet on a toddler bed to get a few more years use. I like to imagine that one day these same children will visit Aunt Kay and seeing my quilt with over 2,000 tiny hexagrams exclaim, “I have a quilt with that material!” Then I can tell some stories. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Blocks, Blocks, Blocks

During 2012 I participated in Amy Gibson’s Block of the Month Club on Craftsy, and I might have mentioned that I don’t usually like these types of projects because I prefer to design my own quilts, rather than make someone else’s design. However, as I worked on the quilt through the year I discovered something about myself.

While I did learn a couple of new techniques last year and found that rewarding, the best part was the camaraderie of my fellow students. For me fiber art is a very solitary pursuit. I don’t have many friends who share these interests, and none who don’t have a full time job doing something else. In the online community others are working on the same project but giving it their own twist, and offering advice and feedback. Sometimes I even experienced the gratification of receiving a “like” from a student whose work I admire. These all kept me interested and challenged. So surprise, surprise, I’ve signed up for the Craftsy 2013 Block of the Month with Laura Nownes. And I’ve also signed up for Amy Gibson’s Sugar Block Club – a new block and a new recipe every month – what fun. 
2013 Sugar Block Club
Now for the big challenge – fabric selection. Do you audition every piece of material in your stash when you are starting a new project and then go out and buy something new anyway? For these two quilts I did a bit of both. For the Laura Nownes quilt I decided to follow her lead up to a point.
Since Laura has shown us her finished quilt, there isn’t much mystery about what we will be making. That does make fabric selection easier (it also makes it easier for those of us with some experience and a bit of impatience to jump ahead).
She chose Robert Kaufman’s “Spot On” and “Metro Living” lines and while I loved the polka dots, I found her finished quilt just a bit too busy and my eye just couldn't find a place to rest. I think part of this is the design, which may require a bit of rework for my taste. Adding in the number of colors – this quilt is a real ROYGBIV sampler – and it’s just too much. I chose just greens, red/orange, and grey/black prints from “Spot On”, and will probably use more white and gray where she used pinks and blues. I may have to skip that flower basket too, but that's just me.
Now you may think I’m crazy, but for the Sugar Block Club I went a different direction from Amy Gibson. Amy hasn't revealed the finished design, so all we know is that the blocks will be modern interpretations of traditional designs and that Amy is using Westminster Fiber’s Free Spirit Solids in bold colors.

I like the idea of solids but thought I might like something a bit more subtle since I'm working on something quite bright in the other BOM club. At first I though of all of those Kaffe Fasset shot cottons I've been saving to use for a quilt?
I do love these fabrics, but truth be told the fabric is lightweight and stretchy, and even with a lot of starch will be difficult to work with. Besides I have this idea for circles…
Since I do have a ridiculously large stash of Robert  Kaufman Kona Solids in all the colors of the rainbow, I auditioned colors in many colorways and combinations. What I ended up with may surprise you. I've always wanted to try a really neutral quilt with subtle variations on brown, tan, and gray. So here is my selection.

It’s a rainy gray day here in Atlanta so the indoor photography may not give true color fidelity, but the variation in colors really is quite subtle in natural light. Will it work with Amy’s blocks? Hard to say. I might have to add additional blocks, sashing, and borders to make it work in the way I want, but at any rate I’m committed. Here is my first block.

And here is the first Craftsy block too. We were instructed to make four of these 6 ½ inch log cabin blocks, but I made eight while I was at it. I suspect as I change things up in the pattern I will find a place to use them. If not, four of them sewn together will make an cute pillow front.

I can’t wait to see what happens in February.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Post-Holiday Catch Up

It seems I've been so busy preparing for, celebrating, and dismantling the holidays that I've forgotten to blog about it. Lest you think I'm a total been slacker, here are a few of the things I've been up to since Thanksgiving.
Back in the spring of 2012 I mentioned that I was taking Amy Gibson’s Block of the Month class on Craftsy.  Well in due course I finished the quilt. Because I chose holiday colors (if not necessarily holiday themed fabric) it seemed essential that I get it finished and hung before our annual holiday party on December 15th. I made it with a few days to spare and even managed to get our tree up and decorated to show it off. In hindsight I wish I had used a bit less aqua in the background and more white, but all in all I liked it well enough.
Speaking of that party, I also always make ornaments for our guests to take home as party favors. In October I had the opportunity to meet Natalie Chanin, (please watch the video at this link). Natalie is the founder and head designer at Alabama Chanin, and I talked with her about her work. I was wowed by this phenomenally talented entrepreneur, designer and author. After looking at her current collection of handmade apparel, I knew I had found my inspiration for this year’s ornament. Like her apparel line these ornaments are all hand stitched and embellished with simple monochromatic designs. Most of the techniques can be found in her book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.  The ornament shown at left is just one example. I always ensure that each of my ornaments is bit different. Some of the ones for this year included embroidery, beads and a variety of embellishments.
I wish I had some good pictures of the party to share but the truth is that I cook for a week straight to get ready for the party and by the evening of I just want to relax, drink a few glasses of wine and talk with friends. Somehow I never remember to pick up the camera. I did have good pictures of the ornament I made last year. Remember these? I leveraged that one for the invitation this year.
One final holiday sewing project to consider for next year – or any time of year depending on your fabric – is holiday tissue box covers. We keep tissue boxes all over the house since I have allergies and I’m also prone to boohooing over everything from true tragedy to cute commercials on TV. In past years I've found cute holiday themed boxes to scatter about, but this year nada. My solution? I made some covers to go over a standard Kleenex Ultra Soft tissue box. This is a really simple project and you should be able to make one cover out of a fat quarter or regular ¼ yard cut left from another project. Just follow these instructions.

Find an empty tissue box and take it apart.
Cut out two pieces of fabric that are 5 x 5 inches for the top and four pieces that are 5 x 6 for the sides.
Fuse a piece of heavy weight interfacing to the back of all four side pieces and one of the top pieces.
On the reverse side of one top piece of fabric trace the opening from the cardboard box top.
Place your two top pieces with right sides together and stitch around the line you have made.
Trim away the material in the center of the oval opening leaving about a ¼ inch seam allowance.
Clip the curves on the oval and turn and press the fabric so that right sides are now out.
Stitch the side pieces – one to each side of the top – and press these seams away from the top of the cover.
Turn the cover inside out and stitch down the side seams making sure to back-stitch at the top and bottom of each seam. These are pressure points so you want to make sure the stitches won’t pull out.
Turn up the base of the cover toward the inside to make the cover approximately 5 ½ inches tall – measure with your tissue box to ensure it fully covers the cardboard. Stitch around the base to hold the fold in place.
That’s all there is to it, and now that you know how to do this with this particular box, you can see how easy it would be to do with any size box of tissue, just measure your box, make sure to add sufficient fabric to leave seam allowances and use the box top as a template.
Now about those toilet paper covers…