Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy Memorial Day!

I'd like to take a moment to say thank you to all of our troops and service men and women who have given their time, talents, and in some cases their lives to keep this country a safe place for me and my family to live peacefully. In truth, they are the ones that give me the freedom to craft and quilt and create to my heart's desire, so I could not do any of this without the security they provide us all. So, thank you.

Since their sacrifice also gives me an extra day off work I am putting my time to good use and have a goal of finishing the rest of the Super Mario Quilt characters. I have 7 more to do, which means approximately 35 hours of sewing this weekend, plus ironing time, plus blogging time - probably about 40ish hours in the craft room. I'm also going wedding dress shopping with my friend Heidi this afternoon and going to a 2nd birthday party for my husband's cousin's kid - is that a second cousin? cousin once removed? second cousin once removed? Any way you look at it, it's a family birthday party and it has a Dora the Explorer theme, so there will be lots of tasty Mexican food! We're looking forward to it, and I'm looking forward to meeting my goal! Stay tuned for pictures of success or failure either way! :)

Characters I have left to make:
Koopa Troopa (turtle guy)
Laikitu Bro (green and yellow guy looking over the cloud)
Goomba's Shoe (green sock thing)
Goomba (brown and white guy)
Spiny Shell (orange and red spiky turtle shell guy)
Buzzy Beetle (black and brown shell guy toward the bottom left)
Buster Beetle - this one is not represented on the grid since we switched it for the plain green shell

Happy crafting!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bunny Baby Blanket

I just finished what I think is the cutest baby quilt I've ever made. The top is made out of large squares of blue fabric with little animals printed on it (it has more than just bunnies, but the bunnies are my also includes owls, ducks and mice) and 4-patch squares out of green and yellow flannel for the other blocks.

I was a little hesitant when I started cutting these blocks. I'm so happy I measured twice and cut once! I almost cut the 4-patch squares a 1/4 inch too small (I wasn't counting the extra seam!). So, I'm happy that my brain was telling me that something wasn't quite right with my math and made me calculate again. Too bad that skill didn't kick in in calculus class years ago! :)

The other thing I didn't really plan out was how many squares I would be able to cut out of each fabric. I bought all of the fabric for the top as a fat quarter pack from JoAnn Fabrics. Now, I love JoAnn's, but I've never really gotten great cuts from these pre-made packages. Somehow, I've been blessed enough to make it work each time I've used one. After cutting all of the 5 inch blue squares and 2 3/4 inch yellow and green squares, I realized that I had the exact amount of blue squares that I needed and would have one extra 4-patch. Talk about lucky! The fabric pack came with 5 fabrics, so i decided to use the blue gingham ducky print as a border. That also just barely made it around. I think I have 1 piece of that fabric (about 1 inch x 2 1/2 inches) left. I cut the border strip to 2 1/2 inches wide so it would be 2 inches finished.

For the backing, I made my first ever pieced back! I had some blue and yellow zoo animal prints left over from a baby quilt I made for my godson about 4 years ago. (I can't believe he's 3 already!) I cut big 8 inch squares out of a blue giraffe print and a yellow elephant print. I sewed those together and strung them down the center of the back. Then, I had just enough plain blue and yellow busy print to make the sides of the back. It took a little patience to get it all together, but I love the feel of it. The whole quilt is super soft with all of the flannel and will be really warm and cuddly. I love that there are different categories of animals depending on which side of the quilt you're looking at. I also like that the back is pieced, so if the baby pukes (or does anything else) on the front, you can flip it over and the back will still look cute. :)

My mother-in-law told me that babies really like the feel of satin as well. She said one of her kids loved the satin edge on his baby blanket. After I thought about it, I remembered having a clown blanket that had a red satin edging that I always wanted on my bed. I loved how it felt tucked up under my chin when I was little. So, I figured I'd give it a try on the baby quilt. I really wanted to use 2 inch ribbon, but I could only find 1 1/2 inch or 3 inch ribbon at JoAnn's. So, I decided I would make the 1 1/2 inch ribbon work. I didn't want a huge edge, just enough to be a silky finish. I think it turned out nicely, and the 3 yards of ribbon that came on the spool were just enough! (Again, I should have measured that before I left to go pick up just one spool of ribbon! I'll have to get my act together for the next quilt... maybe...)

For the quilting, I just did a simple diamond pattern through the 4-patch squares. I think it will give the quilt a puffy, soft feel. I was debating between doing a circular doodle all over the quilt, but I compromised and did the diamond pattern and added a loop-de-loop in the border to finish it off. I love my free motion quilting foot!

I'm glad I don't have kids yet, because if I did this quilt would be staying home with me and I'd have to find a replacement gift! Someday my kids will have something this cute. Until then, I'll just give them away to other people. This quilt is for my coworker. He is having his first baby (a boy!) this summer and their baby shower is tomorrow. He is what I would consider a man's man - very in to strong, burly, tough things. So, I wanted something soft for the baby since I think he'll be playing with power tools by the time he's able to hold his head up. :)

Happy crafting!

May Finishes

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quilt Retreat

I should have posted on this a while ago, but I've been too busy quilting! My mother and I went to a Mother's Day Quilt Retreat in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. It was hosted by Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts. We had soooo much fun!

I've never FMQ'd before, so it was a real treat to get tips from all of the wonderful women who attended the retreat. There were 11 of us total, so it was a smaller group and we all had a lot of fun together. We started off with a show and tell portion of the weekend where I got to show off my unfinished Mario quilt. The real treat though was seeing all of the fantastic quilts made by all of the other women. Their creativity astounds me! Even my mom had an awesome quilt that I didn't even know she'd made! I've really been inspired to step out of my comfort zone of squares and 9-patch quilts. Maybe someday I'll branch out. (My next quilt will be a baby quilt with a 4 patch pattern... old habits die hard!)

So, at the retreat we were taught how to use our walking foot and our free motion/darning foot. I think they will both be permanent residents on my sewing machine. I used to use my zig-zag presser foot for everything, but now I think I'm going to use my walking foot. I just love the way the fabric glides through the machine! :)

So, without further ado - here's the quilting that I did on my favorite blocks:

I used to draw this heart doodle all the time in high school. I never knew it would really come in handy!

I really liked the look of the stars and loops, so I copied it from a handout Amanda Jean gave us at the retreat.
I liked my pebbles so much I took a picture of both the black and the white sides of the quilt.

And, then here is a picture of the flowers I made. I wanted them to look really sketchy, so I think they turned out the way I wanted them to. :)

And, here's the entire quilt:

We used a quilt-as-you-go method which I think I'll use again and again. It was much easier than I thought it was going to be, so I'm really glad I went on the retreat to learn something new. My quilt is going to be our picnic/4th of July fireworks quilt. I can't want to show it off this summer! But, I think this method of piecing would make a great picnic blanket and also throw quilt. It was a lot of hand stitching, but now that it's all done, I really love it. So - thanks to all of the women who came to the retreat to make it such a blast! I'm looking forward to seeing all of your finished quilts soon! Happy crafting!

May Finishes

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I definitely married into the right family!

It had to have been fate or divine intervention that I was blessed with such great in-laws!

My side of the family is pretty resourceful when it comes to handmade items. My mother used to make doll furniture and many other things with lumber. She also quilted, made us clothes as kids, and was/is a tremendous baker. She, of course, passed all of her craftiness on to my sister and I (and even my brother has a touch - more on the woodworking and car repair side) so we continue to make lots of handmade items.

When I met my husband, I had no idea I would join another crafty family! His Aunt Sherie cans anything and gave us an awesome chili sauce. His Aunt Debbie is a scrapbooking queen and makes the best cards. His mother Tammy taught me how to knit. And, his Aunt Sue just passed on to me everything that you'll see below. She's also a great knitter and sewer and cook. This group of sisters even made their own family cookbook (which I love!).

So, I went to Aunt Sue's house tonight and came home with a HUGE stash of fabric. She gave me some really special pieces, including quilt blocks that her grandmother had sewn together from the girls' old clothes. She even gave me this little sewing suitcase of her grandmothers. (I haven't figured out how to get it open again yet, but I will some day - inside there are a bunch of completed blocks for a quilt Sue was making for one of her nieces. All I need to do is assemble it!)

Here's a pic of about 1/3 of the things she gave me:

The teal fabric on the left is all coordinating prints and solids for a quilt. She spent lots of time trying to find every color in the very back fabric so they could all coordinate. I love these colors (teal is my favorite!), so I'm really excited to do something with these fabrics!

Here's some closeups of the fabrics that really stood out to me as some of my favorites:

First I saw these...

Then I saw this one...

And then I fell in love with this one...

Check out these quilt tops Aunt Sue already has put together. There are 3 small tops pretty much all done - some just need borders. She did a fantastic job on all of the applique work - something I've never had the guts to try. She had planned for this one (in the close up picture below) to be a present for her sister Sherie. She also gave me the buttons that are supposed to go in the center of the flowers. They are hand made clay buttons that will really add a nice touch to the quilt. I'm excited to finish this project for her so she can give it to her sister. It must have taken a long time to do all of the applique and the piecing.

 Along with all of this, she also gave me batting for baby quilts/changing blankets, about a dozen quilting pattern books, and even more fabric (some bright colors that I'm going to save for a very special quilt project!). 

As if that wasn't enough, she let me borrow her quilting sewing machine! That's right - the tag says BERNINA! 
I've never sewn on a machine this nice before. My husband did just buy me a great Janome machine that I LOVE (thanks hon!!!). My Janome has the perfect amount of bells and whistles for me. It was the best birthday present and I've had a wonderful time sewing with it so far. I know I'm going to use my Janome for a long time to come.  What's great about this Bernina machine though, is that it's specifically made for quilting. It's waaaay more high-tech than anything that I would ever need to have, but it's going to be a real treat to try some new stitches and patterns with it! Not to mention that Aunt Sue also gave me the table that the machine sits in and all of the attachments, sewing feet, etc. It's going to be hard to get me out of my sewing room now!!

So, this weekend my mother and I are going to a quilt retreat in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. (What better way to celebrate Mother's Day???) So, I'm really excited to learn some FMQ techniques so I can put all of my new toys and fabric to good use! It's going to be a great summer! Happy Quilting!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Design Wall

I love having a design wall! Why didn't I put something up before now!?! I've really been meaning to get something up for a while now, but for some reason I never got around to it. Finally, while I was going through my tiny fabric stash, I came across some old brown flannel I used for a baby quilt for my godson Avrey. 

The brown looked much cuter in the quilt than it does on my wall. Actually, here's a picture of the quilt I made a little over 3 years ago. I tied it with dark brown yarn instead of any top quilting and the blue and yellow flannel prints have cartoon zoo animals on them. I really had nothing else to use this fabric for, so I'm really happy it works up on my blank craft room wall! Now it actually looks like a craft room! (I just need to get it a little more organized...)

I was actually a bit skeptical that any fabric would stick to the flannel. I gave it a test run on a few pieces, decided it would work, and stuck it to the wall with thumb tacks. It's not as wide as I would like it to be, but I think it works for now. 

I laid out some more of the scraps from the Super Mario quilt into some granny squares. I really want to make one of those quilts, but I don't know if I really like these colors with a gray and black center. Part of me thinks I should just have each type of fabric make up the whole block instead of having an outer ring and the darker center. Or maybe it should be more white in the center instead of gray? I'll have to do some playing around with it. The more I look at the way I have them laid out now, the more they grow on me. I think I might just leave them as is. Oh, decisions, decisions!

The real test will be whether or not my cats will leave this alone on the wall. My guess is no, since they already try to swat at picture frames, nails, lamps and anything else around the house. I'll just have to leave the door to this room shut so they leave it alone. Poor cats - all of this crafty stuff lying around and they're not supposed to get into any of it. What a cruel world they live in. Anyway, I'm sure you'll be seeing more of this design wall as I get used to it and as I play around with my granny squares idea. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can come up with! Happy quilting!
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