Thursday, February 28, 2013

Leaf Block Tutorial

Hello everyone! I had a request for a tutorial on my leaf block, so here it is. This is going to be a long post with lots of pictures, but hopefully I won't bore you too much. :)

Here's what you'll need for fabric:

  • background fabric (patterned brown in this tutorial)
  • light color fabric for leaf pattern (light orange in this tutorial)
  • medium color fabric for leaf pattern (dark orange in this tutorial)
  • dark color fabric for leaf pattern (maroon in this tutorial)
  • solid brown fabric for leaf stem
Here's what you should cut:
  • (4) 3.5 inch squares from the background fabric
  • (2) 3.5 inch by 3.25 inch pieces from the background fabric
  • (6) 2 3/8 inch (2.375) squares from the background fabric
  • (8) 2 inch squares from the background fabric
  • (1) 3.5 inch by 1 inch piece for the brown stem
  • (3) 2 3/8 inch (2.375) squares from the light leaf fabric
  • (1) 2 inch by 3.5 inch piece from the light leaf fabric
  • (4) 2 3/8 inch (2.375) squares from the medium leaf fabric
  • (2) 2 inch squares from the medium leaf fabric
  • (1) 2 inch by 6.5 inch piece from the medium leaf fabric
  • (5) 2 3/8 inch (2.375) squares from the dark leaf fabric
  • (2) 2 inch squares from the dark leaf fabric
  • (1) 2 inch by 6.5 inch piece from the dark leaf fabric
Step 1: Make the half-square triangles

Using the 45 degree angle mark on your cutting mat, mark a diagonal line across the back of the squares that measure 2.375 x 2.375 inches. If you want to save some time, you don't need to mark them all. You'll need to mark all of the light leaf squares and 3 each of the medium and dark leaf squares.

Once these are marked you'll want to pair them in the following ways:

  • (3) background squares with marked dark leaf fabric squares
  • (2) dark leaf fabric squares with marked medium leaf fabric squares
  • (2) background squares with marked light leaf fabric squares
  • (1) background square with marked medium leaf fabric square
  • (1) medium leaf square with marked light leaf square
You should have 9 pairs, and make sure one of each pair has been marked with the diagonal line. Facing right sides together, sew 1/4 inch on either side of the line you drew. I chain stitch mine together to make it go a little quicker. 

Once you have these sewn together you'll want to cut them apart and then cut each pair along the diagonal line you marked. 

Iron these new squares open. I usually press them so that the seam falls onto the darker fabric. Once they are all ironed you'll want to square them up to 2 inches. Make sure you get rid of the little corner tails.

Sometimes I skip squaring up these little blocks. I always trim off the corner tails, but usually the squares aren't too far off to really make a difference in the block. I did square them all up for this tutorial and only had a couple that really needed a full trimming. You'll know if you should trim your blocks. I'm guessing the more experienced quilters will have more accurate seams. Use your own judgement and when it doubt - square them up. This is the step that takes the longest amount of time.

Step 2: Lay out your pieces

This looks a little funny because they are all different sizes. I like to lay out the pieces so that I know all of the half-square triangle pieces are facing the right way.

Step 3: Sew the top of the leaf

Since the top part of the block has a lot of pieces of different sizes, you'll need to sew together the light leaf colored pieces first. Sew these into rows and then press the seams for each row in opposite directions (top row to the left, bottom row to the right). 
Then, you'll want to sew the top row to the bottom row. Pressing the seams for the rows in opposite directions will help them nestle together and allow for better corners and less bulk. I usually pin the seams before I sew the rows together.
Once these rows are joined, press the sewn piece flat.

Step 4: Sew the pieces of the block into rows

I usually sew my rows together from left to right, but it really doesn't matter how you do it. Just make sure to use accurate 1/4 inch seams and try to get your points to turn out. You'll see that a couple of mine aren't perfect, but I'm not sweating it. The more accurate you are with making your half-square triangles the easier time you'll have of making your points turn out right. When my whole quilt is put together, no one will notice a couple points being an 1/8th of an inch or less off (I did pick out a few stitches though, so have your seam ripper handy!).

Once you have all of the rows assembled, you should press these flat. Again, I press the rows in alternating directions to help the seams line up in the next step.

Step 5: Sew the rows of the block together

With this step, I usually sew the block together from top to bottom, but you can do it however you choose. I also pin the seams so that I know they are going to turn out. It takes a little longer to do all of that pinning, but it makes the block turn out more accurately.

Once you have all of the rows joined, press your block so that it lays flat

Step 6: Square up your block

Using a cutting mat and a cutting ruler, square up your block to 12.5 inches. Then, stand back and be proud of the leaf block you just made!!

Things to keep in mind - you could cute the background fabric pieces for the last row of the block into larger pieces so you wouldn't have to cut as many squares. The measurements would be 3.5 inches by 6.25 inches for each piece on either side of the stem. Also, if you like making flying geese pieces, you could do that instead of some of the half-square triangles. Feel free to play around with it and make it a block that works for you! :) If you put one of these together, I'd love to see what you come up with! Thanks for stopping by everyone, and happy quilting!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Weightless Wednesday

Hi everyone! I hope you all are having a great Wednesday. We got more snow last night, so I'm not looking forward to the little drive to work. Our car tires aren't very good and it's pretty windy and slick out there.

I want to start a weekly post to help keep me accountable with my work out schedule and goals. My husband and I joined a local gym a couple weeks ago and we've really liked going so far. We have had a few days where we didn't quite get to the gym - mainly on the weekends. But, so far we are still going in the right direction.

Here's a before picture of me when I wasn't working out at all and let myself balloon out. At my heaviest I was probably up to 180 pounds. Not where I want to be at all! I had to wear my baggy shorts and baggy tank top on this trip, and I wasn't comfortable at all.

So, now we've been trying to go to the gym every day after I'm done with work. My husband really likes swimming. He was on his community swim team growing up so he's very natural in the water. Me? Not so much. I did swim lessons when I was in 8th grade and it was very embarrassing and painful. I never really liked swimming and it's carrying over. He's been helping me a lot with my strokes and speed and I'm not the best student. I get kind of cranky when he's giving me tips, so I need to be a lot better with that. My mother-in-law did give us some new goggles and gave me a hair cap. I've never used one of those before and it felt like I had shrink wrapped a balloon to my head. But -  it helped sooo much! So did the new goggles. No more leaking! :) It has made our swimming routine much more enjoyable.

I like to run. When I was little, I hated it! I used to walk when we had to run the mile in gym class and just pretend that I was too cool to run or that I didn't want to mess up my hair for the next class. (I probably hadn't even done anything with my hair that day!) But, now I really like it. I had run a couple races right after graduating college - just 5ks. A couple years ago I actually ran a 10k which was a huge goal for me. I'd like to get back up to that and maybe even run a 1/2 marathon at some point in my life. Last night we ran 2 miles together which was great. My husband doesn't really like running, but I'm happy he did it with me. Since it's snowy here we ran around the track in the gym and he had to run past a pilates class full of women while he was doing it. I love him so much!

So - I'm hoping to use my blog to help keep us accountable. We've got a vacation (and I'm in a wedding!) this May and we'd like to be down several pounds and feeling much better by that time. So, Wednesdays will be devoted to my challenges and successes here as I try to get fit and healthy. I'll be calling it Weightless Wednesday because hopefully I'll weigh less than I did the week before. :) Please feel free to chime in with any tips or challenges you've faced. I'd love to hear it!

Heaviest weight: 180
Starting weight: 175
Today's weight: 163
Total Lost: 12 lbs

Monday, February 25, 2013

Taming my scraps...

Monday night I spent a while doing the menial task of scrap management. I use a medium-sized trash can to hold all of my larger scraps and strips while sewing. I had the whole thing filled to overflowing, so I really needed to do something with my scraps. I don't really use them much, mainly because I just think they are all weird shapes and unruly. So, I figured I'd start to make them a little more organized tonight.

I barely made a dent in the bin. Most of the scraps I went through were left overs from the gray and yellow triangle quilt I put together in December. So, the shapes were all weird, lopsided diamonds or triangles.

So what did I do with them? I cut the scraps in to 2 inch squares!

It took a few hours to get this many squares cut. The top of the bin had the gray and yellow fabrics and also several Christmas which I separated out. I also picked out a few blues/Americana prints to keep separated out as well.

I have no idea what I'm going to do with these yet. Part of me wants to make a really large postage stamp quilt. But - another very logical part of me says that would be ridiculous! The pieces are too small and it would take me forever to put together.

More realistically, I'll use these for some mug rugs or postage stamp baby quilts. I could also make some really tiny half square triangles to make into a table runner or wall hanging - something of that sort.

Here's my new scrap bin. I don't really want to keep scraps that are smaller than the 2 inch squares I'm making. I know I'll never use them, so I'm not going to bother with them. Some of the scraps in the box are larger pieces but due to their weird shape I can't get a 2 inch piece out of them.

So, what would you do with either the 2 inch squares or the smaller scraps? Got any ideas for me? :) Happy crafting everyone!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Leaf Quilt Progress

I had a very productive Saturday! Besides sewing the baby apron, I also made some progress on my Leaf Quilt. :)

I started this one back in October last year as part of the Leafs Me Happy blog hop. I only got 1 block done for that hop because they take a while to complete. I sewed all afternoon/evening on Saturday and completed 6 more blocks. Here's what I have done so far:

My husband and I really like the red, cream and brown background blocks, but we're not so sure about the orange background. We think it might stand out too much. I could easily change it at this point. I'd have to rip out one block and re-cut the other 8 blocks that would have orange background. But - if we're going to have the quilt for a long time, then that might be worth it.

I know we (yes, my husband came with me to the fabric store!) had a hard time finding a good orange background when we were fabric shopping originally. Maybe something new has come out or there will be something at the store that I didn't see before. I think maybe I'll look on Sunday and see what I find. I can use the left over original orange background for the back, or maybe even as the binding or a border. What do you think?

Decisions, decisions! Until next time - happy sewing!

Baby Apron (Bapron)

Hello everyone! I was able to do a little more sewing this morning and man have I missed using the sewing machine! Unfortunately, my favorite iron died. It still lights up like it's working, but it doesn't heat up at all. Luckily, I still had the iron from my college days so I had a back up to use this morning.

A pair of our friends are about to have their first baby. They had a baby shower the same weekend that I was hosting a bridal shower, so I was unable to attend. I still wanted to send them something though, so I made a baby apron (bapron). I used this tutorial from Jess at Craftiness is not optional. It went pretty quickly and I bet I'll make some more of these at some point in time. I'm going to keep the pattern I made.

Our friends are having a boy, and I must admit I didn't have a whole lot of boy materials. The pattern calls for regular fabric for the front and some flannel for the back. The only flannel big enough that I had lying around was some left over monkey print from a quilt I made a few years ago. At least it was blue! :)

For the front, I used a gray and black geometric print. I think it kind of looks like chain mail or armor, and my husband actually said the same thing when he saw it. I think that will make the dad very happy. He likes playing video games and I think he'd like the idea of a baby bib/apron that looks like armor. :)

The back is the really cute part of it. And, you can actually use the bib either way. So, if mom wants to have the cute monkeys out front she can do that too. I think the cotton will be easier to wipe off than the flannel, but either side is soft if their baby is shirtless while he's eating.

I really like this pattern for quite a few reasons:

1) It's a free download and free pattern - awesome!!!
2) It was quick - it took me about an hour and a half only because I made my own binding. Otherwise it probably would have taken an hour or less. And now that I know what I'm doing, I'm sure the next ones will go even more quickly.
3) It's reversible! I really love that, especially if one side ends up getting stained or something.
4) It's big. You'll be able to use it when your kid starts eating solid foods, probably even a little before that, and as they grow. Plus it will cover their entire stomach and maybe even part of their legs depending on how big the child is. That means the bib gets stained and not their clothes!
5) The kid can't just yank the bib off. Since it's tied at the back and the arm holes are solid, the child won't be able to just rip it off in a fit and then dump food over themselves. The bibs with Velcro at the top just don't seem as practical to me.

So - if you're looking for a clothing protector, I highly suggest this one. The tutorial is awesome and you can use whatever fabrics you want to make it super cute!

I did make some changes to the pattern. I lightly quilted the bib rather than just sewing around the outside edges. I didn't want the back to separate from the front in the wash, so this way it will stay looking like a bib and not get separated. It took a little longer to do that, but I just did straight, vertical lines with black thread on the front and white on the back. I also changed the end of the neck straps. Instead of tying them in a knot I folded over the ends and sewed the rough edges under. If the stitches come out the mom can always tie them in a knot later, but I thought it might make them a little sturdier to be sewn down.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy sewing! :)

Monday, February 18, 2013

February Bee Blocks

I can't believe the first bit of sewing I did this month was on the 18th! The month is over half done, so that's just crazy!

For February, our host for the Color Bee Shocked Bee asked for a Japanese X block done all in blues. She sent a lot of great fabrics and I had so much fun putting the block together that I pulled out some of my blues and made her a second block. She is making the quilt for someone else, which I think is awesome. I'm sure they'll love it.

This past weekend I was very busy with wedding and bridal shower things. My good friends Heidi and Sarah were in town. Heidi's wedding is coming up in May and she lives in Florida, so this was the last time she would be in Wisconsin before the big day. I think she had an appointment every hour on Saturday, but she got a ton done.

Sarah and I spent our day between appointments and getting the goods for a bridal shower we hosted for Heidi on Sunday. Unfortunately, I was so busy getting everything ready and leading games that I didn't take any good pictures.

(well... I did get one of the cake after it was cut...)

But, we put together a mimosa bar along with half a dozen other beverages. We also had a bunch of little appetizers including little fruit parfaits, veggie pizza, hot crescent roll sandwiches and some other finger foods. It was a lot of fun and I think everyone had a good time.

We played a couple games. I think the one that people got the most into was the "What's in your purse?" game. It's a game where you get points (either added for good things or subtracted for bad things) that end up in your purse. The mother of the bride won the game and her purse was very heavy, but filled with lots of good things! I also gave a prize to the person with the least amount of points for having the cleanest purse. Sometimes I think that's the hardest thing for me to keep clean!

We also played a trivia game for the Bride. I asked her fiance a bunch of questions in advance and she had to answer them all the same way he did - sort of like the newlywed game. If she got the question right I gave her a dollar. If she got the question wrong then she had to eat a piece of gum. We had some really bad flavor combinations and she had quite a mouthful by the time the game was done. :)

The activity I liked the most was creating a date night jar for the bride and groom. I saw the idea on Pinterest. I had 3 colors of popsicle sticks for date ideas. White was a stay-at-home date. Red was a cheap or quick go-out date. Silver was a more involved or more expensive go-out date. We had a lot of good entries. My favorite was an at-home date submitted by the bride's Grandma: Clean the garage and then shower together. :) When they were all filled out, the sticks went into a jar for them to pick from when they want to do something but don't know what to do. Some of the sticks were still blank, so those will be choose-your-own-adventure dates or sticks where they can write some of their favorite activities.

So, now that the shower is done and most other wedding plans are all figured out, I might be able to do some more sewing. I've still got my Over the Rainbow quilt to finish and plenty of other things waiting in the wings. Happy crafting everyone!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Busy February

Hi everyone! I've been MIA for a while here on my blog! So sorry about that, but February has turned out to be busy for me! As an update, I did manage to clear out the apartment for my January goals. It felt soooo good to get things organized, but it's been a challenge to keep things that way. I feel like there are always things to pick up or put away, so it just never ends!

This month my husband and I started planning our summer vacation. We're going on a very long road trip all the way out to Seattle to go to the Sasquatch Music Festival and then driving all the way back. We'll be stopping multiple places on each way, so it's going to be a great trip! Plus I'll get to see Mumford & Sons and Cake live! (And a million other bands...)

With the goal of getting healthier and more fit, we also joined a gym this month. So, we've been spending an hour or two there each day after I'm done with work. It eats up a lot of time, but it makes us feel much better. So far I've lost about 10 pounds, which is great. Here I'll be honest with you - I started off weighing 175! That's not at all where I want to be. I've gained about 20 pounds since we got married in 2009 and I want to get that all back off and more. If I get into the 140s, I'll weigh what I did in high school, and I hope that I can get down that far. Our gym is really fantastic and so far we've really enjoyed going there. :) So - here's a LARGE goal, to get down to at least 155 by May when we leave for our vacation. I really hope I'll be able to revise that number as we go along. So far, so good!

I filled in at another office over the weekend, so I didn't have a Saturday to do any crafting. I'm also hosting a couple friends this weekend and throwing a bridal shower for my great friend Heidi. She's getting married in May (another reason to work out!!!) and I've been busy getting ready for that too. The shower is on Sunday this weekend and Saturday will be dedicated to running lots and lots of needed wedding errands since the bride now lives in Florida and this is the last time she'll be up in Wisconsin before the big day. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Despite all of that, I have managed to do a couple little things with the few minutes I have at night before I collapse in bed.

I started knitting a scarf for my other friend coming up for the weekend. I hope, hope, hope I can get it done! And, now I'm not sure it's going to be very cold any more for her to need it. But, she was joking about how she wasn't going to be able to handle the cold Wisconsin weather and I joked that I'd make her a scarf, and then actually did it. Now I just need to finish it!! It kind of reminds me of the flying geese quilt block pattern since it has a pyramid shape in the knitting pattern. It goes pretty quick, so I'm going to knit, knit, knit tonight and hope I can get close to finishing!

I also played around with some embroidery. I've never really done it before, and I made an awful first attempt. I made this flower embroidery. I used pencil to draw on the pattern. That was my first mistake since I couldn't get rid of the marks and then had to adjust the pattern as I went to cover them up. I hate the shape of the petals and I hate that I filled in the petals, but I had to cover up those stupid pencil marks! Ick! I kept this only because it was so bad I needed to see where I started and hopefully I'll improve from here!

I don't mind the stem and the leaves, but oh my gosh the whole flower should just be ripped out or thrown away. I think I'll hang it over my sewing machine space so I can have the motivation to get better. :)

The next attempt went much better. I made an owl sitting on a tree. I really like the wood grain that I did and I like that I gave it a circular border around the whole design. I also like these cute little leaves on it. So, hopefully my next attempt will be even better. I need to learn some more stitches so I can be a little more creative!

So - that's what I've been up to so far. As far as other February goals, I'd really like to finish my Over the Rainbow quilt this month. It's still sitting on my sewing desk, all pinned and ready to be quilted, so I'm so close to finishing! I think that will be the only other thing I plan to do in February. Hopefully March will be more crafty! Happy crafting everyone!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I Won!

So - remember that little quilt shop I shared with you in my last post? Apparently, I won the door prize they were giving away during their sale! I never win things like this, so it was really exciting to get their call!

The shop is about 35 minutes away from my house, so I had to wait until the weekend to pick up my gift basket. I couldn't remember what was inside, so I was really eager to see what I had won.

Here's what was inside! :)

Quilt Tags

Quilt marking pencils, a note pad and a pattern

This cute purse I gave to my sister. I have too many purses as it is and I just didn't see myself using it any time soon. She was very happy to have it and said she'd be using it for a portable sewing kit. I think the ladies from the quilt shop would be very happy with that. :)

9 Block of the Month Kits!

Body lotion, a pattern book and a crib size package of batting!
Plus, I get to keep the basket too! :) I still can't believe I won. I know I'm going to have a lot of fun putting the block of the month kits together. I haven't checked to see how large they'll be when they are finished, but maybe I'll have a little wall hanging for my sewing room. 
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