Monday, November 30, 2020

Bags and Bags

Drawstring fabric gift-bags continue to be de rigueur around here, and I got an early start this year due to a couple of circumstances, the first of which was Jeni/In Color Order announcing a Lined Drawstring Bag Sew Along. And yes, I've made oodles of them over the years, but the sew along encouraged me to make more.

Jeni does a very thorough sew along, and in addition to providing a brand new video on how to make one of her bags, offers helpful Tips for Choosing Fabrics for Drawstring Bags. So if you're new to her patterns, she's got you covered.

In the last couple of weeks I've made five, one using Jeni's original pattern, and the others all from her expansion pattern, some with boxed corners, some without:

  • (left to right) Peek-A-Boo Lining Project Bag, The Original Tiny Bag, Easy Going Two Fabric Project Bag. 

  • Mini Accent Everything Bag

  • Easy Going Two Fabric Project Bag

Then, we had a three-generation family Zoom event last weekend. For years, this family group has celebrated Christmas together weeks before the actual holiday, quite often on Thanksgiving weekend. Anyway, the plan this year was to gift each other ornaments (mailed ahead). I decided to make hand-sewn gift-bags for each one, and since I was mass-producing (16-6" bags) I went with the pattern by Svetlana/Sotak Handmade. Svetlana has a growing YouTube channel, and among her videos it one to make her drawstring bags! It's so easy to adapt this pattern to any size bag as I did for mine. Svetlana also has a tutorial for the bags on her blog if you prefer that. Either way, they are quick and easy.

Funny thing. Invariably when I gift in a handmade bag, I get the standard 'thank you' for the gift of course; then that's almost always followed by, 'Can I keep the bag?' 

Friday, November 27, 2020

The RAY Quilt Plan

I was mulling over what could be my next quilt project and up popped the announcement of Carolyn Friedlander's RAY quilt along. Perfect! It is fat-quarter friendly, so I can dig into my CF stash, it's simply pieced, and after finishing my Siddi quilt, I've been thinking I might like to hand-quilt again, and this project could be it.

photo by Carolyn Friedlander; used by permission

Inspired by the classic log cabin, Carolyn offers three variations of the RAY quilt, all of which I love, though some lend themselves better to fat-quarters vs. yardage - definitely some options. Carolyn's #1 version - the version I think I've settled on - is pictured above. For mine, I pulled a mix of 13 Carolyn Friedlander prints from a variety of collections [Architextures, Carkai, Friedlander, Instead, Harriot, & Collection CF]. Joining them will be one coordinating solid [Kona Blueprint] and a couple of Kaufman Essex cotton-linen blends [Essex Yarn Dyed in Cadet & Yarn Dyed Homespun in Indigo], Manchester Yarn Dyed in Royal, also by Robert Kaufman and finally, a woven from Diamond TextilesCrossed in Night.

So I was thinking I may sew ahead just a bit so I can get to hand-quilting, as that will take the most time. But then just as I was getting ready to post this morning, I realized Carolyn had shared a YouTube video on making a plan as well as a RAY quilt inspiration board, so I'll be looking at those before making any firm decisions. But things are percolating, so we'll see where that takes me.

Monday, November 23, 2020


"Kawandi" means "quilt." That, and much more, I learned in a recent class with Sujata Shah. The goal of the session was for us to learn how to make a small quilt in the style of the Siddi people of India. I had admired the occasional Siddi quilt in my IG feed over these last months, but honestly, it was when I heard a guild-mate mention the process of working 'outside in' that really piqued my interest. I could not imagine how that might be accomplished, so soon after when Sujata opened another session of the class, I jumped at the chance.

So of course, I needed to gather some supplies. And though Sujata gave suggestions, I did want to record my choices here since they worked so well for me.

The time with Sujata was like escaping for a bit, with her sharing stories of the Siddi people and their craft. As I mentioned in my previous post about this project, fabrics from my small Anna Maria Horner stash were the basis of my fabric pull for this quilt. In retrospect, the result is less bright that a typical Kawandi, but my curated palette made me very happy, so there's that. 

Of course, learning a craft from a different culture involves some new vocabulary. The little corner triangles are "fula," and the small bits seemingly sprinkled around the quilt, are "tikli." (In the photo below, there's a darker blue tikli in the upper left, a light blue in the upper right, a long brown one in the center, and a white one below that.) I actually found adding the tikli about the fiddliest part of the Siddi quilt construction, but they add alot, don't they? Another thing to note that is quite different from our normal quilt construction, is that fabric pieces are torn rather than cut to fill in spaces as you progress along. That wasn't second nature for me!

After choosing and adding fabric bit by bit as I stitched round and round the quilt, finally coming to the very center and covering up that last bit of batting was really interesting. It worked out, of course, but still, felt very different. 

So you'll notice that the stitches on the front of the quilt are quite small, where on the back - shown below, the stitches are somewhat larger. I realized after finishing my little (17" x 21") quilt that a couple of knots showed on the back, when they really should be hidden between the layers of fabric. Chalk that up to being a newbie.

So making my first Siddi quilt stretched me a bit, in a good way. And learning the new technique was very satisfying. I'm really glad I took the chance to explore a bit.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Blue II

Following my recent Utterly Blue finish, I was left with a handful of improv stripe segments, enough that I thought could be the base of another project. Selecting a few coordinating fabrics from stash, I did what I'd considered doing with the first project but didn't - I added in another color. Two Carolyn Friedlander prints plus two of her coordinating solids were just enough to create something new. And I'll be honest. This one was built willy-nilly, on a whim, fabric-play at its best. 

For the backing, I recreated an element from the front - do you see it? Simplistic, yes, but I think it worked. Plus I really love the large swath of that blue print!

When it came time for quilting, I chose three Aurifil 50wt threads - #2155 [Cinnamon], #2730 [Delft Blue], and #2784 [Dark Navy] plus one Essential 50wt thread from Connecting Threads -#21120 [Apricot]. Matchstick quilting, I used the different colors mostly in sections, emphasizing some of the vertical piecing.

The finished quilt measures just 21 1/2" x 23 1/2", and was bound with Kona Blueprint, since I'd used up all of my original blues. Close enough I'd say. Oh, and just a bit o'matched binding for the win.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Stitch Club :: Wool Applique

Well November holds the final installment of the six-month Stitch Club hosted by Alison Glass. It's been good, and definitely delivered on my purpose in joining - to add more hand-stitching into my life. So the last focus was on wool applique. I'd done quite a bit of felt applique years ago, so this wasn't all that different.

After picking a project from the November Stitch Club Journal, I purchased a yellow Mill Dyed Wool Color Pack from Sue Spago, which consisted of six 1/32nd (9" x 7") cuts of wool in various shades of yellow to gold. For stitching, I used a variety of #8 Perle Cotton that I had on hand.

The project, as you can see, is a garland. I made mine with Christmas in mind, consisting of gold wool stars appliqued onto pennants cut from Kaleidoscope in Iris. I used the simple whipstitch to attach my stars, periodically adding a smaller star in the center of the first.

A bonus to the stitching was creating tassels from embroidery floss - something I don't think I'd ever done before! There are all sorts of tutorials on YouTube, from simple to fancy. This tutorial has several variations as well (I used #2). I kept mine pretty basic, but did use four different colors of floss for each one, then placing them randomly on my garland. The embroidery floss was purchased from Amazon, an "Old Gold" gradient.

The completed garland measures a tad more than five-feet long, and for now, I've hung it across the screen standing behind our bed. 

Thus Stitch Club comes to an end for me. Here are links to all my projects in case you missed one.

June - Kantha [pillow]
July - Sashiko [modern Japanese rice bag, table mat]
August - Couching [pincushion, flex case, zipper pouch]
September - Outline & Filled Stitches [cloth napkins]
October - Embellishing Printed Fabric [pincushion]
November - Wool Applique [garland]

So I obviously did a good amount of hand-stitching these last several months, just as I'd hoped. And I think I surprised myself how varied the projects could be. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Bee Sewcial Round-Up

Bee Sewcial is wrapping up another year of improvisational piecing (our 6th!), and I thought it would be fun to see my year's blocks all together.

January: Radiate for M-R/@quiltmatters
M-R asked that we create one or more wedge-shaped blocks exploring what we hope to radiate this year. My thought was 'encouragement,' which translated to 'standing together.' The finished block was 60" long!

February: Improv Color Wash for Karen/@capitolaquilter
Karen asked for a collection of 6" and 3.25" improvisational blocks, using three colors from her palette in each one.... fabric play at its best!

March: The Magic of Molas for Stephanie/@spontaneousthreads
I'll confess I didn't even know what a mola was when I read Stephanie's prompt. I found out that they are handmade textiles of Central American origin. Stephanie's request was that we zoom in on just a portion of a mola to create our block. Interesting! My finished block measured 13" x 23".

May: Improv Wedding Rings for me!
I asked my mates to each create two 12.5" square improvisational double wedding ring blocks with black and white and blue(s) in each block, and gave them the freedom to blur or ignore the lines between any of the typical block components. Here's my 'sample' block.

The blocks they sent were varied and inspired! The resultant quilt, "Rings," was what I had first envisioned in my mind's eye and then some! 

July: Subtle Secrets for Felicity/@felicityquilts
I was so intrigued with Felicity's prompt! Wonky, ruler-free improv blocks (then trimmed to 12.5") based on traditional quilt patterns using two shades of white for one of the blocks, and two shades of the darkest color in [our] stash for the other. Fun to make and difficult to photograph!

August: 2020 Pandemic for Marci/@marci_girl
So many feelings when I saw Marci's prompt, asking us to express in our blocks how the pandemic has affected us personally or on a wider scale. My first block (13.5" x 14") represented our family, where connections are still being made, they just look very different. Marci suggested a quarter-Covid block for our second block, and I'm really happy [sic] how that one turned out (12.5" x 12.5").

September: Motel Neon for Ken/@thekingslacker
Ken's prompt based on roadside motel neon signs brought back alot of childhood memories of family travels. He asked for a palette of neon light colors with the background being our darkest black. Both of these blocks were trimmed to 12.5" x 12.5".

October: Shapes for Leanne/@shecanquilt
Leanne's prompt was a celebration of shapes with cool palettes, though we had the freedom to use all of the colors, just no neutrals. My first block (12" x 14 3/4") was a mass of rectangles, where in my second block, I focused on a singular hexagon filled with improv stripes (13" x 15"). That second block may just be one of my favorites of the year.

Well that was a really fun year with Bee Sewcial! If you're interested in blocks from my previous years with the bee, they are all pinned to a board on Pinterest!

Friday, November 13, 2020

Baby Geese

A new little baby quilt was just delivered to its recipient, a sweet newborn baby girl. When contemplating what to make for her, I wanted something minimal, soft and light. I found inspiration on wayfair, a home goods site. The simple focus was some large flying geese blocks, and Lee Heinrich's Perfect Geese Templates were perfect, considering the large scale (4" x 8") of the geese. For fabrics, I chose Cotton Couture in Apricot, Cream, Gold, Meadow, plus a couple of Konas in Leather and an unidentified gray.

As you can imagine, assembly was pretty quick, which made it lots of fun. I kept the backing super simple and innocent, completely in more of the CC Cream. And for quilting, a diagonal grid using Aurifil 50wt #2021 [Natural White].

Baby-sized at 37" x 43", I finished it off with matched binding, a simple yet impactful detail.

Though I don't necessarily wash every quilt at its finish, I did this time since it was a baby quilt to be gifted. I could tell immediately after I pulled it from the dryer that it had shrunk. This was my first time washing both Cotton Couture solids and Quilter's Dream Select batting in a finished quilt, so who knows which contributed most, but once washed, the quilt measured 34.5" x 40.5"! Now maybe I'd find that with my other quilts too, but just haven't paid attention. But interesting, and of course, good to know.

So this was the last quilt project on my current list, which means I don't necessarily know what's next! I'm thinking maybe there are some scraps that need played with.... Time will tell!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Disco Nap

Week after week, I've gotten into the habit of doing a little stitching in the evenings. Between the occasional quilt bindings, Stitch Club projects, and my Dropcloth Samplers, it's been a bright spot. AND I just finished another sampler, Disco Nap, and it was a goodie. Not sure if it was the design or the thread colors I chose, but I was seriously sad when I finished it.

Again, I used #8 perle cotton, having added a few new spools since finishing the last sampler, including another variegated one. Here's the basket where I keep all my perle cotton spools. If any of you keep yours in a more organized fashion, I'd love to hear about it. AND after posting on Instagram, I got questions about that little fabric basket, which I made from a video tutorial by Sotak Handmade. It's just a fun place to gather my thread ends as I'm sewing. Eventually they'll get tossed away. As you see, it's also a holding place for my needles, since I usually keep a couple going, changing thread colors on my whim. 

Disco Nap finished at 8" in diameter, the second round one of the bunch. And don't worry, I've ordered another sampler, and I'm really looking forward to it. I think it'll be the most complex one yet!

Clockwise from upper left: Disco Nap, The Original, Meadow, Summer Lines, Red Stripe

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Utterly Blue

Ok, this was fun. I mentioned last week that even though the 2020 Pantone Quilt Challenge isn't happening this year, I still planned on doing my own Classic Blue challenge, and so I did! I mean, really, it's as good as it gets, and I wasn't about to break tradition.

It started with stripes. Basically lots and lots of improv stripes. I considered adding a few other fabrics/colors into the mix, but when it came right down to it, I left well enough alone. The blues were just too rich as they were.

Somewhere along the line, once I had the top done, I mentioned on Instagram that there was a design in there that probably only I could see. And that design was inspired directly from my recent Vista Toscana quilt and the way the blocks wrapped around each other. You (maybe) can see it most clearly in Utterly Blue if you look at the left side of the quilt.

I "mirrored" that same effect in the opposite side of the quilt in different proportions. Maybe you see it, maybe you don't, but if was definitely fun fabric play for me, and I can't promise that this will be the last project exploring that concept.

For the back, I went really simple - and solid.

From that viewpoint you get a really good look at the quilting, don't you? The design is "Fancy Straight Line" from Jacquie Gering's Walk book, and I'd used it several times before, always with great results. I used Auriful 50wt #2730 [Delft Blue] after considering several options including a variegated thread (a red, white, and blue!). In the end, again, I decided to just stick to the blue.

And then to finish, matched binding in one key spot seemed appropriate. The quilt finished at 25" square.

There's one more tidbit about this little blue quilt! Just as I was getting started, I learned that the current challenge with Quilt Improv Studio was a Blue Repetition Challenge, so I couldn't resist joining in and will be entering this quilt soon. There's lots of time to join in - the quilts are small - and the deadline isn't until January 10, 2021. Plus they're a very welcoming bunch, so consider it, ok?