Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I guess I really was busy this year....

As 2010 is coming to a close, I've been spending a little time looking back at all my handmade adventures this year and realizing I really have accomplished quite a lot that I set out to do. I have finished twelve entire quilts, found my knitting mojo again and completed a ton of other little projects. I still have about a half a million UFOs lying around and even more ideas that are bursting to be born into real fabric and yarn actuality, but all in all I'm very proud of the progress I've made in most facets of the needle arts.

I just wanted to share with you some of my most favorite creations this year~

My first completed quilt of 2010, the FMF Wonky Log Cabin, which I started during the Old Red Barn Co. quilt-along using the tutorial by the fabulous John (aka quiltdad). So much fun to piece, although this one has been slowly having the shoddy pre-Bernina quilting ripped out. Hopefully it will be all done and couch-worthy again soon.

My Far, Far Away quilt is dearly loved. The double gauze is so soft and I went the extra mile piecing the back on this one.

I was a little reckless cutting into my Bohemian fabrics, but came out with one quilt for our newlywed friends and one for me.

I love seeing all these Munki Munki prints all in one place,

and spending lots of time under this one, which wins the prize for most-used.

I finally finished knitting
my first-ever sweater for me,

and gained enough new knitting skills to be confident starting new, more complex projects like cabled hats, mittens and socks.

Lots of smaller, yet satisfying projects were made, 

 and there are still lots of long-term projects waiting their turn to be picked up again, like my "Ode to Denyse Schmidt" spiderweb,

and my paper-pieced Liberty of London hexagon quilt.

Hard to believe all that was done during naptimes and nights while Lucy grew from this little babe,

to this big party girl.

Maybe there were more nap times than I thought!

Thank you so much to all of you for your supportive words over the last year and for all the inspiration I receive daily from you sharing your own work. It's truly what keeps my creative fire lit. I can't wait to see what you can do in 2011!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Joy of Christmas Baking

Okay, I'm cheating a little, but I did actually bake ALL these Christmas cookies - only it was two years ago. I was in the midst of a strong burst of second trimester energy while pregnant with Lucy during a snow storm that left me stranded at home for three days. And I must've lost my mind. 
So far this year I have only been able to pull off our favorite, my Grandma's thumbprints, and I'll try to bust out a couple more tonight while Mark is out with the boys Christmas shopping (read: beer drinking). At least he'll be out of the way so I'll have something to show for my efforts instead of him pillaging each batch as they cool and leaving lots of crumbs behind!
Some of these are recipes that have been passed down through my family, and some are from various other cookbooks or websites. From the top:

1. Grandma's Pecan Tartlets (yum!)
2. Magic Bars (so easy you can't not make them)
3. Thumbprints (our fave)
4. Chocolate Peppermint Sandwiches
5. Russian Teacakes and Peppermint Snowballs
6. Chocolate Mint Thumbprints
7. Creme Wafers (our other favorite, melt in your mouth goodness)
8. Eggnog Cookies
9. Lemon Glitter Sandwiches

If you're interested in any of the recipes, just leave me an message (but make sure I can reply to it!) and I'd be happy to share - even Gram's old recipes!

I hope you all have the merriest of Christmases, full of plenty and surrounded by those you love!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Pickledish Quilt!

It is absolutely nothing short of a small miracle that this quilt is all stippled, bound and freshly washed before Christmas. It seems I got a little holiday stitching fire inside of me, despite my pregnancy-induced chronic fatigue and mental psychosis! Or maybe because of it.....either way, it's all done and waiting to be cozied up under with hot cocoa by the Christmas tree.

I had a blast piecing the pickledish blocks. I don't know if it was the excitement of getting to use all these cheery holiday fabrics or the satisfaction of successfully pulling off these moderately challenging blocks, but I really do think this was the most fun I've ever had piecing a quilt top.  Aneela put together a fabulous tutorial complete with templates and clear, concise directions for her Pickledish Quilt-along. If you feel comfortable with curves, or have been wanting to attempt them for your first time, I whole-heartedly recommend giving it a try. Even just one block would make a great pillow cover. This will certainly not be my last pickledish quilt.

The quilt I made measures roughly 55x55, using everything from Munki Munki flannels, some Shinzi Katoh Christmas prints I'd been hoarding, Sherri Berry, Minny Muu, Flea Market Fancy, Bliss, Amy Butler Lotus and more. I bound it with a green, yellow and red plaid from American Jane and the back is a super cozy flannel red and white polka dot from the Bliss line.  I did get a few mild puckers on the back due to some hasty basting and the lack of adhesive spray (I'm going to have to train someone else to do it for the remainder of my pregnancy), but another Christmas miracle washed them almost completely away! I truly LOVE LOVE LOVE the way this one turned out! It will be sad to put away each year after the holidays, but I hope it will be a happy tradition to bring it out again each year with all the other decorations.

Thanks for all your supportive comments regarding my last "first trimester monster" post. I don't think I'm totally out of the woods yet, but I'm getting there. I've got some serious baking to tackle tonight so I'm hoping to sneak in one more post before the big day to share some of my grandma's delicious cookie recipes with you. I hope all your holiday preparations are smooth and stress-free!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Finishing up and finding balance

Today was the first day in weeks that I have felt like my old self. At twelve weeks along, I'm officially (depending on who you ask or what book you consult) into my second trimester, so maybe my body has finally exited off of the major hormonal roller coaster it's been riding. I know I should be grateful I haven't been subjected to morning sickness, but I think I've made up for it in the crazy, weepy, insecure, irritable head I've been living in lately. Let's just say I haven't been a barrel of monkeys to be around. Besides these fun pregnancy side effects, my bionic fatigue has been compounded by my sweet little girl who has become downright nasty at naps and bedtime, leaving me riding about six hours a night of sleep, some of which has been spent on her bedroom floor, desperately trying to get her into a calm slumber. Add in the constant internal obsession I have to be constantly creating but no time in which to do it and top it off with crafting deadlines and the pressure to make a perfect homemade holiday, and it stands to reason that all I've really been feeling like is a big hot mess. Oh, and did I mention that I've already gained seven pounds (thanks to dear Mark's successful attempts at trying to perfect his pasta making skills, and my intense craving of anything sweet, gooey and baked)? Not quite so cute and pregnant looking yet, just really paunchy! It's no fun feeling this crappy anytime, but especially not at the most merry and bright time of the year.

Okay, enough complaining already! Today the sun came out and I didn't cry even once. I had the energy to do a little Christmas shopping and finish up my pillow for round four of the Pillow Talk Swap. Those curved hexagon stars didn't really lend themselves to the traditional square shaped pillow, so I stuffed it myself in a hexie shape. For the back I went with a simple grey and white dotty print from Momo's It's a Hoot line and bound it with some Kei dots. I like how it turned out pretty well, and I hope it's to my partner's liking, too.

It feels good to have a couple of things finished or in the final touches stage. My Honey Cowl is all done up and getting lots of wear - they say the cowl is the "must have" winter accessory this year! Mine is knit with some luxurious Madeline Tosh Pashmina in cerulean and it's super soft.
I've also finished a couple of bee blocks and believe it or not I'm already quilting my Christmas Pickledish quilt. I'm hoping to finish up another dolly for Lucia from the Wee Wonderfuls book for Christmas, but other than that I'm going to take a big, huge break from expectations on myself and try to enter 2011 with a fresh crafty slate. Until then, keep your fingers crossed for me that the hormonal monster doesn't return:)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bliss Daisy Chain Quilt

This one has actually been finished for almost a month now, but I've had a dreadful time getting any good photos of it so I've put off showing it to you. The weather and lighting has been dark and dreary up here for a long time now, making outdoor quilt photo shoots out of the question. You'll just have to take my word for it that this one is much prettier in person.

It's easily the most "traditional" of all the quilts I've made, so a big departure from my usual style, but I really ended up liking it. I had a couple of jelly rolls of Bonnie and Camille's Bliss line, with no real direction to go with them until I was browsing around my LQS and found the book "Jelly Roll Quilts" by Pam and Nicky Lincott. I'm not usually a fan of using pattern books or regimented cutting and piecing instructions, but when I saw the Daisy Chain Quilt pattern and remembered Brioni's gorgeous quilt, I decided to try it out. It was a very simple pattern to follow and came together quite quicky for all those little squares. The neutral is Kona Bone.

This was actually a birthday gift for my mom back in October, but due to the quilting time I grossly underestimated, she didn't get to take it home until Thanksgiving! Good thing moms are patient people. I think the timing was okay, though, because it sort of has a holiday feel to it, don't you think?
I quilted it with a free-motion cathedral circle design, something else that was inspired by Brioni's quilt. It was surprisingly easy to do once I got in the groove, just time consuming. But totally worth it and I think it adds to the old-fashioned charm.

I was thinking I haven't shown you a glimpse of old Norm in ages! The poor guy is having a bit of cabin fever these days and really isn't interested in mom's new fabric or quilts. For his Christmas gift this year, he's asking Santa (aka Mark) to take him one day a week to Camp Happy Paws for some play time, so if he can manage to stop eating off of Lucy's high chair and running through our backyard mud puddles, he might just get his wish. 
This pretty stack of fabric is from Tula Pink's new Parisville line, and let me tell you how beautiful it is in person, especially if you love bright gum drop colors. I have a pattern all picked out for these, but for now they are just going to sit on my shelf and look pretty.

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Since I've finally been able to drag my sorry tired self out of bed a little more frequently now, I've been able to attempt a bit of shopping, holiday baking and decking the halls. Even if I paid my brother in wine to put the lights on our house, made Mark go alone to pick out the tree (which I did about the most shoddy decorating job on ever - this coming from a person who usually spends no less than three hours on stringing the lights alone, I've even been known to use garbage twisty ties to wrap them onto the branches!) and have done most of my shopping online, at least it's starting to feel a little Christmas-y around here. The holidays with a one and a half year old in the house is too fun and special not to enjoy every moment. And taking a bit of stitchy time to work on this quilt has been helping to make me feel festive, too.

When Aneela announced her Pickledish Quilt-along, I knew I wanted to join in despite my lack of energy or need to start a new project. But I'd been searching for a pattern to make from all my holiday prints and this seemed like a perfect way to showcase a bunch of fussy-cut snowmen, gnomes, trees and snowflakes. And I have to say, this may be the most fun I've ever had piecing a quilt! It's so much fun to pick out the combinations for the arches, and the curves are just challenging enough to hold my interest without making me want to scream (OK, maybe just a little). I'm determined to have this one finished and on our sofa for Christmas morning, but if I was a betting woman, I probably wouldn't be betting on my side of things for this one!

I started collecting fun, whimsical Christmas prints when I first started hoarding  collecting fabric, but this is the only project they've been cut up for so far. There's some Munki Munki, Shinzi Katoh, Sherri Berry, Minny Muu and even some of Aneela's own Spoonflower holiday fabric all represented, mixed with a hodge-podge of other red and green prints from my stash. And now I have a million Christmas sewing projects rolling around in my head and after a small fabric buying hiatus I've become a bit obsessed with collecting prints for all my dreamed-up stockings, table runners and tree skirt that I fantasize I'll have enough time to sew up next year. These fun new prints are from Alexander Henry's Merry Modern and Candy Colored Christmas lines.

Thanks so much to all of you for the baby love! I'm eleven weeks along now and feeling pretty good, and looking forward to that second trimester burst of energy!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'm back! - with pillows and an announcement!

First things first - many of you have guessed that I am evidently not the best secret keeper. Baby #2 is on the way! Of course I was trying to wait until the recommended 12 week mark to make it public, but I'm just too excited! We've had our first ultrasound and everything is looking good so far. We're ten weeks along now (although I look more like I'm twenty!) so that puts the due date right around the first of July. I'm feeling pretty good lately as long as I get myself to sleep early. I'm usually a night owl so the ten PM bedtime isn't my favorite, but it seems to be keeping me from falling asleep in my one paltry half decaf cup of coffee in the morning.

Consequently I'm way behind in some sewing projects, especially bees (sorry Chris, Leslie and Angela!) but I'm working on it, and the above picture is the beginnings of my pillow for this round of the Pillow Talk Swap. My partner is down with bright colors and coal solid sashing so I'm hoping this will turn into something that will make her happy. I have a habit as using my swap partners for guinea pigs for new designs and techniques, and this round I decided to bust out the curved hexagon star template I bought after seeing these beautiful blocks by Amy awhile ago. The stars aren't the easiest to pull off, but if you're familiar with curved piecing it's definitely do-able. I'm already mentally drafting a "falling stars" quilt.

Although I am always mailing my swap pieces off on deadline day, I'm always paired with partners who are on the ball and get my present to me very early!

Look at this gorgeous pillow Lori made for me!

She did such a beautiful job with the design and craftmanship. I love the bird fabrics!
And as if the front wasn't lovely enough, check out the back:

Isn't it lovely? The cream and soft pastels look perfect in Lucy's room. Thank you again Lori for all the love and effort you poured into this piece!

Before I go, I just have to do a bit of bragging. My husband Mark was just featured in the latest issue of the Wine Spectator! It's a very highly regarded magazine that has the largest distribution of all the wino publications, so this was quite a honor. He's the big handsome one in the middle, and the photo was taken at our tasting room in Woodinville, Washington. I am one proud wife!

I hope you're all enjoying the beginnings of the holiday season. I've actually been getting a bit of sewing action in lately so I'll be back soon.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A grinding halt...

That is what crafting productivity has slowed to around here lately. Okay, well I have been knitting. In bed.  And baking. And eating a lot of the baking. But mostly napping when I can (which isn't as much as I'd like with an 18 month old girl who has decided she doesn't much care for her own naps!) and tucking myself into bed after dinner to make it only part way through a movie before falling asleep. My sewing machine is lonely. I'm getting behind with bees and swaps. I won't even tell you about the pile of dishes in my sink and the mountain of laundry piling up.
But you know what? I'm kind of enjoying this little vacation from the pressures I normally put on myself to produce crafty things. I've decided to ignore the perpetual list of crafting "must-dos" for now and focus on sleeping, eating, reading and spending time with my little family. I'm happy as a clam. And I expect to be back in full creative force in about another four to five weeks:)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pips and Pickledishes

I guess it's an Aneela-project sort of month around here! I waited about one hot second after receiving my precious Sherbet Pips layer cake in the mail to start slicing and dicing. 

In anticipation of it's arrival I had already decided on the design I wanted to go for and ordered some coordinating Bella Solids in scarlet, sisters pink, grey, blue raspberry and popsicle. I'm liking the "snowballs and squares" look - I think it showcases the prints nicely and the solids give everything a little 'pop'. I love these fabrics so so so so much! This is about as far as I've gotten in piecing the rows. It's a little tedious so it's slow going.

And I'm a little late to the party, but you've all heard about Aneela's Pickledish quilt-along, haven't you?

Now these are fun to piece! I haven't sewn any blocks together yet so can't attest to the difficulty or lack thereof for the arc piecing, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. I've already tackled curves so I'm not too frightened.

I love having all of this Christmas mess strewn about my sewing room. I suppose it isn't yet appropriate to bust out the holiday decorations so this is tiding me over until after Thanksgiving. I started collecting all these holiday prints last year but never got around to them, but I'm hoping we have a nice little Pickledish Christmas quilt to cozy under during December. Realistically, that will probably be December  2011!!

I'd love to get sewing on all of this right now, but Lucy is sleeping and honestly, mama needs to go have a nap too!

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's A Hoot Triple-Squared Quilt Tutorial!!!

As promised, here is my version of the "Triple Squared Quilt" tutorial I originally planned for the Moda Bake Shop. If you need to catch up on the story behind the tutorial, read this post. I just want to say that Moda has been very kind and gracious throughout this little debacle, but regrets they won't be able to re-post it. Thank you all so much for your supportive words, I'm really happy so many of you still wanted the tute, so here it is! And of course we all know there are dozens of different variations on this design floating around out there, my little version is just engineered to help you get the most variety of print and color combinations out of ten inch squares of fabric.

If you want to whip one up out of your favorite layer cake, here is what you'll need:

  • One or two It's a Hoot layer cakes, depending on whether you'd like to make a baby-sized or large throw quilt. You could easily convert this to a jelly roll, fat quarters or yardage also and make any size quilt you like.

  • 3/4 yard It's a Hoot print 32377 45 Fudge Turquoise for the binding

  • 4 yards It's a Hoot print 32371 15 Sky for the backing

  • a Design Wall (I  highly recommend this, even if it is just a piece of batting tacked to your wall - that's what I use! I will make designing your quilt so much more easy and enjoyable.)                                           

  • First, open up your layer cake(s) and pet all the yummy new fabrics:) Next divide them into three piles, trying for a good diversity of prints and colors in each stack. Then, combine two of the stacks into one pile. You will have one stack with 14 (28) prints and the other with 28 (56) prints.

    You will begin by rotary cutting the larger stack as follows:
    • 1 strip 6.5 by 2.5 inches
    • 4 strips 4.5 by 2.5
    • 4 squares 2.5 by 2.5

    Make yourself a little cutting map of this diagram for easy reference. The cross-hatch sections indicate portions unused in the pattern - set those aside.

    With the smaller pile, cut the following pieces:
    • 2 strips 6.5 by 2.5
    • 3 strips 4.5 by 2.5
    • 3 squares 2.5 by 2.5

    Here is the cutting diagram for that pile.

    Phew! All done?

    Now you can separate all the pieces by size.

    You will start building your blocks by pulling two squares of different colors and prints and sewing these right side together. Finger press your seams to the left.

    Next, chose a 4.5 inch long strip matching the square on the left and sew it, right sides together, to the top of the squares. Finger press this seam towards the new strip.

    Chose another contrasting 4.5 inch strip and sew it to the left of your new square, finger pressing again to the left.

    And finally add the matching 6.5 inch strip to the top and finger press again toward the new strip. Now, press your finished quarter block and start making a pile.

    After I've completed a dozen or two, I like to start placing them in a pleasing way on the design wall, arranging four mini - blocks to make one larger window-paned square, or bento box. Try and be as diverse as possible with your combinations. 

    When you get near the end of your strips and squares, you will have some left over. I added these in with my cutting scraps and made myself a new mug rug and patchworked the front of a new tote! You could also use them in piecing a backing, if you wish.

    Now you'll want to sew you quadrants together, and press your seams open to minimize bulk in the center where all the seams meet.

    Here is what your finished block will look like!

    Now sew these beauties up in rows, 4 by 4 blocks for the baby size,

    or 5 by 6 for the throw quilt!

    Baste, quilt and bind! Enjoy your cozy new quilt!

    This will yield one generous baby quilt, approximately 48 by 48.

    Or, if you used two layer cakes, one 56 by 68 throw quilt!

    I hope you all enjoyed my little tutorial - it's my first so go easy on me! But please let me know if there are any changes you find that need to be made:)

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Show and Tell

    First I want to say thank you to all of you who left such sweet comments about my last post. You instantly made me feel so much better about everything! I'm still waiting to hear if the tutorial will be re-posted on the Moda Bake Shop, but no matter what you will see it here or there soon.

    I just can't make enough of these Jane Market Bags! Not exactly as fashionable as the handbags I used to carry, but these have become my carry-all tote for knitting, diapers, wallet, water bottle and every other on the go necessity. My first one has been going everywhere with me so I decided to make more before I trash it too much. I love the fact that one or two of these can be whipped up in an evening.
    The first one is made of twill cloth from It's a Hoot by Momo, and is probably my favorite print of the line. The yardage is supposed to be out any day now. I used up some scraps from the quilt to do a little patchwork on the pocket, paired with a little japanese linen. 
    The second bag is a buttery soft linen by Megumi Sakakibara from Superbuzzy that I just couldn't resist. I have a half yard stack of the cotton prints by this designer that have been marinating in my stash for awhile, so I cut a little up to patchwork the pockets of this one, too. And the lining is one of my favorite Modern Meadow by Joel Dewberry prints, Herringbone in Maple. That guy is just a genius with coordinate prints, don't you think?

    My stress relief knitting project of the week is this super simple Drop Stitch Scarf. Looks complicated? Well trust me, it's not! If you can knit and count, you can make this scarf. I love this Manos del Uruguay Maxima merino wool yarn soooo much. The colorway is Chrysanthemum and it makes me happy to see the cheerful colors changing as I go along. Having a simple knitting distraction is a necessity for me because my big long-term projects tend to be above my skill level and drive me crazy more than occasionally. I'd really like to finish my Kererra sweater up but I keep encountering road blocks. If anyone has experience with knitting double garter stitch in the round, please PLEASE contact me - I beg of you!

    And I just finished up my block for Brioni (flossyblossy) in our first month on Bee Hexed In. She chose blue and green and I think this quilt is going to be just lovely! 

    I have lots more to show you soon - don't ask me where all this crafting energy came from! Right now I am ready to hit the sack and it's only 7:15:)