Saturday, May 26, 2012

DIY Project: Busy Diamond Quilt

It is done! It is done! IT'S DONE!!!

Yup, totally did the whole "quilt hanging on a tree branch for no apparent reason" thing. 
In my front yard. For you guys.

My very first large quilt is finally completed. I did the finishing touches yesterday morning, and here it is:

Big thanks to my lovely husband, who kindly assisted me so I could take these pictures. 
I give him extra brownie points for doing it super early in the morning, half asleep,  before breakfast, or even coffee.

This is the 3rd quilt I've ever made (but the 4th one to get finished as I made this while waiting for supplies to arrive mid-project). It is the biggest quilt I've ever made, a queen-size, measuring a total of 88 by 96 inches! It is also the only quilt I've made that wasn't an intended gift; this quilt is for me.  I plan to use as a throw on the daybed in my office.

The backing is my favorite, and which is actually the inspiration of my next quilt.

I picked the fabric to match all the colors in my office. I wanted a busy mix of flowers, butterflies, and graphical patterns. I got four matching fat quarter bundles for the quilt top, not knowing how much I'd really need, but it turned out to be the perfect amount. I used ~90% of the bundles for the quilt top.

 Baby Cat (maybe it's time to stop calling him that?) walking across the finished quilt top.

I wanted to try a more precise pattern this time, and I also wanted the pieces to be large enough to show off all the different prints, so I drew this large diamond design. The large blocks were so easy to work with, which made this quilt come together really quickly. I like quilting so much better when I can clearly see the project progress. Spending hours piecing tiny, complicated blocks while my project inches forward at snail speed, really snuffs out my creativity. Besides, I actually really liked the look of the larger patchwork, so I'll definitely do more of these larger scale designs (in fact, I have already started another).

The backing is [at least] as fabulous as the top. In fact, it may be my new, favorite print. OF. ALL. TIME. While I initially thought I should go with something plain for the backing, to off set all the business on the front, that didn't gel with the vision I had in my head. Instead I opted to do the opposite and got another bold, gorgeous pattern that sort of matched, but wasn't in the quilt top. Although I almost changed my mind once again when I realized I'd have to wait for the new backing fabric for several days (when I'm really inspired I want to do the work NOW, and if I can't, I suffer from awful waiting-frustration), but I'm so glad I exercised some patience and waited, because it turned out to be my favorite part.

The backing fabric, which I love, love, LOVE it!
Image source: my Instagram

The sheer hugeness of this queen-sized project really added another dimension of difficulty to the process, compared to the baby-sized quilts I've made previously. It was difficult to piece. It was difficult to pin. It was extremely heavy to constantly lift, pull and shift as I worked on my small craft table. It was difficult just to maneuver the massive volumes of fabric through my machine. I was paranoid about wrinkles, or that I would accidentally sew big folds of the quilt together, and kept obsessively checking to make sure I didn't. I used safety pins as I quilted, and it made the biggest difference! A I'll-Never-Quilt-Again-Without-Safety-Pins kind of difference. And not just any safety pins. Good ones. I learned the hard way (don't get Singer brand safety pins - they suck!).

Pinning the entire quilt took forever,  and I had to use my dining room table to do it, but was SO worth the effort. 

The quilting itself was a complete nightmare pretty tricky. So far, the actual quilting has been my least favorite part of quilt-making, and this time was no different. In fact, it was worse.  I believe I compared it to "maneuvering a dead body rolled up in a rug through a tiny maze built for bunny rabbits" on Twitter, and that pretty much sums it up. This was just so much quilt, the sheer volume, and even more so, the weight of it all, made an already difficult process SO much harder. And I'm talking tounge-out-of-the-corner-of-your-mouth-in-concentration, grunt & sweat kind of difficult, that included many-a-discouraged-breaks slumping dejectedly over my machine, worrying that I might die before I finish.

Overly dramatic? Me?
You're kidding.

The bunny-sized maze & body-rolled-up-in-a-rug party. Fun times.

Holy exhausting, Batman! I kept wondering how frail old ladies pull this off??? But I really wanted it finished so I couldn't stop. I can get a bit obsessive while in the midst of a project, if that wasn't already obvious... I'll confess that the morning after I quilted the entire piece, I could barely lift my arms over my head because my neck and shoulders were so sore (pitiful, I know). I guess that should teach me not to quilt an entire queen sized quilt in one sitting (or, the importance of weight lifting).

Initially, I had planned to try a simple double line grid following the diamond pattern on top, but since some of my diamonds were not lined up perfectly (ooops),  I scrapped that idea as I thought it would accentuate the shift in my blocks in a bad way. Instead I decided to quilt inside each diamond, a 1/4 inch from the seam, which created this beautiful lattice pattern that I love, love, LOVE.

Close up of quilting pattern - I found it quite difficult to really capture, but I tried. 
In person, it is really beautiful! I can't wait to try it again, without the shift.

While it turned out absolutely gorgeous,  it was a total royal pain the in ass to work through the machine! Turning the entire project 3 turns in each diamond, was crazy difficult! After a few diamonds, I figured the easiest way of achieving this look would be by stitching half the diamond at a time, doing only turn per seam. That made maneuvering this humongous lump through the machine a little easier, but don't get me wrong. It was still a total PITA, but so worth it. I really love the look of it!

I did the binding on my machine as well, using a pre-made bias cut binding. Although it does match some of the fabric in the quilt top, it clashes with a lot of them too. I had wanted a watermelon color binding, which I think would have looked better, but couldn't find one, and didn't want to buy fabric to make it myself. This one goes so well with the back fabric, I'm pretty happy with it, in spite of the clash in front. Usually I do make my own binding, and I've never tried the store bought version before, but I actually found it easy to work with. The binding is where I noticed the biggest improvement in my technique. I can see a clear progression with each quilt I've made, and seeing that progress in such a tangible way is really rewarding.

Binding, and label.

I started this quilt a week ago, but between waiting for finishing materials, and you know, having a life, I reality worked on it for 4 days; 1 day for the top, one day to assemble and pin the quilt sandwich, 1 day for the quilting, and a couple of hours the next morning to complete the binding. Compared to my previous baby-sized projects, making a quilt this big was a completely different animal. It was a lot more challenging, but also really rewarding. Rewarding enough to not turn me off from making another. While it isn't perfect, it's certainly my best work so far. I learned SO much while making it, including quite a few more things Not To Do Next Time. Overall, I am very, very happy with my quilt.


Quilt top:
1 x Seafoam Symphony Poetics Fat Quarter Bundle Pat Bravo for Art Gallery Fabrics
1 x Meet Me at Sunset Fat Quarter Bundle Dear Stella Fabrics
1 x She Loves Me Not Petal Pusher Fat Quarter Bundle Dear Stella Fabrics
1 x Glamour Lark Fat Quarter Bundle Amy Butler for Westminster Fibers

8 yards x Tradewinds South Pacific Empress Yardage Lily Ashbury for Moda Fabrics

Pre-made bias cut binding

Ready for my next nap.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Custom Fabric Labels [That Won't Cost You a Bazillion Dollars].

I've recently started making quilts, and I've given away every quilt I've made so far. Each time I've gifted one, I've wished I had put my own label on it. Party just because it is fun, but mostly to be able to give a handmade gift that states that it is handmade, and by whom, with more longevity than an accompanying card. However, if you've ever looked into having your own fabric labels made, you would know that those little scratchy scraps are EXPENSIVE. Like $0.50 per label expensive. Which really isn't that much, compared to the $ that goes into a quilt, but still, I figured it wasn't worth it, and moved on.

Then I stumbled upon this post from See Kate Sew, while looking around for something else, and all my  problems were instantly solved. Her post, a great tutorial, details how to design, upload and order your own, custom fabric from Spoonflower, and then use it to make your own labels.

In a flash my mind was filled with piles upon piles of completed, gorgeous quilts, each with my own, neat little label in the corner. I designed, uploaded, and placed an order right then and there for my own custom labels for all my future project. I made my logo using Pages instead of Photoshop, and I was a lot less meticulous (surprise!) compared to Kate's tutorial, but they still turned out perfect. The whole process was ridiculously easy and straight forward (please click through to Kate's tutorial if you need help). And cheap. I got hundreds upon hundreds of cute little labels, all for a combined total of $20. Turn-around time for my order was about 1 week.

They arrived yesterday!

This is what my custom fabric looks like:

Just in time to add one to my latest completed project before I gift it.

I am ridiculously happy with my little labels. They look awesome in person, they wash well, and they have the added benefit of being soft, just as soft as fabric. I'm really happy about this unforeseen perk, as I loath scratchy labels, and I was a bit worried that they would be annoying on the completed quilts.

Thanks, Kate, for the wonderful idea & tutorial!

Now I just need to finish 300 more quilts, just so I can label them with my nifty, new labels. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

DIY Project: "Quicky" Yard Panel Baby Blanket

While waiting for the necessary supplies to arrive so I could finish up the project I really was the middle of, I started picking through my fabric stash for something small to complete while I waited. I was happy when I found this really cute baby animal panel, even though I don't even remember when, or for what, I bought it. By chance I also found 2 half yards of the coordinating fabric, and figured I would use them to throw this quick little blanket together.

This project is so simple, it barely needs a tutorial. It is a fabulous project for a beginner quilter (instead of wasting materials making test sandwiches), and perfect if  you ever find yourself in a pinch for a baby gift, as this can be whipped up in less than 2 hours.

Nothing like a crisp, clean, newly-made quilt straight from the dryer. 
I really like the white binding, and check out my new new project labels!

2 Hour Yard Panel Baby Blanket Tutorial

What You'll Need:
1 yard, panel or otherwise, for top
1 yard, continuos or otherwise, for backing
1 fat quarter coordinating fabric, for binding
1 yard batting
Safety pins (never quilt anything without safety pains!)

The top of the blanket displays the entire yard panel - I thought it was so cute with all the different baby animals!

What To Do:
1. First, if you have pieces that are smaller than 1 yard, sew them together so you'll have 1 continuous yard for the front, and 1 continuous yard for the back. I used a yard panel for the front, and 2 x 1/2 yard pieces for the back.
2. Assemble your "quilt sandwich". Begin by laying your backing yard down on a work surface, right side down. Add batting, and lastly, the top fabric, right side facing up. Align all edges and pin together with the safety pins, every 4-8 inches, across the entire yard.
3. Quilt the non-quilt. Sew the layers together in whatever pattern you prefer. I followed the pattern of my top panel, but it doesn't matter. A simple square grid is fine.
4. Bind the edges, using a double fold binding. I used white, cotton scrap fabric to make my binding. (This is also where I added my label.)
5. Done! Wash & dry the blanket, and it's ready to be gifted.

Here you can clearly see how I used the pattern on the panel as my guide when quilting the blanket.


1 yard (Yard Panel) Sheri McCulley Studio, Woodland Tails, Panel Blue

1/2 yard Sheri McCulley Studio, Woodland Tails, Deer Green
1/2 yard Sheri McCulley Studio, Woodland Tails, Deer Pink

white cotton scraps

The backside is two different colors, but even in person, it's hard to tell unless you know about it. 

This little blanket turned out really cute, and while I only made it to combat waiting-frustration, it's actually perfect as a quick little baby gift. A proper quilt takes a lot of time to make, and the amount of work involved is sometimes overkill (for the occasion/relationship/gift). This quicky little blanket is still a cute, handmade gift, and it still has that lovely "quilt-fresh-out-of-the-dryer" feel. It just didn't take weeks to finish. It is conveniently small, only 40" x 40", perfect for a car seat or stroller, and I used really light batting so it's nice and summery. It's even unisex! 

Monday, May 14, 2012

A matching set.

I made a couple more paintings this weekend, to match the first one.

Image source: my Instagram

I took photos to share this morning, but it's all foggy here, so the pictures are not as vibrant as they could have been in better lighting. I figured dark pictures are better than no pictures at all.

Here is Orchid #2, which I wasn't that fond of while making it, as I made a few stupid mistakes, but after the colors dried completely it grew on me after all.

Orchid #3 is my favorite of the three paintings.

This water color project has been such a pleasant surprise for me. I'm so happy that I gave painting a try again after all these years, I'm really enjoying it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My frist painting in more than 15 years.

Yesterday, as Hubby & I were driving to run some errands, the inspiration to paint suddenly dropped into my head, much to my surprise, since I haven't painted in more than 15 years.
"I want to paint a painting", I said. "With water colors."
"Let's go pick some supplies up", was my dear husband's answer.
"What about the errands?"
"They can wait."
 Image source: my Instagram

So, we switched our course and went and picked up supplies, and then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in the backyard, me painting, and him reading and watching me paint. It was absolutely lovely. So relaxing and refreshing. Here is the finished piece, my first in 15 something years:

I framed it this morning, thinking I would hang it, this Very First Painting, in my office, but Hubby really wants it in his. 

The impulse to paint struck me with such surprises, but I am glad to say that I truly enjoyed it. It was relaxing, and satisfying, although I remember nothing of the "how to's" involved. Half a life ago, I was just starting to learn. Now, I'm starting over.

I am so lucky to have a partner in this thing called Life who truly appreciates and supports my creative mind, regardless of medium. He is a keeper.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Welcome to my new office!

Finally the day has come to reveal all the changes I've made to my office! Although I finished it several weeks ago, we've have had guests staying here until recently, so the reveal had to wait. I really do love my new office so much! I frequently find myself wandering in there just to look at it. It's pretty, but even better -- it's pretty AND functional. Let me show you around.

Office accessories

My old office was a complete bit of a bore. It was all about work, work, WORK and I never took the time to actually make it into a beautiful space. This time I wanted more glamour, less clutter. More style, less school. More inspiring, less snoring. Or maybe more snoring, technically, since I also wanted it to double-duty as a guest room.

You get the point. I wanted a lot more from my office.

Since I didn't take before pictures, I can't unfortunately show you what this space used to look like. Just know that it was ugly and really boring. Most of the space was dominated by two very large desks, which were really practical when studying. However, since I'm no longer in school, I didn't need that figuration anymore, so the first thing I did was tossing out those massive desks. I replaced them with a small Ikea desk.

The new desk & footstool.

I turned the new desk at an angle against the Ikea Expedit that I already owned, to create a smaller, more confined "office corner" in the room. My bamboo chair mat frames the space perfectly. This new, smaller desk space is perfect for writing, which is mainly what I do at my desktop nowadays, without eating up the entire space. The Expedit cubbies hold everything from my ever-growing collection of writing research books, to Baby Cat's electric cat bed.

The office corner

Behind my desk I wanted a gallery wall with a mix of pictures of family, friends, and pets, and I ended up adding a few mementos as well. I also removed the old, ugly, light-sucking curtains that previously dominated the small, off-center window on the one side of my desk. A large, flowering bush (with delicious smelling flowers) grows right outside my window, and together, the curtain and the bush made this room really dark. I replaced them with sheer white curtains, which made such an enormous difference! I also added blackout curtains, to accommodate overnight guests.

Gallery wall & double curtains 
(if you look closely, you can see that some of the frames are still waiting for their photo)

Since we rent, I couldn't paint the walls a nice, new color. I was kind of bummed about that, until I found these colorful vinyl dots from Blik. They are removable, easy to apply, cheap, and they bring such a great pop of color to my otherwise boring white walls.

Wall dots, from the door.

Against the wall opposing my desk, I have my brand new daybed, fitted with a 10-inch thick twin-size memory foam mattress. Underneath it is the trundle that I built, fitted with a 5 inch (originally a 6 inch, but I trimmed off 1 inch for clearance) memory foam mattress, to add one more twin guest bed to the room.

Other side of office, from window.

I originally added the daybed to my office to gain a part-time guest room, and I had not anticipated the amount of additional use I've gotten out of it since I got it.  I read on it, I nap on it, I turn my computer around & watch TV on it, I sleep on it when my husband's snoring makes the master bedroom unbearable (only once, as of yet, but give him some time). Hubby have napped on it during the day on occasion as well.

 Daybed & DIY trundle.

I wanted to pile the daybed high with awesome pillows, but I had no idea how hard it would be to find suitable pillows! After a lot of work, research, DIY-ing, and a few failed internet orders, I've finally arrived at an acceptable state of pillow bliss.

A mix of vintage, store purchased, homemade, and custom Etsy ordered pillows

As a coffee table, I use this little rolling glass side table from Ikea. When I don't need it, it conveniently tucks right in under the desk. This works out wonderfully, as I can easily clear this space when I need to use the trundle. I just roll the table in under my desk, right next to my foot stool, and the trundle pulls right out.

Side table rolled in under the desk

Both daybed & trundle made up for sleeping 2 people
(as it turns out, snapping pics in the middle of the night do not produce the best picture)

This also allows me to use this flexible space to craft in my office. Previously, I used a foldable craft table in another part of the house, but the light was really bad. Now, I can easily clear this space to fit my craft table, which allows for more light for me while I work, and less clutter in the rest of the house. Major win-win. Or, more like win-win-win. Win.

Foldable craft table & sewing setup - I can even turn my desktop around & watch TV while i work

On the small sliver of wall between my closets, I used to have a system of whiteboard calendars, where I kept my school schedule. Now I have this 6 drawer tall dresser from World Market, and I really love how much extra storage it has added.

New tall dresser

And that's the tour! (I'll be seriously impressed if you made it this far though this longwinded post.) All the big things, at least. I'll post a more detailed look at some of the smaller features another day.

Faux-taxidermy deer head

All in all, I'm extremely pleased with my new, multitasking space!  Most of all, I'm so happy I finally took the time to truly make it my own.

Monday, May 7, 2012

DIY Project: Baby Quilt 2

I finished yet another baby quilt this afternoon. This one is fairly small,  almost square, and I thought it would serve well as a baby quilt/play mat, as well as a conveniently-sized stroller/carseat quilt. It is very soft and cuddly,  I especially love the feel of it straight out of the dryer.

I really love the design process of quilting, but my sewing skills are still lagging way behind my quilt-imagination.  I'm looking forward to the day when I my quilts actually look as nice as I imagine them.

As you can see, this little quilt turned out quite crooked, and though I was planning to gift this one to a friend, I am no longer sure if I will. Maybe receiving less-than-perfect DIY gifts are less-then-desirable? My did give away my First [imperfect] Quilt, and it was very well received, but still I'm unsure... Tell me, would you gift a handmade item that was less than perfect?