Friday, March 17, 2017

Samplers

What is it about samplers? They are intriguing but can seem outdated at the same time. I tend to think of traditional samplers as so old-fashioned, and even the term sampler just feels uncool in my mouth. But really, they're such an integral part of the quilting culture. Many quilters get their starts in samplers; I know I did. The first quilt block I ever sewed was part of a neighborhood sampler (I never finished it, consequently), and the block of the month program at a local quilt shop is what really got me started in earnest.

The first Saturday Sampler I did at American Quilting, my local quilt shop

What's not to love, right? It's so satisfying to finish a block, to pick individual fabrics for a block, to have a stack of interesting and different blocks. Sewing a single block is much less time commitment than an entire quilt and can be much less overwhelming. It gives you the opportunity to make a variety without getting burned out on a single technique or block pattern.

The second Saturday Sampler I did at American Quilting

Of course, samplers aren't always amazing. When you are just aimlessly sewing blocks, when do you stop? And not all samplers look cohesive, especially if the blocks aren't all designed by the same designer or in the same style or if the quilter doesn't pick a cohesive color scheme. Sometimes you don't really need a theme or style, but they can quickly turn disjointed without one. And then there are decisions to be made about settings...

A mini sampler I made for the Mini Challenge group on Flickr

It's a mixed bag, of course. But samplers seem to be a big thing right now, and are experiencing a wave of popularity (not that they're ever really unpopular) with many sampler sew alongs going on online. I haven't truly participated in any, but I have dutifully downloaded blocks just in case. Last year there was Moda's Sampler Shuffle and The Splendid Sampler, and Gnome Angel hosts lots of quilt alongs, including a 100 blocks in 100 days sew along using Tula Pink's sampler book, Farmer's Wife, and now a Long Time Gone quilt. There are block of the month programs that various bloggers do annually: Amy Gibson (who also just released a sampler book), Meadow Mist Designs, and the Fat Quarter Shop's annual fundraising block of the month. And many others, I'm sure. Clearly, we quilters love samplers. And sew alongs.

I started yet another sampler project recently. I currently have a few in progress. The first one is one I've really abandoned: a Vintage Quilt Revival sampler in solids. I have 5 or 6 blocks that have really been abandoned, and that's okay. I don't really consider it a WIP because I'm not sure I'll come back to it. It's okay. (Even though I've abandoned the sampler project, it's a really great book and I've made 3 or 4 projects from it.)


The second is the Mode Sampler Shuffle, which I've really renamed in my head as my six-inch sampler. I finished the 30 sampler shuffle blocks and now intend to supplement with more blocks from the same patterns or from the Splendid Sampler project. I've taken a break from it to work on other things, intending to come back to it with fresh eyes and new ideas.


I also started the Patchwork City Sampler and I'm sewing it up as a travel quilt with travel prints from favorite destinations. But, a few weeks ago, I paused all the things I was working on (except for my leaders and enders project) to work on yet another sampler project.

The Chip mini is obviously not part of the sampler... ;-) The 7 blocks are from Patchwork City
Sweetwater (my favorite design team) hosted a contest from Moda during their 12 months 12 contests promotion. The Sweetwater designers decided to host a contest on Instagram for making six-inch blocks in their fabric. Of course, I jumped in! And after a few blocks, decided that I wanted to make a lot of blocks (I really wanted to win!) and that I would work towards two sampler projects. One Christmas table runner (I have a lot of Sweetwater Christmas fabric and just love it) and a Sweetwater sampler quilt. 


My goal became one block per day (I reasoned in my head that this would probably put me close to 10% of the blocks) and would give me a decent shot, plus it would mean I'd have a decent number of blocks for a sampler. I hoped I would get more than that done, but I thought about 30 would be doable. I blew that out of the water and ended up with 40, including 8 Christmas blocks.

Here are some of my favorites. They said on their blog they would be looking at creativity and use of fabric. I thought I got some pretty creative ones! And I made it a personal goal to use as many different fabric lines as possible, and to mix them as much as possible in each block.



This is my winning block! Funny story: when I finished it, I told my husband that it was my winner. I knew it could win, and I was pleased to be right. There were a lot I thought could win, including the house ones above that I think are pretty creative. But I knew this one was awesome.


I thought this was my most creative block: It's a cross section of a neighborhood--can you see it?




I also thought this one had a good shot. It's from The Splendid Sampler.


This is one I saw on Instagram over a year ago and have wanted to make it ever since. I think I pieced it differently than whoever originally made it, and I like how it worked out.


I can't even say how excited I was to win! And I really love that I have a really good stack of blocks, waiting to be made into a project. Of course, I'm taking a bit of a break from six inch blocks...


What's funny is I'm not really enamored by sampler quilts. I've sure enjoyed making these, though. And I hope I actually finish them! Also--confession time--I'm really considering starting the block of the month on the Bernina blog. I just can't help myself. It's a beautiful quilt!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Time for a Change Diaper Bag

I finished sewing my new diaper bag a few nights ago, hooray! So, I guess that means I can start taking my babies out, now, right?

Right... *sigh*


But still...I finished my bag! Yippee!


When I found out I was expecting twins, I knew I'd need a better bag solution. I had used a shoulder bag from my university days for my other girls and loved the size, the material (strong, black canvas), and the strap, which had a shoulder pad and swivel clips. But I didn't think it would be big enough for two kids. I started looking into Petunia Pickle Bottom bags because it seems like everyone in my neighborhood has one. Even my friend who couldn't stomach buying one with her first baby bought one somewhere along the way to her second. However, I just don't get the hype. And they're pretty expensive...and I don't think they're that attractive: I think the shape is a little strange. I looked at other styles of the Petunia Pickle Bottom, but didn't see any I loved, and again...the price...I just couldn't see myself spending that much money on something I didn't love. 


So I started looking for patterns and got SO lucky. Erin of Dog Under My Desk released a diaper bag pattern just this year! Perfect! I was not thrilled that she put her store on sale a mere 10 days after I purchased the pattern at full price, but I had sewn a bag from a pattern of hers before and knew they were worth the $10, so I tried to not feel too upset. 

It sort of worked.

I decided to use a lightweight denim (or chambray, maybe?) from my stash for the main fabric and I ordered a piece of Handcrafted 2 by Alison Glass for the lining. I love it! I had the yellow zips already so I didn't have to order any, and I ordered the killer hardware from Bag Maker Supplies on Etsy. I think the hardware is just beautiful, I really love it and I'll definitely order it again.


Even though I complained mightily about the price of commercial diaper bags, this isn't a cheap sew, especially if you want to use AG Handcrafted fabric. I bought the main fabric too long ago to remember how much I paid, and I had most of the interfacings in my stash, but if I had to guess, I'd bet this bag cost about $75-$85 to make, including the pattern purchase. I think it's worth it.


I thought adding a pieced strip of Handcrafted scraps would look really cool as a focal point on the bag and I'm so glad I went to the trouble of doing it, I love how it turned out!


I also added a pocket on the inside with elastic. This was an add-on on her blog and I went ahead and added one because you can never have too many pockets, am I right? 

I'm really excited to start using it. I love how it turned out! I did run into a couple problems while sewing it, but really, her patterns are amazingly written and make it pretty easy to be successful. And now, if I make the pattern again (my daughter has already requested one...we'll see), I'll know where to be careful (hint: the zipper on the top isn't lined up straight, but since it still works and hangs well, I left it).


I really recommend Dog Under My Desk patterns, especially if you're new to bag making but want to start. They're amazing!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Fabric Friday: February 3

It's interesting to see the announcements of the "colors of the year." I know these announcements were made a while ago. And I've been mulling over them. In the past years, I haven't been very excited about the colors. I didn't hate them, but I wasn't excited. This year, though, I'm excited about both Pantone's color and Kona's color. Flamingo. Really? Yes. I have four girls--sign me up! 

But, I am also excited about Pantone's greenery. Now, as you know, unlike Kona's COTY, you can't just order Greenery. But, I actually do have a bunch of the colors in the same color family as Greenery. Love! 


The other day, I was picking out some fabrics to add to my English paper piecing project, and decided to add stars in navy and green. Greenery green. :-) (The white will be the hexagon centers in the green stars, and the aqua will be the centers on the blue stars). I looked at the stack, and just fell in love. The fabrics I pulled just looked great together, and I fell in love with the group. Isn't it great? I love navy, and think it pairs so well with so many things. Including Greenery. Go Pantone!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

January...

So...January, huh? I haven't posted since December and don't even have morning sickness to blame. I guess twins are a good excuse...but really, I have been sewing, and I've actually sewed a lot, but haven't had a lot of finishes to post.

Still, since it's been SO long, I figured I'd post a few work in progress shots I took today.

Here's a quick shot of my design wall. I have a mini quilt top I started for the Disney Quilt Swap, but I had to drop out because my pregnancy was killer. My partner was a librarian who (among other things) liked Beauty and the Beast. I had to make a book-inspired mini. Lucky for me, I dig books and Beauty and the Beast, too. I swore I'd finish it up at some point, and now I'm trying to decide how to quilt it. I'm leaning towards just simple straight line quilting. Not quite matchstick, but lots of close lines.


I also have my first seven blocks in the Patchwork City Sampler book. I'm using it to feature travel-related prints. Of course, they aren't all destination specific--I've got some food prints and the camera prints. I decided to also include prints that include things that are important to me in traveling. :-)

I also have two quilt tops and backs ready to deliver to my favorite long arm quilter...but I'm waiting until my big roll of batting arrives. I ordered a roll of Pellon batting off Overstock.com after reading about it from Allison Harris, and since I paid $4 a yard for it (YEP.) I thought I'd take some with my quilts since she charges more. Hopefully the batting is nice!!


I also have been working on this English Paper Piecing project. I started it while I was on bed rest. I didn't work on it a ton, but I did a bunch. And I've worked on it periodically while I pump breastmilk. Because pumping is officially one of the most boring ways of spending time ever.



And, I'm working on a new bag. It's a diaper bag pattern from Dog Under My Desk, and while I get nervous sewing three dimensionally, her patterns are extremely thorough. I'm pretty excited about it, and hope it doesn't take too long. The one change I am making is adding this strip of fabric to the front zipper panel.



I've got lots of things going on...and lots to get started on, too. :-)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fabric Friday: December 23

I've been dreaming and scheming about a sampler project as a tribute to my love of travel for a while. I got Elizabeth Hartman's Patchwork City book last year and thought it would be the perfect thing to use, and have hesitated to start for just a couple reasons. I was pretty intimidated by template piecing--I've used rotary piecing almost exclusively since I began quilting. Everything else that stood in my way was mostly related to laziness--I didn't have the templates prepped, I didn't have a block picked to start, I didn't have fabrics picked for a block, I had plenty of other projects, etc, etc...it was all stalling because I was intimidated. But! I have decided to go for it.


I've been acquiring cute travel prints for a while, and I couldn't resist the canal print from Kate Spain's Grand Canal line. But--I ordered it from Fabric.com with some other things, and so of course I ended up with a full yard due to their terrible pricing model on quilting cotton. I cut some off to make a notebook cover for my travel-loving sister, and decided that the scraps left from that cut would be perfect for a first block. But what prints to use with it?


I struggled at first with pulling coordinating prints for her notebook cover and ended up using solids. So when I decided to use the scraps for a block, I again had to consider coordinating prints. And I ended up with two separate stacks that both work equally well. I thought I'd showcase both of them here for Fabric Friday just to show how different two stacks that coordinate with the same focal print can be. Honestly, I can't even decide which one I like better, so I'll probably use both in the quilt.


I used a metallic print in both stacks and I think that complements the idea of Venice really well. Venice is so rich, and steeped with a history of wealth, that I think it works on a theoretical level. I did find that I had to be really careful with the blues and aquas because of how much of them there are in the background of the print. That was what I really struggled with when I was sewing the notebook cover. It needs good contrast so that the piecing is distinct.


So, as I was taking pictures of these stacks, I put them together, and realized that they make a really nice single stack, too! *sigh* I feel another quilt coming on!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Moda Sampler Shuffle

Several months ago, I got a hankering to start a sampler project, and settled on the Moda Sampler Shuffle. The quilt along was long over, and I had saved the block patterns during the quilt along, but Fat Quarter Shop has maintained the patterns on their blog, so I used their site as I sewed. I finished all the blocks just a few days ago, and while I'm not finished with this quilt project (I plan to add more blocks to make it a more sizeable quilt), it's always fulfilling to reach milestones!


You may notice a few blocks missing from my lineup. That's completely intentional, but I still finished with 30 blocks. Two of the blocks were applique and that wasn't what I wanted for my project for a couple reasons. First, and maybe most importantly, I hate applique. I'll do raw edge with fusible in certain instances, and I'll do wool hand applique, but I just don't enjoy needle turn or other hand-sewing methods. So, I avoid it. And second, the blocks really weren't the style I was going for. I wanted my quilt to look more contemporary, and the applique designed blocks are very traditional. No thanks. So, I skipped those and don't feel one bit guilty.

I did end up with 30 because I messed up on one, but liked the finished block, so I have two from that pattern (the chevron block), and I chose to remake one because it didn't turn out like I wanted and I wanted to try it again in a different color layout. I'm really pleased with how the second turned out. But, since there isn't anything really terribly wrong with the first, I'll include it too. So, 30. From 28 patterns.

I think I'll add blocks from the Splendid Sampler that's going on now (and from which I'm dutifully downloading patterns), but I'll surely skip any applique there, too. And I might just remake a few from the Sampler Shuffle in different color layouts. We'll see. I have a whole box full of scraps I pulled for this project that didn't seem to get any smaller. For now, I might take a bit of break and prep a new leaders and enders project because I'm out of my current one. There are always plenty of projects, aren't there?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Fabric Friday: December 9

We're here at another Friday...another week gone, another week closer to Christmas...and no progress made on my Christmas sewing for my girls...it's really tough now that they're older. My oldest, who is almost seven, stays up until 9:30, and by then, it's too late for me to pull out a sewing project and start. But--we have a neighborhood sewing night coming up on Tuesday, and I'm hoping that if I can get everything cut out, then it'll be easier to pull out when I have a few minutes here and there. We'll see.


I pulled this bundle out last week when I pulled my Tuscan bundle. I'm so drawn to navy and aqua right now, I just love them. I wanted to add a pop of something, and I tried orange, but I like these pinks better.


I'm knee deep in my Shimmer quilt, and I'm still working on my sampler project, so I don't really need a new project just yet, but pulling fabric is sure fun!