Last Finished Quilt of 2011

I worked my butt off on the quilting and binding for this quilt and managed to finish it in time for Henry for Christmas. 


This quilt is the last of four I Spy quilts.
It is the last quilt for the year and the last of my parade of handmades.

Henry square
(Henry's fishy square)

I started his I Spy quilt knowing two things, I wanted to use the Ann Kelle Remix Stripe somewhere in the quilt and that I was willing to cut into anything to get some interesting prints.

ann kelle remix stripe as binding

When I had finally pulled together the 135 prints for his quilt, it still took months and months before the full design came to me.  I'm not a fast designer.  Either the idea has come to me, or it hasn't arrived yet.  I try to be patient until the right plan comes to mind, but it isn't always easy.  The design for this quilt came over months of thinking about it.
One day, I just woke up and I knew I wanted to use more than color for the solid squares.  I thought that they would be random....

Then, weeks later, I decided to arrange the squares in a plus sign design.

 double quilted plus

Then, it took months before I figured out that I wanted the spy fabrics arranged by color
and in pluses also.

more hand quilting

The quilt squares took up the whole floor of my dining room for two weeks before I figured out that the pale background spy prints had to go at the bottom of the quilt and offset by the colored solids.

Even once the top was designed, it still took me ages and ages before I knew how to quilt it.  Eventually, I decided on a mix of machine and hand quilting.


all done

Here is the recipient inspecting the I Spy squares:


I think he likes it!

Thank you to Rachel, Audrey, and Sandi for helping me to collect fabrics!

And thank you to all readers and commenters on this blog.
It really does help me stay motivated to finish projects throughout the year.

Happy New Year to you!

Mom's Pillow

Kerry's and Leila's recent posts about making pillows got my mind whirring.  Naturally, I thought I'd try to make one for my mom.  This was so fun that I might become a pillow addict soon.

mom's pillow

I used Kerry's pattern and put my own twist on it with 
added angles, quilting, zipper closure and and put a star on top of the tree.

mom's pillow

The star is from an IKEA print and I put a little red hand stitching around it.

mom's pillow

For this project I put in my first invisible zipper.

mom's pillow

My mom is so excited about the pillow, and that made it easier to let go.

Parade of the Handmades

I made a few other gifts for the holidays....

First up is a felt ornament for Ben.  He is a big Cubbies fan and all he wanted for Christmas was tickets to a game this summer.  But, I had to make something for him, too.  Ben's birding friend, Mike, has a bunch of Packers and Brewers ornaments on the family tree.  So, naturally, I had to step in so Ben could root for his team while decorating the tree.

Cubs ornament for the hubs

Then I made this little pouch with a pattern by Keyka Lou. This is the Keychain Clutch pattern and is just as cute as can be.

Keychain Clutch open
Keychain Clutch closed

Lastly is another Keyka Lou pattern called the Bubble Pouch.  I think it is super cute and simple to sew.  And, as an extra bonus, Keyka Lou is is having a sale on patterns she is retiring and this is one of them.  The pattern is only $3, but, you have to hurry here before January 1st. 

Bubble Pouch open

Bubble Pouch front

I still have a few more handmades to show, but I have to get some decent photos first. The gloomy winter weather is not cooperating.

The kitties have moved in!

I finished renovating the house for Henry in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve.  

outside of house

In addition to the painting, three rooms got new wood floors and two received new "tile". 

kitchen and green bedroom


The kitty family moved in on Christmas morning.


Henry's excitement made everything totally worthwhile.  The kitties have been very busy trying out the stairs, the potty, the bathtub and the bed (under the covers, of course).  And, we've mostly dissuaded Henry from crawling into the house or using it as yet another percussion instrument.

I hope your holidays were joyous.


For three days I've been taking out carpet and wallpaper, priming, painting, sanding, laying flooring, and more painting.  All for Henry's gift on Christmas day.  The work is not yet finished, 
but I thought that I could post a few "before" photos. 

This is the dollhouse my dad made for me for Christmas when I was a child.  He decorated it with carpet samples and wallpaper scraps that matched my childhood home. 

outside of house

The house was designed with 4 large doors that opened up--two in the front and two in the back.   
The doors are held shut with magnets.

bedroom and livingroom and stairs

diningroom wallpaper

The attic is under one side of the roof. 

and attic

Stay tuned for the new and improved house!  
I can't wait to see the look on Henry's face on Christmas morning.

Sun to photograph by

I swear I haven't seen the sunshine for a week or more.  But this morning the sky is clear and blue.  Finally, it is a good day for quilt photography!

This was my initial sketch for a quilt for our friend (soon to be one year old!) Miles.  I bought some water themed fabrics and tried to include them all in the quilt plan.

initial drawing

Soon after starting my piecing plan, I realized that the prints were too bright and with strong contrast.
They needed more solids to balance the design. 

The turtles and the zig zag stripe are from Wendy Slotboom for In the Beginning.  The whales are Anne Kelle Urban Zoologie.  The octopus/whale/submarine print and the school of fish are from Cosmo Cricket Snorkel.  The big bubbles are Jennifer Paganelli Bell Bottoms.  The solids are Kona white, Connecting Threads ocean mist and marine (I think marine is discontinued).  
The quilt is bound in the marine fabric also.

I made a lot of adjustments and added solids as I went along with the cutting process.  
I think it worked out. 

swimmy quilt for Miles

I hope a certain one year old likes it!

(Photos of this quilt were brought to you by sunshine and a patient husband 
willing to stand and hold up a quilt on a frosty morning.)

One pincushion down, two to go.

I got so excited by the number of comments on my custom pincushion giveaway, that I decided to make three of them.  Well, I have one finished now.  Charise requested a "C" in red, aqua and/or mustard.

I used a mix of paper and improvisational piecing.  Straight paper piecing will give accurate results and a clean finished project, but I'm often too lazy to go to the copy store to reverse my drawing and also too lazy to wrestle with the paper for the tiny piecing.  So, first I start with a detailed drawing. 


Then I make at least two regular copies of my drawing (my copier at home can do this much) and I cut out piece 1 like a template and I cut out pieces 1-7 all joined as a second template. 

template copies

You'll see that pieces 6 and 7 have extra hash marks because the red fabric has to be joined to the aqua background fabric before joining it to piece 1.   So, next I prepare pieces 6 and 7 by sewing two small strips of the two colors together.  Then I use my template of piece 1 to cut the aqua background fabric adding a 1/4" seam allowance all around.  Next I sew pieces 1-7 together and use the 1-7 template to trim off the excess fabric (remembering to add a 1/4" seam allowance).  Then I continue piecing 8-16 on.  Then I trim that to a square and make it into a pincushion.

I don't know if that clarifies anything, but I thought I'd try to explain my process a little.  Someday I'll have to remember to take more pictures when I'm in the midst of this piecing.  (I think I turn into a sewing/cutting/ironing whirling dervish when I'm in the middle of making these blocks, so the photos may be awhile.)

I placed some plain white fabric behind the front and back squares of the pincushion before sewing them together.  I stuffed this pincushion with crushed walnut shells--otherwise known as "lizard litter" at the pet store.  Then I whip stitched the opening closed.

C pincushion

Okay!  This will be on its way to Charise soon!
I have a "V" and an "S" pincushions left to do for the giveaway, so stay tuned. 

For those of you that want to try paper or improv piecing and designing your own blocks, I highly recommend practicing with letters of the alphabet. Especially L, T, H, V, M, A or a squared-off O. Then you can try curved letters C, U, D or a curved O.  I'd save a curved S, B, G, Q, R and lowercase e and g for last.  I did other posts here and here about my designs for a couple of other letters.  Good luck to you!

Quietly Busy

I've been puttering away in the sewing room, pondering my next big project and trying to finish some of the smaller things on the list.  I've been planning for weeks to try to whittle my WIP's down to single digits by the new year.  That just isn't happening so far, though.  For instance, this past week the holiday workshop had to open up for the Trim the Tree Handmade Ornament Swap

Trim the Tree Handmade Ornament Swap design

These are made with linen, some favorite fabric scraps and extra thread for the details. 


I'm even working on a Halloween decoration because I found a kit that I just couldn't pass up and couldn't leave until next year.  You'll have to wait a bit to see that one, though.  
Thankfully, I'm not planning on any turkey-themed projects.  

What about you?  Are you completely done with Halloween sewing?  
Anything for Thanksgiving?  Have you started on the gifts yet?

Cocorico blocks for October and November

I was behind in making blocks for this bee, but I plugged away
at these two over the weekend so I could catch up.

For the month of October, Annabel assigned us a 12x16" block with an orchard theme.  When I think of orchards and pick your own fruit, I think of my canner and jars.  I love picking my own fruit but my eyes are bigger than our tummies and my time is never as big as our pantry.  So I have to limit myself to picking only as much fruit as I'm able to can or freeze in a half of a day.
I came up with this block sketch:

The canning jars intimidated me, so I took my time and pieced
the canner and the bowl of apples first.
peek for Annabel

I used freezer paper to do the canner lid curve and I embroidered the handle and the lip of the lid.  I used fusible web and raw edge applique to do the apples.  I don't know the name for the technique I used for the bowl.  Can I admit that I feel like a hack when I use a process and I can't even put it into words?  But when I learn more about it, I promise to do another post explaining it.  okay?

jars for Annabel's block

Anyway, I used the mystery applique technique for the jars, too, and then put them on with some white thread.  Then I did some thread sketching in blue for the jar details.  On a whim I picked out two blue colors for the sketching and I thread them both through my needle and stitched them at the same time.  Kooky, I know, but it worked like a dream, so I'm sticking with it.

October Orchard Themed Block

Here is the finished block.  I wish I hadn't let it intimidate me so, but I'm pleased with the results.

And, now on to the November block.  Krista and her family are big skiers, so she requested 10 to 14" blocks with the theme, "Let's hit the slopes!"  I don't downhill ski, but I do love cross country skiing.  I learned to ski from an old housemate that also taught me how to knit.  Both will forever be linked in my mind,
so I had to sew a ski sweater.  Here is my sketch:


I started with piecing a snowflake out of the tiniest HST's I've ever done.
Those blue and white squares are only 5/8". 

start of a ski sweater

Then it was on to tiny flying geese, a Y-seam at the collar and embroidering a zipper.

sweater block in progress

Lastly, I had the task of making the sleeves "jaunty" (as Krista put it) but not too silly-looking.

November Ski Sweater Block

I must admit that these blocks are hard ones to tuck into the mailbox  :)

Ski Sweater

Well, thanks for letting me ramble on and post a ridiculous amount of photos for only two blocks.
I LOVE reading process posts by other quilters because I learn so much.  But I'm also a bit shy about showing my sketchbook and partial block photos.  I hope you don't mind the peeks into my process.

Late Costume Post

Henry was Officer Buckle for Halloween (from the wonderful children's book Officer Buckle and Gloria).  He's been talking about Officer Buckle for many months now, 
so this costume seemed like the way to go.

Officer Buckle

I bought a boy's size 5 shirt from Goodwill and cut off the sleeves and cut down the sides to fit him and then put it back together.  I used the extra fabric for the tabs on the shoulders.  Then I got some silver jeans buttons to add some "flair".  I made the belt with two compartments and sewed a sewing tape measure in one and a film canister in the other and added a plastic buckle that I had lying around.  
The police hat was skipped because there was no way he'd leave it on.


The Saturday before Halloween is the children's costume parade in our town.  
Ben took Henry since I was sick that day.  Henry's stuffed dog is standing in for Gloria. 

at the park

They hit the park swings and slide after the parade.

the officer and "funny faces"

Henry has been enjoying the pumpkins and says, "big pumpkin!" every time he sees one.  
Jack o' lanterns are called "funny faces!"

I hope your Halloween was a blast, too. 

New Quilt

I have finally finished Henry's Swimmy Quilt.  (Darned binding.  I always get stuck at that stage.)

The inspiration for the quilt started with this photo by Kati of from the blue chair.

Her whole quilt is Gorgeous with a capital "G."  But it was that one tiny orange square that wiggled it's way into my brain and stayed there for months.  Then one night, I realized that I had to just sew it out or that orange square would never get out of my mind.   As I swam laps in the pool that night, I thought of my son, Henry.   He's a cautious guy on land.  (He's now nearly two and a half and he doesn't quite run.)  But get that guy around water and he thinks he's a fish.  He can't swim, but he thinks he can and spends all of his time attempting to drown himself.  I suddenly knew I had to make a water quilt with an orange square for my little goldfish.

This quilt started out as the back of the I-Spy quilt I'm making for him.  (Dear regular readers, I still haven't basted that poor thing. I think he may get it for Christmas. Maybe.)  Then flickr friends and blog readers convinced me that it was a quilt top.  I had no idea.  It is a good thing they set me straight.

so far

I quilted it with my walking foot and a bazillion 90 degree turns.


Last week I finished the binding.
I wish I could bring it in to take photos by the pool, but the fall pumpkins will have to do.

Henry's Swimmy Quilt

Henry's Swimmy Quilt

Thank you to my readers for your input.  Without it, the quilting would have been ruled by 
the front of the quilt design (and been full of diagonal lines--not good).  
Now it will hang on the wall in my son's room instead. 

Apple season

First, I'll start with a quote from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  This book is about building a food culture by eating seasonally and locally and challenging the notion that eating seasonally results in deprivation.  One phrase from the book has been stuck in my mind today.

"...asparagus seems like a good place to start.  And if the object of our 
delayed gratification is a suspected aphrodisiac?  That's the sublime 
paradox of a food culture: restraint equals indulgence."

Well, swap apples for asparagus and you get a glimpse of our last few days.  Yesterday we went to the apple orchard and had apple cider, apple pie with cheddar cheese, cider donuts, and later I made pork chops with applesauce.  Today we had apple pancakes for breakfast, I canned 14 jars of applesauce and now I'm enjoying some Irish cheddar cheese over apple slices.  Yum. 

I thought I'd share a few peeks of the process of making applesauce for canning:




saucing it up

 (I'm sorry that there aren't photos of the canning.  There is just too much scalding water 
and steam for me to remember to grab the camera.)

Now I'm relaxing on the couch and reveling in the pop, pop, pop of the jars sealing.
That's the sound of pure bliss after a day of canning.

Later tonight I'll return to my sewing machine. 
Next time, you'll see the picture below turned into a quilt block!

canning pot