Secret project

NWF Rainbow project 2015-03-27

I know the definition of a secret project is to, um, keep it secret. But it doesn’t count if the evidence is the size of 300×300 pixels. Right?

Craftsy - Elizabeth Dackson - Start Foundation Paper PiecingFor the Craftsy class Start Foundation Paper Piecing with Elizabeth Dackson, I dug out my Caran D’Ache to plan out an improvised mini-quilt of sorts. I need a bag for my cutting mat for when I can’t keep it on the kitchen table, and since one should make sure to keep them as flat and/or straight as possible when not in use, a proper bag should do the trick. The blocks in this class are of different sizes and so I’ve shrunk three of them to fit the smallest one, which is an eight-inch square.

I will place them in a square grid on one side of the bag, with some sashing between blocks, but for the idea to work, colours have to be just right. And so the Caran D’Ache box from my childhood of pencils, a water-colour palette, and crayons came out. Can you guess which my favourite colour used to be when growing up? I think it still is, if I had to pick just one colour out of them all :)

NWF Caran D'Ache 2015-03-27

It’s blue, recently expanded to all the cool colours. I can’t figure out why I’ve used the black pencil so much, because while it is another favourite today, I really didn’t think much of it in my youth. The yellow was used to draw suns, I think. Why? No idea.

As for drawing, I “suck at it, question mark”, but the point of my little supersecret preparation drawing was to get an idea of whether the chosen colour scheme would work or not, rather than create the next Picasso. It has worked nicely in my bag project, but the scribbles are all over the place and I might edit that part out of the reading-the-blog experience when I post about its making.

It’s ridiculous really, but I got the vibe from all my art teachers until the last one during the last three years of school that I simply cannot draw. I imagine it’s a bit like when one hears that one cannot sing or produce other forms of music, both of which do come naturally to me, and still, at 30+, I feel extremely self-conscious about drawing. Sorry to say so, but at my age (insinuates that I have a whole bunch of life wisdom *snicker*) I feel a teacher has completely failed a student, if the latter thinks (s)he just can’t grasp a particular subject, but I sense a minor rant developing, so moving on to my art classes.

If my memory serves me still, I took two of them in upper-secondary school (sort of equivalent to the American high school), and in one of them we had to draw in black and white after some leaf or branch or such. It’s the first time I’ve nailed anything and I still recall the feedback, which left me glowing for days. I was told I could draw, how about that!

But then, things slipped back into She Who Cannot Draw, and here we are. I’m figuring I have to push myself with force out of my comfort zone on this one, hence the sneak peek above of a quick, untamed mockup. It’s interesting as I’m beginning to notice a pattern here (post archived in Musings category for this reason…), and it has to do with the sense of insecurity.

If I’m really insecure about something, it’s easier not to do anything at all to improve the situation. Because fear of failure, of course. Eyeroll. Whereas if I feel I have at least some kind of idea of what I’m doing, like most of my projects presented on this blog, the threshold to jump into something new is much smaller. Maybe 2015 is the year when that all-or-nothing attitude finally has to go? Have to ponder. Do you ponder such things, too?

Anyway, projects, including the March blocks for Scandibee Queen Bee Ruth, are cooking in the background currently, so will post something more before the month is over. Happy Friday!

Pretty pin cushion in need of filling

NWF Pin cushion 2 2015-03-25

Ah, I finally made a pin cushion! Well, it’s almost done, because I still have to hunt down some good filling, but the patchwork and quilting is done. It is lovely, simply wonderful to finish sewing projects!

Craftsy - Camille Roskelley - Playful Piecing TechniquesThe pattern is by Camille Roskelley and it is the first project of the Playful Piecing Techniques Craftsy class. Ever since watching the first lesson last year, I’ve been meaning to make one of these nifty contraptions, but my research into fillings took me to a standstill. Apparently crushed walnut shells or similar would be one of the best materials, but after having searched some local pet-shop websites, I’m still standing in square zero. Next step is to stop by a pet store and then to check with one of the fabric shops.

Since I started the project the other evening, the lighting wasn’t very nice, which is why the progress photos appear only now, after you have seen the more vivid colours:

NWF Pin cushion 1 2015-03-25

The quilting that Camille does is quite simple, but I need to practice more than straight lines. Using my walking foot, I did indeed quilt straight, but the pivoting and loss of first guide line still throws me off a bit in my precision. I also embraced a quality this time that fits with “Done is better than perfect”, which quite frankly should be observed even more around here. Oh, and I started the whole thing by drawing an X with a hera marker, but probably drew it too lightly or didn’t have enough light in my working area, because I barely saw either line.

The choices of quilting threads were interesting. I have inherited a bunch of 50-weight cotton threads in all sorts of colours, and while one might seem suitable at first, once it’s been quilted in place it no longer looks as smashing. The green, dark navy, and violet were the only options, but the turquoise got a first line quilted in another thread. Colour-wise it was better, but its weight clearly around 30 or heavier even (I’m not very good at estimating thread weight yet), so I ripped it out again. My seam ripper is excellent, by the way, and it seems to have earned the red dot award a couple or so years ago, so I’m not reluctant to use it at all.

Anyway, since I managed to fit five lines in each quadrant of the back, and since three fit into the coloured areas, I added two more in the white areas of the top in an attempt at echoing the design. The quilting feels like I’m still practicing, so I’m okay with a slightly wonky result.

I did, however, rip out the last middle seam, or I know the half-millimetre shift in the centre would have annoyed me to no end forever and ever, so the second time I did pin the whole seam properly. Watching the Bernina used in several Craftsy classes makes me think it’s not just me, but currently a new machine is out of the question. At least I corrected what I could :)

How many pin cushions do you have? And what shape and size are they? I’m thinking my appliqué needles might want their own.

Scandibee February blocks

NWF Scandibee February blocks 2015-03-24

The February blocks for Scandibee Queen Bee Lizzie were a tad more challenging to make, compared to the January blocks, but on the other hand I jumped with eagerness into my scrap basket.

Lizzie asked for two 12.5”x12.5” blocks with red fabrics in the background, made according to the Spiderweb block tutorial by Em of Sewing by Moonlight. Em has provided downloadable templates for both the four “kites” and the squaring up of the quarter blocks. While the latter worked well in theory, I probably had taped the two pieces together in a slightly wonky way, because the first block made was challenging in its final stages to say the least. I barely had anything to trim off, so I decided to send both blocks untrimmed to Lizzie – in particular since I still don’t have a 12.5”x12.5” ruler.

When making the second block, I trimmed each quarter block an eight of an inch larger than necessary. This made it much easier to attempt creating perfect points in all intersections and I achieved this goal fairly well. At least I wasn’t ashamed to send my contributions to the Queen Bee. Another tricky thing with my machine is the not-so-great backstitching that it does, which caused me to tie knots rather than backstitch.

Challenges aside, the Spiderweb blocks were fun to make, but I think I won’t make a whole quilt with this technique, not by myself at least. The process is fairly slow, when you strive for perfect pattern placements, and also want somewhat harmonious-looking blocks. And of course that’s how I roll, in both good and bad.

NWF One-hour basket 2015-03-23I see time and time again how I prefer quality over quantity, and it’s okay. Clearly, I still feel torn about not cranking out stuff in large volumes, but I think it’s also to do with the fact that quilts are large and sometimes daunting projects. This probably holds true in particular because I have two sampler quilts in the making, which means learning new techniques in each block. Yesterday’s quick 1-hour basket showed me that I should keep making smaller, much quicker projects next to the larger ones, to feel like I’m making constant progress, regardless of speed. Maybe it also has something to do with the fact that in my professional life I only have huge projects going on at the moment, and if my leisure is characterised by equally slow progress, it’s easier to feel overwhelmed, disappointed in a sense, and slightly frustrated as well. Something worth chewing on for sure! How do you deal with this? Not think about it at all? I’m possibly over-analysing things here… Wouldn’t be the first time for it to happen :)

Lizzie updated her Instagram yesterday with a photo of my stuff for her, so now I can let out a sigh of relief that nothing got lost in transit. Check out the other Spiderweb blocks in the Scandibee Flickr pool if you like! They are gorgeous!

My first 1-hour basket

NWF One-hour basket 2015-03-23

The 1-hour basket has begun to float all over the sewing accounts on Instagram, after Kelly of kelbysews published the pattern for free a few days ago, and I decided my iron with paraphernalia needed a new home. The name of the basket sounded promising enough that I’d manage to start – and finish, no less – a project within a reasonable timespan (whatever that means).

In theory, the project takes about an hour, but since I’m still trying to find permanent homes and arrangements in general for my crafting stuff, not only did it take some time to audition fabrics, but then the fusible fleece was missing for a short while. The amount of piles isn’t that huge, but rummaging through them took its moment. Then there’s the fact that my pressing board sits on the kitchen countertop, and the fact that I’m not always the best at washing dishes, so to clear the space took another moment. But once fabric selection had happened Saturday evening, in theory I could have finished the project in that hour. Only then I spent time chatting on the phone, too, so progress was slow enough that I did the top stitching, closing of the lining seam, and final pressing yesterday.

But enough babbling. The basket pleases me beyond words! I love the fabrics, both the Tape Measures in Aqua, a canvas from the Made With Love collection by Moda Fabrics, and Small Flowers in White from the Spring Street collection by Carolyn Gavin.

The pattern itself is also such a nicely written work. The photos are spot on, the layout clear, and the text to the point. The only things I would change are:

  • the nesting of the seams, because in quilting I prefer opening them rather than pressing to the side, and there’s considerable bulk where two canvas layers meet two fleece layers all on top of each other.
  • the size of the lining opening for turning the project inside out. I left it about three inches wide as instructed, but had to take out an inch or so worth of stitches, when the bulky exterior refused to become small enough.

Another thing I’ve observed is that people’s basket handles seem quite floppy compared to mine, even when they have added some kind of interfacing, but I want to stress that there are four layers of canvas and nothing else in mine.

I also took care to fuse each section of the fleece for about ten seconds under a moist cloth for long-term attachment to the exterior canvas. This gives a wonderful finish to the basket as a whole, I think, and it stands quite rigidly as well for such a soft construction.

Since this one fits my iron with neatly rolled-up cord, the water cup thingy, a starch bottle, and a pressing cloth, I most certainly will make more of this basket at some point. There’s more fabric where those came from, although I’m unfortunately running out on fusible fleece, I realise in this very moment to my great horror.

In the meantime, why don’t you go make one of these, too, and show me!

MQG Riley Blake fabric challenge

NWF MQG Riley Blake challenge 2015-03-21

Recently I received a neat and lovely little stack of Riley Blake fabrics for the latest Modern Quilt Guild fabric challenge. The six fabrics are designed by Amanda Herring of The Quilted Fish for her “The Cottage Garden” collection and are wonderfully well coordinated.

From left to right, the fabrics are:

  • Cottage Main in Grey
  • Cottage Wallpaper in Grey
  • Cottage Newsprint in Teal
  • Cottage Birds in Grey
  • Cottage Wallpaper in Teal
  • Cottage Aster in White

The calm look and the size of the individual cuts made me think immediately of my yoga-mat bag. A yoga mat rolled up obviously has a circular footprint, which means I’d incorporate a 360-degree piece for the first time. Also, there might be some improvisational piecing coming up, but time will tell about that one.

Finally, the major “new thing”, which is a requirement of the challenge, is the pattern itself. I’ve looked at different options amongst free patterns, but none is quite what I want, so once again I’d make something from scratch. Good thing that this challenge runs from March until July! Stay tuned for more :)

On Instagram and other social media, you will find projects under the hashtag #mqgfabricchallenge.

Fabric palette No. 10

NinaWithFreckles - Hawthorn Threads palette 10

I didn’t realise just how much I’ve missed making these fabric palettes, but I did. I feel all warm, fuzzy, and almost a bit teary-eyed, too, from having finished one for you to look at again.

This time, I challenged myself to use black and white in a way that wouldn’t be psychedelic at all. I’m not sure I have succeeded, but it was great fun to audition fabric after fabric. I nixed a lot before even downloading, and then another handful once seeing them lined up in Finder.

A funny thing is, when beginning to look at all the information for my list below, I hadn’t realised how many of these fabrics are by Hawthorne Threads. I just thought they looked fresh and interesting, and went well together with the rest. In fact, it is news to me as per this moment that they even design – and print – their own fabrics now.

Fabrics in the palette, currently available at Hawthorne Threads:

  1. Etched, Basketweave in Onyx by Hawthorne Threads.
  2. Blend, Espresso in Black by Fiona Stokes-Gilbert for Windham Fabrics.
  3. Isometry, Geometry in Onyx by Hawthorne Threads.
  4. Origami Oasis, Thicket in Black by Tamara Kate for Michael Miller Fabrics.
  5. Enchanted, Teardrop Bead in Shadow by Michelle Engel Bencsko for Cloud 9 Fabrics.
  6. Etched, Half Moon Dot in Onyx by Hawthorne Threads.
  7. Petite Paris, Eiffel Tower in Ebony by Michael Miller Fabrics.
  8. Zambezi, Fronds in Onyx by Hawthorne Threads.
  9. Mod Prints, Dressforms in Black by Michael Miller Fabrics.
  10. Sakura, Meander in Gray by Makower UK for Andover Fabrics.
  11. Etched, Vanes in Onyx by Hawthorne Threads.
  12. Opposites Attract, Big Floral in Black on White by Jacqueline Savage Mcfee for Camelot Cottons.
  13. Zambezi, Giraffe Tribe in Onyx by Hawthorne Threads.
  14. Sew Charming, Circles in Black by Bo Bunny for Riley Blake Designs.
  15. Dots, Honeycomb Dots On White in Black by Riley Blake Designs.
  16. Etched, Hills in Onyx by Hawthorne Threads.

What say you? Too crazy to look at?

A Lovely Year of Finishes 2015

Sew BitterSweet Designs - A Lovely Year of Finishes 2015

It is time. Time to finish some Works In Progress. Or they will go to WIP heaven for all times to come. And I would be known as She Who Was The Eternal WIPer But Never Finisher. We can’t have that.

Without consulting my nifty project overview in my beloved Bullet Journal, I know that each month this year my Scandibee blocks will take up some time. Then I have some tools to be made, such as the journal cover, a pin cushion, a sewing-machine cover, and pattern weights.

I’m also in desperate need of a new wallet, since the current one has a closing mechanism, which has finally died on me – and has been in that state for almost a year now. Recently in a shop, I dropped it on the floor, and of course it did the buttered-sandwich move of finding its upside-down state rather than the more beneficial-to-me one, so finally I had had it and began researching patterns. Of course there isn’t a single one out there to fit all my needs…

My home would need some updates, too, and the list is growing, but so far the only project to be a true WIP is the journal cover. This tells me I should focus on maintaining three kinds of projects simultaneously, namely 1. the bee blocks, 2. the WIPs for A Lovely Year of Finishes 2015, and – in a very controlled manner – 3. the new, truly justifiable projects.

Having decided this, I finally see what has been a challenge before. Once I understand categories or groups or such, I seem to find a way to work quite productively within those restrictions, but as long as things are still a jumbled mess, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and hence end up getting nothing done. But perhaps if I pick three projects, one for each aforementioned category, I might get the snowball rolling?

Do you have some fool-proof method to stay in motion? It seems easier to add projects rather than remove them, if you know what I mean? Will you participate in this 2015 challenge? Join me, please! I know you have some WIPs lurking in some dark corner of your craft room…

Scandibee January blocks

Stina requested two 12.5” blocks for the first Scandibee quilt ever to be made. The design she had chosen was simple improvisation of strips sewn together, and for one of the blocks she asked for a favourite colourway, whereas the other should be low-volume colours of choice.

Auditioning fabrics is usually quite easy for me, and since I found that the green section was mostly missing in the contributions of others, I decided to go for both warm and cool greens as well as various tints/shades/yadayada. At that time I didn’t even look at the low-volume fabrics yet, but simply sat down to cut, press, and sew, then press some more. Here is my first block:

NWF Scandibee January block 1 2015-03-20

If you’ve followed my other projects, I’m sure you recognise some of the fabrics already. Also, in public I hereby confess my love for the Lizzy House Jewels pattern. It is unbelievably versatile, and, while simple, it gives nice movement to a patch.

Another emerging favourite is the screen/drawn texture, which several designers are now including in their collections. The lime green above (it really is a bright lime rather than yellowish green) is my favourite size, too, in that this one fits also in foundation paper piecing on smaller templates without losing the quaint tone-on-tone effect.

While I have some low-volume fabrics already, as a category it isn’t one I’ve been investing in actively, and once time came to shuffle ideas around, my mind went blank. Nothing seemed to fit together! I don’t think I’ve ever had the experience before, so it was with utter disbelief that I rummaged back and forth without feeling any kind of clicks anywhere. This still amuses me to no end how I ended up racking my brain, because I’ve pulled fabrics for other projects after this block – without any problems whatsoever. In fact, I had forgotten all about this short-term misery until searching my memory again, when writing these words.

Clearly I have something to show, though, so without further ado, the second January block in low-volume fabrics:

NWF Scandibee January block 2 2015-03-20

I think it works quite well, and Stina, the January Queen Bee, seemed happy enough, but if you count the number of fabrics and compare it to the first block, if nothing else then this tells you what a challenge it was. Who knew how difficult a few rectangles could be…

In other words, what I have learned is that I might want to focus actively on both tone-on-tone and white-on-colour patterns in general, and those in particular when it comes to low-volume fabrics. The latter is a popular category in quilting currently, so if I intend to do projects together with others, then that in itself is a reason to expand the section a bit at some point.

As for the technique, it is a wonderfully quick way to make good use of strips on the longer, thinner side, and I can very well see myself making a scrap quilt like this in the future. All colours of the rainbow, yum! And finally, I do need a 12.5×12.5-inch ruler, because the 16×16-inch one I have is a tad too large for comfortable squaring up of blocks, when utilising the nifty diagonal lines on both ruler and block in some cases.

The Scandibee collaboration is well under way already, but I still want to take the opportunity to say how much I appreciate the ladies and their skills. Sewing with them pushes me in more ways than I had imagined to become a better quilter, and on Instagram in particular their cheerful, supportive comments are worth their weight in gold. Thanks ladies, you rock!

Scandibee Christmas mugrug swap – What I got from Stina!

In my previous post, I showed you what I made for my swap partner Sigrun in the Scandibee Christmas mugrug swap, and now it’s time for Stina’s lovely mugrug to make an appearance.

NWF Scandibee Christmas mugrug swap - From Stina 2015-03-19

In my inspiration mosaic, I had picked different styles, colours, and both solids and patterned fabrics, to make the task as fun and easy as possible for my swap partner. The only thing I asked for was a mugrug suitable to use all around the year.

When Stina’s project arrived in the mail together with a fun little notebook and a pretty charm pack from the Eden collection, I just couldn’t believe how she had done all that work for me!

The scallops, the perfectly chosen fabrics, the neat echo quilting, the wonderfully pieced back, and finally the thoughtful “here & now…” handstitched in place made my heart go all warm and fuzzy. And then I haven’t even mentioned the binding, which looks like my kitchen curtains! I still haven’t figured out whether it was a lucky coincidence or Stina maybe had read about my sewing project here on the blog.

Now I keep switching between my everyday mugrugs and this prettier rug, because I don’t want to dirty it up more than necessary, but on the other hand, I always pay attention to Stina’s encouragement to stay in the present in real mindful style.

Before I stop writing for now, I still want to mention that Stina is a really accomplished quilter, so please go visit her on her Kviltstina website! Recently she was featured on the cover of a Swedish quilting magazine, Rikstäcket, with her beautiful quilt “Små och Stora Knappar” (Small and Large Buttons).

Scandibee Christmas mugrug swap – Happy Hexagon Trivet

Yes, indeed, we are already in March, but I never blogged about my mugrug that I made for the Scandibee Christmas swap, so here goes!

The inspiration mosaic made for her anonymous swap partner, yours truly, by Sigrun had lots of vintage elements going on.

NWF Scandibee Christmas mugrug swap - Inspiration mosaic 2015-03-19

The kitchen items stood out to an extent that I decided to build the theme around “Put A Lid On It” in the Nite colourway, from the Kitchen Collection by Michael Miller Fabrics. To my luck, I happened to have matching colours and patterns to bring out various details from the focal fabric.

I already had in mind Ayumi Mills’s “Happy Hexagon Trivet” pattern from “Patchwork, Please!” (written as Ayumi Takahashi) and it was so much fun to choose which part of the kitchen fabric would end up at the end of the tunnel of sorts.

Due to its hexagon shape, the size of the trivet was a bit large for a mugrug, so I scaled it down. If I recall correctly, the mugrug ended up being around six inches for two apothems.

My process collage shows some especially memorable moments, all a first of some kind.

NWF Scandibee Christmas mugrug swap - Process collage 2015-03-19

The pattern isn’t difficult at all, if you have a basic understanding of how to do foundation paper piecing, but progress is quite slow. And since I was making the mugrug for someone else, I wanted to pay attention to fabric placements, pressing well, and so on.

While I had enough knowledge to pick this pattern, it ended up being the first time I sewed in place the last fabric piece to an FPP project, when I got to rip out the foundation paper (oh my, the tiny size of some of the pieces!), and – believe it or not – when I did proper binding by hand, rather than use bias tape. Quilting neatly wasn’t easy either, in particular when arriving at a vertix to pivot around it, but I finished the project and Sigrun posted a photo of it as having arrived at her address.

NWF Scandibee Christmas mugrug swap - Finished mugrug collage 2015-03-19

In general, I think small projects like this Happy Hexagon Trivet might look simple at first, but if you throw in a range of new things to deal with, not only do they become time-consuming, but also unexpectedly large in one’s mind. Maybe this is partly due to my tendency not to want to wing things and risk failure or sub-par quality of sorts, but whatever it is, I feel I’ve stumbled upon the reason why the mere thought of constantly cranking out something crafty is overwhelming.

I tend to challenge myself thoroughly in my projects, even when it isn’t a conscious move, and one can’t learn new things all the time, but time is needed to process them to allow them to actually sink in. Do you know what I’m trying to say here? Feel the same? Or maybe have a less “serious” approach to your craft?

After some reflection is out of the way, I’ll wrap this project up with a pleased sigh and a conclusion I might use the pattern again one day. Can’t say that of all of them!

P.S. The collages were due to bad lighting conditions in December, but I like the condensed format so much that I think I’ll use the nutshell versions in future posts. Not that I mind longer blog posts, but the scrolling can get a bit tedious sometimes.