Thursday, April 3, 2014

quilting guy style

I'm in the midst of tackling something that in my 4 years of quilting I've never attempted...no its not some super complicated technique or pattern...its quilting for a man.  In looking back, I feel like a bad wife or something, I've made a quilt for just about every female family member (and many friends) I can think of, yet never thought to make the hubby is own personal man quilt!  Rest assured I'm not breaking trend now, the "man quilt" I'm working on now is for my brother, hopefully the hubs won't be jealous.  

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So in conversation one day, my brother happened to mention getting a new duvet cover for his bed.  After getting over the shock that my brother A. knew what a duvet even was and B. had not one, but now a second cover for it, I tuned back into the conversation of him commenting that it was very warm, and while nice in the winter, he was thinking he'd need something more lightweight for the summer months.

I am still slightly astounded that these thoughts even run through his head, because somewhere in my mind he will always be my little brother doing little brother things  like being annoying and immature, yet I am brought back to the present and reminded that he is now a 29 year old grown man with a good job, living on his own, and thinking about things like duvet covers.

Anyways, when he mentioned needing a lighter weight comforter option for summer, I immediately offered my quilting services and said I'd happily make a quilt for him.  Which I am more than happy to do, of course.  Usually after a day or two of racking my brain for quilt ideas, I quickly settle on a design and fabric selections...only this time I couldn't.  I knew my brother would likely spare my feelings and say he liked whatever I made, but I wanted something that he would be happy to display on his bed day after day, and not just feel obligated to use it because I made it for him.

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I knew I wanted a simple, clean design and "manly" fabrics. That weren't hunter green and deep red that belonged in a hunting lodge.  Easier said than done.  I scoured all my favorite blogs and of course Pinterest too and just couldn't decide.  I happened upon Kati's Modern Meadow quilt she made for her bed way back when, and my mind started churning.  I checked out the tutorial she used by Oh Fransson!  And liked where it was headed.  I wanted something with more symmetry than the original, and started to play with the design in EQ7 until I was happy with what I saw.  

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I really like the nice clean feel it has with lots of negative space and a very "non complicated" piecing style.  I had been racking my brain for fabric selections, and kept coming up with nothing.  I happened to stop in a new LQS on my way home from work one day, and stumbled upon Simply Style and Simply Color by V and Co. which had lots of navy, grey and deep lime prints, and thought "hey, this could work!" I started digging further and found the entire line of Pearl Bracelets and picked out the Navy, Verbena and Mustard-y yellow colors, and finished off my fabric pull with a random green comma print, and this quilt top was born!  I knew I wanted the grey Timeless Treasures sketch print as the main background fabric, which they didn't carry, so I ordered a whole bunch and got to cutting and piecing!  I have to say this was probably the easiest quilt top I've ever pieced, and the largest also, measuring 90" x 102"!

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I tried out a new (to me) basting method, which I'm crossing all my crossables that it works out and I don't regret it when it comes time for quilting!  I'm hoping to get this big guy quilted soon, as the weather is finally getting nicer, and I want my brother to be able to use it!  I'll report back on how the basting method works out when the quilt is completed!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

5 months with Nora

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I cannot believe our little love bug is 5 months old already!  Some days it feels like she was born just yesterday and others it feels like that was eons ago, but either way I almost can't remember life before she entered this world.  

I remember just days after Nora was born, in the deep sleep deprived haze where everything and nothing at all made me cry, someone saying to me "Oh, I just bet you can't even remember life before Nora!"  Of course at that time with Nora being just days old, I most certainly could remember all the perks of being married with no kids.  A time when I could sleep in more than 2 hour spurts or a time when I thought breastfeeding would be just the easiest and most natural thing in the world (newsflash: its not).  Of course this made me burst into tears (but really, what didn't make me burst into tears) and feel like the worst mother in the world, because I thought I should be in this blissful state of mommy-dom, and not bleary eyed, afraid I was doing everything wrong and on the brink of tears at all hours of the day.  

I'm happy to say that those feelings did pass and I now can say in all honesty that it feels like little miss Nora has been part of our world for as long as I can remember.  I'm sure this feeling only grows stronger as she gets older, but we love her, and her newly developing personality to pieces.  She is becoming quite the squirmy worm- so I'll share a few outtakes of our little photoshoot, where you can see that she is much more interested in the blocks/her toes and tutu way more than mom's camera.

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I imagine these little photoshoots will only get more hilarious as she gets older, I'll definitely have to up my speed and brush up on diversion tactics!

Happy 5 months sweet girl!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Completed Quilt: Blueberry Pluses

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I can't believe it is March and I am just getting around to posting my first finished quilt of 2014!  In all fairness, I have actually had this one finished up for a few weeks now and was just waiting for good weather and a free moment to snap some pictures.

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A moment was about all I had, because it seems our dear Nora has this uncanny ability to be completely passed out in her crib snoozing away until the moment I decide to start something, and then she is wide awake and done with her nap.  Of course the first few times it happened I chalked it up to coincidence, but I am now convinced since its happened about a bajillion-ty times (yes that's an actual amount) that it is her secret power.  I'm sure one day this power will come in handy for her, but at least now, for me, it means that nothing gets done to completion.

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This quilt has since been given to its new home, and hopefully is getting lots of baby boy snuggles.  It was incredibly difficult to part with this quilt, because I love just about everything about it.  From the colors- what's not to love about all that pretty aqua, to the fun prints- every baby boy needs a quilt with fun green chairs on it, to the geometric yet subtle  design, and of course my favorite quilt back of all time, my mom may have had to pry this one from my hands.

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I went with my favorite "fancy" straight line quilting using the decorative serpentine stitch on my machine for a quick and simple quilting session.  I held my breath a little when quilting this, as when I did find some time to baste this quilt together, I realized I had just run out of my trusty basting spray!  I dug out my basting pins and got to work, holding my breath the entire time, as I always end up with ugly wrinkles on the back when I pin baste.  Luckily everything worked out fine and the quilt back is wrinkle/pucker free!

And with that, my first quilt of 2014 is in the books!  Hopefully it won't take me another 3 months to finish the next!!

Quilt Stats
Quilt Name:  Baby Boy Blueberry Pluses
Quilt Size: 50" x 50"
Quilt Pattern:  Plus quilt design using my tutorial
Fabrics Used:  Assorted aqua, lime and grey prints from my stash
Backing:  Ikea number fabric
Binding:  Aneela Hooey Little Apples Sweater Check print







Monday, March 10, 2014

Starburst Cross Quilt Pattern and Block Tutorial

Oh this post is only a year later than I had planned on this being ready, but better late than never!  I'm not sure what the hold up was, this quilt was finished and gifted to my mom for her birthday last February but for some reason getting the tutorial together was not on my radar.  For the past year.  

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I had originally come up with this pattern for a quilt that was on display at Quilt Market in the spring of 2012.  Which was almost 2 years ago.  And that is just crazy talk.  Seriously two years ago. Sorry...still trying to wrap my head around that, because it most definitely does not seem that long ago!

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Anyways, the original Starburst Cross-Quilt Market edition was then featured in Quilt Magazine, and after all that madness was over, and I was able to sit back and look at the pattern, I found an easier way for piecing the blocks, and so this Tula Pink Salt Water version was born.  Whew, that's quite the quilty tale.

This Salt Water version was gifted to my mom for her birthday, as the beach is just about her favorite thing ever.  Aside from Nora :-)  She and my dad are currently soaking up the sun in the Caribbean, so I'll try not to be extremely jealous, as it is just barely in the 50's in these parts (which feels like a heatwave compared to the cold cold temps lately), but I'll take hot beach weather any day of the week.  But I digress...

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Anyways, back to the point here...I finally have the revamped Starburst Cross block tutorial and free quilt pattern available to be downloaded!  The Starburst Cross Block Tutorial can be found here and also downloaded in PDF form here, and the Starburst Cross Quilt Pattern can be downloaded in PDF form for free here!

It feels great getting things off my to do list that have been there for far too long.  I'm giving my closet of WIPs the evil eye and just getting a little tingling to start turning some of them into completed quilts!  We'll see how far I get before losing steam, but for now enjoy the tutorials!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Once Upon a Time

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Before I had Nora I spent some time stocking up on sock yarn, thinking I'd likely not be spending time down in my sewing room for a while, and thought I'd probably still want to have something to work on and keep my hands busy, when they weren't feeding the baby or changing diapers.  I was right on all accounts, except the knitting.  For some reason once I settled into some semblance of a routine a few weeks after she was born, I was jonesing for a cross stitch project to work on.

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I've worked on a few of The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery's patterns before, and am never disappointed, so I went right to their shop and started ordering.  I actually tackled the Gingerbread Lane pattern first, but it is at the framers getting framed as we speak, I should have it back to share in the next week or so!

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After finishing Gingerbread Lane, I was just in time to order the Once Upon a Time Sampler and get stitching.  I am loving this pattern more than words can say.  Each month an adorable little fairy tale scene appears in my email to stitch up and each pattern is ridiculously cute with its own teeny tiny characters and details.

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So far we have stitched up Snow White and her helpers doing laundry in January and The Frog Prince and Princess with Cupid's bows in Febraury.  The color palate Amanda and Ashleigh have picked is so bright and fun, and can we talk about the amazing border??  Castles and crowns and scrolling flowers all stitched using Weeks Dye works thread.  I just love the pink color they picked, Blackberry, the variegated color goes from a bright fuchsia to almost purple, so so pretty.

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This is the second cross stitch project I've done on linen instead of aida cloth, and I'm definitely a convert.  I just love the way the stitches jump off the cloth.  It definitely took a little getting used to, but I don't think I'll ever use Aida cloth again.  This is my favorite linen, I ordered it from here, its the perfect "natural" shade with the prettiest opalescent threads running through the linen.  I've used it on this project and also on my Gingerbread Lane project.

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I can't wait for March's pattern to arrive on Saturday, I am so looking forward to working on this each month throughout 2014, after its complete, I think it will be the perfect addition to Nora's nursery!  Hard to believe she will be older than a year at that point!  I just can't imagine her toddling around and saying mama or dada, we had a heart to heart yesterday, and she promised me she would stay this small, but I'm not sure she'll be able to keep her word :-)


Monday, February 24, 2014

adventures in photoshop

I don't know what has taken me so long, but this weekend I hopped on the Photoshop train.  It's funny, when I started blogging, I had no idea about anything photography related.  My focus was solely on what I was making and snapping a completed picture was purely an afterthought.  Taking pictures of quilts splayed out in the hallway or kitchen in poor lighting wasn't anything I batted an eye at and had no concept of editing those icky pictures to at least make the colors look true to life.

As I started reading more blogs, I got the hint that taking good pictures was just as important when it came to blogging!  Duh, nobody wants to look at cruddy dull poorly lit photos that weren't doing my quilts and projects any justice.  I started making every effort to take pictures outside, or at least in front of a window for the most natural light.  Shockingly this helped immensely!  Then I upgraded my camera to a Nikon DSLR, which also made eons of a difference.  It was tricky to get the hang of, but with the help of online tutorials I now grasp the basics of what all those buttons and dials do, and even make an attempt to shoot in manual mode!

I have toyed multiple times with purchasing Photoshop to edit my pictures, but have managed ok with using online editing software like PicMonkey, that is until starting to snap pictures of the baby.  PicMonkey did a decent job on editing stationary objects, like quilty photoshoots, where I really just needed to balance the colors or adjust exposure, but for trying to edit people, it just wasn't cutting it.  

Enter Photoshop.  I bit the bullet and spent the $99 on Photoshop Elements and really am kicking myself that I've held out so long.

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Its been a few days since I've shared a Nora picture, so I'll share a few from her (and her buddy Sophie the giraffe's) 4 month pictures we took yesterday.  I will be the first to say that when I opened my first picture in Photoshop I was completely overwhelmed and didn't know where to start.  I promptly closed the program down, and started googling "photoshop for beginners" which yielded about a bajillion tutorials, so I decided to just start learning things one task at a time as I needed to know them.  I then searched for "how to lighten photos in photoshop" and this was much much more manageable.  I was shocked that in just a few key strokes there was such a difference between my original photo and the edited one!

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I'm definitely still learning, but I'm now itching to go back and lighten and brighten all the pictures I can get my hands on!

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I just started playing around with some quilty pictures, and am using the same couple of techniques I used with these pictures.  If you have any sites or tutorials with regards to photoshop for newbies, I'd love to hear about them!

What about you, do you edit your photos?  If so what sort of program do you use?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

plus quilt tutorial

I've had a few questions about the pattern I used to make my plus quilt top I shared last week, and while the design idea is certainly not unique to my quilt, I didn't follow a pattern per se, but did my own quilty math for the plus size dimensions I wanted.  In case you'd like to make your own baby/lap sized plus quilt, I thought I'd share a quick tutorial with cutting and assembly instructions.

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This quilt top will finish at 50" square, making a generous baby quilt or lap sized throw.  I chose to keep the rectangular centers of each plus as one piece, versus the entire quilt being comprised of only squares.

Plus Quilt Tutorial

Please read instructions in full before beginning.

Fabric Requirements
(12) Fat Quarters measuring no less than 18" x 22"
3 yards backing fabric
1/2 yard fabric for binding

Cutting Instructions
From each of (12) fat quarters:
  • Cut (5) 3" x 18" strips
    • Subcut (3) of the 3" x 18" strips into (2) 8" x 3" strips
      • You will need all (72) 8" x 3" strips
    • Subcut (2) of the 3" x 18" strips into (6) 3" x 3" squares
      • You will need all (144) 3" x 3" squares
Choose (8) of the remaining 7" x 18" pieces of fabric:
  • Cut (1) 3" x 18" strip
    • Subcut 3" x 18" strip into (1) 5.5" x 3" strip and (3) 3" x 3" squares
      • You will need all (8) 5.5" x 3" strips
      • You will need all (24) 3" x 3" squares
Assembly Instructions
Once your fabric is cut, you can begin laying out your quilt top.  The majority of your quilt top will consist of whole pluses consisting of (1) 8" x 3" strip and (2) 3" x 3" squares.  There are also variations which are included along the edges of the quilt.  Please see below for a breakdown totaling the number of each plus variation.

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65 total 
Consists of (1) 8" x 3" strip and (2) 3" x 3" squares


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7 total
Consists of (1) 8" x 3" strip and (1) 3" x 3" square

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      7 total
      Consists of (1) 5.5" x 3" strip and (2) 3" x 3" squares


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      1 total
     Consists of (1) 5.5" strip and 1" 3" x 3" square


single 3" square:  16 total

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Use the above photo to help layout your quilt top.  Once you are happy with the layout, begin sewing each row together, taking care to keep all strips and squares in the  correct position.  I find it helpful to sew one complete row and place it back on my design wall to keep things from getting out of place.  If you do not have a design wall or somewhere to keep things laid out for a few days while assembling, use post its to number each row to help keep things in order.

Hope this tutorial was helpful!  If you make a plus quilt using this tutorial, I'd love to see it in the SewCraftyJess flickr group!