Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Charm School: Book Review

I love charm packs. I’ll often pick up one or two of these yummy fabric treats as a little indulgence for myself. Vanessa Goertzen of Lella Boutique is one of my favorite fabric designers, and I have more than a couple charm packs by this talented woman in my stash! Her new book, Charm School—18 Quilts from 5” Squares: A Beginner’s Guide, features projects using charm squares. The quilts are luscious and beautifully photographed and I wanted to dive right into a few of them!

The book is geared towards beginners and would be a great way for someone new to quilting to progress from sewing squares to more complex shapes. Though none of the projects are overly complicated, several are far from simple and would appeal to more advanced quilters. My favorite is Lunch Box with its controlled wonkiness. Madame Butterfly is another standout that will certainly appeal to quilters of all levels.

Though the patterns are designed to be used with charm packs, I love that Goertzen gave instructions for using other cuts of fabric, allowing readers to make the best use of their stashes. The instructions clearly explain how many cuts you need so you could even mix and match charm packs with other sizes of fabric.

My only critique is that I would have liked to see one or two projects that require just one charm pack. I don’t always buy multiples of charm packs, and a wall hanging or mini-quilt that used a single charm pack would have been a good addition, as most projects in the book require three or four charm packs.

Charm School would make a great addition to any quilter’s library, especially if you love precuts as much as I do!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pressing Matters

I invested in a Rowenta iron for my quilting about a year or two ago and was more than a little annoyed to see that my iron was occasionally spitting out brown spots. Well, dear reader, I am embarrassed to admit that the problem was with me, not the iron. I was not properly maintaining my iron. Bad quilter! I am owning up to my mistakes in the hopes I can prevent others from finding those yucky brown spots on their fabric!

My research (that is, finally reading the manual and Googling iron maintenance) turned up three important actions that I was not taking and likely caused the rust build-up inside my iron. (Hangs head in shame.)

1-If your iron has a self-cleaning function, use it every two to four weeks.
2-When starching, spray the starch on one side and iron on the other.
3-Empty the reservoir before storing the iron.

After running the self-cleaning function several times (once with a vinegar-water mixture—check if this is recommended for your iron before trying), I am happy to report my iron is working well! I am embarrassed that I was not doing a better job taking care of my iron, but promise to be better in the future!

And, as if it was a reward for promising to take better care of my iron in the future, I picked up this beauty for a steal at my local Habitat ReStore! Practically a twin of the one I have! 



Happy pressing, everyone!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Stitching in Portofino

I recently discovered the awesomeness that is Aurifil thread. It just glides over projects! The wonderful folks at Aurifil and Whole Circle Studios even created a fun little wall hanging to celebrate the yumminess of this thread. I played along, creating a version in my favorite palette of blues and greens. I named this mini-quilt Stitching in Portofino, a nod to Aurifil’s Italian home. The Italian coast is especially beautiful and I have wonderful memories of a day spent exploring the seaside town of Portofino. There are so many blues to be seen there, from the vibrant blue of the sky to the dark blue of the deep water by the rocky shore to the blue-green of the tide pools. Such beauty!

I entered my mini-quilt in a contest and I would so appreciate it if you would vote for my project. You can see all the fabulous entries here. Mine is the second one, Stitching in Portofino. You can vote by clicking on the heart in the upper right of the picture. Easy peasy! Thank you!






Sunday, March 12, 2017

In My Pocket

My latest quilt is up on the Moda Bake Shop and it’s a fun one called In My Pocket! I designed a block in honor of Zen Chic’s latest fabric line, True Blue, that is based on the back pocket on a pair of  jeans. 



The pattern on the Bake Shop uses a layer cake and makes a big, fun block! I thought it would be fun to also design a scaled down version using charm squares.

Referring to the larger pattern for some more details on the block, use the instructions below to make a mini version of In My Pocket. This little quilt finishes at 40” by 49”. Happy sewing!


In My Pocket: Mini Version

Materials Needed
Two charm packs
1 yard of background fabric
½ yard binding fabric
1 ½ yards of backing fabric (Note: This amount of backing fabric only gives two inches of extra fabric on each side, assuming your fabric is 44” wide. If you need more overage, plan accordingly!)
60-degree triangle ruler (optional)

Constructing Pocket Blocks
Take 36 charm squares. Fold in half and trim bottom using 60-degree ruler as shown on the larger version of this pattern. Alternately, you can trim from 1 ½” up the side of the square to the center.

Cut two 3 ½” strips from background fabric. Cut strips into [36] 3 ½” by 2” rectangles. Cut rectangles diagonally to make triangles.

Sew triangles of background fabric to the bottom of charm square as shown on the larger version of the pattern.

Take 36 charm squares. Cut a 2” by 5” piece from each. Set aside the remainder of charm square for the border.

Sew the 2” by 5” piece to the top of the block to make the pocket block.


Your block should measure 6 ½” by 5”. It will finish at 6” by 4 ½”.

Lay out blocks, using the quilt diagram as a reference.



Sashing
From background fabric, cut five strips 1 ½” by WOF. Subcut into [30] 1 ½” by 6 ½” rectangles.

Add 1 ½” by 6 ½” sashing strips between each block. Do not add sashing to the left and right sides.

From background fabric, cut five strips 1 ½” by WOF. Trim each strip to 1 ½” by 32 ½” strips.

Add 1 ½” by 32 ½” sashing strips between each row. Do not add sashing to the top and bottom.


Border 1
From background fabric, cut four strips 2 ½” by WOF. Trim two strips to 41 ½” by 2 ½” and two strips to 36 ½” by 2 ½”. Attach to sides and top.


Border 2
From the remains of the charm squares, cut [36] 2 ½ by 5” rectangles.

Take eight and sew end to end. Repeat. Take ten and sew end to end. Repeat.

From remaining charm squares, cut [4] 2 ½” squares for corner units. Sew to ends of eight rectangle units.

Sew ten rectangle units to the sides of the quilt. Sew the eight rectangle units to the top and bottom.


Finishing
Sandwich, baste, and quilt.

Bind.



The quilt finishes at 40” by 49”.

Monday, February 20, 2017

White, White or White?

When I need solids for a project, my go-to fabric choice is Kona Cotton by Robert Kaufman. There's a store not too far from me (though not close enough...) that carries all the colors of Kona cotton (more than 300!), and it is a joy to behold.

Quilters often struggle to find the perfect white. You don't want a fabric that is blinding, but you don't want one that is too creamy, either. The three neutrals I use most often are Kona White, Kona Snow, and Kona Bone.



Kona White is a true white. It's great when you need a really white white, say for autograph squares. It pairs wonderfully with cool colors, but I find it to be too stark for most quilts. Even when you think you want a white, you probably want a fabric that is slightly off white.

That brings us to Kona Snow. This is a pretty perfect neutral, and it is insanely popular among quilters for good reason. Perfectly blendable, the fabric is not too stark and not too yellow. It's white enough without being glaringly white. When in doubt, reach for Snow! I've used it as a background fabric many times and it hasn't failed me yet.

I'm also a big fan of Kona Bone. Slightly more antique feeling, it has a touch of warmth, making it a perfect complement for reproduction prints or warm fabrics. I use Bone when I want the background of the quilt to have the slightest bit of creaminess. 

I recently used Kona Silver as a background fabric. While certainly not white, the light gray was an ideal modern neutral. I like using a non-white for backgrounds, and the Kona Silver allowed the main fabric to pop while providing a bit more visual interest.

The right neutral background is such an integral piece of your quilt. What are your favorite neutrals?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Aurora

My latest project is up on the Moda Bake Shop! Aurora is a fun, bright quilt that features Lulu Lane, Corey Yoder's latest fabric line.






















I love the happy, scrappy look of this project. I used a variety of fat quarters for the project, but I think it would look stunning as a two color quilt, as well. Check out this illustration.



The quilt posted on the Bake Shop is quite largea full sized bed covering! That might be too ambitious for some, I know. The good news is that this quilt is super easy to resize. Each fat quarter makes two full blocks and each block finishes at 12 inches. To resize, figure out how many blocks the quilt requires and divide that number in half to determine how many fat quarters you need. Easy peasy! Here are two additional sizes:

Baby quilt (36" by 48")
This quilt is arranged in a three by four layout (that is, four rows with three blocks in each row). You will need six fat quarters for this version.  

Throw quilt (48" by 60")
This quilt is arranged in a four by five layout (that is, five rows with four blocks in each row). You will need ten fat quarters for this version.  

I think this quilt would look great with a border, or with sashing between the blocks. I even toyed with setting the blocks on point. So many interesting possibilities with this block. Have fun making it your own.

Happy sewing!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Gifts for Quilters: 12 Ideas

Need gift ideas to share with your loved ones this holiday? Or perhaps you're searching for presents for your favorite quilter. Here are some thoughts, all either products I use and love, or ones that are on my own list!

1-Any quilter would love a subscription to a sampler box, like Sew Sampler or Quilty Box. I am itching to try one of these! I love the idea of getting a surprise in the mail each month.

2-One of the top items on my list is Bernina's new ruler foot. I'm always looking for new ways to quilt my projects and I would love to give ruler work a try on my home machine.

3-I love small, beautiful things. I've been intrigued by the hand turned seam rippers I see on Etsy. This one looks great!

4-I love, love, love the badges Moda released this year. They make the Girl Scout in me happy. I would love to find some in my stocking. Check out this adorable set!

5-I could use a good travel iron, and I'm sure many other quilters would appreciate this practical gift!

6-I've spotted some really adorable tins around. Quilters can always use some containers to house our notions. This set with a variety of sizes would come in very handy!


Quilters can never have enough notions. This list includes stocking stuffers, those little items quilters can never have enough of!

1-Wonder clips
2-Sewing machine brush 


And, if you're completely out of ideas, know you can never go wrong with fabric!