Thursday, March 29, 2012

KAL - I can do it!

So Shannon of luvinthemommyhood announced a new knit along yesterday and I am determined to actually do this one. I have been wanting to start knitting more than just cowls and hats for awhile now, but I have been really nervous. I mean, you invest all sorts of time and money (sweaters take a lot of yarn!) and what if it doesn't turn out? I thought a knit along would help me get over those fears, so last summer I signed up to do a cardigan KAL - and never got past the cast-on. I wasn't in love with the pattern anyway, so its probably a good thing. Well, I think I can do this KAL. This time around it's tanks, tops and tees - and a tank sounds WAY easier than a full-on sweater. Plus, I'll actually be able to wear it when I'm done - if it fits. I bought and downloaded the Summertime Tunic from Interweave.

If a tank is easy, a tank without straps to knit is even easier! I've ordered 5 skeins of Cascade Ultra Pima in Syrah from Jimmy Beans Wool - if I can pull this off, it'll be beautiful!

I should have some time to get the Honeycomb Cowl off my needles before I start - if I ever get a moment alone. We are at my parents' house for the week since hubby is out of the country and it seems Jack has decided not to sleep while we're here. No nap in 3 days and up 2 hours early every morning makes for a very cranky boy - and mommy!

Friday, March 23, 2012

on a roll

I have been on a roll here the past couple of weeks, just checking things off my sewing list right and left. Even things that aren't on my list!

At the beginning of the month, of course, I had to get my Craftsy Block of the Month blocks done. I feel like I just wait and wait for the 1st of the month and then make the new blocks right away and have to wait another few weeks for the next blocks! I am really enjoying this class, and I'm glad I signed up for it - not that I had anything to lose, it was free. I really enjoyed the string blocks this month, though I have done a string block quilt before. I think the Broken Spider Web is my fav. It also is making me really happy that I decided to use my Anna Maria Horner Innocent Crush fat quarter bundle for this, I think it will look amazing as a total quilt when it's all done. Here is what I have so far:

See that wonky slash block in the lower right hand corner? Yeah, that's actually the newest edition. This was the original:

Yuck, right? I'm not a big fan of wonky in the first place. I also don't like a lot of white space. Add the ho-hum fabric and it just makes for a bad block :(  Unfortunately, my design wall is in my dining room, so I had to stare at this block (directly over my husband's shoulder, I might add) every night. I couldn't stand it anymore. So I came up with this:

Much better, I think. By switching up the background fabric from white to pattern and matching my pattern up, the block improved one million percent. I am much happier staring at this block every night! (I will get better at taking the indoor flashless pictures one of these days! I do know what to do to take better pictures, I'm just being lazy)

I also whipped this up, something that's been on my list for awhile, but always towards the bottom because the materials just cost too much. The pattern is the "Rollie Pollie" by Dana at made. I happened on a mostly upholstery and outdoor fabric store in nearby Shamokin Dam when I was looking for something else and they had large bags of shredded foam sitting all around the store. It made me think of this pattern, so I bought a bag, some muslin for the inner bag and some blue and white striped denim for the outer. I had to go back and get more of everything, but it came out so cute! And much cheaper than if I'd used Cluster Stuff, as I had planned. And the fabric looks like train engineer pants :)

I have some must-dos that I am dragging my feet on, but after that, I have so many plans! Should I use these vintage sheet charm packs that I got from In Color Order's etsy shop (here)?

Should I cut into this fat quarter bundle of Flea Market Fancy I snatched up from Hawthorne Threads? I'm thinking of using this for the Swoon pattern I also maybe might have bought...

Decisions, decisions...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jack's Plus Quilt

I kept waiting for the perfect weather to take the perfect pictures of Jack's quilt. Everytime the sun came out and the wind calmed down, it would be nap time and the quilt would be in bed with my sleeping son. So, I took some not-so-perfect pictures. Some are a little blurry, but if you don't look too closely, I think it still looks pretty good.

I love this quilt. I mean, really love it. It definitely wasn't the most challenging quilt to piece, it's only squares after all. But it is the first time I have picked out all of the fabrics by myself, without using a collection. I knew I wanted blues, greens and grays, and I also wanted to use as much from my stash as I could. I tried to keep it young, since it is a 60" square quilt, and won't be able to cover a twin bed when he's older (I get to make him another!) With all of the prints going on, I also decided to throw a few solids in to ground everything a little and the navy and green solids are linen for a little texture. I used the Plus Quilt Tutorial on the blog In Color Order, just cutting the size to make it square.

My favorite part of this quilt, which maybe you can see on this back view - I hand quilted the ENTIRE thing. I have always wanted to try hand quilting and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. Since it would be staying here instead of going out as a gift, I knew I would be able to fix it if something went wrong.

This is an awful picture, but you can see how I followed the insides of some of the pluses with the quilting. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the hand quilting. I spent several very cold nights hunkered down on the couch with this quilt and in the end I had to force myself to stop before I did every plus. I followed Anna Maria Horner's hand quilting tutorial to get the basics down.

It took a little time to figure out my own style here. I found I hated using a frame and thought it was easier manipulating the stitches onto the needle without it. I also had to give up a little anal retentiveness and be okay with not completely even stitches. And I definitely recommend leather thimbles - I used 3, one each on my right thumb, index and middle finger. I used # 8 DMC Perle Cotton, mainly because my local Michaels had the biggest color selection in this size and I knew I wanted greens and grays for the quilting.

I'm also pretty giddy about the binding. I wanted something neutral enough to go with all of the top's colors, sturdy enough to withstand little boy. I found this chambray in my "apparel" fabric stash and it was like angels started singing :) Very fray prone, kind of a pain to work with, but the end result was sooooo worth it. I love it!

Something I'm not real happy about is my label. I used the tutorial on PS I Quilt, and I am a little surprised that it ran like this after being washed. I used the exact pen she recommends, so I don't know what went wrong. It's a shame, though, cause that is Jack's favorite part. Every morning when he wakes up, he asks me to find it and read it to him. I'll have to go back to my boring Micron pen :(

Jack was pretty happy that something I spent so many hours working on was for him!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What's in a name?

I have finally finished my son's quilt and it is exactly as I imagined it! How often does that happen? Where is it, you ask? Well, currently my little boy is sleeping under it, but I will try to get some pictures of it tomorrow. I tried today, but the rain swept in before I got the chance. I think it's the quilt I'm most proud of so far, so I will definitely tell you about it.

In the meantime, I thought I would explain a little bit about how I came up with the name of my blog. As I've mentioned before, I've been "thinking in blog" for quite some time and threw around the idea of starting my own. Besides being totally intimidated by the whole blog writing thing, I always felt that I couldn't start one without first finding the perfect name. I know that might be a little silly, I've heard of dozens of blogs that go through several name changes before they find The One, but there it is.

Then one day, I was standing at the ironing board pressing my seams for a quilt and just sort of ... drifting. And I suddenly realized that ironing was actually calming to me. Weird, right? I started thinking back to my life pre-Jack when I was working as a vet, and how stressed out I was then. And I thought "I should have ironed more back then."

You think I'm kidding. I actually thought that.

I never, ever, EVER liked to iron before I discovered quilting. Heck, I probably still don't like to iron my or my husband's clothes (I wouldn't know, I don't do it!) But there is something about getting that lovely pressed seam over and over again that just evens me out. Don't get me wrong, there are days that I put off any ironing I may need to do, but I do find myself going to the board to iron on the days that have been the most trying.

The zen of ironing. Who knew?

Having the right tools, of course, make a huge difference. I didn't really find that zen until I got a new iron (which subsequently broke). And my newest iron is amazing. I love it and highly recommend it to anyone who asks - and some who don't!

It is an oliso and it is probably my favorite quilting tool. It heats up in seconds, has a fabulous steam system and presses like a dream. It also has this cool "iTouch" system:

See that little foot there? When I'm ironing, I can just let go of the handle and these little feet automatically pop out and elevate the iron off the board and fabric just high enough to keep from scorching. Isn't that cool?

 This is also a quilting and sewing must, in my opinion. Nothing gives me sharply pressed seams faster than this. It saves me a ton of time when I'm pressing a bunch of blocks. I also love using it when I'm making binding - it really makes a nice, sharp crease. It does leave a bit of a flaky residue if you use too much, but it brushes away pretty easily and definitely washes out.

Now, I know there are people out there that would say I'm nuts thinking ironing is anything other than drudgery. But I would be willing to bet that they either have a really old or really crappy iron. It's all in the tools! Maybe you're one new iron away from finding your happy place!