Thursday, September 18, 2014

Quilty TBT: The Birdcage

One benefit of being a newer quilter is that I don't have THAT many quilts to add to my blog.  I want to get all of my projects chronicled and up here so I can keep track of every quilt I've made - via my Completed Projects page.  So, until I get them all posted and caught up, I'll be doing a Quilty TBT (throwback Thursday).  First up: My first "real" quilt!

This quilt was made for my best friend Emily and her new husband Pat.  It was given to them as a wedding gift during their rehearsal dinner.  The pattern is my very own design!  I mean - what else would you do for your first quilt - why not just go all out an make your own pattern - and on a deadline (I'm insane).  Emily and Pat had a birdcage theme for their wedding, with birdcages as the (beautiful) centerpieces.  So I wanted to commemorate that in the quilt.  The design just popped into my head one day, and I think I was loosely inspired by the invitations we used for Emily's bridal shower.

The Birdcage Quilt
I learned a ton from this quilt!  While it wasn't my first trip into sewing, it was my first applique project.  There are a few things I might do differently next time.  I would only outline the shapes in fusible backing so they are softer and use a tighter zig zag stitch - both I've used since then with success.  This was also the first time I used my walking foot and I was (used it a ton since then).

The design incorporates not only the birdcage theme, but also Emily and Pat's favorite colors - pink for her and teal for him (although I took some liberties and went with a girly teal to better match the pink).  I included a "block" with their names and wedding date that was embroidered by a woman I found on Etsy.  I think my favorite part of the whole quilt are the two little birdies with button eyes.  They are just too cute!

Tree Branch
Cute little birdies!
Personalize Embroidery
I have to admit - I'm not a HUGE applique fan.  I like the complexities and the "puzzle pieces" of piecing together quilt tops.  I know applique can be very intricate and impressive, but I'm just not a huge fan...  One other learning experience for me was the "faux chenille" back of the quilt.  I used that technique on a baby blanket I made for my friend's baby and it worked MUCH better on that smaller scale.  My mistake here was not quilting the lines close enough, which resulted in the raw edges not fraying and curling up in the intended manner.  It's soft, but I'm not pleased with the look, sadly.  I still love the technique, but I'll make sure to use it for tighter quilting only in the future.

Faux Chenille
In typical "me" fashion, I cranked this one out in about two weeks - and stayed up until around 4am the night before the rehearsal dinner to wrap it up.  My friend's were really impressed and thankful, which always makes the late nights, back aches and baggy eyes worth it.  :-)  Emily and Pat even hung the quilt above their bed as a makeshift headboard, so it now has a place of honor in their apartment.

I have aspirations to one day turn this into a pattern - it's my first (and so far only) truly, 100% unique project that I totally conceived of on my own.  I need to learn more about pattern writing and see if there is a market for applique patterns.  Maybe someday!  In the meantime, this one will always hold a special place in my heart - my own pattern, first real quilt and for my best friends!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Hadley Finish

Denyse Schmidt so graciously gave the members of my quilt guild, Southern CT MQG, full fat quarter stacks of the prints in her new Hadley line (a few months before it was released for sale).  Denyse is local to our area and I believe she wanted to promote the line and showcase Hadley in some examples of projects that can be made with her yummy fabrics.  Sadly, I joined the quilt guild about a month after the fabrics were handed out - bummer!  As luck would have it, a very sweet member of the guild offered me up her "leftovers" so that I could play with the fabrics too!  I was so excited!  I picked them up at the next meeting and got to work!  Here is what was posted about my project on our SCTMQG Blog:

My quilt is named "Hadley Hides the Ice Pops". I was inspired by two of Denyse Schmidt's patterns from her "Denyse Schmidt Quilts" book - Ice Pops and What a Bunch of Squares. Neither patterns was followed exactly, but both were used for inspiration while I drafted my own version. The name is three fold - obviously Hadley is the name of Denyse's new fabric line that we were given to play around with. The Ice Pops part is a direct reference to the Ice Pops pattern. The "hidden" part is a reference to the brown squares hidden in the Ice Pop rectangles. The name makes me think of a impish little girl named Hadley, hiding ice pops in the freezer on a hot summer's day so she doesn't have to share them with her siblings. It makes me think of a simpler, carefree time, which is also what the fabric line made me think of when I first saw it.

I joined the guild after the yummy fabric bundles were handed out. I saw the challenge on the Facebook page and Sharon so kindly offered me her leftovers. Since she was so generous to share, I wanted to make the most of the fabrics. I chose my favorite prints to feature on the front. I then took all remaining fabric and cut it up into "bricks" to piece together a back. I used Denyse's paper bag method to piece together the back. I'm usually very neurotic about arrangement, so I made myself be more random for this. The last little bits went into a scrappy binding. All fabric put to good use! This challenge was a lot of fun for me! I'm very happy I joined the guild and get to participate in fun challenges like this.

As I mentioned above, Sharon's "leftovers" were still QUITE a lot of fabric!  Not the full FQ stack, but still plenty to play around with.  I made sure all bits and pieces were put to good use and very little was left over.   I believe I got the fabrics in mid-July and the quilt needed to be COMPLETELY finished by the end of August.  Off to work I went.  Oh, and I had a commissioned quilt to complete in the same time frame...and a week-long vacation...and my day job...NBD.   The top and backing all went together swimmingly.  No issues.  Then, I decided this would be my first quilt to be quilted on my HandiQuilter Frame with my new-to-me Juki machine.  I thought I'd quickly tear through the quilting and it'd be done in a jiffy.  I pretty much detest the quilting part, but can't afford a longarmer's services at this point in time.  So the frame was my answer.  Well...not exactly.  It looked LOVELY on the frame...
Looking lovely on the frame.
But the quilting was a shit show...

What in the hell?
Turns out, I had no idea what I was doing.  SURPRISE!  I've been a straight-line quilter up to this point and this was my first attempt at FMQ.  Why I chose this point in time to step into something new, I can't tell you.  Long story short, I think after all of the research I've done since then, I think it was because I didn't set my stitch length to zero.  So I have some FMQ on my Juki on my list to try and once I can get that down, we'll head back to the frame.  I'd LOVE to learn to quilt on the frame (no basting!!!!), so that is still the ultimate goal!

I needed to return to my trusty straight-line quilting to hurry up and finish this piece.  I still gave the Juki a shot and we did pretty well, despite some rippling - which was hidden once washed (if you don't look too closely).  I'm still pretty happy with how it turned out and this will eventually be MY quilt - my first one ever that is finished and JUST FOR ME!  Here is the finished product:

The front.
The scrappy back.
The story gets better!  Denyse had an open house hosted at Christie's Quilting Boutique to launch the Hadley line.  Sadly, I couldn't attend (my camping obligation prevented me from going), but the ladies in the guild seemed to have a great time and the event was a success.  You can read about the event HERE and see all of the beautiful quilts on display at Christie's.  It STILL gets better!  Once those quilts are taken down from Christie's they are going on tour with Denyse.  I don't know more details about that as I just found out Sunday at the Lizzy House class, but I believe they will be heading off with Denyse to show people what can be done with Hadley.  How cool is that!  At least my quilt will get to travel with a Modern Quilting legend, even if I didn't get the chance to meet her.  And when the quilt is done travelling, it has a place on my couch where it will be well loved and used.  This was a great experience and I really look forward to more challenges with the guild!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Day with Lizzy House!

I have quite a few things I've been meaning to blog about - my Hadley finish, my first (real) commissioned quilt, etc.  I'll get to those soon enough.  What I want to blog about now was a super awesome experience I had yesterday - Meadow Quilt Class taught by Lizzy House herself!  WOO HOO!!!!!

When a member of my guild posted to our Facebook page that Lizzy was doing a Meadow Quilt tour, I got overly excited at the opportunity!  Lizzy is one of my favorite fabric designers and her fabric is just AH-MA-ZING.  Plus, her Pearl Bracelets line is such a hit and a super versatile fabric.  I feel like nearly all of the modern quilts I look at lately features at least a snippet of Pearl Bracelets somewhere in the quilt.

Sunday was a tough day for me.  I was extremely tired from an overnight work camping trip on Friday night (I can't bounce back like I used to) and it was resulting in a fun combo of tired, grouchy and slightly nauseous from lack of sleep.  But, I needed to solider on - Lizzy was waiting!  I planted myself in my seat, setup my area and tuned into Lizzy.

Lizzy with the Meadow Quilt
Let me tell you - Lizzy is an amazing person!  She's adorable, smart, talented, relateable and a super nice person.  You can tell she pours her heart and soul into what she does.  In fact, the reason she teaches Meadow as in-person only pattern is because of some critical feedback in the past on her patterns (how dare they!) when people used them incorrectly.  She didn't want Meadow - which is a very important and emotional pattern to her - be ripped apart by critics.  Not to mention, the pattern is all curves with "open" edges, so there is quite a lot that can go wrong if you don't learn in person.  I don't blame her.  Pretty cool fact: Only about 50 people so far has taken the Meadow class, so we were among an elite few!

Class opened with Lizzy talking about herself a bit and her pattern.  We all introduced ourselves and spoke about whey we were taking the class.  The next part had Lizzy walking around and helping us each choose and group our fabrics.  Let me tell you - having hands-on help and guidance from a major fabric designer was just incredible.  I had my groups pretty well made, but Lizzy helped me tweak and refine my choices and make sure the overall layout of the quilt flowed well.  I was also paying rapt attention while she was helping my classmates so I could learn as much as possible from her.  It think it was just wonderful that she took the time out to help each of us individually.

The start of my fabric groupings.
The rest of the day was cutting, sewing and learning - with more chats with Lizzy tossed in!  Our small group of 12 made it so that we could all just chat with her as we liked.  I got to ask her some questions over lunch that I've been dying to know more about - how you get a deal with a manufacturer, the creative process, how contracts work, etc.  It was really neat to hear it all from her.  Did you know that Lizzy knew she wanted to be a fabric designer ever since she was 6?  And hustled to make it happen, despite being beaten down with polite "no's"?  Listening to that story was one of my favorite parts of the day.

Lizzy teaching.
More demoing.
At the end of class, Lizzy explained her inspiration for the quilt - which I won't share as I don't want to spoil it for anyone taking her class in the future or to spoil Lizzy's story.  It was an emotional journey for her and the story was really sweet and inspirational.  She shed some tears, which in turn made us shed some tears (guilty!).  She's such a real person.  It makes all the difference.  I feel lucky to have been part of the experience.

While we were cleaning up, Lizzy took the time to take pictures with us and chat with each of us.  She was genuinely interested to talk to each of us and she asked me if I'd be at QuiltCon (which you already know my feelings on - I won't be...wahhhh!).  I WISH I had a chance to see Lizzy again - some day!  We shared a big hug and sadly it was time to go.

Our creative space (aka messy space). 
My finished blocks of the day.  Great start!
Lizzy is the kind of person I wish I could be - creative and making a living at her craft.  She's genuine and an open-soul, expressive and kind to all.  I feel that way inside, but have trouble expressing it externally (plus I'm not nearly as nice of a person, in  It's refreshing to see people living out their dreams even if I need to work a 9 to 5 (I wish those were my hours, actually!) and deal with being creative outside of work.  I can't explain how much the class meant to me and how great of an experience it truly was.  Huge thanks to Lizzy, my guild for arranging and Christie's for hosting!

Me and Lizzy!
I sadly have a few WIPs and some "obligation/deadline" sewing I need to get out of the way before I can work on my Meadow Quilt again.  I can't wait to pick it back up and remember the great day we spent sewing with Lizzy.  This quilt will be all for ME!

You can also read the write-up on the day here on our Guild's blog!