Friday, October 10, 2014

Some News

I sadly haven't been sewing.  In September, all I managed was wrapping up the very end of a commissioned quilt, plus 4 small wristlets for an upcoming fundraiser auction for The Hop-A-Long Hollow Rabbit Rescue.  The only thing I've made so far in October is this single, lonely block for the Southern CT MQG October Block Challenge:

Lonely Block
I have a good excuse at least...


Baby - Niblet arms, niblet legs.
Yup, it's true!  We'll be welcoming a little bundle of joy sometime in April 2015 if all goes according to plan!

I'm pretty sad that my sewing and quilting has taken a hit.  I can hardly stay awake during the hours I'm at home.  I get home from work, try to force down some dinner and then fall asleep.  Nearly every night.  Like clockwork.  This is extremely odd for me since I'm a night owl.  And it would be fine if I could then get up at some nice early hour, but no - I still can't wake up.  I have no desire to play with fabric right now.  :-(  I'm hoping my 2nd trimester wind starts to kick in soon!

I'm sure I'll be inspired when we find out the gender in late November.  I'll want to sew lots of stuffs for this little niblet.  I really want to make all of the items for the nursery, plus some clothes and other baby goodies.

Until then, you can find me napping on the couch.

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!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Hadley

Today I'm linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday.

My WIP this week is the Hadley Challenge for my guild, Southern CT Modern Quilt Guild.  Denyse Schmidt so generously gave us each a FQ bundle of her new line, Hadley, and we are to finish our quilts by the end of the month so that they can be displayed.

I'll be quilting and binding it this weekend and then moving onto a super-secret commissioned quilt that I need to finish up super fast.

Here is a sneak peak of Hadley:

(This may or may not just be the back...)

Finished project to come!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Farmer's Market is Making Me Eat a lot of Veggies

One of the blogs I've been reading the longest is Melanie's over at Melanie in the Middle.  I originally started reading as she wrote a couponing blog under a different name, but in recent years she switched to a more general topic blog.  I'm a loyal Melanie follower as has a knack for writing and occasionally our interests overlap.  I also had the chance to meet her a few years back and she's such a sweet lady!

A few days ago, Mel wrote a post on the lack of affordable farmer's markets in her neck of the woods.  This got me thinking about how lucky we are to have a nice, affordable farmer's market right down the road from us.  It runs on Saturday mornings, 8am-12pm, from mid-July through mid-September and it takes place on our town green - which is only about a 5 minute walk from our house.  It's actually a nice way to kick off a relaxing weekend.  There are breakfast sandwiches made to order, music, vendors, and of course, the farmers.  There are usually three farmers present for fruits and veggies, plus a number of flower, honey and sometimes even fresh seafood vendors.

Not only is the market a great place to buy produce at reasonable prices, but I always find something new-to-me that I've never seen before.  This last Saturday brought purple bell peppers and a few different varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

Purple and green bell peppers.
Heirloom tomatoes.
GIANT heirloom tomatoes.
We've been eating a large amount of produce lately, which is typical for us in the summer.  Veggies in the winter are just so "eh" to me and usually consist of frozen veggies or anemic offerings from the grocery store.  This produce, however, makes me WANT to eat my veggies.  Popping cherry tomatoes like candy.  Biting into a juicy plum.  It's all good.

There are some less-than-stellar options around here as well, don't get me wrong.  David stopped at a farm stand the other night and came home with very little produce after dropping a twenty.  And the blueberries were bland.  How do you mess up blueberries?  So, I think for now, we will stick with what we have right under our noses and enjoy the yumminess of the season until it's gone!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Quilt Odyssey 2015 - Part Three

The third and final post on our Quilt Odyssey trip will be about all of the fun activities we did while in Hershey, PA that were NOT quilting related.  I did drag David out there with me, we had to have some fun together.  

Chocolate World!
The first stop was Friday night after our adventure getting to Hershey.  We knew that Hershey’s Chocolate World was open until 11pm, so we figured we could squeeze in a few fun activities before the evening was up.  We were able to get tickets for a Taste Test, 4D movie and a Make Your Own Candy Bar that night and tickets for a Hershey Town Trolley Tour on Sunday morning.  Here are my thoughts on Friday’s activities:

Taste Test: Anything that gets you chocolate is A-OK in my book.  They gave us five chocolates to sample and taught you how to really taste and enjoy chocolate - similar to wine tasting.  It started off ok (despite some EXTREMELY annoying people sitting behind us).  Unfortunately, I thought what was a great experience was then quickly rushed.  Worth it, but could have been slowed down a bit.

Taste test wheel.
4D Movie: This was similar to A Bug’s Life or the Muppet Movie at Disney, except they used names from the audience.  A cute idea, but a bit hokey unless you have kids.  Sadly, this experience was ruined for us by some of the WORST behaved children I’ve ever seen with no effort on the parents part to correct it.  I get it, kids are hyper, but they shouldn’t be running around, stepping on peoples’ feet and screaming during a show.  :-(  They do give you a full sized candy bar at the end, so not all bad!

Make Your Own Candy Bar: This was my favorite paid activity on Friday.  You get suited up in these pretty horrible aprons, hairnets and BEARD nets (if you have a beard), pick your chocolate and three additions and watch your candy bar get created on the assembly line.  It was definitely a unique experience and you get a yummy candy bar in a custom tin at the end.  We also were behind the sweetest family (you could tell they genuinely liked each other and the parents had a great sense of humor), which makes things so much more fun.

Our lovely hair (and beard) nets.
My bar headed down the line.
Our custom bars!  Can you guess which one is mine?
Hershey Ride: This is a free attraction and is really nice for a freebie.  It was a ride similar to the Haunted Mansion at Disney where there are singing cows ala-Stew Leonard’s and an explanation of how chocolate is made, bean to store.  Plus, more chocolate handed out at the end.  This was one of my faves and it was free!

Chocolate World is really well done.  Large and colorful and something interesting everywhere you look.  The sheer amount of chocolate, candy and merchandise is impressive and while it promotes consumerism, you can’t help but get sucked in to at least looking around.  We were there late at night and let me tell you - the kids must have been on a MASSIVE sugar crash because everyone was cranky.  Our fault for going so late, but wow...I felt bad for the parents as I’m sure they were also kinda done for the day.

David found his Mecca.
Saturday after the convention, we headed to ZooAmerica, which is a small zoo attached to Hershey Park.  We didn’t have time to go to the park, but we did want to check out the zoo since you can do it in about an hour.  I’m really torn on zoos in general.  While I hate seeing animals in captivity, I think that responsible zoos do some amazing conservation, breeding and rehabilitation work.  Sadly, I don’t think ZooAmerica is that type.  Some of the exhibits were small and a few kinda run down and dirty.  We of course saw some really neat animals (the ocelot was my fave), but the semi-depressing scene along with our tired moods made for just a lukewarm experience.  Glad we did it, but we know not to do it again.

Sunday was yet another early morning.  We headed over to our 9:30 am Trolley Tour of the town of Hershey.  This was the first activity we did where we learned about Milton Hershey and it was also my favorite activity of the weekend (minus quilting).  The hour long tour takes to various sites that were vital to the Hershey story.  The highlight were the two tour guides on the trolley - one of which who plays the role of different people in Milton Hershey’s life.  A little cheesy, but cute and entertaining for sure!
The Hershey Homestead.
The next activity was heading out to a Flea Market that I had read about.  What a bust.  Tiny on a Sunday and all we bought were some (not antique) veggies. However, we did find a lovely and large antique barn on the way back to town. David and I both LOVE these! He collects albums and I'm always on the lookout for certain things: sewing notions, antique sewing machines, fabric, pyrex bowls and whatever other cutesy stuff strikes my fancy. We spent a good 2ish hours there. David picked up a small stack of albums, including a Deep Purple one he's been hunting for a while. I didn't get anything, but enjoyed looking. I did find this tiny, toy (working) antique Singer machine, but with a $50 price tag, I had to leave it there. Now that I know they exist, my eyes are peeled for a deal on one. How darling is this thing?!?!?!

Antique baby singer.  TOO CUTE!
Next up, and our last stop on the trip, was a visit to The Hershey Story.  This is a museum that focuses on Milton Hershey’s story.  There was so much to look at and so much to learn.  The one thing that struck me between the museum and the trolley tour was what an amazing man good ol’ Milty was.  He was a huge philanthropist - he left his fortune to the kids that attend his school and he pays for every single one’s college education!  But he also demanded perfection in everything he did.  The chocolate had to be perfect, the students had to be well-rounded and get good grades, etc.  He took a not-even-a-dot-on-the-map town and built an empire out of it, which ensuring a happy and solid way of life for the town and everyone he touched.  Really remarkable!

We had plans to stop at Amish Country on the way home.  I was SO looking forward to this not only because the Amish had always intrigued me (even with my sinner ways), but also because they have some fabric for sale.  :-)  I was about to look up times Saturday night when it hit me!  Amish = religious.  Religious = not open Sundays.  I was letdown.  My own stupid fault.  Now we just have another reason to head out there another time.

All in all, the trip was a whirlwind, but lots of fun with tons of stuff jam-packed in a short amount of time.  We were already making plans in case we head back to Quilt Odyssey again next year!