Saturday Series: Quilting away from home

I have a habit of packing way more projects than I can finish in a week, let alone the weekend-long trips I've been taking this summer. To keep my over-packing tendencies in check I bought a small pencil case to hold my sewing supplies and a small handwork project. I pack only a project that fits in the pencil case, or a quilt to bind (if I have one at that stage).

I pack the usual tools: needlebook with pins and needles, scissors, seam ripper, thread and pen. For English paper-piecing I have hexie templates and a mini charm pack. Lately I've been using and loving the Clover binding clips for hand-sewing binding on quilts. 

Two not-so-common things I pack for quilting away from home are band-aids and stain wipes. I inevitably jab myself with the needle while hand-sewing and need a band-aid. This summer I've been quilting in the car, at parks and campgrounds, all in the vicinity of my toddler. The stain wipes have come in handy more than once. 

Here's my kit, all ready to go: 


Saturday Series: Quilting on the Go in Three Phases

While I have never been to an official quilting retreat(yet), I have been dragging quilting projects all across the contiguous USA for quite a while and have learned a few things along the way. The most important lesson I have learned is "Be realistic about what you can get done!". Although I am sure it had a lovely time, I really didn't need to give a roll of untouched batting a 4,000 mile road trip across the Rockies and up the West Coast. (Where exactly did I think I would be pinning this quilt anyway?)

I have since hit on the idea  of organizing my tools and materials into 3 phases when taking things out of the studio, and only taking through the phase I think I will need. Keeping items organized like this also means you can leave them in the car at a retreat or sewcial and only bring in each phase if you get to it, cutting down on hauling, and preventing things from straying/exploding all over. For each phase I like a big plastic tote or blue Ikea bag that smaller totes can fit into(see Flaun's excellent post on snapware).

Phase One: Cutting and Piecing
You could even divide this into two sections. I generally do all of my main cutting at home as I tend towards the scrappier style of work but it is important to bring cutting tools for trimming and squaring up. Also bring some alternate fabrics in case you aren't sure about part of your design and extras of the main fabrics in case there is a disaster.
Here is a good checklist to give an idea of things to bring for a retreat. Basically all of the things you would need for cutting and piecing your top like thread, snips, sewing needles or machine, cut pieces, iron and board, cuttng tools, pattern or book, seam ripper, etc. would comprise the Phase One bin.

Phase Two: Backing and Basting
If you get the quilt top done, congratulate yourself and go dig out the Phase Two bin. In here are the materials for backings, batting, curved pins or adhesive spray, blue tape, gadgets for closing pins, and shears for cutting batt. At home I also keep a ginormous drywall square ruler in with these things to measure and square up battings and backings. ( I don't normally haul it on the road with me, but I would if I owned a van...)

Phase Three: Quilting and Binding
This is the smallest bin, unless you are hand quilting and have a big hoop. In this one goes special feet for your sewing machine(if they don't fit in the machine's compartment), quilting gripper gloves, Teflon sheet for machine bed, marking pens or tape, quilting thread and needles, binding strips and binding ruler, lint brush, and a hand sewing kit. If you are hand quilting, add a hoop or two, some thimbles, and a pliers. 
I'm sure I am missing things (I usually am...) on these lists as they are not meant to be exhaustive, but only to give an idea for organization. Another idea I like a lot is bringing a checklist with you so when you are packing up you can make sure you round up everything you brought. 

I almost forgot the most important tool---your creative imagination! Don't leave home without it!

Making a Quilt for Someone Special

One of my favorite aspects of quilting is making something that I hope will be just perfect for someone special in my life. I also like surprising people, and of course, a quilt is such a time commitment that this can be a bit risky at times. I mean, what if they don’t like it?
However, I really like to design and give them the finished project without too much input, so I have found some ways to hone in on what would (probably) be liked by the person. The internet has really helped in this area as well, as we all share more of ourselves with a wider audience.

Facebook: seeing what groups people join, the photos they take, and the photos of themselves. These give great clues to their own sense of design and what they like in their home for design. What colors are in their home, their wardrobe….what feelings do their colors, homes, and surroundings evoke? What moves them to share a post, is it waterfalls? Humor? Cartoons? Travel? Philosophy?  All can help with getting design ideas.

Flickr: this is easier when the person is really into photography or some other art and they share it there, great for colors and again, general sense of style.

Instagram: okay, I admit, I have no instagram account, but I know many of my fellow guild members do and would probably endorse this as another method to get to know another’s likes and style sense.

Pinterest: again, pinterest wins the game here for me. Looking through your giftee’s collections of images can give a great idea of what appeals to them and draws them in.

Personal conversation: If I am okay with them knowing I am making them a quilt and I am a bit stuck I will often have them look through an image search of quilts on google to start picking out things they think are cool. This often sparks another idea for me of a direction to go.

Are there other ways you “snoop” to figure out a great quilt or fabric gift for someone? Would love to hear about them!

September Block Lottery - Cathedral Windows

The September Block Lottery is the Cathedral Window.  The finished block will be 10" square and it will have 4 finished windows.  The background is white.  Each of the windows need to have a different color 30s Reproduction Fabric.  The finished blocks for the lottery will look similar to this:

To make this 10" square you will need to make 4 (four) folded white squares that finish to 5" square and 4 (four) 3" squares of 30s reproduction fabrics.

-From the white fabric, cut 4 11" squares
-From the 4 different 30s Reproduction Fabrics, cut a 3" square (for a total of 4 squares)
-From cardstock, cut a 10" square
-Elmer's Washable Glue (optional but highly recommended)

Making the Blocks
The key to a good Cathedral Window is accurate folding and ironing.  The general process is:

1.  Fold and press the edges of the 11" square in so you end up with a 10" square.   The best way to get an accurate 10" square is to place the 10" square piece of cardstock in the center of the 11" square and then iron the edges over it. 

2.  Fold and press the blocks in half each way to find the center of the block.

3.  Bring each corner to the center then press the fold.  The block will be 7" in size.  Repeat a second time.  The block will be 5".

4.  Tack down the points in the center with 2 - 3 stitches each.

5.  Butt 2 squares together and zigzag together.  Repeat with the next 2.  Then butt these together and zigzag - you will have a 10" square when finished with this 2x2 layout.

6.  Place the 3" squares of 30s Reproduction Fabrics in the center of the windows.  Use a bit of washable Elmer's Glue on the back to hold them down during the stitching process.  (You could pin them down too; however, the Elmer's is much more sewer-friendly).

7.  Fold the white fabric back over the 3" squares - it will naturally curve when you fold it back.  Stitch down.  Note:  You can stitch down all 4 windows at the same time by starting at on side and following around all of the sides until you are back to the starting point.

Here are a few links for the folding, pressing, and stitching process (be sure to use the measurements in the Supply list above for the September lottery as some of the links are using different sizes.) (this one shows how to use a cardstock template for the initial folding/pressing

Saturday Series: Quilting Away from Home

The most difficult part of going on a retreat or to a sew in is getting everything you need to the retreat location in a neat package. For staying organized in a small space, I like to use Snapware.

Snapware for retreats and sew ins

You can find boxes like the one above in groups of three at Target and JoAnn Fabric. They're wonderful for holding your bits of fabric with the appropriate thread and pattern all in one place.


You can store all your favorite tools in one box...


...or you can bring all your pins to baste a quilt at the retreat, where there's more space than your tiny living room!


Of course, being obsessed with 1" hexagons as I am, I like to load up a box with the perfect car (passenger) project!

Car Kit

This car kit includes a pair of scissors on a lanyard with a retractable badge holder attached, keeping then handily around my neck, so I don't have to dig them out every time I need to snip.


There are the squares of fabric, paper shapes, and thread...

Squares, shapes, and thread

...and a package of ThimblePads, just in case my finger starts to get sore or my callus comes off.


In the Altoids box...

Pin box

...I have glued a bit of batting to the top and covered it with fabric from my scrap bin for a need holder, while the bottom holds all the pins I use to hold my hexies in place when basting!

Pin box

It all fits perfectly in my lap as my traveling partner drives.

Car Kit

Stack all the boxes for an easy, organized retreat package!

Stacked and ready to go!

August Meeting Minutes

We had our second meeting at our new location, The Textile Center, and the turn out was great.  Here's a brief overview of what went down:

1. We did introductions with a lively discussion about our favorite fair food.  There was a brief debate over the culinary differences between a corn dog and my beloved Pronto Pup and we learned about the awesomeness of Honey Sunflower Seed Ice Cream that is sold in the Horticultural Building. Mini doughnuts, french fries and Sweet Martha's Cookies were crowd favorites as well.

2.  If you are a current member and haven't already, please try writing a blog post for us.  It's very easy and helps keep our blog fresh and frequently visited.  If you want to write a blog or have questions on getting started, please contact Kristin L. through our Members Only Directory.

3.  We discussed The Modern Quilt Guild (the national organization which is trying to coordinate all local modern quilt guilds) and that they are now accepting local guild memberships.  There are a number of benefits to joining, namely 501c3 status, use of their logo, a Guild to Guild communication board, fabric challenges, discounts for various quilt shows, etc.  The drawback is the cost.  Our current guild size puts us at their annual membership cost of $400/year and we are closing in on $550/year do to our increasing membership.  We have not joined yet; the deadline to join is December 2014, making this an ongoing topic of discussion for our guild.

Please know that individuals may join for $25/year, which is an option for any of our members who are interested in joining The Modern Quilt Guild on their own.You can find more information on The Modern Quilt Guild here.

4.  Instead of one 10-Minute Tip, we each took turns sharing a One-Minute Tip.  There were so many excellent tips that I couldn't take notes fast enough.  Thanks everyone for sharing!

5.  Our August Block Lotto - Improve Neutral Squares was won by Kristin S. Congrats!

6.  Rita did an killer hands-on tutorial on the Cathedral Window Block, which will be next month's Block Lotto Challenge (THANK YOU RITA!).  Watch the blog and Facebook for more information.

7.  We revealed our State Fair "Quilt on a Stick" entries and they were all awesome!

Kristin S.

Lisa T.
Mary K.

8.  Two-Bit Bags were a hit again.  Please consider donating something next month -- everyone loves a chance to win something. Remember, it does not have to quilting or even sewing related.  Food, candy, wine are acceptable too!  Watch Facebook for more information on next month's Two-Bit Bag donations.

9.  Our next Sew-cial is scheduled for Wednesday, August 28th, 6-9pm at Common Roots Cafe.  Feel free to stop in anytime.  Bring some hand-sewing (or not), chat and just hang out with fellow guild members.  This is a very casual get-together with no structured agenda.

10.  Next month's meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 12th, at 7pm.  Please feel free to come early for social hour or stay later to catch up with other members.  Also, remember that September is the reveal deadline for our summer "Take it With You Challenge".  If you haven't started yet, there's still time.

11.  And, as always, to wrap up the meeting, here is our Show and Tell:

Rebecca had 3 quilts to share - #1 is a gift for a niece
#2 - This one is a gift for her father
#3 - This is a wedding gift

Flaun showed the quilt she is going to enter in the MN State Fair

Close up of Flaun's quilting
Rozina made this dress using fabric that she bought at the garage sale.
Rozina won these blocks at a recent Block Lotto drawing and made this lovely quilt.
Hazel, our first junior member, showed us her first quilt and it was awesome!
This is the back of Hazel's quilt
Hazel's mom, Lisa T., showed off the quilt that she made for Hazel's room.
The quilt is designed around one of Hazel's poems that her mom embroidered on one of the blocks.
Vanessa showed off her newest pattern, A Diamond Affair, made out of Briar Rose from Heather Ross
A Diamond Affair Back
Tracy made this from a Moda Bakeshop pattern
This is a wedding gift and it gets the "love" block on the back.
David shared this quilt

He also showed us his son's wedding quilt which guests autographed at the reception
Peggy shared her Zig-Zag quilt

The back is a piece of drapery fabric
Rita showed off more of her killer Cathedral Window Blocks
Carrie showed off her first quilt she made a few years ago that she recently finished.

Hand Embroidery

I've rediscovered my love of hand embroidery this summer. This has, in part, been spurred by the Guild's "take it with you challenge" and also a family quilting bee I have organized for my sister-in-law who is about to have a baby this fall. So, if you are hexied out and want to try a different form of hand work I strongly suggest giving embroidery a try. It's easy, there are endless options and sources for designs, and I'm starting to think that everything can be made just that much cuter with a little hand stitching as embellishment.

Clutch I made for my sister a few years ago using
 a pattern from Urban Threads.

Like all things craft related, there is no shortage of design inspiration on-line and in-print. A few great resources:
  • Sublime Stitching: Fun patterns and supplies. There are also a couple of books by the owner, which I borrowed from a friend when I was learning. The FAQ page has a lot of good info on how to transfer patterns to fabric.
  • Urban Threads: Many great patterns, but I think their crafty series is particularly fun and I hope to make one of these for my sewing room some day. I'm also partial to the "cubicle sweet cubicle design".
  • Doodle Stitching: I purchased this book earlier this summer when I was looking for designs for the baby quilt. The designs are really adorable and it comes with a CD, making it really easy to put together a motif of any size.
  • Penguin and Fish Really cute animal designs for kids, and I think she's local (patterns and kits are sold at Sewtropolis). 
  • Creative Market: I don't know what led me to this site, as it is geared toward graphic designers (which I am not), but a lot of the clip art and fonts that you can purchase here could make great embroidery designs and many are the same price as what you would pay for an online pattern. Couldn't you just see these mason jars on a dish towel or set of napkins? I purchased this pattern for my "Love is Love" quilt on a stick. Many of the designs come in clip art files that don't require special graphic design software.  
    My quilt on a stick embroidery  
  • Hand Stitch Embroidery Swap: A flicker swap group with a lot of great photos/ideas.

Never tried hand embroidery? It's really easy and rewarding and there are many great tutorials online. Here are a few sources I put together for the baby quilt embroidery bee, which had sewers of all levels (including the baby's dad who has agreed to do a square):
I was up pretty late trying to finish my quilt on a stick for the Fair deadline, so that's about all I can muster for this post (there were some embroidery mishaps late in the game, but I'm trying to keep this post positive so I will spare you the "lessons learned"). I'll end with a picture of the embroidered squares I've received back from the baby quilting bee so far. I hope to have the top finished to show at the September meeting as my summer challenge project. Happy stitching!

12 family members are stitching blocks for this baby quilt. The baby's mom is a vet, hence the animal theme.

Buisness Memeber Spotlight: PixieSpit and Fresh Stash Fabrics

Our guild has recently started accepting business members.  (For info on that go here.)  I had the oppertunity to sit down and talk with our first business member (and existing guild member) Lisa of PixieSpit and Fresh Stash Fabrics and find out more about her shop.  Lisa will be at the meeting tonight with a sample of her wares for sale! 

How did you come up with the name PixieSpit? Fresh Stash?
PixieSpit is the name of my Etsy shop for handmade goods.  I got the name from a book that I read many years ago where pixie's spit had magical properties much like fairy dust...except sassier. I started selling a little bit of my fabric in my Etsy shop and it went so well that I decided to open a separate shop just for fabric.  That shop is called Fresh Stash, as in "fresh fabrics from my stash to yours".

How long have you had your business?
My business has been "official" since 2007.
What inspired you to sell fabrics and hand-made items?
I have been sewing gifts for friends and family forever. When I discovered Etsy, I thought I would try listing a few things.  It was slow at first, but then it started to take off.  I decided to start buying fabric wholesale in order to offset the cost of my handmade goods.  The plan was to sell the fabric that I didn't use to others.  I got a little carried away and before I knew it, I had myself an entire fabric shop. 

How do you pick the fabrics you choose to sell?
I just buy what I like.  I like many of the "hot" designers and usually get at least a few pieces from the latest, greatest collections, but my favorite thing is to try and find the undiscovered good stuff.  I also really enjoy mixing collections and creating bundles with a common theme like color, holiday or novelty.

How do you not want to sew something with every fabric you buy? . . . or do you?
Ha!  That is a great question.  I WANT to make something out of every fabric that I carry, but I don't always get around to it.  

Who is your favorite fabric designer? (or fabric line)
I have loved everything that Joel Dewberry has ever done.  He has a great way of blending modern and traditional.  There should be a word for it...moditional?  I started quilting before the "modern fabric movement" so my roots are more traditional.  I spent a good part of the 90's trying to make calico look fresh by adding lots of solids.  Now that we have so many more options in fabric I find myself overwhelmed with all of the possibilities.

Do you sell anything other than fabric?
I do sell other sewing related items.  All things that I use batting, ribbon, patterns and 505 (which I discovered thanks to some encouragement and assistance from fellow guild members!)
How would you describe the ambiance of your shop/studio?
My shop/studio is located above our garage.  I can't even express how lucky I feel to have such a great place to work in.  It's a cozy (nice word for small) space that I have managed to squeeze everything into. The "shop" area holds about 325 bolts of fabric and loads of precut bundles.  My "work" space includes my design wall and sewing machines.  Then there is my "office" area where all the super boring paperwork stuff happens along with just a little instagramming, facebooking and pintresting.

What's the best way to contact you with an order from a member?
My Etsy shop is open 24/7.  There is a button in there to contact the shop owner.  If you let me know what you need, I can put together an order for you with or without shipping costs (if you choose to pick up your order or have me bring it to a guild meeting).  I will also be "vending" at 4 meetings per year and am happy to bring along anything you might be interested in.

Can we come see your space?  What's the best way to do that?
Yes!  I love visitors.  I will be having a Locals Shopping Day on Wednesday, September 18 from 9am to 9pm.  If you can't wait until then or if that doesn't work in your schedule, we can set up a private shopping date.  Just send me an email.

What are your future plans for your business?
Another good question!  I "quit the day job" as a public school teacher in 2011, but have really started missing it lately.  I will be cutting back on the handmade side of my business in order to carve out time to do some part-time substituting in the schools.  I plan to focus the rest of my attention on the fabric shop portion of my business.

Thanks so much Lisa!  We're so happy to have you as our first busniess member and I can't wait to see what you bring tonight!

Quilting away from home - and on the go!

I'm Vanessa of Punkin Patterns and I'm here for the next installment of the series quilting away from home.  Being a mom of two young kids, we're on the go a lot.  Whether it's soccer, swimming, scouts or just playing at the park, there always seems to be a few minutes to work on my quilting away from home.

English Paper Piecing is a great on the go project, but you need to carry it with you all the time.  Sometimes you forget it (while you're grabbing the million other things you need) or you might be somewhere where you didn't realize you'd have some time to kill - or your fingers just need a break.

For me there are three essential quilting on the go tools that I always carry: a pencil, sketchbook and my camera (in my phone).

The camera is great to snap photos of random things that may inspire a quilt (or other project).  These photos were all taken on my last vacation in a newspaper, at a gas station, tile in our hotel bathroom and a room key card!  It's pretty easy to just snap a quick picture to help you remember.

Besides the camera, carrying a small sketch pad and pencil is essential.  I worked on a design for a simple quilt back for my latest quilt while waiting for friends at a park play date. 

I quickly designed a simple back and determined the size of the blocks.  Next I figured out how to cut it quickly from the yardage so that when I got home later, I just cut the pieces quickly and got working to assemble the back in less than 30 min. 

Another great use for a sketch pad is to practice drawing out some free motion designs.  Drawing the designs really helps you know where you're going to go next.  I practice drawing for quite a while before I attempt it on a quilt.  It makes it much easier to quilt then since I've practiced the pattern so much on paper that I don't even really think about what I'm doing.

Happy on-the-go Quilting!
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