Thursday, December 6, 2012

a minky blanky mishap

Well, perhaps I was too confident...

Knowing that one of my closest friends is due to give birth to a baby boy sometime in January, I have been thinking about what handmade gifts I can sew for him.  I finished a quilt top a few days ago and I think I've found the fabric with which to back it:  brown polka dot flannel on sale at Jo-Ann's for only $2.99 a yard!

However, I thought it would be fun to stray from my normal routine in an attempt to learn some basic sewing skills.  After all, I made plenty of Barbie and Cabbage Patch doll clothes when I was a kid, so it couldn't be too hard, right?  (Did I mention those doll clothes were often lopsided?)

So when I spotted some adorable teddy bear fabric at Jo-Ann's today, I thought it would be fun to try and sew a "simple" baby blanket backed with brown minky.  I have never sewn with this fabric before, so I didn't quite realize its reputation.  After all, it's soft and cuddly!  But today I learned (the hard way) that sewing with it is-especially for a beginner-a bit of a disaster.

Many have attempted this task before me, so while it's nothing new and fresh, I'll still offer my basic how-to, then I'll end with what I've learned and what I'll do differently in the future.

I started by gathering all of my "ingredients" for a baby blanket: front and back fabric, a cutting mat, rotary cutter, fabric scissors, and coordinating thread (I used brown 100% cotton thread).

I laid the cotton fabric on my board and cut out a 26x24 inch piece.  (In the future I would use at least a 30x30 square of fabric for this.)  I cut the minky to the same size, although this was a tad trickier than the cotton.

Once cut, I put the right sides of the two fabrics together, while flattening everything out as nicely as possible and pinning.  I think I redid this 3 or 4 times, because the fabric kept bunching. In hindsight, I should have pinned them together even more.

Using one of my new Fiestaware bowls (this seems to be the popular choice for rounded corners), I cut around the edges.  Note: FIRST, use a tracing pen or pencil, THEN cut.  I made the hasty mistake of trying to rotary cut around the bowl, which proved a foolish idea.

With all edges pinned, I sewed together the raw outside edges of the blanket (about 1/2 inch in from the edge), leaving a 3- or 4-inch opening to easily turn it inside out later.

Once I was done with this, I turned the blanket right side out and ironed it so everything was smooth and set in place.  TIP: DO NOT iron minky dot fabric on a high setting.  In fact, you probably shouldn't iron minky fabric at all.  I didn't realize until the very end that I had mistakenly flattened some of my minky dots into mini pancakes.  (Yoi!)

In hindsight, I would have pre-washed and ironed the cotton fabric prior to making the blanket. (Again, a beginner's mistake!)

I then pinned the opening closed (making sure the raw edges were tucked in first) and sewed a final seam about 1/4 inch around the outer edge of the blanket.

I washed it on gentle setting in cold water with some Woolite.  Taa daa!

What I learned...
  1. Minky is stubborn, slippery, and stretchy.
  2. Do not iron minky dot!
  3. Pin together your two fabrics like crazy as the minky bunches and stretches like nobody's business.
  4. Pre-wash any non-minky fabric, as it will shrink and minky won't.
Perhaps I should stick with cotton fabrics from now on?

Good luck!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

free motion: take 1

While I appreciate all of the high-end, computerized machines that can embroider and quilt exactly what a human on the other end programs, I really admire the skills of incredibly creative folks out there who are able to use their sewing needles like fine paintbrushes.

Free-motion quilting seems to require an endless amount of practice and patience.  I have not yet attempted it on a quilt, but I am determined to learn how to do it.  I have been playing on smaller bits of fabric with the feed dogs down just to get a feel for it.  It's harder than it seems...I found it very difficult to control what I wanted the needle to do.  So for now I'm "drawing" on the fabric just for fun.

Here is my first attempt at a quilt block with some fabric scraps.  As you can see, there's a bit of bunching and stretching of the fabric.  I need to learn how to minimize this because it distorts the block. And while this is more like free motion scribbling than anything else, I am looking forward to practicing and (hopefully) improving in the process.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

happy december

During the week I daydream about what I'd do with my free time if I didn't have a real job.  Once Friday arrives, I anxiously drive home in hopes of having some quiet creative time.  But I typically crash and burn on the couch by 7.

I woke early on Saturday with two goals in mind: 1) to complete my first quilt block and 2) to start the quilt top for a friend's baby boy, due in January.  Fortunately I was able to finish both, which rarely happens.

The quilt block is block #1 from the Fat Quarter Shop's Mystery Block of the Month.  I joined the club nearly a year ago because I wanted to push myself to finish at least one small project a month.  However, despite them sending me 7 months' worth of blocks, I am just getting to the first.

While I admit I'm not a fan of geometric-looking blocks, I wanted to try this to challenge myself.   I am relatively new to quilting and have so much to learn, so I need to continue stepping out of my comfort zone.  I am slow and clearly need some expert tips on how to improve my measurements and angles so that everything lines up just so...

My friend is having her first baby in January, so I asked her to select some fabric so I could make him a quilt.  She picked At the Farm by Robert Kaufman, so I assembled a little quilt top this morning.  I'm hoping to stop by Jo-Ann's sometime this week so I can back it with some soft brown minky.

I have some other ideas in the works for this little guy...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

turkey day quilt

This is the first year I won't be spending Thanksgiving day with my family in Pennsylvania.  As a newly married woman, I realize I have to compromise, but it is still difficult to be apart from your loved ones on the holidays.

I woke early this morning and made up my mind that I was going to finish the quilt that I started last spring.  The fabrics are so bright and cheery, and I can't wait to gift this to someone special. My husband's niece is just over a year old, and she is one of the happiest babies.  This quilt will be perfect for her as she moves into toddler territory.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

a fresh start

Well, it's been a long time since I last stepped foot on my sewing machine pedal.  8 months to be exact.

I have greatly missed the feel of the fabric between my fingers, and since the school year has slowly steadied, I have anxiously started planning new projects while attempting to complete half-finished ideas-in-the making.

My hope is that I do not fall off the face of the earth again.  Then again, I was planning a wedding...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

my first quilt along

I'm not sure if this is the wisest place to begin, but the NYB Quilt Along caught my attention from a fellow NOVA Modern Quilt Guild-er. Despite it being intimidating, I thought I'd give it a shot. I know very little about paper piecing, other than the fact that it is incredibly challenging for a beginner like myself, can lead to frustration and requires a significant amount of patience. Perhaps I am just trying to prepare myself for some bumps along the way.

Considering I'm busier than ever with work, my class, wedding planning, and trips to and fro my home state, I couldn't have chosen a better (insert sarcasm here) time to attempt such a lofty venture! Woo hoo! My hope is that it will get me back on the quilting train.

So I think I will attempt four of the simpler piece together as a pillow. That is my goal for now, and anything beyond that will be considered a monumental victory.

In the meantime I am gathering fabrics from my mini stash so I can start planning. I just purchased this fat quarter bundle of Denyse Schmidt's Aunt Edna from fabricworm, so maybe I can incorporate this somehow...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

update on the pillow cover

It fits! Yahoo! Such a minor thing to get excited about, but I was so excited when the pillow form fit. I have so many other ideas swirling around in my head...I just don't know where to begin.

Have a happy Sunday!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

let the sun shine in

I love lots of windows, especially on a bright and sunny day. It amazes me how a little thing like sunshine can change my entire outlook on life for the better.

I finally finished my "hearty" pillow cover. It actually took me longer than expected, as I'm a novice at free motion quilting. I machine-appliqued the hearts and struggled to outline them accurately; as a result, it's looking rather shabby and crooked.

Regardless, it feels rewarding to have another functional item for the house, although the real test will be if the pillow form actually fits inside. I sewed the seams crookedly, so it might be off a bit. I'm hoping to pick one up at JoAnn's today for the true test.

This was my first attempt at a pillow cover, other than the small cushion I hand stitched in Brownies as a second grader. So I used an easy-to-follow tutorial provided by Cluck Cluck Sew here. I am so thankful for all the experienced folks out there who offer free tutorials for us newbies. The back side is a red and white polka dot fabric.

In the meantime, this baby girl quilt still patiently awaits its turn to be stitched. I could really use a nap. Waking up at 4:30 this morning has proven detrimental to my ability to function normally today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

in the spirit of the holiday

I saw a photo on Flickr that inspired me to make this "hearty" heart applique pillow cover. I am finding that free motion quilting is something I really need to practice because mine is all over the place.

My machine seems to jump around a bit; in fact, it's like a runaway train. Perhaps I need to try a different foot?

P and I celebrated the holiday rather quietly with some heart-shaped ravioli and beautiful tulips (my favorite!).

Saturday, February 11, 2012

another one in the works...

If only I had more time in the day.

I start a project over the weekend and cannot tackle it again until the following weekend, if I'm lucky.

I'm also taking a class right now, so the readings and load of writing have been consuming my brief window of hours in the evening.

So another one sits and patiently waits to be quilted.

Until Saturday...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

saturday bliss and a cup o' joe

I love waking up early on a Saturday and instantly realizing that it is indeed a Saturday. I eagerly arise knowing that I can enjoy the day sans commute, work, and other ho-hum obligations.

I finished my first lap quilt this past week, and I was pleased with the results. Despite many flaws and crooked lines, it now keeps me warm as I relax on the couch with my coffee.

I have some ideas in mind for my next project, but in my scatterbrained state, I can never decide where to begin. I started an iPad cover weeks ago, but never finished. P and I could really use some new placemats at our kitchen table, and I would love to make a quilt for our bed.

Hmmm...where to begin?

Monday, January 23, 2012

priorities, priorities

During this past weekend I promised myself I would make time to start my third quilt. It has been weeks since I have worked on anything, and I've been itching to begin. I wanted to make one that was a bit larger so P and I could use it (translation: I will use it, considering he never gets cold) while watching TV on the couch. It is January and the perfect time for cozy quilts.

Despite the leaning tower of papers that I had to grade this weekend, I finally made the lap quilt a priority. While I blame my job for the lack of time that I am able to use in my creative endeavors, in reality I think I'm just in a bit of a post-holiday funk.

So I gathered a random mix of "pleasing to my eye" fabrics from my very small stash...some solid reds and whites, Little Apples by Aneela Hoey, some leftovers from the Fairy Tale Friends line and a few squares from Hoo's in the Forest. While they don't all match together perfectly, I was happy with the end arrangement.

I finished the quilt top, then sandwiched and bound the layers together last night. I am in the process of finishing the quilting now in hopes that I can bind it this week and will finally have my first handmade quilt.

It is incredibly rewarding to make something that is both functional and suitable for one's individual taste and personality. So despite my aching feet and the gloomy sky outside, I am completely content to enjoy some homemade stew and bonding time with my sewing machine.