LAX Love

We interrupt the belated Quilt Market blog posts to share something else entirely.

So, part of the reason I am so tardy in getting around the Market blogging is because I came home from SLC and had a slew of end-of-the-year gifts to finish, including this lacrosse quilt. (I also had to create and burn the end-of-season DVD for the lacrosse teams — 103 discs, to be exact — at the same time I was finishing the binding on this quilt.)

This is only the second year our high school has had a lacrosse team and much of the credit for getting it off the ground goes to one family. A family whose son just graduated and will be moving back to SLC this month. Lacrosse has been such a great thing for my son and I wanted to show this family how much I appreciated it, so I decided to turn the logo they designed into a quilted wall hanging for them.

About three-fourths of the way through making this, I realized it was so big that it was better as a team/booster club gift to the family. Folks, it’s big. The white is one full yard of fabric. I think the center shield and panther are about 24 inches. This is a level of applique I’ve never tried before and I’m not sure it’ll be repeated any time soon.

The applique is layered and done reverse style, for the most part. I actually sewed the shield together to meet in the center then cut out the shield shape. I used an X-acto knife to cut out the finer applique details and adhered it to the backing with Steam-A-Seam. And Heat n Bond. For the record, I don’t recommend mixing adhesives but I was in a time crunch and trying to use what I had on hand. (I also don’t recommend leaving paper in the middle of your applique design but YMMV.)

I did a tighter zig-zag stitch in gray around the shield and panther head to somewhat mimic the shadow effect of the logo. The remainder of the stitching is done with a straight stitch in thread to match each area. Finally, I quilted around the shapes  in a subtle echo effect.

I was so blown away with the finished product in sort of an “I made this? *I* made THIS!” kind of way. (It looked much better when it was ironed but I pulled it out of the gift bag to photograph on our way to the banquet.) The folks at the banquet thought it rocked and the recipients were just blown away, which definitely made the work worth it.

Hands-On Quilting

Thank you all so, so much for your kind words about my big announcement. All the comments, emails and tweets gave me lots of warm fuzzies and mean more to me than you can know. If you’re on Facebook, feel free to “like” the book’s page.

The end of the school year is a lot like a mini-holiday season for the crafty, since there are so many gifts to make and give. This year was especially special, since it was Miss L’s final year in preschool. Yep, extra gifts to make.

I’d love to show them all to you — but I can’t. “Why?” you ask. Because a certain someone (that’d be me) had to go work out graduation morning, then run to the store to buy gift bags and tissue paper before dashing home to shower, dress and wrap everything so we could leave five minutes late.

So what you’re not seeing are the cute monogrammed travel mugs I made for the two pastors, Spanish teacher and music teacher. Or the embroidered tote bags I made for the preschool director and the other room mom (who is truly the best room mom in the entire world). Or the cute tote bag I made for the assistant teacher, which was based on the quilt pictured here.

The teacher and assistant teacher’s gifts were from the class. I knew I was going to make this small quilt since the teacher called me last summer to tell me she would be teaching the 4s. We’d had Ms. Kathy when L was in the 2s and just loved her. She really is one of those teachers who just gives it her all and I wanted her to have a one-of-a-kind gift.

One of the things she does with the class are color days. The kids are asked to wear that color to school and she structures the whole day around it. It’s really a fun thing and I wanted to reflect that with the quilt.

I chose six rainbow colors (1/3 yard cuts) from batik fabrics and cut them into 6″ strips x the width of the fabric. The strips were then sewn in ROYGB(I)V order along the long edges with a 1/4″ seam allowance. The handprints were made by tracing around each student’s hand, then tracing that outline onto some Steam a Seam. I ironed each one on to some of the leftover batik (two in five colors and three in the sixth, since there were 13 kids in the class). Each student used an extra-fine tipped black IdentiPen to write his/her name on the corresponding handprint.

The handprints were sort of randomly arranged on the quilt top. I say “sort of” because the truly random pattern I started with and then tried to refine for 30 minutes looked pitiful. I ended up arranging half of the hands on the diagonal across the middle of the quilt, then made two rows of three hands on either side of that. The “odd” hand was plopped in the lower left corner. Looking at it now, I realize I should have made the middle row from five hands so I could put a hand in the top right corner to balance it out. *sigh* Hindsight.

After appliquing the hands to the top, I made a tasty quilt sandwich before hooping the hands and echo quilting around each one by hand. By hand, I said! Be impressed. A lot. (See detail of the echo quilting here. Lots of ooohing and aaahhhing welcome.) Sarah actually suggested the quilting and I really like how it turned out, even though it’s probably all kinds of jacked up.

She also picked out the binding for me, a really fun stripe from the Maisy fabric line. It was just perfect with the colors and playfulness of it. It’s also the best job I’ve ever done on a binding — not that I’ve done all that many. You’ll just have to trust me that there was plenty of room for improvement.

Oh, and you can’t see it but the back is this super cool green ombre fabric. I used the pen to write the name of the quilt — “Ms. Kathy’s Handful — and the date and dedication along the bottom edge near the binding. I’ve never done anything like that before and wasn’t quite sure of the “right” way to do it, but I thought it was important to include it.

This is likely awful to admit but I really hoped the gift would make her cry. She is *so* not a girly girl but I thought I might drive her there.

I was right.

Buy Handmade

One day while driving down Main Street in the city where my kids attend school, I noticed a new shop’s sign on a long-empty storefront. An artists’ market. I was so excited, it took everything I had to not pull over and peer through the window. Of course, it was 6:30 a.m. and nothing was open, and I really needed to get home so my husband could get to work. I made a mental note to check back later.

It was about two weeks before I could stick my head in the door and scope things out at Leasa: Life’s Work. And what I saw made me a bit giddy. Cool handmade goods. Some other neat gift-y things. A cool workspace for classes. Best of all was Leasa, the owner, who’s been making and selling handmade cards forever. I loved hearing about her work and her vision for her new shop. I think it’s a great thing for our area and I can’t wait to support it and the craftsmen who are selling their wares there.

I’m also excited to be offering some of my things there. I’ve already taken three Miss Madeline dresses adn a couple of wristlet bags.

Miss L watched me take the dresses into the shop and was so sad to see them go. Of course, they’re all too small for her and it’s not like I can’t sew her others. (In fact, I’ve already made her a different dress with the Heather Bailey and Dena Designs fabrics, so I’m not sure what the deal is.) And I always love sewing with Paula’s Flights of Fancy. It always makes me smile!

The wristlets are my own design and feature embroidery from Urban Threads of two lovebirds. I thought it added some interest to the little bags and I especially love the repetition of the Park Slope fabric with all those cute little birds.

Checker This Out

Probably the biggest challenge of my crafty Christmas has been coming up with gifts appropriate for the guys in my life. And of that category, the next challenge was coming up with something for little boys — specifically, my almost-7-year-old nephew. Last year, I made him a cool knight’s cape and shield, so I really didn’t want to make him any dress-up stuff for this Christmas.

And then … epiphany. I remembered a neat play quilt I saw on the floor at Intown Quilters. I hadn’t looked at it too closely but I did notice that it featured a checkerboard, complete with fabric checkers. (I found out later from Sarah is that it’s a free pattern from Michael Miller Fabrics, Checkers in the Garden.)

To make your own checkerboard blanket, you’ll need three fabrics. I think I bought one yard of the main fabric (used for the border  and the back of the blanket) and a half yard each of the other two fabrics (used for the checkerboard and the closing straps). You also need fusible fleece (my piece measured 26.25″x26.25″) and Velcro (I bought a package with three sets of pre-cut squares).

Using your rotary cutter and ruler, cut your two fabrics for the checkerboard into four 3″ strips. Set the excess fabric aside.

Lay out your fabric strips, alternating the two fabrics. Stitch together with a 1/4″ seam and press all the seams in the same direction. Use your rotary cutter and ruler again to cut eight 3″ strips across  your sewn striped panel.

Pick up every other strip and turn it to the opposite end so that you form a checkerboard pattern with the strips. Sew the strips together with a 1/4″ seam and press the seams in the same direction.

From your third (main) fabric, cut two strips that measure 3.5″x20″ and two strips measuring 3.5″x26.5″ (before cutting, you may want to measure your checkerboard to make sure the numbers are correct for your project).

Match the long edges of the 20″ strip to the left and right sides of your checkerboard, then sew together with a 1/4″ seam. Press the seams toward the border pieces. Next, match the long edges of the 26.5″ strips to the top and bottom edges of the checkerboard and shorter border pieces. Sew them together with a 1/4″ seam and press the seams toward the border. Set aside.

Use your rotary cutter and ruler to cut two 3.5″x12″ strips from one (or both) of your reserved checkerboard fabric. Match the long edges of one piece, right sides together, and sew with a 1/4″ seam. Position the seam in the center of the tube and press open. Repeat with the other strip. Put the sewn tubes on your cutting mat and use your ruler and rotary cutter to cut 4″ from one end of each tube. Sew closed one end of each of the four pieces, then turn each tube right side out and press.

Place one short and one long tube together, right sides together, and match the raw edges. Baste near the raw edge. Set aside.

(Before cutting these next pieces, measure your bordered checkerboard to make sure the numbers match your project.) Cut one piece of fusible fleece and one piece of your main fabric to 26.25″x26.25″. Follow the fusible fleece directions to adhere it to the wrong side of your bordered checkerboard.

Next, lay the fleeced checkerboard right side up on your worktable. Grab the pair of attached tubes and place the first pair so the inside edge lines up with the right edge of the second row of checkerboard. Pin in place (the raw edges of the tube should line up with the raw edge of the border). Place the remaining pair on the opposite side of the checkerboard, with the inside edge lined up with the left edge of the seventh row of checkerboard. Pin in place, then baste both straps to the border.

Place your main fabric square (the one that allegedly measures 26.25″ square) with the right side on the top of your checkerboard. Pin together and sew with a 1/4″ seam, leaving a 4″ gap on one side (no more than 2 inches from any corner) so you can turn your board right side out. Trim the corners, making sure not to clp into the stitches. Pull the fabric right side out through the gap, then press, making sure to turn under the edges of the gap. Topstitch around the perimeter of the blanket, close to the edge. (Be sure to move the straps out of the way as you topstitch!)

Measure over 3/4″ from the edge of the shorter strap and pin one of the Velcro tabs to the piece, then stitch it down. (The seam of the tube should be on the underside of the strap.) Repeat with the other shorter strap. Repeat the measurement and Velcro application with the longer strap, except you’ll need to sew it to the seamed side (and make sure that you pair up the hook and loop pair appropriately, or else the straps won’t hold closed). Now you’re done! You can roll up the checkerboard and fasten it closed with the straps.

I made my checkers by tracing 2.5 inch circles on a piece of fleece, then embroidering a crown (the design came with my Babylock Emoré)  in each circle (actually 12 crowns on each of two colors of fleece). I stacked the embroidered fleece on a sheet of plain fleece, then sewed within the circle to secure the pieces together. I used the traced circle as my cutting guide for each checker.

An Armful

Only one week until Christmas and I think I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m fairly certain it’s not an oncoming train, too.

My goal of makingg many of my Christmas gifts has turned out pretty nicely. There are a few things that aren’t going to be done (no way I’m going to be able to make one, much less two, kilts in a week) but I’ve gotten so much accomplished.

Here’s an armful of my sewing projects, before I started boxing and wrapping. I still can’t believe I made all of those purses! By my count, I’ve sewn around 15 purses. Granted, they didn’t happen all in one day (or week, or even one month), but I’m still pretty pleased with the results.

Somehow in all this sewing I still have avoided making a purse for me! LOL! I’m hoping to rectify that once I get done with the last of my Christmas sewing, but I’m not holding my breath.

I also made a few — OK, about a dozen — coffee cup cozies. I reverse engineered based on a cardboard sleeve from Starbucks and love how they turned out. I used Insulbrite and they keep things nice and cozy. If you want to make some yourself, then check out this great tutorial (which I found after the fact).

And I’ve got to share one more purse, another Melly & Me pattern. I think I’ve had my eye on this pattern since it came out but never added it to my collection until after we came back from Market and Sarah had stocked it at the shop.

I think it’s easily the largest purse I’ve ever sewn. To give you some perspective, it’s hanging on my size 4/5 children’s mannequin. Definitely the bag for the gal who carries everything on her shoulder. The pockets are nice and roomy, too.

The embroidery and applique were all done by hand, which took a little while. Oh, but it’s so worth it! And I think the gift recipient agrees: she immediately loaded it up with all her stuff. That is the best thanks I could ever hope to get.

Cirque de Sewing

Don’t be fooled by this simple purse. There is far more to it than meets the eye.

This purse required feats of strength and agility heretofor unseen in my sewing studio, and thankfully not witnessed by anyone in my family because I’m certain they would never let me live it down.

Here’s the deal: My mother-in-law 1.0* asked me if I could make her a quilted purse for Christmas, but it needed to be able to stand up on its own because she puts it on the floor under her desk at work. No problem, I said.

I’ve been carrying my own Run Mama Run bag for the past six months and thought it would meet her requirements with a little modifying. The biggest modifications would be to attach fusibile fleece to the exterior fabric and quilt it, and attach Peltex to the lining so the bag would be nice and stiff.

Now, I’m pretty much a big avoider of Peltex (and its evil pal, Timtex) on a good day, so why on earth I would decide to work with it on a bag this style is completely beyond all comprehension. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice and stiff and stands up like a soldier at attention (OK, maybe at parade rest — it’s not tht stiff). But that stiffness is what makes it such a challenge to work with. Pinning the layers together proved a bit painful. Plus, there’s not a lot of yield when you’re trying to twist and turn a Peltex-stiffened purse around the free arm of your sewing machine. The sheer inventiveness of my acrobatic sewing surprised me and sometimes was a little uncomfortable (I’m not as flexible as I used to be).

And then I had to slip the purse exterior through a four-inch gap in the lining, through which I then had to force a very unyielding Peltex purse form through so it would be right-side out. Methinks I did not plan this project as well as I’d hoped.

The final product is, in fact, a quilted purse that stands on its own. While my sweet MIL may not be able to appreciate the work that went into it, she’ll still be happy with the gift and the love that went into it. And I’m pretty sure the little bit of blood from stabbing myself while pinning the Peltex-lined pieces together doesn’t show.

*I have three. You know you’re jealous. 🙂

Holidays on ICE

If you are in the Atlanta area, you won’t want to miss the Indie Craft Experience Holiday Shopping Spectacular. It’s tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 15) from 11-6 at Ambient+ Photo Studio. There is a $5 admission but the money goes to Handmade Nation and Hagar House. Plus lots of great handmade goods to buy for all your gift-giving needs (because you know you have them!). The delightful Miss L and I plan to attend, so if you see us, be sure to say hi!

Thankful: 13. Candy Cane Oreos. Even the dog agrees. 14. Rain. Not fun for driving but we’ll take what we can get in this severe drought.

Consigned, Sealed & Delivered

There’s always a sense of accomplishment and relief for me after I drop off Miss L’s old clothes at the semiannual boutique consignment sale. It’s a bit of work to get to that point — especially if you wait until the day of your drop-off appointment to get everything ready, hypothetically speaking of course — but so much easier than some of the alternatives.

I’ve been consigning at this sale for a couple of years now and confessed to the owners back in the spring that I might have less to bring in, since I’m sewing so many of the girl’s clothes these days. “Bring ’em!” they said. I wasn’t sure if I would but as I sorted clothes today, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least try. I think I ended up taking about 10 or 12 things, some outfits and some made-to-match pieces, that I’d sewn.

As the volunteers were checking in my items, we chatted about what I’d brought, little things like how small something ran (I’m still bummed that the cool Meli Meli jacket I bought had sleeves made for an infant with monkey arms) or how sad I was that Liesl’d outgrown a particular dress. Someone saw my label on something and asked where to find it, and I admitted it was mine.

I still feel a little awkward talking to people about my sewing and I really can’t put my finger on why. I think I tend to like more passive forms of self promotion instead of those that involve me talking about myself and my work! LOL! I have finally gotten comfortable enough to carry around my business cards and hand those out when people ask for them, although it does make me feel all grown up and stuff.

Although, to be perfectly honest, I’ve always been a bit reticent when it comes to my sewing. I just don’t like talking about me. (And, yes, I see the irony in that comment, since this is my blog. Humor me.) That’s what I’ve always liked about journalism — I get to meet and talk to interesting people and write about them. I’m only a small part of that equation. I’ve spent nearly two decades honing my ability to encourage people to open up to me and then really listen to them. Having the tables turned about a topic that’s so personal to me just freaks me out a bit.

I think teaching has helped me open up a bit, though. It’s given me a chance to see sewing in a broader sense; namely as a means of fostering a love for the craft through my experiences. And writing about it on my blog nearly every day has been such a positive outlet that I guess I’m growing a little more comfortable about sharing myself out here in the “real” world. As long as it doesn’t happen more than a couple of times a year. ^_~