Sunday, August 12, 2018

On Sewing Anxiety (and a New Ironing Board Cover)

This weekend, I experienced an epiphany. I love those. I still remember sitting in my AP U.S. History high school class 12(?) years ago, learning all these things about history that had so far been unconnected in my mind, and how they relate to today. Unbelievable (and one reason I became an educator myself).

This was a sewing epiphany, though - one that affected me so much that I had to immediately write about it (hence this post). In the sewing world, we talk a lot about finished projects and fabric piles and color theory and taking classes. All those things are great. Can we talk some more about growing our skills and being confident to try something new?

I tend to be a worrier (and sometimes I bottle it up - only those closest to me really know what I'm thinking, sometimes more than I do). I've improved over time, though. People say that "things have a way of working out" and it's one of my pet peeves, but it's true. Plus, one thing that sewing has done for me over 8 years has made me less anxious. Yes, it's a time and monetary investment (fabric and tools, especially the good stuff you want to use to make things last, can cost major $$). But I think it's also an investment in yourself.

When you learn how to sew and keep at it even just here and there, you are giving yourself an outlet for creativity. You teach yourself problem-solving skills. You learn to be resourceful (for example, for this project, I didn't want to hunt down/have to go buy more elastic, so I just reused the band from my last project - yay for recycling!). You learn how to trust yourself with dangerous (yes, dangerous!) tools (did I think I would be using a rotary cutter so fearlessly 8 years ago? Heck no). You learn patience (remember those time[s] you had to rip out 20 minutes of small stitches under a deadline? That was me this weekend!). But most of all, over time, you learn to be confident.

This confidence builds up in small ways. First, you learn how to operate a sewing machine and thread it so fast and well that you hardly have to pay attention. It's like the joy of finishing a 500 piece puzzle. Every time I notice this, I totally cheer in my head. I still remember taking 10/15 minutes just to thread my first machine! Then, you learn how to care for and solve machine problems. Did your thread just break? Yep, let's adjust that tension. Is it right yet? Nope, let's change the bobbin. And on and on. And then you develop a system.

I'm a very confident quiltmaker at this point, but with most other projects (like my recent pouches, for example - and ESPECIALLY garments), I need a bit of hand-holding.  And that's okay! I'm not a master seamstress by any means and don't pretend to be.

My ironing board cover was looking quite a bit worse for wear lately; the last time I had changed it was 3 summers ago. Water stains, burns, the whole deal. Maybe it was time to change it... but I have hazy memories of long seams, fumbling with elastic, etc. Ugh.

BUT, then I remembered. I've done this before. I certainly can do it again, and probably faster, too. It turned out that just by examining my old cover, I was able to figure out how to make the new one. This was an awesome feeling.

I laid my new fabric out and traced the old cover on top with a washable fabric pen, then cut it out and sewed on some unused binding as bias tape (I save my binding scraps). After safety-pin-squeezing my recycled elastic through, I tested the cover's size on my board, and sewed the last couple of seams. I also cut out two layers of cotton batting to sit beneath the cover. Here's a good example of what I did.

Once I started the process, I had lost my anxiety/apathy completely. In fact, I registered vaguely that I felt quite at peace. After all, I love the fabric (sunflower canvas from the new Front Yard fabric collection by Sarah Watts for Cotton+Steel) - but it's just fabric. And I've built my skills enough to know that all will be well. And now I have a pretty new cover that only took a couple hours to make!

Have you had a sewing epiphany lately, or a moment when you've appreciated how far you've come? Do tell!

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

An Adventure in Pouches + Giveaway

I'm primarily a quilter, but here and there, I like to switch things up with a quick, small, handmade project. This really keeps the creative juices flowing (especially when I'm stuck on a quilt or need inspiration or what have you). One of my favorite go-to projects has become pouches - most specifically, the Open Wide Zippered Pouch by Anna Graham of Noodlehead. The free tutorial is very thorough and creates a really professional finish.

I've tried the pouch a few times in the past, but for whatever reason could not get the zipper right. This time, though, I did! For the record, zippers really aren't hard to install (REALLY, I PROMISE), and you don't need a special sewing machine foot to do it, either. This zipper is unique because of the way the pouch is supposed to open (check out the tutorial for a good picture). I gave myself a pat on the back (in my mind) when they all came out nearly perfect.

If I'm going to make one pouch, I need to make a whole batch! Chain sewing is the best. At the beginning of the summer, there were several occasions that required small gifts. At this point, if I have a couple of hours to make something, I've pretty much given up shopping around blindly for a gift that the person might not even use (I have lots of thoughts about this crazy culture of buying gifts, but that's a post for another day). Plus, going through all the motions several times also improves my sewing. And I get pouches out of it. Win-win.


Check out the typewriters (from the Letterhead fabric line by Deborah Edwards)! Aren't they so cool? All the fabrics below were part of a fabric pack that Northcott Fabrics sent to me to play with, and they fit the bill perfectly. I love how customizable pouches are; I usually inscribe each one with initials or the recipient's name. They were a big hit!

My friend Julie, for example, is a writer, so I had to use the typewriters and letters for her. Inside, I included her first sashiko stitching panel and all the necessary supplies, since she's already a fab cross-stitcher and wants to try more needlework. The other two flowery pouches, made for two friends, purposefully match. I like the summery vibes - this is the Chloe fabric line.

Pouches are a great gift, and I'm sure it won't be long before I make another batch! I try to keep zippers on hand for that exact reason (lately, I've been collecting lace zippers for this purpose - have you seen those?).

Full disclosure: Northcott Fabrics sent me fabrics to make with and give away. All opinions are honest and my own.


Today, I'm giving away a half yard bundle of 3 Bohemian Vibe fabrics by Northcott Studio! Thank you to Northcott for offering up some fabrics for my readers to play with. This giveaway is open to anyone worldwide.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway details: Runs from August 8 until August 15 at 12 am EST. Use the Rafflecopter above to enter  - this helps me when tallying votes. Once you comment on the blog, please be advised that it will not appear right away (I have to approve comments due to insane amounts of spam). If you have ANY trouble, please email me and I will post the comment for you! Blogger has been really difficult lately. 

You can still comment and not be entered in the giveaway if you so desire (just don't click anything in the Rafflecopter). I will not be responding directly to all blog comments at this time due to volume and issues with Blogger (unfortunately). Good luck!

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Building Blocks: Quilting Modern Quilts Blog Series

This is the 3rd of 6 quilts that I'm sharing as part of a series this summer, which explores ways to quilt modern, more minimalistic quilts (than what I usually make). To read a detailed introduction to the blog series, click here. Quilts featured so far: Electrify, Intersection. Read to the end for a giveaway!

This quilt has a long history of several years inside my graph paper sketchbook, just waiting for its chance to come to life. Here was my chance.

"Building Blocks" is a conglomeration of rectangles and squares, sewn together to showcase color and movement. This quilt doesn't have a grid -  a process I genuinely enjoy. Whenever I make a quilt like this (for example, Metropolis), cutting into it and piecing the design in (no applique) is always less tricky than it first seems. In fact, the quilt top came together in just a few quick hours! I really couldn't believe it!

Wish I had dated some of my sketchbook drawings... the historian in me just shook her head. This might be from as far back as 2012.

I specifically chose RJR Cotton Supreme Solids for this quilt, as they have quite possibly the most comprehensive, bright solid selections out there. I had used RJR solids for my "Burst" quilt last year as part of the "What Shade Are You?" blog hop, so I was already sold on their selection. This quilt is wonderful in cool colors; I'd love to make it with warm ones.

I was able to pick out very specific shades of fabric that matched with my vision: Argento for the background, Violet, Jacaranda, and Wisteria for purples, Silver Screen for binding, Kelly Green, Lucky Green, Sour Apple, Wimbledon, and Neon for greens, Robin's Egg and Iceberg for turquoise, and Electric Blue, Lake, Riviera, and Poolside for blues.

Quilting the middle went off without a hitch; it was especially enjoyable due to the constant changing of motifs (if it's boring, why do it?). So many opportunities for pretty filler designs. Every small square (1 in each of the 4 colors) received the echo treatment (see the lime green above).

 This quilt gave me the opportunity to use LOTS of different thread colors, including Aurifil 2600 (Dove Gray), 1320 (Medium Teal), 2735 (Medium Blue), 2870 (Green), 4225 (Eggplant), 5017 (Shining Green), and 1243 (Dusty Lavender).

I was especially excited about quilting my cascading motifs, like in the royal blue fabric above. I think they add a lot of movement, and there are so many options. Adding curves and circles where there are tons of angles always makes a quilt shine. Also, look how this rainbow-y cascade shows up on the back (this pretty purple fabric is called Jacaranda)! I love it so.

Unfortunately, the background of this quilt  (pebbles and wavy lines) has been the subject of a LOT of seam ripping. I am not one to sugarcoat the struggles of quilting something! :)  I wanted the outside/background of the quilt to be quilted densely and somewhat small so as to keep the attention on the colorful shapes. At different times throughout the process, my tension really went off, and I neglected to take out those sections until I was done. It could have been a bit of drag on this quilt (it's not particularly big) or perhaps my speed... sometimes it's hard to say what really set it off. I usually don't let a few spots of loose tension here or there bother me, even if the quilt is meant to be in a quilt show.

However, too late, I realized that it was much more serious. I spent a couple hours ripping out free motion quilting (which is THE WORST to seam rip, ask any quilter!), and quilted those sections again. I'll be honest - it somewhat ruined my relationship with this quilt. I still love the colors and the design, but every time I think about the quilting, I just get annoyed (it still needs more work, but it's done for now).

Overall, though, I try to take things with a positive spin. This quilt taught me about patience. It taught me how to quickly (as possible) rip a lot of pebbles out (which is not quick!). It also taught me that the second time around quilting may still not meet my perfection standards for whatever reason (which, honestly, are pretty low - it's not that I don't care but that's not where I typically focus my crafty energy) - and that's just quite alright. I'd like to give this quilt away or donate it someplace where they will hang it on a wall, or use it as a lap quilt, and never really look closely at the tension on the back.

It's just fabric and thread. I got to make one of my longtime planned designs. So, honestly, I'm happy. But I think in social media and quilt guild worlds, we don't always talk about the struggles. So here's my post about struggling.

Thank you to RJR Fabrics for sponsoring the fabric, The Warm Company for Warm and Natural batting, and Aurifil Thread for the threads. All opinions about materials are my own, honest ones.

Please note: some people have emailed me about releasing patterns of the quilts. While I'm flattered, sharing the measurements and methods are no longer in my plans, as I explained in the introduction post. If you derive a quilt from my design and share it publicly, I would greatly appreciate a link to my website and a caption noting that you were inspired by this design. This also goes for quilt shows. Thank you!


Today's giveaway is an assortment of large scraps of RJR Cotton Supreme Solids, from the blue and green sections of my quilt.

Giveaway details: Runs from July 30 until August 7 at 12 am EST. Use the Rafflecopter below to enter  - this helps me when tallying votes. Once you comment on the blog, please be advised that it will not appear right away (I have to approve comments due to insane amounts of spam). You can still comment and not be entered in the giveaway if you so desire (just don't click anything in the Rafflecopter). If you won a previous giveaway from this blog series, you cannot win again.

If you have ANY trouble, please email me and I will post the comment for you! Blogger has been really difficult lately.

I will not be responding directly to all blog comments at this time due to volume and issues with Blogger (unfortunately). Sorry, U.S. entrants only, please. I will email the winner and if there is no response within 2 days or winner is not located in the U.S., I will randomly choose another winner. Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Reorganizing Fabric and Scraps

Over 8 years of sewing, my fabric needs and preferences have changed many times (have you ever looked at a piece of fabric and thought: what was I thinking?!). I think it's important to reevaluate your hobby periodically and make the necessary changes (which is why I have frequent fabric destashes and give a lot away to my quilt guild and students). Your hobby is important and you have to make sure it fits your current space and needs.

Right now, I've come to terms with the fact that I'm making many more scrap quilts than those with yardage, so I'm paring down both my buying and fabric stash (for the record, I usually buy a half yard of something when I like it or need it). Plus, I really want to make quilts instead of holding onto fabric for years and years (this post by Jenny Kae Quilts says it all).

While going through my normal stash piles, I quickly noticed lots of small fabric pieces at fat quarter size or less; since they weren't stored with my scraps, I'd often forget about them. Also, the closet (shared with my husband's computer stuff) very clearly needed a complete makeover. I bought bins on sale at Target (score), which easily close and stack (my other, tiny ones, did not - see the size difference below). These are TWICE the size than the ones I was using! They fit my fat quarters of each color along with scraps. What a relief! Why did I wait so long?

Before, I was also using an assortment of Ziploc bags and shoe boxes to organize scraps. Not only did it look terrible but it was confusing (besides a general organization by color). I felt overwhelmed just stepping into the closet. I didn't give it the time and attention it needed... until now.

Now, I have more room to store scraps together. I combined colors together except for blue, purple, and green, which all needed their own bins (also, I have very few yellow scraps - believe it, Sarah! - so a small bin still holds those). I'm already feeling much more excited about diving into my scraps.

One part of my stash that will remain in tact through change is solids, since I use them possibly 75% more often and in abundance than I used to 4 or 5 years ago. While I don't keep track of them by company or name, I'm happy with the assortment I can pull from for any project. I seem to have accumulated a lot of purples and grays from over the years, and many of these are larger pieces. Solids have become absolutely essential to my quilt-making process (here, they are on the bottom of my storage unit).

Also, during this process, I went through my fabric stash 3 separate times and put together a huge pile to destash (see below). I'm also considering making up a few bundles for sale. I'll be posting these for sale on my separate Instagram account, quiltyhabit_destash, within the next month. Follow this IG account to get updates (sorry, US shipping only).

So, have you gone through your fabric lately? What's changed, if anything? Your taste, needs, space, etc.?


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