Sunday, December 15, 2013

Stocking...and a Giveaway Day winner!

I'll do the winner part first. Congratulations to Redzshadow who was commenter #23 - the Random Number Generator's pick - on my Giveaway Day post. Redz suggested my polar bear themed zipper pouch would be great for holding a sketch book and pens. I will get it ready for mailing and I hope you enjoy it, Redz!

One of our favourite traditions around here is filling the Christmas stockings and then opening them together (in our pj's, of course) on Christmas morning. Last year, I made some new ones when we added the son-in-laws to our family. This year, one of my girls asked if she could have an updated one that would "go with", but not "match" the one I made for her husband. I went back to my trusty polar bears and came up with this:

(And can I just add I look forward to the days growing longer again so we can get some decent light for photos!)

I used Imagine Gnats' Falling Flakes stocking tutorial as an inspiration. It is a very simple tutorial to follow along and it came together really quickly. Daughter dearest approves. Here are the two stockings "going with" each other:

Both stockings have Laurie Wisbrun's fun polar bear print in common and a bit of red and gray colouring - both ready to be filled and enjoyed come Christmas morning!

And, speaking of Christmas, some of the local wildlife have become quite enamoured with our tree:

Suki is excited for Christmas, too!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Celtic Solstice Mystery - Part 2 and a look at process

If you are visiting to find my Giveaway Day post you will need to click here to enter for the prize.

Although my current preferences are for modern fabrics and contemporary quilt design I felt compelled to join in Bonnie Hunter's current mystery project, Celtic Solstice. I have a lot of scraps and this lady can show you how to do amazing things with them! I figured it would be okay to just say "whatever" for one project and see what happens. So far, so good. I joined a couple of Facebook groups for this mystery project and reading all the posts there got me thinking about how everyone approaches these types of projects. I figured I could write one post to cover off the weekly Celtic Solstice link-up and to also share a bit of how I've been coming at this project so far.

First, I changed the colours. It isn't that I don't like the colours Bonnie chose, I just don't like them together, in the particular values and hues she has suggested. So, I edited the palette to better suit my taste which, coincidentally enough, matches the scraps I have on hand. Go figure.

Like any good instructor, Bonnie provided a comprehensive list of materials, including the amount of each colour required and photos to show us the kind of fabrics she has in mind. Bonnie has a system for organizing her scraps to make them really usable - me, not so much. I have plastic drawers into which I separate my scraps by colour. Bonnie - and many of those who posted photos on FB - pulled lovely, nicely organized stacks of fabrics on the eve of the mystery's start. As for myself, the only thing I pulled was my drawer - and I had to pull it good and hard to get it open because it's so jammed up with scraps:

This step of the mystery required me to cut 200 green rectangles, each 2" x 3 1/2". My criteria for selecting fabrics was to pull any piece that would net me at least one rectangle of the required size and nothing that was either too acid or too greyed-out. I also tried to stay away from anything much darker than a real primary, grassy-green.

Here is a post-pressing selection of some that (literally) made the cut:

The next step simply required me to cut my fabrics into the required rectangle size. As you can see, some scraps yielded more pieces than others. In order to keep with the scrappy theme I tried not to cut more than eight rectangles from any given fabric.

I am always anxious to get sewing and try to find efficiencies in my cutting when I can. I still want accuracy, but sometimes there are ways to minimize the number of times I have to move the ruler or pick up the cutter and it all adds up, especially when there is a lot of cutting. A trick I really like is to extend my ruler onto my fabric by as many sub-units as I can get out of that piece. For example, the 2" strip below was long enough to sub-cut two 3 1/2" long units, so I set the ruler down so the 7" mark (2 x 3 1/2" = 7") was on the freshly straightened edge of my fabric. I cut once at 7" and then slid the ruler to the left until I was at the 3 1/2" mark, and I cut again.

It would make more sense if I had a video, but hopefully this helps give you the idea. It means I can lay the fabric down once and not have to keep moving it, which helps save a little bit of time.

I piled my rectangles in stacks of ten and then piled my little bunches of ten into stacks of fifty. This helped me keep track of how many I had and how many more I needed to go, even when interruptions came along. Step 2 of the mystery will eventually yield me 100 chevron blocks. I am a long way from finished right now with only the first square sewn onto 100 half-blocks. Good thing the next clue doesn't come out until Friday.

I have not fussed much when it comes time to add the other pieces. My main goal is to ensure there is enough contrast between the pieces I am combining; in this case, between the green rectangle and the neutral square I am adding which is the start of the chevron design. As long as I can distinguish between the value in the two pieces, I am calling it good.

I am chain piecing and decided it would work best for me to make one side of the chevron at a time; I worry I will forget to sew from the other direction on 1/2 the squares so I simply eliminated that other half from my sewing space to keep me from making that error. My process is to chain piece all of them, then trim, then take the lot to the ironing board for a good pressing. I am experimenting with a dry iron for the first time ever (I love steam!) but I do keep the spray bottle handy in case a bit of fabric gets stubborn with me. I also measured my units after pressing and trimmed any that had gotten a little wonky. My next step will be to dive into the drawer with the pink scraps to get those cut (my pink is Bonnie's yellow) and start the chain piecing process again. 

So there you have a little insight into my process on this particular project. I noticed another great process post here if you want to check that out as well. I'm linking up to Bonnie's blog along with all the other mystery quilt makers.
Happy quilting.


PS. You would think this would make a dent in my scrap drawer but so far you can hardly even tell I've taken anything out. The cool thing? It's like getting a quilt top for free!

PPS. Sorry for the dark photos; there is no natural light in my sewing room and the darkness of our late afternoon's and evenings is not so great for picture taking.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Giveaway Day - December 2013 Edition!

Today is Giveaway Day over at Sew, Mama, Sew. Twice a year, the great people at SMS put on this great event which seems to be getting bigger and bigger each year. I have thoroughly enjoyed looking at all the posts, gathering inspiration, and entering my name to win some really great prizes. Without fail, the list of blogs I follow is always longer after Giveaway Day.

So here is what I am giving away today:

My giveaway prize is this fun pouch made using Elizabeth Hartman's Perfect Zip Bag pattern. I've seen these bags all over the internet and decided this would be the year I get the pattern and start making some for myself. The front of the bag is made from a patchwork block and linen and the back of the bag is the same white flowers on gray I used for the zipper pull. The bag is fully lined and has a bottom gusset, to help it stand up. It is a good size bag at about 10" tall and 9 " wide, so it could hold a few things. I'd like to put a few goodies in there so I'm hoping everyone who reads this will help me come up with ideas for filling it!

Would you like to win this bag? All you need to do is leave me a comment and tell me what you might want to keep or put in a bag like this. International entries are most welcome! The draw will close early on Friday evening, December 13th.View other giveaways for handmade items here; view giveaways for sewing-related supplies here.

Thank you for taking time to visit my blog; have fun reading about the other great prizes bloggers have on offer this week and if you have time, check back on Saturday to find out who won!

Update: Friday, December 13th 2013 @ 7:00 PM MDT this giveaway has closed.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Chillin' Out

Like many other places in Canada and the US we have been experiencing extremely cold weather and plenty of snow this past week. Living on the Canadian prairie, winter snowstorms are to be expected and, for the most part, we are generally prepared (e.g., warm clothes, snow shovels, etc.) for times like this. Having said that, how does anyone prepare for this?

Last Monday, it started to cool off and the snow began to fly later in the afternoon. So much so that by Tuesday, we ended up having a snow day as a result of the 30 cm (12 inches!) of snow that came down. Many businesses and services remained open, but I work at a college and our classrooms were really, really empty on Tuesday morning. Public transit wasn't running and it wasn't very nice for those who would normally walk to campus. I'm grateful to work somewhere where they care about our safety enough to know when to call it a day.

As much as I like my job, there is just something so decadent and exciting about a snow day! Imagine, staying home from work on a Tuesday afternoon - what joy! It was a perfect time to finish working on a little project I had started on the weekend.

A couple years ago, I picked up a fun holiday print in an after-Christmas sale at Fat Quarter Shop and all along, I knew I wanted to use it to make pillowcases for my bed. It only took me three years, but I got them made last weekend. After that, I thought it would be fun to make a pillow to go with them. I foraged around in my scrap bins until I had a bunch of neutrals and some colourful scraps to go nicely with my pillowcase focus print. I followed Toni's directions to make Skinny Churn Dash blocks and they turned out so cute! I did some straight line quilting across the top, added a quilted envelope closure for the back and in short order, my new pillow was done. Here it is, nestled against the pillowcases I took my inspiration from.

What a fun snow day! I hope I get to do it again sometime.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Celtic Solstice - Part 1

Although I would call myself a quilter with a preference for modern fabrics and designs, I must admit, I just plain like fabric - a lot (except batiks, at least not yet). Having said that, I can be a bit of a snob, using only "modern" with "modern" and "traditional" with "traditional" and never shall the two meet up in the same quilt - no way.

And yet this weekend, as I jumped right in with both feet to join a quilt along that requires me to dig into the scrap bins, I found myself increasingly enamoured with the less-than-homogeneous blocks I was creating. In fact, I really, REALLY like them:

This is step one of a mystery quilt called Celtic Solstice. Bonnie Hunter is a rock star when it comes to managing fabric and scraps and she has graciously put together this mystery project for all to enjoy. You might not like scraps, you might not like the way she mixes her fabrics, but you cannot fault her enthusiasm and her ability to teach when it comes to quilting. The Energizer bunny has nothing on this lady!

By the way, there are 188 blocks up there, every last one of them made with nothing but scraps!

Linking up with the Mystery Monday Link Up over at Quiltville. Thanks for visiting!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Warm heart

Although I live in Canada and our Thanksgiving celebration was several weeks ago I do recognize this week has been a time to slow down, appreciate, and be grateful for all we have. I thought it was rather timely, then, when I received an email that started like this:

"I was the recipient of the gorgeous quilt delivered to me here in High River.   

I cannot tell you all enough how much that meant to me. Aside from the fact it is absolutely gorgeous, it bring tears to my eyes each time I walk into the living room and see it. Just knowing that as you ladies stitched it you were thinking of me is so incredibly overwhelming and it is such an act of kindness., I truly thank you all so much for it.

Please forward this e-mail on to all the ladies who were a part of this.. and from the bottom of my heart, God Bless you all for your kindness."

This lovely lady lives in a small town called High River which devastated by floods that wreaked havoc from the Rocky Mountains to Calgary to High River and beyond in June of this year. This lady lost her home, but her email goes on to say her family was safe and had a place to stay, and she is grateful through all of it as so many others had it so much worse. The quilt she is referring to came from the ladies in the Happiness circle of Do Good Stitches; I am so honoured and humbled to be part of this group.

She wanted me to have a photo of the quilt being much loved in her home by everyone, including those with fur.

Many of us are quick to respond when help is needed. Be it helping to make a quilt, donating our time and/or money to a good cause, or getting in there with our hands to do the work, there are so many who think nothing of saying "what do you need me to do?" when a call for help comes (and sometimes, well before the call is made). So often, those we help don't know who we are or where to find us, but I am certain their heart is filled with the same thankfulness expressed in the email I received. So today, I am sharing her message of thankfulness with everyone. THANK YOU, all, for being the beautiful part of humanity we don't laud often enough. May gratitude and appreciation sustain you through this holiday season and beyond.