January 20, 2022

Laptop Bag

I've needed a bag for my laptop since I bought it a few years ago. Every time I would take my computer somewhere, I'd think, "Ugh I really need a bag for this." But then I'd forget until the next time. I considered buying one, but the well-padded ones aren't cheap, and I knew I could make one -- I even had a pattern that I'd used to make a bag for my mom 9 years ago! After traveling with my computer for the holidays this year and being frustrated with myself yet again, I decided it was finally time to get sewing.

The pattern I used is the Gadget Guard from Dog Under My Desk. I love the simplicity of the design, the snug fit and the fact that there's a picture for almost every step. For someone who only makes bags and pouches occasionally, this is very reassuring and helpful. Also, with more recent projects and especially bags, I've found that I get much less intimidated and frustrated if I spread the work out over a span of time. So this bag took me about a week of doing a few steps at a time and walking away when I made a mistake (sometimes repeatedly!) or got frustrated.

I chose two old-school Cotton + Steel (now Ruby Star Society) fabrics from my stash, paired with black zippers and a cool Alison Glass zipper pull that I found at my local quilt shop. I love how the bag turned out, and I feel good about finally tackling a project that I've been putting off for years. Not a bad way to start off the year!

December 31, 2021

Layer Bars Quilt

Recently I was in between bigger, more complicated projects and sort of at loose ends, and I was feeling the itch to cut and sew something -- anything -- without thinking about it too much. Just mindless making. So I went to my stash and pulled out a 10" layer cake of Carolyn Friedlander's Gleaned fabric in the blue/gray/black/white colorway and quickly came up with a plan. 

I cut some of the blocks in half and started alternating them on my design wall. But keeping some blocks at 10" square didn't look right, so I just cut everything in half and this Layer Bars quilt was born. I added a couple of other Carolyn Friedlander pieces I had in my stash to fill in a few of the gaps, but otherwise this came from one stack.

I pieced the top quickly and put it in the closet to be finished later for donation to Project Linus. Then I was contacted by an event planner looking for a quilter to set up at a United Way donor event. I agreed to attend as a representative of the Knoxville Modern Quilt Guild, displaying both guild quilts and some of my own.

She said there would be a silent auction with items from the other artists attending -- a painter, a potter and a stained glass maker -- and asked if I'd consider adding something. After I joked that, well, quilts don't come together overnight or even over a couple of days (at least they don't for me), I remembered that I had Layer Bars in the closet.

I used part of a new black and white gingham bedsheet (also from my stash) for the backing to keep the lap quilt neutral and hopefully more appealing to more event attendees. I quilted it with straight lines to match the clean, linear piecing.

The quilt got a lot of compliments at the event, and one attendee even put in his bid and then came back later to add another one -- I hope he went home with it. I left the event before the silent auction was officially closed, but the bidding was at $300 when last I checked. I haven't received word of the final amount, but I'm glad I was able to contribute to the local United Way's efforts. If I hadn't already had the quilt top waiting in the wings, I'm not sure I could have pulled a quilt together in time.

November 25, 2021

Shivaun Place Bonus Scrap Quilt

In 2020, I finally finished the Shivaun Place quilt that I'd been working on for a couple of years. The pattern by Sassafras Lane Designs is really clever in that it includes a second smaller quilt pattern to make using the trimmings. The half square triangles and quarter square triangles come together in the sweet pinwheel pattern seen above. Below is the original Shivaun Place:

A few of my trimmings must have disappeared in the process of making the original quilt, so I had to remake a couple of peach floral pinwheels, but luckily I still had enough fabric left over to fill in those gaps. I also added a border to make it a little larger. The peach was left from a bedsheet that I used as backing on another quilt. 

For the back, I used up some coordinating Rifle Paper Co. fabrics from my stash. Same for the binding - use it up! I did my trusty free-motion quilting design -- an allover meander with occasional loops -- on my domestic Juki.

I think I'll hold onto this one for a little while before deciding whether or not to donate it to Project Linus, the usual recipient of my smaller quilts.

October 31, 2021

Halloween Economy Block Quilt

This quilt started out as a way to use up Halloween fabric scraps left from at least three other projects I made for friends -- specifically, sisters who are my good friends and whose birthdays are just before Halloween, making them big fans of the holiday. 

Microwave bowl holders


I wanted a project that would be easy and pretty mindless to sew while using scraps in a variety of different sizes, including some triangles I'd cut for the pillow above and not used. It's been a while since I've done any economy blocks, aka square in a square, so I found a free foundation paper piecing template for 6" finished squares and printed out some copies. I sewed, pressed and trimmed over and over while watching Netflix, and soon I had used up all the scraps that were big enough and fit my general color placement plans.

I had an idea along the way that I would give this quilt to my friend Bethany (one of the sisters) as a birthday present, but her personal style is more edgy and dark than what I would normally reflect in a quilt, so I needed to keep this quilt moody. I pulled out a bolt of Michael Miller Cotton Couture in Ocean that I bought a while back when I could occasionally get good deals on bolts of solids. The hand is so silky, and the color was a perfect complement to the colors in the blocks.

After planning out the sashing, I moved on to borders. To keep things looking more modern, I decided to use wide borders in varying widths so that the panel of blocks would be off-center. I built the design in EQ8 (it took forever!) and played around with the dimensions until I had something I liked. I tweaked this plan a little when it came to cutting the strips, deciding to make the quilt a little bigger with wider borders. Having a whole bolt of solid border fabric on hand was very convenient, as I knew I wouldn't run out of fabric!

For the backing, I bought a black and gray text print (in German) at my local quilt shop, but there was not quite enough to cover the whole pieced back, so I had to add a bit to the bottom corner. I auditioned a few options but ended up using a piece of haunted houses that appeared in a few of the economy blocks.

I tried a new local longarmer and chose an allover design that, to me, looks like swirling smoke. It looks so good in the wide border fabric and adds just the right amount of texture and movement. The quilter used dark gray thread, and I used more of the MM Ocean solid as binding for a clean, seamless finish on the front.

I took photos outside before and after washing and drying the quilt to compare the crinkling. Unfortunately, the post-wash photos are marred by the shadow of a tree in my backyard! Needing to get this gift in the mail to arrive in time for my friend's birthday, I couldn't wait for an overcast day to try again, so the photos that follow are unwashed. The finished size is approximately 60 x 70".

September 29, 2021

Matilda Wall Quilt

Last year (spring or summer? I can't remember exactly when) I signed up for a quiltalong organized by a local store, Mountain Creek Quilt Shop. The pattern was the Matilda quilt by Irene Blanck of Focus on Quilts, and the quiltalong included fabric kits mailed to me periodically. A lot of the specifics of the project have disappeared from my memory (thanks pandemic!), but I can say that I enjoyed the process!

I think the pattern was designed for needle-turn applique, but I went the easier route and used Heat 'n' Bond Lite and raw edge applique on my sewing machine. I have other handwork projects and didn't want this one to end up in the "never finished" pile. Many of the fabrics in the flowers are ones that I never would have chosen on my own, so receiving the fabric packs in the mail was always a fun surprise. And I got pretty good at machine applique thanks to all the practice. Around and around and pivot and around and around ...

It took me a little time to figure out how to finish it, but I decided to keep the quilting simple with straight lines 1 inch apart. The fusible under the appliques makes them a little stiff, so the quilting needed to be minimal. The finished size is 36 inches square, and I plan to hang it on the wall over my sofa.

August 28, 2021

Chit Chat Bonus Baby Quilt


A few months ago, I shared the Chit Chat quilt that I made for a family friend's newest granddaughter. The pattern is from Block Modern. Here's a reminder of that quilt:

After I was done making it, I had a few blocks leftover and decided to turn them into a smaller baby quilt. Of course I didn't have the right number of leftover blocks to do that, so I had to make more. The whole process was more work than I was initially planning to put into it, making the most of my fabric scraps and trying to make single blocks when the pattern instructions produce more than one at a time, but I persevered.

I decided to position all the blocks together in the center as a sort of medallion, adding wide pale peach borders on all sides. The peach is also a leftover -- a bedsheet that I used as the backing on a quilt last year. It pays to save the leftovers!

The backing and binding is a pale peach Rifle Paper Co. print with navy horses and peach flowers and hints of bronze -- it couldn't have been more perfect. The quilt turned out pretty small -- less than 42" wide -- but perfect for a baby. I donated it to my local chapter of Project Linus, so I hope it's chosen for a little one who needs it.

July 21, 2021

Hyphenated Quilt


Every quilt has a story, and this one is a doozy. After a successful quilt-along in Spring/Summer 2020, my guild (Knoxville Modern Quilt Guild) decided to do another one this year. We chose a free pattern from Art Gallery Fabrics with high hopes. I guess we could have looked more closely at the pattern, but that's a lesson learned.

The pattern image that we all loved

My fabric pull

Unfortunately, the pattern -- which AGF has since revised -- was full of errors. I forged ahead, following the pattern as best as I could and sending regular emails to the guild with helpful tips and corrections. Some members started using the pattern and then abandoned it and went their own ways -- creating the same or similar blocks using different methods, putting blocks in different layouts, and really just finding any way to salvage some enjoyment out of the process and produce a quilt top or finished quilt.

In spite of all the frustration, I really do like how this quilt turned out. My inspiration fabrics - a few Amy Butler prints - led me to a color palette that's rich but still fun. I plan to donate it to Project Linus, and I think an older child or teenager will be happy to see this one in the array of available quilts.

I found the perfect orchid backing fabric on clearance at one of my local quilt shops, and I quilted it on my domestic machine using my go-to allover pattern of loose meander with little loops. The binding is one of the prints used in the blocks -- use that stash!

After finishing the quilt, I contacted Art Gallery Fabrics to let them know that the free pattern on their website was really terrible and needed to be corrected. They responded with a revised version of the pattern (not that I'll ever make this one again!) and sent me a collection of fat quarters for my trouble. Free fabric? Oh sure, why not.

The guild plans to organize another quilt-along for 2022, but we'll be taking a much closer look at the pattern we choose first!


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