snake trail beginnings

I’ve begun a new, long-term quilt project. I am using the snake trail pattern from Denyse Schmidt’s newest book–but I won’t use the layout of the quilt that is pictured in the book. {I like the version that is more curvy and winds around.} It will be a full sized quilt for our guest room. My motivation was to have an always-available hand-stitching project at the ready, but I’m reserving the right to use my machine to stitch as well. I’m going to use all of my favorite bits of fabric — it’s going to be fussy-cut heaven. My initial fabric pull could only have been influenced by Jolene {Blue Elephant Stitches} and her amazing single girl quilt. I’m going to try to blog my way through the process of making this one and share my thoughts as I work.

In other news, I’ve finally joined up on twitter and instagram. I am always hesitant to add another social networking venue to my repertoire {which is why I am several years late to the game on this!}, but I’ve finally made the plunge. Honestly, I haven’t posted anything particularly interesting at either spot, aside from my ridiculous obsession over Friday Night Lights {again, several years late to the game}.  I’m feeling kind of shy about it all. I’m @applecydermill at both places.

a question for you

On a recent ski trip at Cannon Mountain, my husband {pictured}, my sister-in-law and I were riding up the chairlift when I proclaimed that I couldn’t think of anything more fun than skiing or snowboarding. {I do both, but I am a better skier than rider.} I ruminated that surfing is probably just as fun, if not more fun, but I’ve never tried.  My sister-in-law asked me:  “What about sewing?” and I answered pretty emphatically:  “NO WAY!”  I’d rather hit the slopes than jam on my Janome any day.  Ha! That sounds so ridiculous.

The conversation got me to thinking about the interests of my fellow makers, outside of their craft. Here is my question for you:  Is there an activity that you like more than sewing/knitting/making?

Side note:  THANK YOU for all the great feedback on my last post about organizing a quilting workshop at my local library.  It has given me tons of food for thought and will help me to put together a great event. I will be sure to let you know how it all plays out.

wondering about workshops

My local library asked me if I would organize a hands-on quilting workshop that would be open to the public.  I accepted the invitation immediately because I love the idea of getting more people excited about sewing .  I did a good amount of public speaking when I worked abroad, so I’m not nervous about getting up in front of a group of people I don’t know.  But it did occur to me just now that there is one big gap in my credentials.  I have never led a quilting workshop before, nor  have I ever participated in one. Hrmmm.  To loosely quote a new knitting friend: I believe in the endless powers of google and coffee to figure most things out.  Beyond the basic foundations of sewing that my mom provided when I was young, I am largely self-taught.  {Or shall I say internet-taught?}

I wondered if anyone who has either led or participated in such an event would be willing to offer any advice?  Format, length, logistics etc? Things you like/dislike about workshops? The event will take place on a weekday evening.  We will have a good number of sewing machines available for use.  I don’t want to do a ton of talking because I’d rather dive right into the making.   I imagine I would do a brief introduction with visuals {Pecha Kucha style?} then get people started on sewing a few very basic blocks, like rail fence or maybe log cabin.  I thought it might be both fun and convenient to skip the rotary cutting.  We could simply use scissors or tear fabric.  {The added bonus would be that I wouldn’t have to worry about finding the time and space to use rotary mats and cutters.} By the end of the class, everyone will have had the chance to create a little bit of patchwork.  If the workshop goes well and there is demand for a follow-up session, I could potentially organize another one to cover other important aspects of the craft.

Any advice? I’m all ears!  Thanks in advance.

thoughts on motivation

This post by Chawne spurred some thinking about the types of quilts I most enjoy creating–the ones that give me that “rush to finish” feeling.  I’ve come to realize that I am happiest making quilts that are my own design.  Inspiration hits and I just go for it.  There is no pattern to follow.  Its just me, my ideas, and a desire to work with fabric until I make whatever it is I am hoping to make.  I love the feeling of not knowing exactly how the finished product will turn out, but trusting my design sense and technical skills enough to know that I will make something beautiful, or practical, or comforting {or whatever it is I hope to accomplish.} I also like making heartfelt gifts that are motivated by the prospect of giving a little bit of handmade beauty to someone who is important to me.  My goal is to make something that the recipient will love.  I try to figure out their style, their tastes, their favorite colors, etc.  This type of project can feel a lot more like work because its more about the end game than the creative process.  I still find great satisfaction in it, nonetheless.

As I was trying to coming up with ideas for the quilt that is pictured above, I endeavored to combine these two types of quilts:  heartfelt gift and original design.  I wanted to make a gift for a friend that she would love, but I also wanted to throughly enjoy the process of creating it.   I am pretty sure I didn’t even include her favorite color {purple?}, but I know that it is well-constructed, one-of-a-kind,  and will keep her warm. Its an added bonus if she thinks its beautiful, right?

Enough of the introspective naval gazing. Here are some details.  I was originally inspired by this piece of artwork by Mia Christopher, but I went in a totally different direction color-wise and skipped the rounded corners. I didn’t use a rotary cutter while I made this quilt; I tore the fabric strips instead.  The “organic” grid quilting was inspired by this awesome quilt.   I backed it in flannel and bound it {with the same flannel} using Sherri Lynn Wood’s fantastic invisible binding tutorial. I machine-stitched the binding to the back of the quilt for.the.first.time.ever because I knew that the stitching would blend with the quilting on the front. It went really quickly and makes the finish product a lot sturdier than if you hand-stitch.  I always forget to measure my quilts but my guess is that it is about 60″ x 75″ in size. I like to make sure that my friends will be able to cover their bodies entirely and wrap their quilts around their feet when they are snuggled up on the couch.

Now, I am curious.  What motivates your making?  What types of projects do you love to create the most and why?  Let me know if you have a minute.

low volume quilt

My friend Jenny and I made this quilt together.  We chose a very simple pattern {rail fence} and a color scheme {low volume} that was easy to pull from our stashes.  I think it took Jenny all of two days to sew her 16 blocks, assemble the gorgeous backing fabric, and mail it all off to me.  Super speedy!  Unfortunately, the United States Postal Service did not follow her lead.  Those gorgeous quilt blocks traveled to Massachusetts from Indiana via Florida and New Hampshire.  It doesn’t take a geography whiz to figure out that’s not the most efficient route.

But arrive they did, and a collaborative quilt was born.  I did my usual safe and steady straight-line quilting and finished it off with a scrappy binding made of matching low volume prints.  Jenny and I used a collection of some of our most beloved prints for this one. {Not that it really matters but the photo above of the whole quilt is driving me nuts because the colors are off.  I really had a tough time photographing this one!}

This is the softest, prettiest quilt I’ve ever had the pleasure of putting together. It was such a wonderful group project. It makes me feel so grateful for the internet and the generous, collaborative community it fosters.  XOXO.

crafty ways to help

I’ve come across two crafty things that people can do to show our support for the Newtown community–make snowflakes and sew pillowcases.  Both deadlines are post-Christmas, so I plan to do both. I may even organize a snowflake-making play-date during the winter school holiday.

Of course, sending letters to the members of the community or making direct monetary donations is also a great thing to do.  A friend of mine has published a beautifully written post on her Mom’s Club blog that provides information on the many ways you can help in that regard.  That link is here.

fields and furrows

My god-daughter, who will receive this as a gift at Christmas, helped me chose the prints that were used in this quilt.  She sorted through a bunch of 2.5″ strips of fabric I had cut for another project and was very cute and also very opinionated as she worked through the pile.  {Apparently, she a big Laurie Wisbrun fan, too.}  Both my god-daughter and her mom are purple people.  You know what I mean, right?  Some folks just FEEL VERY STRONGLY about their love for that color.  I do not fall in that camp, but then, this quilt was not made for me!

I love making traditional log cabin blocks and ever since I saw this quilt-in-progess, I wanted to try to make one in the “fields and furrows” design.  I think my one minor error was to use the solid, lighter value pinkish squares that are grouped with all the purple solids.  I don’t think they ruin the quilt by any means, but if I were to make it again, I’d probably switch them out for more purple fabric.  {You may be tempted to be kind and tell me that the pink squares “add interest,” but I’m not going to buy it. Though Carolyn’s take on it –in the comments–is interesting.}  Really, the prints are what makes this quilt shine.  There are so many fun and bright novelty designs in the mix. I really love it–as evidenced by this photo-heavy post.

I quilted a four inch grid following the lines of the logs.  The backing is pieced with Kona solids, but I have no idea which ones.  I used the remaining scraps of solid purple fabric to bind it all up, and I think the thicker binding makes a nice frame.  I’m excited to wrap it up and give this throw-sized quilt to the sweetest little four year old around!

In other news, I started piecing my next quilt last night.  I’m using lots of linen and blue gingham, with a splash of text prints.  I really should be thinking about some of the smaller items I’d like to make to give as Christmas gifts, but I am so addicted to quilting right now.  I think I’ll just ride the wave.

a quilt for my girl

This is an over-sized twin quilt I made for my daughter.  I first started conceptualizing this quilt in June, 2011. I posted a photo of some of the fabrics I used here. I’m so glad I took Chawne’s advice and used an alternating solid–Kona eggplant.  She had mentioned that if I only used prints, I’d likely lose lots of the triangle points in the design. I thought I’d use charcoal gray as my solid, but I took into account that my pint-sized recipient would prefer something more colorful than gray. I threw in a handful of random pink and green solids as well. I was nervous about that addition, but now it is one of my favorite aspects of the quilt.

The piecing went slowly because bias edges are a little bit fiddly.  I used a specialty ruler and am convinced that the cut-out corners on the top of the triangle helped a great deal with accuracy.

I sent it off to be long-arm quilted by Emily Sessions of Emerson Quilting.  I saw Emily’s work here first and I wanted that exact same quilting design.  Emily was so patient with me as I peppered her with questions and her turn-around time was quick.  Her pricing is more than reasonable and the work she does is simply gorgeous.  I was thrilled with the results.  The backing fabric is a fun Heather Ross print that I had been saving for this project.  My quilt backings tend to be pieced together, so it feels luxurious to have something so uniform and, well, adorable. I used mostly hot pink prints for the binding because I wanted it to coordinate with the backing fabric and I knew it would match the quilt top well enough. If I had been considering the front side of the quilt exclusively, I probably would have gone with more of the solid eggplant.

My daughter is one of the best appreciators of my handmade items, and this one is no exception.  She points to different triangles and tells me which ones she likes best.  And then she always ends with, “but I like all of the fabrics, Mom.”  {Me too, sweetie. Me too.} It’s is so nice to see it on her bed, side-by-side with the one I made for her older brother two years ago.

state of the stash

Well. There it is.  In all its glory. What’s pretty nuts is that there is lots of empty space behind those stacks.  The drawers are filled with: notions {top drawer}, colored solid fabric {second drawer}, neutral solid fabric {third}, and misc scraps {fourth}. The only stuff that is not pictured is a healthy dose of Denyse Schmidt’s County Fair.  Raise your hand if you also bought loads of it when a certain online retailer was practically giving it away.

How about a closer look.

I estimate that my fabric stash has been almost slashed in half since I got serious about curbing my crafty consumerism two years ago, when the original Stash Pact group was formed.  I know that during that first year, my initial slip up was a healthy dose of Liberty of London Tana Lawn when I was in New York browsing at Purl Soho.  The other sizable purchase I allowed myself to make as a celebration for making it one full year without doing too much damage was to acquire the new release of Flea Market Fancy, a few Pezzy Prints, and some new Melody Miller Ruby Star Rising.  Or was it Ruby Star Shining?  {I’m horrible with names.}

The terms I’ve laid out for myself for Stash Pact II are that I can’t buy fabric online for nine months.  My only allowances are that I am able to buy a total of 3 yards of fabric at a bricks and mortar shop and I should try to stick to smaller cuts of fabric.  I can swap ’til I drop–and this really helps.  I’ve already purchased two quarter yard cuts, so I’m allowed 2.5 yards more.  I’ve had one big moment of temptation, but a good friend talked me off of that ledge!  Phew.

I thought I was going to speak more about some of the fantastic discussions that have been taking place in the Stash Pact II flickr group, but I have two quilts that are at the hand binding stage and I am wasting time right now typing when I could be snuggled up on the couch with those projects!  That, and I know all anyone really cares about are the stash photos.  I am the same way.


oliver + s tea party dress

It’s a little too late in the evening for me to be blogging but I really did want to share this, so I will try to be quick.  {I can hear you laughing.  I am never brief on this blog!} This is the Oliver + S Tea Party Dress pattern in size 2T.  I’ve had the pattern for ages and am so glad I finally made it.  As is always the case with these wonderful patterns, I learned a new skill.  {Flat piping!  It’s awesome!  It’s easy! You’ve gotta try it!}  It was a really simple and quick sew.  The fussy-cutting of the fabric was what took the most time.  {I wanted to maximize the number of animals–which only makes fashion sense when you are sewing for a kiddo.} It is definitely a beginner pattern.

The print is an Echino that was given to me as a thank you gift from my sister-in-law.  She gave me full yards of three different prints and honestly I think it was one of the most dead-on gifts I’ve ever been given.  I’ve made two pillow covers, a pair of Oliver + S Puppet Show Shorts and now this dress –and am left with only scraps.  I think that’s really telling.

One note about the pattern is that my daughter is almost 4 years old, but I chose to make the 2T based on chest measurements. I was nervous to lengthen the pattern pieces because I didn’t want the skirt to flare out too much.  In the end, she wears it more like a tunic with leggings and a long sleeve shirt underneath and it is adorable.  I hope to capture a modeled shot one of these days.

I purposely staged this photo so that I could also share the Hungarian flour cabinet behind the dress.  I bought the cabinet when I lived in Budapest and it now houses all of my fabric.  I’ve finally had a chance to organize it again and am really thrilled with the state of my stash.  In my next post, I plan to show photos of that cabinet with the door thrown wide open.  At the same time, I will talk a little bit more about the terms I’ve laid out for my personal stash pact and summarize a little bit about some of the discussions that have been taking place in the flickr group.

And yep!  I still managed to be wordy.  I did type very quickly though, and I’m not going to go back and make a million tweaks before I post.  Hope you are all having a good weekend!