Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gemstone Geranium Dress

Earlier this year, I posted about my Gemstone Staple dress, which I made out of some rayon from Cotton + Steel. At the same time I bought the fabric for that dress, I also bought some yardage in the pink colorway so I could make a "matching" dress for my daughter. After seeing countless cute versions online over the years, I was itching to try the Geranium dress from made by rae.

The pattern itself is very well written and designed, with several options for customization. I chose to use the gathered skirt from View A and the faux cap sleeves from View B, and was very pleased with the end result. The only change I would make next time would be to add in-seam pockets.

While the pattern is awesome, it is labeled as intermediate, and rightly so. For my first try, I probably should have used something other than rayon, but I had a vision and wanted to jump right in. Since I knew I was in over my head, I took it slow on this dress. (That, and for several weeks it was too hot to turn on the iron.) It took me a long time to get up the nerve to cut out the dress. Rayon sure is slippery, but I went slowly and it turned out all right. I used fabric shears, but if I had a big enough cutting mat, I would use a rotary cutter. You could totally tell that the edges of the skirt pieces weren't 100% straight, but it doesn't show in the finished dress. In the end, choosing a challenging fabric worked out, because the end project feels so nice and the skirt flows so well.

I really like how the bodice is lined, since that means you don't have to finish the seams. I also think it makes for a more comfortable dress, which is important when sewing clothes for kids. I didn't really understand the instructions for sewing the bodice sides, but I figured it out by looking at the bodice itself and applying what I already knew about garment sewing. Speaking of what I already knew, I would have liked the seam allowances to be larger on the skirt, so that I could use French seams. Instead, I just used a mock overlock stitch to finish the seams.

The last delay in making this dress stemmed from the buttons. I had sewed buttonholes before, and I had sewed with rayon before, but I was super nervous about sewing buttonholes on rayon. I waited until I was well-rested and had the house to myself before I attempted it, and I had no problems at all. My daughter picked out the buttons themselves, and I think they are really cute.

I am really, really happy with how this dress turned out. My daughter likes it, and I can see myself making more of these for her. I guess I can call myself an Intermediate garment sewer now that I've successfully completed an intermediate project. Whew!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Bittersweet Shards Wall Quilt

This May, I had the opportunity to take Krista Hennebury’s Improv Under the Influence class at Drygoods Design. I would have taken the class alone, but was thrilled when I learned that my mom and three other members of the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild would be taking the class with me. It was a fantastic day, full of learning and laughter, sun and sewing. I loved the technique Krista taught, which uses chain piecing to make improv accessible to quilters who are more familiar with traditional quilting methods. I do love me some chain piecing! Since Krista had us come with our fabric precut, the project started coming along quickly and I left with a quilt top that was approximately a third complete, which was very satisfying.

If I had so much fun at the class, why is this quilt named “Bittersweet Shards”? Well, the fat quarters used in this top were from when I belonged to the Pink Chalk Fabric solids club. I’m still sad that they are no longer in business. However, I really like Circa 15, a new brick-and-mortar quilt shop in Kirkland, where I bought the backing and binding. Losing a favorite quilting store is bitter, but finding a new one close by is sweet! The “Shards” part is because while I was working on this quilt, I discovered The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson, and it was all Shardplate this and Shardblade that, and I thought the improv pieces looked rather shard-like.

For the quilting, I used blue and purple Aurifil thread to go back and forth in each section, outlining and bisecting each shard. My favorite parts of the quilt are the “chessboard” in the middle and the contrasting strip pieced sections. I really should do some strip pieced improv soon.

If you’re a Modern Quilt Guild member, you can find Krista’s original “Chess on the Steps” quilt as the September 2014 pattern of the month. I highly recommend taking the class if you get the chance. Krista has a very friendly and helpful teaching style, and the technique is pretty great too!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Trials and Triangulations Quilt

So this is my entry for the latest Modern Quilt Guild fabric challenge. For this challenge, participants were given several fat quarters of The Cotton Garden fabric from Riley Blake. The parameters were to “make something fantastic that is quilted,” “make something you have never done before,” “challenge yourself to learn something new” and “use only Riley Blake ‘The Cottage Garden” fabric’” and other Riley Black basics and solids that coordinate with that line. (Check out #mqgfabricchallenge on Instagram to see what everyone else has been making.) I decided that I wanted to make a courthouse steps quilt as my “something you have never done before” and learn how to sew isosceles triangles using the Missouri Star Quilt Co. template I picked up at QuiltCon as my “learn something new.” I kinda love the end result, and I kinda hate it.

The original inspiration: "House Top Quilt Made From Thousands of Triangles," from the collection of Corrine Riley

First off, let me tell you how I settled on this design. An Instagram post by @completelycauchy reminded me of a quilt I had seen in person at Bellevue Art Museum back in 2012 as part of the exhibit “Bold Expressions: African American Quilts from the Collection of Corrine Riley.” In a nutshell, the whole quilt was one great big courthouse steps block, made from itty bitty improv pieces. I loved all the little unexpected triangles. For my project, I intended on paying homage to that piece by making a quilt that was one large courthouse steps block, made from triangles cut with the isosceles template. After I cut out all the triangles and had sewn the center and a couple strips, I realized my design “idea” looked eerily like Krista Hennebury’s Chess on the Steps quilt that had been the Modern Quilt Guild’s pattern of the month for September 2014. Oops! I scrapped that idea and signed up for Krista’s Improv Under the Influence class at Drygoods Design, since it was apparent that I needed to make that quilt, although not for this challenge. (Check out #improvundertheinfluence on Instagram, there’s tons of awesome examples there, and if you scroll way down you can see pictures from the class I took.)

To make this quilt more “original,” I offset the center of the block so it’s not a traditional courthouse steps block. In addition, I added in a long, skinny strip of yellow whenever I felt like it. That’s improv, right? While I like how this design ended up, I’m a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t come up with anything more original for this challenge. Oh well.

I also struggled with the fabric. While I have I lot of respect for anyone who puts in the time, effort and know-how to produce a fabric line, the starter pack we were given just didn’t speak to me. (Maybe it was the red-eyed birds I couldn’t get over, I don’t know.) Early on, I knew I wanted to feature the yellow used in the center of the flowers. While I was shopping for this fabric, I needed to buy some other fabric as well. Instead of taking the time to search out more solid fabric, I just bought what was in stock at the online store I was buying from at the time. I ended up with the Daffodil solid (yay!) and two almost solids, one a gray floral and one a teal text. If I could make this quilt over again, I would use a couple gray solids instead of the almost solids. I think the teal in particular detracts from the yellow, particularly since I also used the teal on the back. A solid gray would have really showcased the yellow hand quilting. Live and learn!

Since the deadline was coming up at the end of July, I kept plugging along, even though I wasn’t 100% happy with how it was turning out. Once I started the quilting, I liked it much better. Since I didn’t have the right yellow Perle thread on hand, I started with the machine quilting. I quilted lines ½” apart back and forth in each of the gray/white/teal sections between the yellow sections. (Protip: bury your machine quilting threads before you start hand quilting, or you’ll end up with a tangled mess!) As soon as I could, I ran to Pacific Fabrics to pick up the yellow thread. They had the perfect color, but it was a little thicker than I wanted. Again, I chose speed over accuracy and made do with the first thing I found. I hand quilted all the yellow parts, also with lines ½” apart. For a while, I took this quilt everywhere: in the car on trips long and short, on picnics, on the bus. Finally, I finished it, with weeks to spare!

The other day I read a quote by Thomas Knauer that said something like we should be proud of our quilts, but not content with them. I’m definitely proud of this quilt, even though I’m not happy with it. While it’s not my favorite quilt ever, I pushed myself creatively and finished before the deadline. It was definitely a learning experience.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Swoon Baby Quilt the Second

Swoon Baby Quilt the Second was actually finished in March, but didn’t reach its recipient until July. Such is life.

In six months, I made three quilts in this same style. For this one, I chose a Cotton + Steel fabric as the backing: Steamer Trunk in Gray Green from Alexia Abegg’s Hatbox line. Once that was decided, I set about finding coordinating solids. Since the light green color didn’t have an exact match on my Kona color card, I matched the fabrics in person at Quiltworks Northwest, during a Seattle Modern Quilt Guild sew in. I don’t remember the names of each fabric, but they are a combination of Kona and Art Gallery solids. The binding is Dottie, also from Cotton + Steel.

Like my other versions, this one was constructed with a 24” Swoon block and 6” borders and finishes at 36” square. I machined quilted it with diagonal lines one inch apart. It’s quicker than my usual ½” apart lines, and makes for a softer quilt that will still stand up to repeated washings.

Even though I’ve made the same quilt three times now, it continues to be my go-to baby quilt and I anticipate whipping up more should the need arise. They’re quick, cute, and I enjoy making them.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

May and June 2015 in Review

May was a busy sewing month. Fueled by the energy of Me-Made-May, I finished a quilt, a shirt, a skirt, a dress, a block for the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild quilt, and eight gift bags. Those finishes were very fulfilling, but altogether they were a little exhausting. (This mosaic also includes a scarf and a gift bag that were made in April, but not gifted until May.)

June was not a busy sewing month, but it was very busy in other areas. While I did make progress on several WIPs, most of my limited free time was spent outdoors making memories with my family. I can sew all year long, but there’s only a small window of time when I can go pick strawberries with my kiddo. I have two wall quilts that only need binding and hanging sleeves to be completed, so I’m hoping to have a finish or two in July.