Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Is late March too late to declare a word of the year? 

The word "intricate" has been written up on my inspiration board for months now. It is how I frame my thoughts about most of my projects. Not necessarily tiny, not necessarily hard to do, just intricate.

I thrive in the challenge. I want to learn precision and structure. I want to design it all myself. 

I want to be my own sort of quilter. And yet, I often get bogged down by what my peers are doing, how they're succeeding, and gaining popularity that I don't have. I think spring will help me sort these things out...but I need to just keep pushing myself to do my own work - rather than following the crowd. 

Where does that leave me though? Is my desire to teach? Is my goal to write a book? Do I just want to sit around and create however I please? I'm not sure. 

But as for now I want intricacy. I want little complex points, and circles upon circles, nesting together perfectly. 

Who knows where it will take me, but I like the journey I'm on. 

The pictures here are from my current project which I'm calling "Bella Bella..." It's for someone special and is inspired by this book (although I haven't used any of the patterns in that book...) I'm really loving it. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Finding a sewing community: Chicago Modern Quilt Guild Retreat.

This weekend was the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild's spring retreat in Racine, WI. We had a blast, stayed up late, slept in, ate yummy food, and yes, we sewed!

Thread catcher made using this tutorial
I'm going to break this up into a couple different blog posts - so please check back this week - I worked on some major ongoing projects that deserve their own space. :)

Emily and Elaine
Friday we arrived at the Dominican convent in Racine for our retreat - we had 24 (?) people attend and it was a crazy good time! Sara brought her scarf dying for us to try, Donna brought her masseuse (!!), and Ebony brought her AccuQuilt Studio die cutter. We all had a great time sewing up a storm and chatting along the way!
Some zip pouches for my sister and mom.
I feel like the weekend just flew by! I stayed up late (3am!) both nights, and slept in in the mornings. It was really refreshing to have a chance to really connect with some of the other CMQG members!

Beth's awesome stack of awesomeness!
I really accomplished a lot of things. I worked on my Bella Bella Quilt, some zip pouches, and free motion quilted a quilt that's been in the closet for years. I also added another border to my {Modern} Robin quilt, made a mini quilt, finished my doll quilt, and sewed up a thread catcher! Whew! 

Emily and I working simultaneously on our {Modern} Robin project!
Emily and I shared a table, and were next to Trisha, Elaine, Ebony and Beth. We had a great time in our little area! So much wild color around us! 

Trisha's fantastic quilt - she used some corduroy too! I love it!!
Oh and I'll bet you wouldn't expect that this happened --

haha. I walked into the kitchen of our retreat space Saturday night to find this collection of half empty alcohol bottles! lol. Remember though, there were 24 of us so there was enough to go around!

Some borders on my {Modern} Robin
We had a great time - and made it home in record timing! What a weekend!! I'll leave you with a picture of all the things I worked on this weekend - a crazy amount of projects! 

How fabulous is that'? I'm in love with all of those projects!!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Future Henna Artist?

My first henna attempt ever.
No, I don't think so... but it sure is fun! 

My sister, Roseann, has been henna-ing for a few months. It's a great hobby and she's pretty awesome at it! I enjoy henna so much because with all my allergies I shouldn't get more tattoos - but I want them! Henna satisfies that body art need. :)

Second henna - on Roseann's head! (notice my face is henna'd!)
Last weekend I was visiting my family and getting tons of henna - and my sister had me try my hand at it - since I was really the only one who could then give her henna - on her (newly shaved) head. 

Finished head henna.
Of course I tried it out. Not bad for my first tries! Although if you look at it comparably my work is much thicker and denser than hers. Roseann's henna designs feature dainty lines and precise drawings. Mine... could use some work. lol. But we had fun!! 

My henna (circle), Roseann's henna (flower)
Another of my designs. My style is definitely more geometric
Roseann's is very organic!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Prepping for CMQG Spring Retreat!

Who's ready for the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild retreat??!! I am! So yesterday I was packing up stuff to go with me to the retreat, and I was overcome by the need to sew up a nice sized box pouch to store my tools (scissors, rotary cutter, threads, etc). With a little toddler distraction help from Wally this pouch was sewn up in about 15 minutes! It's super cool too. I used this tutorial (er - by memory), and this tutorial to figure out my dimensions. 

Easy! I used a plastic coated shopping bag for the pouch, and didn't line it. It finishes at about 10" x 5" x 5" 

I also pre-cut a ton of pieces for another giant ring of flying geese. This time I cut squares, which I then cut in half --- each sewn seam will be sewn on the bias, but the edges (the curved parts) will be on the straight grain.... I'm not sure if this is a good thing or bad. The last time my round edges were bias seams and it was SUPER fiddly when I was attaching it to the rest of the quilt. We'll see. Also, I stitched together the first arc of these geese... and my blue pieces are a tad bit on the small size! Eeek! They'll work, but next time I will cut them a bit bigger!

Now I'll leave you with a picture of my stuffed full suitcase! Yes it is a large size suitcase... and no it doesn't fit everything that I'm taking! lol. In my defense a lot of the projects I'm bringing are in the early phases... so who knows what fabric will be needed.... lol. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A great, big, bald thank you!

Add caption
Last weekend I had the joy of shaving my head with St. Baldrick's Foundation. I shaved to raise money for childhood cancer research.

Thanks to a lot of very generous friends and relatives I've raised over $1300 (my goal was $1000)!! Here's a little insight for you, my niece Rosemarie is just 5 years old, and she's been fighting Neuroblastoma for 4 years. No, there is not a cure for her cancer. See why we're pretty diligent about fundraising? Because this sweet girl deserves to have more than hospital rooms and side effects!
How cute is Allie?
Ok back to the head shaving. We did it in Columbus Ohio - where my brother lives. Our team "Hope Warriors raised over $3000!!! There were eight of us who shaved. My dad even shaved his whole beard -- something he has done only once in about 35 years! I don't think I'd ever seen him without a beard!

All for our little Rosemarie!! She's my hero!
St. Baldrick's head shave parties are a lot of fun - ours took place at Fado Irish Pub and there were a lot of great people there (a couple of my best friends from college even!).

My dad, who knew that he looked like that under the beard!
He's holding what's left of the beard! Ew. lol.

Team Hope Warriors!

Finally! A finished Swoon!

You may remember that I was making this swoon for my MIL, Linda... for CHRISTMAS! lol. Oops! It took me a while to get up the desire to hand sew that binding! The whole thing is pretty fabulous!!

I'm so glad to have this one finished - it's off my table and into the home of my MIL already! (just an hour after pulling it out of the dryer it was gifted!). Linda loves it - which wasn't a surprise since she had seen it at every step of the way! I'm so glad.

A funny thing is that this picture above is the closest thing I've gotten to a "full" shot of this quilt! It's big and Wally gets frustrated holding it. The wind was not on our side today so perhaps sometime later we'll have to take a pic at Linda's house. Even funnier than that, is that while we were taking pictures of it (in the back yard) our landlord yelled down, out the second floor window, telling me how beautiful it is! :) hehe.

So there you have it. Swoon finished. The end. I followed a pattern. I still hate following patterns. I've already set up a flickr swap to get rid of the Swoon pattern. Designed by me quilts only from now on! :) Don't get me wrong, I love the outcome of following this pattern, but it would be so much more "me" if I had drawn them out and sized them down to a more me size. I would have bordered them out with some cool colors and backed them in curry instead of white. Who knows? Well, either way Linda loves it! :) Happy Swooning!!

More about this quilt can be found here.
Linked up with Fabric Tuesday.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A little bitty sneak peek!

(They're even yummier in person!)
Are you guys ready for some fun? A lot of color, a little bit of a challenge, and maybe a chance to win a prize? 

Then stay tuned!!!! 

There are big things to come - and the first bit of this project - was the shipment of fabric I received this weekend!! Yep, beautiful, yummy fabrics from the Fat Quarter Shop --- I can't wait to get started!! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Re-stashing and a new start!

The other night I started a new quilt. This one has been in my mind since before Christmas, and I started pulling / stashing fabrics for it after vacation a few weeks ago. I'm calling it "Bella Bella" for now, since the general idea comes from the book "Bella Bella Quilts" by Norah McMeeking. I purchased the paper patterns that go along with the book - but I didn't buy the book - I know I won't follow those instructions anyway! I don't like following patterns. So my idea though, is based on her book which is all quilts inspired by Italian mosaic floors. Pretty fabulous, and I'm hoping it works out as I plan. I don't have a really solid picture in my mind about this quilt - but lots and lots of ideas. Truthfully my DQS12 quilt has helped to solidify the "you can do this" for me. It's not going to be easy, but it'll be a challenge and it'll be a lot of fun! I imagine you'll see a lot of this quilt as it moves along. 

The block there above, is the first bit of the quilt. Lucky for me Sara is hosting a NY Beauty Quilt Along right now, and posted the awesomest block. So I followed along for that one! Not hard at all, time consuming, but not hard. :) My paper piecing is getting better and so is my curved piecing! 

As for the re-stashing I went to Connecting Threads last week, looking for some light grey and a couple other solids for this quilt - only to find that most of their solid selection was half off.... so yes I filled up a box! (I never do that!) I'm also going to be giving their thread a try. I've never used it so we'll see! :) 

I can tell you on a super secret note, that you'll be seeing some even lovelier solids around here soon!!! I can't wait!! Stay tuned, I'll be making that announcement later this week or next! :) 

WIP Wednesday

Maybe I'll give this WIP Wednesday thing a try....

Completed projects:
PTS7 - finished!
  •  Pillow Talk Swap - Finished and sent!! Now I just need to wait and wait for it to arrive at it's new home!

Ongoing projects:
{Modern} Robin
  • {Modern}Robin border (to be finished by the retreat next week, hopefully) - Pieces are cut, a plan has been made... now to just sew it all together.
  • Doll Quilt Swap - nearly finished quilting (ran out of thread!) Needs to be bound and set up the "hanging structure."
  • Bella Bella - Only just started. The center block is finished and I have a stack of pretty black & whites to use with the new solids that came in today!

No progress:
  • CMQG Round Robin - what am I going to do with it??
  • Michelle's Celebration Quilt - not yet started but the fabric is all ready!
  • {Sew} Beautiful Bee - Elizabeth's block  
  • Linda's Swoon Quilt - only a few feet of binding to sew down! So close!
  • Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative mini - a bit more quilting and some binding! Needs to be finished by Sunday!!
  • {Sew} Beautiful Bee Quilt / Lindsey's Quilt -- (the secret's out, she knows it's hers) still waiting for a couple blocks to come! More fabric came in for the backing.
This weeks's stats:
Completed projects: 1
New projects: 1
Currently in progress: 9

**That seems like so many things going at once, but really it's not a lot!**

Now go ahead and follow along at Freshly Pieced

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wally's Chicago Flag Pillow

I realized the other day that I had never blogged about this pillow. You see, last year when I made it it was a complete surprise for Wally, and I wrapped it up immediately after finishing it. Now that the sun is coming out again it's time to actually document some of these projects! 

Here's the thing, my husband is really supportive of my quilting hobby/obsession. He puts up with a lot. I wanted to make him something awesome and that really said "Wally." So of course my proud Chicagoan husband deserved a pillow with the Chicago flag on it! 

I researched the flag and drew it up to scale - the stripes are pieced and the stars are appliqued. It's densely quilted (just 1/4" apart!). I used a zipper too! 

So the funny stats about this quilt? I walked around Vogue fabrics for half an hour asking every guy in the place (stock guys and husbands of other quilters) which blue was the most "Chicago blue" lol! And, the pillow insert is from Crate & Barrel - it's feather and amazing - this pillow is 24" square and the luxurious feather pillow insert was just $16! Yes I can't believe it either! Go to Crate $ Barrel instead of Joann's for your pillow inserts! 

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Quite Possibly the Happiest Mail You'll Get This Month!"

Indeed it is! Check out this pillow I received from Kelly / Scrapstudio for the Pillow Talk Swap 7!! I have had my heart set on this pillow every step of the way! (I think I even favorited and pinned it several different times!) Kelly was right on the mark with this one! I still can't believe it's actually mine! I'm so excited!!

One of the awesomest parts? I wasn't home Saturday when it arrived, and on my lunch break I called my husband to see if I'd gotten any mail (yes I stalk the mail man!), when he said yes my response was, "does it have pretty writing on it?!" Indeed it did! :) I spent the rest of the day at work smiling, knowing what was in that envelope!

Here's my couch full of my lovely PTS pillows! Rounds 4-7!

For kicks I decided to try to get a shot of all our quilted pillows from around the house... They wouldn't fit on our couch (a love seat) so I stacked them up! :) Yes, that's seven quilted pillows. :) I love them!

And I realized that I had never blogged about Wally's pillow -- It was a surprise Christmas gift so I never took pictures! That post will come soon!

Saturday, March 10, 2012


So here's the thing. I still get completely overwhelmed by the fact that so many of my peers (online and in my guild) are so wildly popular/well known/have huge numbers of people who follow their blogs. I see you guys in magazines, writing books, and doing blog-hops for big cool books and stuff. It's crazy ridiculous.

(I don't know what my point with this post is, or if I have one)

I try not to compare myself to other quilters - we all have such different styles and wide ranges of ability. We each are great at our own thing. But for the past few months I've been really considering what I'm trying to accomplish (that's really not the right wording but...). You know, I just don't feel compelled to work my ass off to try to get published in a magazine. I don't feel like there's usually much unique in them anyhow (really nothing in quilting is new, it's just individual). I don't read magazines (until someone sells them at the used bookstore I work at...) and I while I love looking at their pictures I'd never follow a pattern from one. I feel just about the same for books. Except some books are really so inspiring that they're worth having on the shelf even if I never do a single project from them. (But I'd still love to be published).

I'm rambling. Sorry.

So what am I saying? It's cool to be included in such a wildly talented group - I feel like a lot of these "big names" know me (or have heard of me) which is CRAZY. Seriously people I have under 200 blog followers! I feel like I deserve to be included in this class of quilters - I'm seeking to be advanced - I love the challenge. Maybe in some way I am there already, but I don't feel like I am. If I am not there, then what is keeping me from being a "well known quilting blogger"? Is it not being published? Or not having sponsors on my blogs that would bring lots of giveaways (lol) or a certain skill or marketability? Do I just not care enough to post perfect little posts, or maybe I over share (lol).

I guess maybe I've been thinking about this for a while. See, when I joined my bee I was absolutely astounded that my bee mates would consider me to be at their ability! Seriously, they're fantastic. We've been together as a group for more than a year now and I know I can keep up - but I'm still floored.

This post has no end... swirling thoughts rolling through my mind.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Salt Creek Quilters Guild - Quilt Show

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend my first ever quilt show! A friend from my guild had posted about this show in a nearby town, on a whim I decided to go. The show was pretty cool, although a whole lot more traditional than I'm used to! I can respect the talent though! 

One thing that I was surprised by was that their Mini-quilt section could have just been re-named "art quilts" since only one or two of them were pieced. I was a bit disappointed by this since that's the most inspiring area for me. 

Paper pieced mini quilt by Kathy Elwood
They did have vendors - and yes I bought a couple FQ's... how could I not? And they had some demos. One of which really inspired me. It was a demo on "no-tear paper piecing" by Kathy Elwood. Now I've seen tutorials for this method before, and it was really nothing very new to me... but I walked up to the table there and she was working with 2 1/2" squares -- that gets me! All her samples were miniature quilts (the real thing, to scale!) Tiny tiny piecing!! So of course I stuck around to watch her demo and ask some questions. the most mind blowing thing? she uses a large basting stitch to secure the paper to the fabric!

Kathy demonstrating this method... note the amazing tiny quilts all around her!
I do notice that this method of paper piecing isn't nearly as "perfect" as the other way, but heck, it gets me out of picking out those tiny pieces of paper afterward! The blocks she was doing were built out from the center, but I wanted to try it with my fling geese arcs -- since I see quite a few of them in my near future, and this would save me from having to trace my patterns a million times! 

Hand drawn flying geese pattern (transferred to template plastic!) and rows of geese!
Here's a link to a similar method... although she presses hers to the freezer paper so they stick there (I didn't want to go to my ironing board every time when finger pressing is all that's necessary... and I think the basting stitches hold better. 

Here's how it worked. I used a large basting stitch (a 3 on my Juki) to secure the first geese triangle to the paper then used the no-tear method to sew the two outer triangles on. After adding the next flying geese unit, I finger pressed it and then basted that one down. I basted each center geese piece so that the curves didn't shift. they turned out pretty great and I was able to re-use the paper 3 times (simply pull the top string of each of your basting stitches to remove). I'm pretty sure I can get another couple times out of my paper since I traced it out onto freezer paper (it lasts a bit longer than regular paper). 

Close-up of the basting stitches
I want to give a shout out to Kathy -- Thanks for sharing this tip!!! Sewing these flying geese curves is so much easier now that I don't have to re-trace the pattern every time!

PS - I also pre-cut my pieces for this project instead of doing them one by one like I do many paper piecing patterns, this shortened the sewing time by a lot!! 

From the back. 

Quilting Quilting Quilting!!

Free motion quilting has been on my mind recently! And here is what I have to show for all that obsessing! 

Last night I took the time to back, baste, and begin quilting my Doll Quilt Swap quilt. I started with the idea of doing some micro-quilting, pebbles inside the center of the NY Beauty block, then to add the same tiny pebbles around the outer edges of it too. After that I added some free motion zig-zags and outlined the points (woot woot for actually having coordinating thread on hand!). 

I decided to loosen up the quilting as I got farther from the center, so the pink area was straight line quilted about an inch apart. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to quilt the flying geese. I've thought maybe I'll outline them with a straight stitch (using white thread) just to pop them out a bit. 

I decided to leave the hexagons off for now... they may find themselves attached to a zip pouch or something as a little extra? No guarantees though. lol. I'm still really nervous about my partner really loving it.... but I'm really proud of how well it's turned out so far. 

Oh and that tiny star on the back? That's where my label will be -written in around it. It's my signature of sorts.... My favorite tiny wonky star. :)

I have grand plans of bias binding and a whole set-up that will allow it to actually hang flat on the wall... let's hope it works out! :) 

Oh yeah, and if you notice, there's not even a single bit of solid white fabric on this baby (one of our rules this round was to use a different colored solid as a dominant fabric, rather than white)... but much more, I only used a TINY bit of solid grey! That is much more of a challenge than not using white!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Totally unrelated picture of a project I need to finish!
As I've mentioned before the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild retreat is coming up in a couple weeks (!!!) and my intent is to start working on a new quilt for someone very special to me (who wants her quilt to be a surprise)... but I of course needed some solid black fabric (which I never use) and I'll need some thread and extra needles.... So today I went over to Connecting Threads to pick up a couple things. Very lucky that I am, most of their solids are 50% off - which makes them $2.50/yd!! Guess who has a rainbow of FQ's and random yards of fabric coming their way??!! hehe. I did get carried away a little, but my solids stash is seriously depleted. In total I got about 10 yards of fabric, three spools of thread, and a package of machine needles for $50! Oh my! I cannot wait for this box of wonderful to show up!! 

And in case you're wondering, I've used these solids a lot in the past and I find them to be comparable to Kona - and better than Kona bought at Joann's. :) 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

2012 Goals - update!

It's the beginning of March, and already I'm crossing some things off my goal list. :) Also, I just realised that I haven't done a full blog post/reveal fo my Sew Beautiful Bee quilt - it's been finished for over a month!! that will be coming soon!
  • Finish my Swoon quilt - free motion quilting it by domestic machine (even though it's huge!) (I'm so close!! Just a couple stitches left on the binding!!
  • Finish my {Sew} Beautiful Bee quilt - drunk love with AMH. It's even huger than the swoon quilt!  Done!
  • Try a mid-arm or long-arm machine. Just to say I did. I know it's been offered before but I'm still a little shy about it. I need to give it a try (maybe on that ginormous bee quilt?)
  • Do a bit more designing of quilts and tutorials. As in actually record the how and what. Maybe put together a quilt pattern? 
  • Sell, swap, etsy, or commission. I'd like to sell something this year to make money for more fabric. I feel like I suck a lot of money into quilting... obviously. I'd feel better about it if I had a little cash coming in. 
  • Meet local bloggers (specifically Sally, Sara, and Angela. Speak up if you're from the general Chicago area and want to meet up for some coffee or something and chat about blogging/sewing/quilting!  (I met Sally at the CMQG - she's just as lovely in person as she is online!)
  • Continue with swaps and bees. Pushing myself each time to learn something new and challenging myself to work on more and more difficult blocks. 
  • Work on making connections within the sewing industry community. There is so much growth happening in the are of modern sewing that I feel like I should have an idea of how it all happens. Maybe contact a book or magazine editor, or see if I can write a pattern for a new fabric line. Who knows I just find this to be pretty interesting. Oh also under this topic, I'd love to take a class on sewing machine repair.... anyone have an idea of where one learns such a thing? 
  • I'm toying with the idea of trying to get published somehow. Is it worth jumping through hoops to do so?
  • Go on the quilt retreats offered by the CMQG - continue getting to know those fabulous ladies!
  • Co-host a new swap with Emily (Pretty awesome!)  The swap is in full swing and going smoothly!
  • Quilts to make this year
  • Michelle's Celebration Quilt 
  •  A quilt for Lindsey (I wonder if she reads this blog??) Haha... it may be a surprise to her.


I have a question for those of you who do flickr swaps.

Do you worry? 

Finished DQS quilt top.
I'm usually not a worrier. I stalk my partner's photostream and blog until I have a list of ideas and then run with it from there. I occasionally worry and mostly about color or fabric likes. I don't have a big fabric stash and sometimes don't have the ability to drop everything and buy more fabric. 

But this time I'm worrying - my Doll Quilt Swap quilt is spectacular (if I may say so), but what if it just isn't my partner's style. It's not entirely her colors but the fabrics were begging to go together. 

Drafted by hand flying geese.
It's technically the hardest/most complex piece I've ever worked on (and that says something I think). Between the miniature NY Beauty block, plus the tiny plus blocks, then the giant set of 48 flying geese in a circle - that I drafted by hand.... and learned a new way to paper piece. I think I've executed it very well so far... and I do still have to quilt it and finalize the "framework" (hehe... how else would I expect for a circular quilt to be hung on the wall?) oh yeah, and it will finish as a circular quilt. 

So I'm worrying. Will my partner like it as much as I do? I couldn't bear if she didn't like it. Sometimes it's ok for a swap partner to not absolutely be head over heals over something... but this one, they've got to love it. What if she doesn't? 

Optional hexies - I haven't decided yet.
I've never felt such angst over sending a quilt to a swap partner... eek! 

Here's hoping she loves it!