Wednesday 30 October 2013

From K - Wordless WiP Wednesday

Making progress on a special Christmas present. The pieces are cut, now to start on the layout.

Linking up to WiP Wednesday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Monday 28 October 2013

From K - Linen vs. Essex Linen (Tips & Tricks)

After recently finishing two quilts using backgrounds made from both traditional linen and an Essex yarn dyed linen, I thought it might be valuable to summarize my findings while they're still fresh in my mind. Here are the two quilts I'm going to reference:

Salt Water Swoon Quilt (traditional linen background):
Wonky Star Quilt (Essex yarn dyed linen background):
Making these quilts in parallel was a fantastic way to look at the pros and cons of both textile, so I can better understand how and when to use them again in the future.
While there are a number of differences between the two textiles, the main thing that stood out to me was weave density. I quilt almost exclusively with high quality quilting cottons (the exception being some African wax prints) so I am used to working with tightly woven cotton that doesn't stretch much. For comparison, here is a close up of the two linens next to another commonly used quilter's background fabric, Kona cotton.
Even if you aren't familiar with linens, I'm sure you can see the difference in the various thread weaves. The Kona cotton on the left has the tightest weave, followed by the Essex linen in the right, and lastly by the traditional linen. It also seems as though the traditional linen has a lower thread count. In places you can see between the threads (I should have taken a photo up against a window to demonstrate this better - sorry!).
Essex Linen:
It's pretty clear by the comparison photo above that the Essex linen also has a lower thread count than the Kona cotton but the weave is relatively tight and very even. I found that when working with the Essex it acted surprisingly similar to the quilting cottons I am used to. Here are a few of my findings after quilting with it:
Notes about Essex Linen:
  • It's quite a bit heavier than a standard high quality quilters cotton, and softer too;
  • Its yarn dyed nature adds a lot of texture up close. More so than a standard cotton, but less so than a traditional linen;
  • It holds its shape well when cutting and piecing but it does stretch to a certain degree so i did try to be a bit more careful than usual;
  • I didn't need to starch or go overboard basting;
  • It gives a nice drape to quilt tops;
  • It doesn't like to iron out as easily as traditional quilters cotton. If you love a good crinkly quilt then this might suit you splendidly;
It is also worth noting that I prewashed my fabric when making the Wonky Star Quilt because I was using three different types of textiles, including Essex linen, Oakshott cotton and Shot cotton, all of which differ in their own way from a traditional quilters cotton. Because of this, I can't say how much it shrank.

My final thoughts on Essex Linen: I am absolutely crazy about Essex linen and I will without a doubt use this again in the future. It's soft, multi-dimensional, and easy to work with, plus the extra weight it offers will be perfect for Canadian winters. This linen will also be perfect for bags, sturdy pillow backings and any other home sewing items I add to my to-sew list.
Traditional Linen:
My Salt Water Quilt was the first time I have ever worked with linen, or for that matter, a loose weave textile. While it was trickier to deal with than using a standard quilting cotton and took quite a bit more organization, I am very happy with the result. To save you some of the heart ache that I endured, I have created a simple cheat sheet of tips for using traditional linen successfully. I know I will be referencing this again myself in the future.

Tips for Quilting with Traditional Linen:
  • Prewash! I cannot stress this enough. I NEVER prewash my quilting cottons but I will ALWAYS prewash linen (I learned this the hard way);
  • After you prewash, toss it in the dryer on high heat and shrink it on purpose before you cut (it shrinks like crazy!);
  • Spray starch is your friend as traditional linen tends to stretch easily. Using a starch will keep your fibers firm when piecing;
  • Measure your pieces frequently when piecing to make sure they haven't been stretched;
  • Piece linen blocks using straight lines. Curved pieces are likely to stretch and skew so be wary of this if your pattern calls for lots of curves;
  • Be cognizant of your movement during ironing. Be sure to press seams flat using an up-down motion. If you slide your iron across seams from side-to-side, your linen may stretch;
  • Baste, baste, baste. Spray baste with 505 and then use boat loads of pins to help reduce your top from stretching during quilting; and
  • Use a batting with Scrim to give structure when quilting. My long armed quilter used this when she quilted my Salt Water Swoon Quilt.
You probably just read that list and thought to yourself, "dang girl, why would I ever want to quilt with linen?!".

So this is my response: Is working with traditional linen tedious? Yes, I won't deny that fact. But in all honesty I can say that without a doubt sometimes it is absolutely worth it - here's why:

Reasons to Quilt with Traditional Linen:
  • It's soft. Like seriously down right snuggly soft;
  • It adds depth in your quilt that your run of the mill solid just can't. Linens are often composed of multiple colours, especially when they're called 'natural'. When making my Salt Water Swoon Quilt, I chose traditional linen because it looked just like sand. A solid background couldn't offer me that image;
  • It gives texture. While quilting cottons are smooth to the touch, traditional linen has lumps, bumps and fuzzies. This can be unusual for a quilter but it's worth embracing;
  • It drapes. Using linen as a background on a queen sized quilt will help give drape to your quilt, even if the backing is cotton. My Salt Water Swoon Quilt is great proof of that.
My final thoughts on traditional linen: While I experienced a number of setbacks when working with linen on my Salt Water Quilt, I learned a ton and for that I am grateful. This quilt not only has lovely drape, but it is also the softest and most snuggable quilt that I have ever made. I would like to say that I will definitely quilt with traditional linen again but due to it's delicate nature, I want to see how it holds up after a few machine washes. If it withstands over time, I will definitely consider using it again on more bed quilts. As for lap quilts, baby quilts, bags, or other items that receive more abrasive wear and tear, I may gravitate towards cotton or Essex linen for their sturdier weave.
I hope this post offers a few perspectives on when, where and how linen can be incorporated into your next project. Don't be afraid to expand out of the quilters cotton comfort zone and test out something new!

Friday 25 October 2013

From A & K - Finished Wonky Star Quilt (BQF Fall 2013 Entry)

Over the past few months we have been collaborating on a quilt via text message, photo emails, screen grab fabric swatch ideas and one big Sewing Summit sewing session. After the top was pieced at Sewing Summit, Kelsey brought this beauty home to back, quilt and bind it in time for a joint gifting to a very special great aunt who just turned 90 over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. We both made the trip back home to visit her for her birthday and I'm sure you can imagine we all had a great deal to be thankful for that weekend.

Because our great aunt loves simplicity and isn't fussy about florals or very feminine design, we thought wonky stars with gorgeous semi-solids might be the best way to balance glamorous fabric and a sleek, simple, modern design.

This quilt top was made with lap warming in mind, so when we planned it out, the focus was all about the texture. Equal parts Oakshott and Shot Cotton, the wonky stars were made to be focal points all in their own right.

While the Kaffe Fassett Shot Cotton created soft and delicate stars, the Oakshott Cotton added depth and gloss. To let these solids maintain their shine, Kelsey chose to stitch in the ditch around each star, then fill in the entire background with FMQ swirls. A mini ode to Starry Starry Night by van Gogh, pure genius that he was. If only he had quilted something, I'm sure it would have been divine.

Wonky Star Quilt
Amanda picked out the perfect backing and binding fabric down in California by sending multiple photo texts. It was the perfect 10 minute break for Kelsey from work, and felt a bit like having a personal fabric shopper! Amanda found this background print in the Aboriginal section of her LQS and we both agreed it was perfect.

When we were little our great aunt adored sweaters that reflected a very similar esthetic and style. While it's not the typical modern print that either of us would normally gravitate towards, it felt a bit like hitting the jackpot. When the quilt was gifted it it was easy to see our great aunt agreed.

Final Quilt Details:
  • Quilt Name: Wonky Stars Quilt
  • Finished Size: lap sized (47.5" x 60.5")
  • Fabric: Oakshott Cotton and Kaffe Fassett Shot Cotton (wonky stars), Essex yarn dyed linen in flax (background)
  • Pattern: Wonky Stars made using this tutorial
  • Quilting: stitch in the ditch around each star, then FMQ swirls in the background.
This finish coincides with the Fall 2013 Bloggers Quilt Festival over at Amy's Creative Side. We are linking up this finish in the Quilt Photography Category along side a number of very talented bloggers. Be sure to swing by Amy's blog to check out all of the amazing link ups, and you still have time to link up a project yourself, so put on your party pants and get your linky on!


This is Kelsey's second completed project for the Q4 2013 Finish A-Long - read more about her other goals here.

Linking up to TGIFF and Finish it up Friday over at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

From A - Nearly Wordless Wednesday

A series of WiPs in my ongoing obsession with Fall.

Lap Duvet

On my ironing board, wool and Liberty. My two great loves destined to become a lap duvet.

Halloween Sampler

On the go, a Halloween themed cross stitch.

Posy Baby Quilt

In my sewing machine, Posy baby quilt do-over.

What's on your list?

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced 

Linking up to WiP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced.

Monday 21 October 2013

From A - Scarf Season

Nani Iro Scarf

Fall is one of my favourite times of year. Although it doesn't look much like the kind of Fall that I'm used to here in California, I still feel myself reaching for my knitting and dreaming up all kinds of warm things to wrap the ones I love in this winter.

Nani Iro Scarf

This little scarf is the first manifestation of this impulse. Something simple in every way, using an old version my all-time favourite Nani Iro print and a tiny bit of trim from Mokuba.

Nani Iro Scarf 

I followed this tutorial exactly and even bought the same trim. No creativity in this one but as the days get shorter and we brace for another winter, I am glad to have this colourful scarf to brighten up my wardrobe.

Friday 18 October 2013

From K - Finished Salt Water Swoon Quilt

This past weekend when I was home for Thanksgiving, I gifted one of my favourite quilts to someone I am especially thankful for. This Salt Water Swoon Quilt was made specifically with my grandma in mind and I was so excited to finally share it with her.

For as long as I can remember, my grandma has had an extensive sea shell collection. Meticulously selected, each shell represents a place, an experience, a trip she has taken with my grandpa. When I spotted Tula Pink's Salt Water line, I knew it was exactly the line I had been waiting for.

She married my grandfather in a time and place when raising four kids and managing a family farm was the rule and not the exception. While I see my grandmother as strong, proud and grateful for the beautiful life she created, my mind often goes back to a conversation we had a few years back... grandma loves to garden and more than anything, she loves flowers. She once told me me that had she been born in another time, she would have simply loved to arrange floral bouquets. Knowing that, Thimble Blossoms' Swoon Pattern seemed like an obvious choice when deciding what to whip up with the Salt Water bundles I ordered.

This is the first top that I have made that I didn't quilt myself. Instead I opted to send this to a local long arm quilter, who also happens to know my grandma. She did a fabulous job I think it reflects my grandma's aesthetic perfectly. Swirls, flowers and hearts all over.

For the backing I chose to feature the seashell print in the blue colourway, as that just so happens to be one of my grandma's favourite colours. I decided to bind it in a darker blue print from the same line to help ground the linen background of the quilt top.

Final Quilt Details:
  • Quilt Name: Salt Water Swoon Quilt
  • Finished Size: queen sized (80" x 80")
  • Fabric: Salt Water by Tula Pink (flowers, backing and binding) and a mystery linen from my LQS that looks just like sand (background)
  • Pattern: Swoon by Thimble Blossoms
  • Quilting: a long arm quilter from my home town
My goal for this quilt was to make it fit her taste and aesthetic, but also I wanted to ensure it was something really wonderful to snuggle under. Although the linen background made for quite a challenge at times, I am thrilled with how soft to the touch it is, and I may just be tempted to work with linen again.

This is my first completed project for the Q4 2013 Finish A-Long - read more about my other goals here.

Linking up to TGIFF and Finish it up Friday over at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

From A - Open Wide

Both Kelsey and I were fortunate enough to spend last weekend in Manitoba with the family celebrating Thanksgiving. We spent some time hanging with the family pets.


We ate way too much delicious grandma food and had a blast at the much anticipated 90th birthday party for our favourite great aunt.

90th Birthday

It was a whirlwind of a weekend (always the best kind) and after coming home, I feel refreshed and renewed. So much so that I actually managed to knock something off of the moan and complain list.

Open Wide Pouch

Noodlehead's Open Wide Pouch. Much better than a trip to the dentist.

Open Wide Pouch 

I took Jessie's mini dresden class at Sewing Summit and made this little beauty. Anyone who was actually at Sewing Summit has probably already seen it since I was showing it off like a proud mother to anyone who would smile and nod. Look at the duck, the 4" in diameter it is way too cute!

Open Wide Pouch

Although Jessie suggested mounting it on some canvas and framing it, a weekend spent toting around my rotary cutter in a plastic grocery store bag while ogling all of the gorgeous handmade bags of my fellow attendees made me determined to turn that piece of canvas into a notions pouch.

Open Wide Pouch

Add a rainbow zipper and a colourful scrap from the stash for the lining and I am now the proud owner of the perfect thing to store my rotary cutter, pins, marking tools and thread.

Open Wide Pouch

Hope all of my fellow Canadians had equally wonderful weekends!

Wednesday 9 October 2013

From K - Q4 Finish-A-Long Goals

With a number of big celebrations quickly approaching, and Christmas on the horizon, my quilting 'to-sew list' doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. To keep me focused and on track again this quarter, I'm setting some Q4 Finish-A-Long goals.
she can quilt
1. Wonky Star Quilt

Amanda and I put this top together while we were at Sewing Summit a few weeks back, and now I need to get it quilted and bound before our great aunt turns 90 this weekend (talk about a tight deadline).
2. Salt Water Swoon Quilt
I recently finished this top and mailed it to a long arm quilter to let her polish it off. I hope to get this quilt back soon so I can bind it and deliver it to my grandma when I'm home for Canadian Thanksgiving.
3. Equilateral Triangle Quilt
This quilt has been on my to-do list for what feels like eons. I pulled a baby girl quilt stack from my stash last November and it sat untouched until last month when I found out that I was in Jeni Baker's Equilateral Triangle Quilt class at Sewing Summit. I have cut all of my triangles and have started piecing together this quilt for my brand new baby niece! I am reeeeeaaaally excited to make more progress but number #1 and #2 have been monopolizing my time as of late.
4. Christmas Quilt
Four years ago when I married my husband, I started thinking about our Christmas traditions and how we could create our own memories together. On our first year, I made a tree skirt and some stockings, but was too nervous to start a quilt. Since this Christmas will mark our fifth together as a little married couple, I figure there is no better time than to finish a quilt. I showed a peek of this stack last week but haven't taken any progress shots yet. Mostly it's a pile of tiny squares at the moment. So. Many. Tiny. Squares!
5. Manly Plus Quilt
When I finished up my Pink Pluses donation quilt last month my husband kept commenting on how 'cool' it was. He also lamented multiple times that week that I have yet to 'make and keep' a single quilt to date. I decided then and there I could do something to fix this problem so I've added a secret quilt on my to-sew list this quarter - and don't worry he doesn't read our blog so no spoilers here! Here is a shot of my fabric pull. Most of the strips have already been cut when I was able to a moment at home by myself but it's pretty slow going so far.
6. Magic Wax Print Quilt
I finished this quilt top more than a year ago but have yet to actually quilt it. Since I mentioned in #5 that I haven't kept a quilt yet for myself, I'd like to prioritize this one just for me. It's a sentimental quilt and I truly love it. It's time to fit in a little selfish quilt now - amiright?!
Linking up this week to WiP Wednesday.

Monday 7 October 2013

From A - Mixed Bag Monday

I had a thing for mood rings as a kid. The novelty of wearing something that changed colours AND conveyed my emotional state of mind to others was irresistible. As I entered my teen years this turned into an obsession with the Fortune Telling Miracle Fish. Naturally, I had to adapt as an adult. Now I have a craft-based emotional barometer where a quick glance around the house will tell you everything you need to know about how it's all going.

  • A tidy home with only one project on the coffee table means that there is either company coming in the next 10 minutes or I've managed to find a whole lot of zen.
  • A project in the bedroom and living room is indicative of a normal and sustainable level of chaos.
  • A few projects strewn about on the couch, dining room table and next to the bed with a stack of yarn or fabric on the floor in the spare bedroom means usually means contact with a stressful patch over the last week or so.
  • Barely started projects on every surface with stacks of yarn and fabric "cued up" in the spare bedroom are a bad sign...a really bad sign.

Two guesses on where things are this week.

We have bits of fabric that I've been cutting for my On a Whim Quilt on the TV stand.

Cutting Fabric for my On a Whim quilt

The couch is home to my rigid heddle loom and some weaving on a gradient shawl that I started more than 3 years ago.

Gradient Weaving

My school bag is home to the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery's Halloween Sampler that I fell hard for a few weeks back.

Halloween Sampler Progress

The dining room table has a half-finished version of Noodlehead's Open Wide pouch, complete with rainbow zipper.

Noodlehead Open Wide Pouch Progress

Oh and that's not even mentioning the partly-finished satchel in my craft cupboard, the TWO lap duvets that are pressed and ready to be basted hanging over a dining room chair, the nursing cover on the coffee table that's been cut out and is waiting to be sewn, the two charm packs that are stacked on my nightstand waiting to become a baby quilt and the multiple piles of yarn in the spare bedroom divided into projects...plural.

Time to reset me thinks. Any other craft barometers out there?

Friday 4 October 2013

From K - Salt Water Swoon Quilt Top

I have been admiring Swoon quilts since the pattern first came out. This summer I decided to get my feet wet by slicing up some prints from Tula Pink's Salt Water line.

I cut and assembled each block over the last two months as I was able to carve out a bit of time in the odd weekend here and there. My previous posts on this Swoon quilt give more detailed pictures of each of the blocks.

Last weekend I managed to polish off the sashing so my hubby helped me to take some pictures in a beautiful fall coloured park.

I'm on a tight deadline to finish up this quilt so I was thrilled we had such a beautiful day for photos before putting this project in the mail. This massive queen sized quilt top is on its way to a long armer and I'm seriously excited to see how it turns out in a few weeks.

I think the stars aligned just perfectly as I met a very talented long armer just as I was fretting about how to finish this up in time. This will mark the first quilt that I've sent off to be quilted rather than doing it myself and I'm looking forward to seeing her take on how it should be quilted. In a few short weeks I'll find out!


Linking up to Finish it up Friday over at Crazy Mom Quilts.