Archive for the ‘handwork’ Category

Pumpkin seed fill

I found this brilliant tutorial on marking an all-over pumpkin seed pattern. Carla really nailed it. I am always on the lookout for new fill ideas and this is worth a try.


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I have been quilting in the studio as often as possible this week. Little Miss has not been content to play with toys so I’ve been working with her in my lap. She is an expert at unthreading the needle.


I was able to complete a roll. That means 2 plus binding before the end of the month. It’s moving along.


The weather here has been lovely, so we have been outdoors. I keep a small project in a basket to take with me. I am almost finished with this Christmas stocking. It marries two traditions. From my family, a great-aunt made stockings for each child when I was small. I love how the sequins sparkle in a room only lit by tree lights. My husbands family has a tradition where each child gets a toy train for their first Christmas. So this will be a first Christmas gift for the new baby on my husband’s side, little bit of both of us. It just needs some smoke from the smokestack and the name embroidered.

I’m trying to choose what will go into the basket after this is complete. I have a lot (understatement) of UFOs so it is just a matter of making up my mind.

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Summer has flown past me and the leaves have begun their fall display. I have been caught in the whirlwind of activities that encompass the few months of warmth. To start off, I have been busy growing a baby. Its really a passive activity, but one that forced a change of lifestyle. We had some early complications which have since resolved, but I lost a few months to inactivity. Baby girl will be here in January.

I also have been canning, a lot. I think we have about 200 qts filled with tomatoes, peaches, pears, beans, beets, salsa, pickles, jam etc. I missed out on corn and grapes. It looks so pretty lined up on the shelves in the basement, but I know by next canning season, they will all be empty. My friends ask me why I do so much and how I get it done. Most of the produce was free or greatly reduced pricing from other’s gardens. I did not have a great one because of baby restrictions and others were very generous with their excess. How I get it done is one canner load a day. The kids are preschool aged, but can help with small jobs like peeling garlic, snapping beans, peeling blanched tomatoes or washing cucumbers (on a tarp with smocks on), etc. We prep produce during to day and I process after they are in bed. Lest anyone think I over work them, I expect 15 mins of good work and then they are free to choose to continue or play. They are learning the value of hard work, and I am reaping kids who are less picky about what is on the plate at dinnertime.

Yes I am still quilting. I am feverishly working down my customer queue to complete things before January. Then I am planning a sabbatical while everyone in the house adjusts to life with newborn. I have been neglecting Etsy, but my custom orders have to come first. In the completed pile is a quilt for my Sister in Law. It was to be a wedding present 6 years ago, but kept being set aside in favor of paid work. I decided to make it happen and scheduled it in a slot. The quilt is a Stack and Whack fan made from a Kona Bay oriental. I chose to outline the fans and run a simple all over grid. A knot design is in the borders. The quilting complements the design, and since I know this will be well loved by people and animals, I did not want to do overly complex work.


In the frame now is a motor cycle themed tee shirt quilt. The customer really wanted it hand quilted, so I am. The top is fused shirts in a straight set. Batting is Mountian Mist and backing is red flannel. Thread is a red and black variegated. Overall size of 110″ square. Its a biggie. This is a 20th anniversary gift to a male, and the customer wanted simple quilting. I am using an uneven grid to give the appearance of plaid. Most of it is unmarked ruler work. Each block is about 15″. I measure in 4″ and 8″ from each seam line to create the plaid. Simple, but effective. The quilting is almost impossible to see as the stitches sink into the knit. I’m hoping the back will be interesting and not obscured by the flannel’s nap. Time will tell. Since the stitches do not show, here is a rough, not to scale drawing of what I am doing with the quilting.


I have three more items that need to go out after this quilt but I am not sure what order I will do them as they go together to one home. Maybe I’ll put one of my tops in during sabbatical. Most things go out the door, so it will be nice to tackle something from my personal pile.

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Roadmap for success

My last post was on Press and Seal. This one covers one of my uses for Freezer Paper. I use the Jenkins brand because it is already cut to fit in my printer, but the stuff in a roll can be prepared. In this instance I am kitting up blocks for Dear Jane. I have printed the blocks onto the matte side of the paper and then the planning happens.

I key each of my blocks so that it holds all the info necessary for piecing. In my example photo, I placed a small dot on each piece that I want to be focus fabric. The unmarked pieces will be my background. I have also marked slashes across the curved seam line to aid as match points in setting these together. Since these marks are randomly spaced and will not interchange with other pieces, I then number my patches. In this case I divided by quadrant. When sewing back together I know all the pieces with 1a,b,c will fit together. Lastly I mark all my grain lines by using a slash or arrows. This way I apply my pieces in the correct orientation on the fabric. I am mindful of keeping the straight of grain to the outside edge of the block. My templates look frightfully messy, but by taking a minute to think through the process, I will have the correct fabrics in the proper orientation for my design.


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I have been digging through my UFO pile and came across this baby quilt top. I made it pre-children when husband and I were struggling with infertility. I made this quilt top for baby girl, and a blue and white one for baby boy. Our family now includes two preschool boys, so this top has been languishing. So many times I have pulled it out of storage only to put it back because I have not had the strength to deal with the emotional baggage attached to this quilt. Now it is time. We have taken apart our nursery and put all the baby things to storage. I’m not ready to part with the top, but I am ready to finish it. When it is complete, I’ll add it to the baby girl clothes in storage until I am ready to make decisions. I trust that we will either need the cradle, or know when it is time to let go.

The block pattern is the Double X first published by Farm and Friends in 1893. More familiar names for this block are Goose and Goslings, Old Maid’s Puzzle or Crosses and Losses. I set them on point with a border. The fabric was a Moda release by 3 Sisters called Faded Memories. I was going for a soft, low contrast palette and this certainly does it.

As seen in the photos, it is in its raw state. A good pressing before marking is in order. I have settled on the border stencil, but am still debating what to do on the interior. On one hand I am considering daisies in the alternating blocks with an allover grid behind, but since the quilt is so low contrast, my other idea is to treat it as a whole-cloth. I’ll live with it in my living room for a bit before I start marking.


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I do a lot of hand piecing.  It is so portable  and a great use of snippets of time – especially those incidents where I am stuck trying to get a child to eat dinner after the rest of the family has left the table.  Handwork allows me to make any block in any size without weird math.  This little demo will illustrate this point.

Lets say that I want to add a pieced border to a quilt, and dividing the top into equal units results in a very strange block size, perhaps its 7.25 inches.  Rule number one – if you can draft it, you can sew it.  Hand piecing focuses on the sewing lines and the accuracy is built in by handling the template dimension with precision.  Seam allowance is arbitrary because sewing is done on the lines.  Compare this to rotary work which takes these dimensions and adds seam allowance.  The accuracy is in keeping a consistent quarter inch so that the rotary pieces fit together.  I think some illustrations are in order.

Staring with the first picture, draft a block with a finished size of 7.25 inches.  Remember templates do not include seam allowances, so the drafting process begins with a block using finished measurements.  Divide into a 3×3 grid for the block we are drafting.  Complete the draft by connecting points on the grid for a shoo fly block.  The templates that we need are in picture 3, a triangle and a square.  I didn’t measure because I rely on the rule that if I can cut it apart it will fit back together.  Why?  Because we are sewing on the line.

Lets change the block size to 3.5 inches finished.  Same procedure applies. I start drafting the finished block by dividing into a grid.   Draft block and identify templates.  Now lets  skew the block into a diamond.  Same drafting skills, but there will be more templates to use.  But if I can cut it apart, it will go back together.

By using hand piecing and drafting, I can add complexity to a quilt without reaching for a calculator or ruler.  Coming up next…getting drafts to templates.

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My sewing kit

Having the right tools on hand makes any time spent with handwork enjoyable.  Here is a photo of my sewing kit.

I keep the following items inside at all times:  mechanical pencil, ruler, thread snips or small scissors, thread, pins and needles.  Of course the addition of some music or an audio book is helpful.  These items go into a small zipper case or plastic bag.  My preferred one at the moment is a tool roll-up by OmniGrid, but I tend to get bored looking at the same bag, so I rotate to other cosmetic bags I have hanging around the house.

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