Bee Happy

My first ever round of an online quilt bee is all wrapped up.  All the blocks I made are in the hands of their intended recipients, and I have received four marvelous blocks in my own color scheme in the mail!

This particular online bee, the 4×5 Modern Quilt Bee, works like this.  Each quarter (so 4 times per year, the “4” of the “4×5”), participants in that round are placed in a “beehive” with 5 other quilters (the “5” part of the equation).  Each participant requests a particular color scheme.  Each member of the beehive will make 5 blocks of the same pattern, in 5 different color schemes, one for each other member of the hive.

Since I’ve started dabbling in quilting, I’ve decided I should have a quilt for our bed; a big one.  I’m thinking ahead, planning how I will eventually decorate our bedroom.  For my first round of this quilting bee, I requested those colors, yellow and gray.  They make me so happy.  Here are the four blocks I received, plus two of my own yellow and gray blocks.

I’ve signed up for another round of the 4×5 Bee, but I’ve changed my colors.  I think that this first big quilt for me, should be completed by me.  So, instead, my bee quilt will be for another project, and I’ve gathered an abundance of yellow and gray fabrics that I will use myself.  I can’t wait to play with some of these.  The quilt will be a “sampler quilt” like the bee quilts, so all the blocks will be different, but tied together by the fabrics and colors.

Aren’t they lovely?


Pin cushion caddy tutorial

I’ve been thrilled with how some flickr groups I’ve joined lately have really encouraged my creativity.  One of those groups is
Bee a {modern} swapper.  Every other month for the next year, we will make two quilt blocks for one of our group members.  On the opposing months, there is a swap of a different sort.  The first is a pin cushion swap.  I have never made a pin cushion before (but it’s been on my to do list for some time; those tomato pin cushions are so uninspiring).  This gave me just the push (ha ha!  get it?  pincushion?  pins?  push?  Oh … nevermind) I needed.

Do you think I would keep it simple for my first project of this sort?  Oh no, of course I wouldn’t do that.  I had to go and pick one of the most complicated designs for a pincushion out there.  It turned out really well, though, so I hope my secret swap partner is pleased.

I had seen some pictures of a pin cushion caddy, and my secret swap partner had included a photo of one in her inspiration mosaic, so I decided to try my hand making one for her.  There is apparently a pattern for one in Anna Maria Horner‘s book, Seams to Me, but as I don’t own that book, I had to come up with a different plan.

I came across this tutorial on Penny’s Hands and saved it on Pinterest.  The concept is great, actually, and just what I needed, but Penny’s version uses the English paper piecing method and is sewn entirely by hand.  My sister thinks this is awesome, but hand sewing is just not my cup of tea (my cup of tea is most often chai tea, or some other sort of black tea with a flavor).  If you love that sort of thing, please, head over, and Penny will show you how to put it together.  If you’d rather have “date night” with your sewing machine, here’s how I modified her idea.

From thin cardboard (like a cereal box), cut:
6 rectangles, 4 inches x 2 inches
1 hexagon with 2 inch sides
(Note: Penny links to a website for hexagon template, I just used a protractor.  Draw a line, 2 inches long, from one end, use your protractor to draw another 2 inch line, intersecting at a 120-degree angle.  Continue this process around until your 6th line intersects the first line you drew.)

Use the cardboard hexagon to cut out a paper hexagon of the same size.  Fold the paper hexagon in half.

UPDATE: I created a printable PDF with hexagons of the proper size for this pincushion.

Click here: Hexagon Cutting Template PDF for Pincushion Caddy.

You are going to use the paper half hexagon to make a pattern for the outside pieces of your pincushion caddy.  Trace the half hexagon (I suppose we can call it a trapezoid, right?).  Now, from the lower, widest edge, draw a 2 inch line straight down from each bottom corner, perpendicular to that bottom edge.  Turn your half hexagon (trapezoid) 180-degrees so the corners are touching the ends of those 2-inch lines you just drew.  Trace around the three outside edges to complete a modified octagon.

UPDATE: This elongated hexagon/octagon shape can also be found on the printable cutting template PDF for this pincushion caddy.

Click here: Hexagon Cutting Template PDF for Pincushion Caddy.

Add 1/4 inch seam allowances all the way around.  Recommendation: I suggest you take in the two sides of this octagon pattern by 1/2 inch.  You can leave it as is, but your already large pincushion caddy will be ginormous.  I sewed mine up from pieces this size, but then didn’t like how wide it looked and ended up taking in those side seams by 1/2 inch to trim it down.

From fabric, cut:
6 modified octagons, using the pattern you just made
2 hexagons, using your original hexagon pattern (the non-extended one) and adding 1/4 inch seam allowances all the way around
6 rectangles, 2-1/2 inches x 9-1/2 inches

Fold the fabric rectangles in half, lengthwise, and press with your iron.  Now you will have 6 double-layer rectangles, 2-1/2 x 4-3/4 inches, with a fold on one short end.  These are going to be joined into a cylinder which will from the inside of your pincushion caddy.

Sew the six octagons together in a circle, leaving an opening at the top and bottom.  With right sides together, sew with a 1/4 inch seam allowance along one of the angled sides until you are 1/4 inch from the edge.  Leave the needle down in the fabric, lift the presser foot, and turn the fabric so you can continue to sew along the edge with a 1/4 seam allowance.

When you are finished, you will have something that looks like this.

Now, sew your folded fabric rectangles together, along the long side, to create a tube or cylinder.

Turn the outside of the pincushion caddy wrong side out.  Turn the inside of the pincushion caddy right side facing out.  Place the inside tube into the top of the outside portion of the pincushion.  The folded edges should line up with the top of the outside section.

Line up the seams of the six sections and sew around the top with a 1/4 inch seam allowance, joining the inside of the pincushion caddy to the outside of the pincushion caddy at the top.

Flip the whole thing inside out so that the right side of the outside of the pincushion caddy is facing out and the right side of the inside of the caddy is facing in (are you still with me?)

Flip the pincushion caddy upside down.  See how you just made 6 little pockets in that inner cylinder?  Stick your cardboard rectangles in there.

Phew!  Okay.  Almost done.

You should have one cardboard hexagon with 2 inch sides and two (slightly larger) fabric hexagons remaining.  Place the cardboard in the middle of the fabric hexagon that will go on the bottom of the caddy.  Iron the side over so that the fabric hexagon is the same size as the cardboard.  Remove the cardboard.

Now put some good craft glue on the cardboard hexagon.  Place the cardboard in the middle of the fabric hexagon that will be on the bottom of the inside of the caddy.  Fold the edge of the fabric over the cardboard and glue them down.  (I stuck mine between my cutting mat and the table and put something heavy on it until it dried.)

And now!  I’m sorry to say that the hand sewing can be avoided no longer.  Take the piece that will be on the bottom of your pincushion caddy and hand sew it on.  Be sure to catch the inside (just below the cardboard), outside and bottom pieces with your needle and thread.  I found it easiest to put about 4 pins in one side, sew that together, and then move on to the next section.  Be sure to leave one section open to fill your pincushion.

Now you’re ready to stuff your pincushion.  It was suggested to me to use crushed walnut shells, so that’s what I did.  You could also use rice or sand or plain ol’ polyfill (though your caddy will be much lighter with that one).

You can find crushed walnut shells at the pet store, in the bird section.  Pet store employees will think it strange when you tell them what you’re using the bird litter for.

Would you believe I don’t have a funnel in my house?  I use a rolled up notecard, secured with a piece of tape.

Hand sew up that last side, flip your pincushion caddy right side up and stick that fabric covered cardboard hexagon in the bottom.

Ta da!  Great job!

It’s too early to send this pincushion caddy out to my secret swap partner, so I’ve been using it next to my own sewing machine for a few days.  (sorry, partner, just breaking it in.  ha!)  I love it.  I’m going to have to make one for myself.  It’s great to throw my scissors and rotary cutter in there and it’s large enough that I can remove pins and jab them in there without having to look up from my sewing machine.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, please come like Sewing by Moonlight on Facebook and check out my Tutorials Page for more.

Be Free Bees

Did you know people still do quilt bees?  No?  Me neither.  I don’t know about you, but I certainly had a misconception about quilting bees.  The imagery in my head immediately goes to a group of elderly ladies with needle and thread sitting in a circle in a church basement.  They’re having a great time talking about their grandkids, but I definitely do not fit in there (I AM their grandkid) and the quilt they’re working on is definitely NOT to my taste.  You there with me?  Okay, now come here.  

The ladies working on the quilts in this quilting bee are in their 30s (and 20s and 40s and 60s … ).  They are quilting on digital sewing machines using bright fabrics with modern designs.  Mostly, they sew on their own, but the social aspect of the quilting bee is not in the church basement, but with online friends, where they mail bits of quilts all around the country and the world, so in the end, they have the aspect of working on one quilt, together, as a quilting bee.  They share photos and ideas and discuss the projects online.

My first experience with the modern, online based quilting bee was the 4×5 Bee, where I made blocks for 5 other quilters over the course of one quarter, and they each made a block for me, in my chosen colors.  (I’ll post soon about the awesome blocks I received.)  I’ve already signed up for the first quarter of 2012 in that quilting bee and will be getting my “hive” assignment soon.

Meanwhile, in an effort to keep my creative muscles fresh, I joined a Free Form Quilt Bee.  I was a bit tentative at first because I didn’t really know what to expect, but the concept intrigued me.  Basically, I send out a starter piece of a quilt, and over the course of the next several months, the quilters in my group add to it however they see fit, thus the “free form” aspect of this project.  Each month, my (larger and larger) starter piece will be mailed on to someone else to add a little something to it.  At the end of August, I will get back a much larger project.

I intend for this quilt to be a wall hanging for the girls, either in their bedroom, or in the playroom.  I went through several ideas and finally settled on birds.  I started pulling out bird fabrics and was actually surprised by how many I had!  I framed them all in bright colors and came up with this:

Next up: a signature block.  Each person who works on this quilt will sign a bird, so when the project is finished, this will be incorporated in to the back so I will have a memento of all the hands that helped to complete my quilt.

For this group, we also decided, collectively, that we would include a little journal with our starter blocks to be sent along to each stop.  The intention is to share our inspirations and creative processes so that the owner of the quilt knows where each addition originated.

I happened to have this little bird stamp, which fit perfectly in with this project.  I will have photo updates over the course of the next several months, but I can’t wait to see how it looks when it comes back to me.  It’s all packaged up and ready to mail to the UK tomorrow!

Pile o’ triangles

These are half square triangles, all squared up and ready to be made in to something lovely.  What will they become, oh what will they become?

One thing, one week challenge 9: finish for Zoe

Phew!  This project has been hanging around for way, way, way too long.  I’ve been working on it little by little and it was my goal last week for Amy’s one thing, one week challenge.

Amy's Creative Side

And guess what?  Success!

The baby for whom this carrier is intended was born way, way back in September and (I just checked my email records) her mama sent me her final fabric choice on September 24th.  Of course, I still had to order the fabric, but let’s just say that I’ve had it since the first week of October.  A mei tai takes me about 5 hours of working time to complete, and it just seems that it took me 3 months to find that five hours this time.  I’m so happy that it’s finished and I love the way it turned out!

The fabric is Tina Givens Opal Owl and I’m really pleased with the cutting layout.  I was able to get one of the scenes from the fabric centered *just so* on the hood as well as having it match up perfectly with the print on the body of the carrier below it.

The back is “more manly” for daddy to wear and features a Hoffman batik that I’ve used before.  The straps on this carrier are chocolate colored organic cotton canvas.  (side note for Liz: they’re pretty stiff right now, but like your favorite jeans, they’ll soften up the more you use the carrier.  Throw it in the wash; that helps too.)

After Liz and Jeff’s first daughter was born, they were the recipients of one of the first mei tais I ever made.  It was good, and they liked it, but I’ve improved my design quite a bit since then.  I now make my carriers with a padded waist, which gives it a bit more structure and makes it a little more comfortable as baby gets bigger.  There’s also a sleeping hood, great for when baby falls asleep on your back and it prevents that little head from lolling about.  This carrier also has a little pocket at the end of the shoulder straps which is great for stashing small essentials if you don’t want to carry a bag.

This will be coming your way this week, Liz, so be on the look out!

Dance bag take 2

I loved the way the first dance bag I made turned out.  I loved it so much that I made one for Sierra as well.  She started dance back in September and since then she’s been carrying this way-too-big-for-a-3-year-old cinch bag that I got at a triathlon.  It worked in that it carried stuff, but it wasn’t ideal.

Sierra’s favorite color is green, so I used this fun polka dot fabric and made the dancer applique in green.  Fun!

Like the last dance bag, I added a fun detail with the green hardware on the bag.

The dance bag has a large velcro pocket on the back and the flap is secured with velcro as well for easy in/easy out for a 3-year-old.

The inside is: green denim!  Do you think I overdid the green?  I don’t think so; Sierra loves it, and that’s the most important thing.

As I was making this (second) dance bag, I realized that this size of small messenger bag is exactly the size and sort of bag I preferred to carry before I was carrying a diaper bag most of the time.  Which led me to think that perhaps with an additional pocket and longer straps, I could make these for grown-ups as well.  If only there were a way to find out if people would be interested.  Guess I’ll never know if I don’t just go for it, right?

Finishing 4×5 Bee blocks, Q4

The deadline for the 4×5 Quilt Bee blocks is this week and I finished up my blocks yesterday, a full 5 days early.  Yahoo!

I’m calling the block I designed “sunset squared” because the upper part reminds me of sun rays and the squares, well, that’s obvious, right?

I finished Tina’s first, followed by Jen’s.

Katherine‘s colors were cardinal and robin’s egg blue, but she clarified by saying “any red that isn’t orange” and “any blue that isn’t primary.”  Here’s her block:

I really struggled with Pam’s color choices, “ash, pomegranate and sage,” probably more than I should have.  Pomegranate and sage aren’t colors that I tend to buy for myself, based on what was already in my stash, but I really wanted her to have a block that she would really like.  I definitely over-thought it.  She indicated that she was referring to the Kona solid colors when she chose them but she really would be happy with any interpretation of the colors.  Anyway, Kona’s sage is the solid bluish green in the block below.  Pomegranate is a red with some definite pink tones.  I sure hope she likes it!

I had a couple members in my “bee hive” ask me about how I put the block together, so it might be a good time for a tutorial on this blog.

Custom dance bag

My friend Phoebe asked to make a dance bag for her daughter.  “It’s time she stopped carrying that tote bag I got at a conference a few years back,” she said.  (I know the feeling; my daughter’s dance bag is something I got at a triathlon many years ago!)

Phoebe told me that her daughter loved anything purple and pink and that it might be fun to incorporate some tulle into the design.  She wanted it to be easy for her young daughter to open and get her things.  I came up with this messenger style bag.

I drew the silhouette of the dancer and when I was happy with her, traced her on to freezer paper and then cut her out in fabric.  When Phoebe mentioned “tulle”, I originally thought I might do a dancer applique and make her skirt out of tulle.  In the end though, I thought that might be too easy to snag and decided to add tulle under some coordinating fabric ribbon next to the dancer.

Since it needed to be easy for a little one to open and close, I kept the closure simple with two strips of velcro.

There is a large velcro closure pocket on the back of the bag.

And an inside zip pocket to keep any small items that might get lost.

The details of this bag are really fun.  The tulle has some glitter in it and since I had to order loops and sliders for the width of this strap anyway, I went with pink instead of the standard black.

I am really pleased with how this bag turned out and I think that a child sized messenger bag might be one of the products I offer when I get my online store up and running.  This bag is 8 x 11 x 3 inches and the strap adjusts from 18 – 36 inches so that a young person can carry it over her shoulder or slung across her body.

Blogger’s Choice Fat Quarter Bundle

Do you know the Fat Quarter Shop?  Well, they are an excellent destination for online fabric shopping.  Not only do they have a huge array of beautiful fabrics by the yard, they also have a large selection of pre-cut fabric bundles.  One section is the “Blogger’s Choice Fat Quarter Bundle,” which feature coordinating print and solid fabrics selected by a blogger in the online sewing community.

Recently, Quokka Quilts has teamed up with the Fat Quarter Shop.  They are hosting a contest challenging participants to create a fat quarter bundle consisting of 12 coordinating prints and three solids.

I started out with a general idea for a theme and then saved 40 (yes 40!) different fabrics that I liked and thought I could use.  Then came the challenge of whittling that down to just 15.  Sheesh!  I don’t know how long I stared at those thumbnails of those fabrics.  Here are the ones that made the final cut.

1. Benartex crazy daisy black with yellow 2. Dear Stella charcoal solid 3. Lecein woodland gray dots and vines 4. Dear Stella palladium gray gridlock 5.  Lakehouse Pam Kitty Morning yellow on white precious dot 6. Michael Miller charcoal tiny houndstooth 7. Dear Stella mimosa yellow mumsy 8. Marcus Brothers french dress ebony mosaic medallions 9. Lecien happy mochi yum yum lemon fiji 10. Quilting Treasures juicy blossoms yellow hyacinth 11. Lecien flower sugar gray floral circles 12. Free Spirit designer solids saffron 13. Riley Blake sunny happy skies yellow lace 14. Dear Stella palladium gray peacock 15. Michael Miller cotton couture solid fog

I went with a yellow gray theme because that color combination has been on my mind lately.  When I choosing fabrics, I picked yellows that were a little bit more toward the gold side of yellow.  The warmth of that color is a great contrast to the cool gray.  I tried to make sure that I had a range of tones from dark to light that would be interesting and useful to someone who might potentially purchase this bundle if it were available.

I love this group of fabrics together.  There is a great contrast between some of the floral prints and the more structured or geometric (4., 6.).  I made sure to include a couple that had some interesting looking textures in the print (7., 14.) and had a sub-theme of circles that carriers through many of the prints (3., 5., 8., 9., 11., and 13. and 14. to some extent).

What do you think?

What’s in a name?

Here I am, barely a single step down the path toward being a business owner, but I had to start somewhere, right?  A company needs a name, so that would be a good place to start.

Back when I thought I was going to go into business making mei tais, my hypothetical company name was “Baby Dino.”  I even had a logo.  The name was cute and catchy and reflected the nature of my intended product.  And it had a personal connection as well.  “Baby dino” is what we called Sierra when she was tiny because she made these funny grunty/growly noises that we thought sounded like … a baby dino.  If one could actually know what a baby dinosaur sounded like, we imagined it was something like that.  The addition of Sierra into our lives is what led to me babywear in the first place, and that led to making mei tais, so it all tied together very nicely.  I couldn’t keep it, though.

My intended products this time are receptacles for your things.  And your kids’ things.  Totes and clutches and pouches and bags of various sorts.  Baby Dino was too juvenile for my audience and sounded to specific toward baby products.  It was back to the drawing board.

I wanted something that would be easy to remember, easy to work with in terms of coming up with a logo/building a brand, and it had to be available as a .com.  There was much brainstorming that I won’t even mention, but I finally settled on working around when most of sewing and creating actually occurs: after the kids are in bed for the night.  And with my girls, it’s late.  Sometimes very late.

From here I moved forward to working with various words and trying to find a suitable name.  Midnight designs?  Nighttime something?  A night owl came to mind.  Since *I* tend to be a night owl, I thought maybe I could work with that image.  In case you are a nighttime creator like me, and in case you are looking for a name, or if maybe you’re just interested in the process of how this all came together, I give you: lists!  (Monica will love it.)

List of words related to night:
night owl
after dark

List of words related to making stuff with fabric:
material (note: I like the alliteration of Midnight or Moonlight Material, but it sounded to industrial)

I have another list with various words for “bag” but you can just look that up in a thesaurus.

When I finally decided that “Sewing by Moonlight” would be the address of my blog and website, I first intended to name my product line something else (Nightfall Carryall, in case you’re interested.  I bought that domain, too, so don’t try to steal it!), but ultimately decided to just keep things simple.

So, here we are today with a name!  And a website!  I will begin with an online store on, and perhaps one day, if that works out, move to a store on this site.  I have a long journey ahead of me.  Many more steps.  And many more lists.