Happy mail

When we arrived home last week after two weeks away, I had mail waiting for me.  Unfortunately, the post office had already closed for the day, so on Monday, I finally got to go pick up my “happy mail.”  I love when I’ve been away and come home to exciting things in my mailbox.

There was this mini quilt with three mini-mini quilts on the line.  The siding on the house is really cool because the fabric is folded to make that effect.

mini quilt with quilts

And do you recognize this little girl on the swing from a previous quilt block I received?  I laughed out loud when I saw her again!

mini mini quilt

Cool beadwork in the tree.  Reminds me of the cherry blossoms here in Virginia in the spring!

Mini quilt beading

Next package: a little fabric bundle that I won in the Bee a {Modern} Swapper group for “most creative packaging.”  The package may or may not have had some other goodies including some Ghirardelli  chocolate which may or may not be already gone.  Ooops.  I love the grays and will be able to use them to make some more of those English paper pieced rose stars I was working on.  And the reds are a welcome addition because I have a serious lack in my fabric stash!

Happy mail: fabric bundle

And hey!  Another mini!  After years of having no fabric art in my sewing space, my walls are going to be so (sew) pretty!  I love how the pink binding picks up the pink in the birdie.

Mini quilt bird in tree

There was one more, but I didn’t get a photo of that.  I won a giveaway on the Sew, Mama, Sew giveaway day from Happy in Red.  It is three really beautiful skeins of yarn and a crochet hook.  I don’t crochet, but I really want to learn.  2013 goal?  I think so.

Tree in the Sunset mini quilt

I joined a mini quilt swap through the Flickr group Bee a {Modern} Swapper.  The result was actually TWO mini quilts because the first one was damaged by a 2-year-old wielding a dry erase marker (note: dry erase marker on fabric is PERMANENT!).  I have now creatively covered the marker, but there was so much of time and tears in that quilt that I couldn’t bear to give it away.

So with less than a week to go before the mailing deadline, I made a new one!  I showed you part of it the other day, along with a couple extras I included in the package.  But I didn’t want the color scheme to ruin the surprise for the recipient, so I waited to show you the whole thing.  Since the package has been delivered, here is mini quilt #2.

My partner was Tiffany, for whom I made the spider web blocks last month.  As a result, I knew she was going to be working on a quilt for her home with a purple, orange and brown color scheme.  I used my tree from the first mini and her color palette as my inspiration.

Tree in the Sunset mini quilt

My free motion quilting definitely leaves much to be desired, and I’m working on it.  I used this mini to practice some new stitches.  I hope Tiffany can overlook the imperfections of this beginner.  I added some pointy blades of grass and tried out a modified tree bark design that I learned from Leah Day’s free motion quilting site.

Tree in the Sunset mini quilt: Grass and tree bark quilting

The fabric for the sunset sky is something I fell in love with when looking for a fabric for another project.  I believe it’s by Hoffman Fabrics.

Tree in the Sunset mini quilt: close up


I used a variegated thread for the quilting in the sky, which I think complements the sunset vibe nicely.

Tree in the Sunset mini quilt: variegated thread quilting I love how the quilting looks on the back, especially the tree.

Tree in the Sunset mini quilt: back, close up of quilting Tree in the Sunset mini quilt: back

More fun finishes at Thank Goodness It’s Finished Friday and Finish It Up Friday.


All wrapped up

The mailing deadline for the Bee a {Modern} Swapper mini quilt/Secret Santa swap was yesterday.

After deciding that I was going to keep my original project and start over completely with less than a week to go before the deadline, I was happy to have shipped my package on time!  The original mini was the one that was attacked by my marker-weilding toddler.  I literally cried over that quilt.  And I probably spent as much time trying to remove the marker as I did making it in the first place.  After all we’d been through, I just couldn’t give her away.

But I was still in the swap, which meant: Quick!  Make a new mini quilt.  I can’t show the whole thing yet because the color scheme will give away my partner, but here’s what I came up with. 

I love the quilting in the sunset sky.  I used a variegated poly thread by Aurifil that my friend Kim gave me to try out.

More details on this mini quilt after my partner receives it!

I also included a little bit of fabric and some cute extras for my partner: A string block zippy pouch and a cute little pin cushion.

But I must admit, I’m almost as thrilled about the packaging as I am about the gifts inside.  One of group leaders, Katherine, issued the challenge to come up with some creative packaging for our swap gifts.

I wrapped the gifts in plain paper and tied them with some cute ribbon.

And then ….

(drumroll please … )

Oh, I amuse myself!  Happy holidays.

Trial and ERROR (and error) and try again!

I’ve been teaching myself some embroidery for that hoopie swap I’m doing.  One of my fellow hoopie swappers linked to this great online source for embroidery stitches, which has been incredibly helpful.

I started out by making that paper pieced split hexagon in six different colors and had embroidery floss to coordinate with each one.  Then it was time to start the embroidery.  And the project just sat there staring at me for well over a week without being touched because … well, I was scared of messing it up.  This was totally new for me!!

Finally, I decided I might as well just give it a go.  The thing certainly wasn’t going to stitch itself.  I started out by just outlining each triangle of the split hexagon with a basic straight stitch.  It’s pretty difficult to screw that one up, and it looked pretty cute, so it gave me a little confidence.

Then I decided to create a little flower above each triangle using a chain stitch called the lazy daisy.  Not too tough, and really cute.  I’m feeling like I actually might be getting the hang of this!

I wanted a little something extra in the center of my flowers, so I thought I would move on and try a french knot.  And here is where things got a little dicey.

The first one actually seemed to work out okay, but I wrapped the thread around the needle too many times, so the knot ended up sticking out too much and looking a little bit phallic.  Eep!

The next two attempts, I wrapped the thread 3 times around the needle, but realize now that I had wrapped too far up the thread.  When I inserted the needle back into the fabric, it resulted in this weird knotting thing with loose threads sticking out.  I tried to remedy the situation by just stitching over it a few times.  Bad idea.  It looked a mess!

Finally, I went back and reviewed the French knot directions one more time.  And the 4th attempt was a success!  Hooray!

I let the project sit for awhile, trying to decide if I was going to redo it or just let it go.  But ultimately, I cut out the three unsuccessful flowers and started over.  I got more practice at that lazy daisy stitch, too, because when I cut out the center knots, I also had to cut out the flowers since they were connected.  Boo hoo.  But I’m much happier with the second attempt.

Trying something of a different sort (and you can try too)

I just signed up for a “hoopie swap,” which is totally outside my comfort zone, and that’s one of the main reasons I’m doing it.  Challenging myself creatively keeps me fresh, I think.

I am a member of Bee a {modern} swapper on Flickr, and every other month, we make quilt blocks chosen by that month’s “queen bee.”  (That’s where I received my tree blocks!) In the off months, there is a swap of another sort, open to anyone who wants to play (that means YOU!).  This month, it’s an embroidery hoop swap.  I have done exactly zero (zip, zilch, nada) embroidery in my life. My bee members assure me that not only is embroidery not too difficult, and I can learn the basic stitches on YouTube, but that the hoop doesn’t even have to contain any embroidery.  Hmmm ….

Sounds like a fun challenge, right?  It’s a secret swap, so each participant creates a mosaic of some things she might like for inspiration, and then her partner can draw on that when creating the embroidery hoop.

Here’s my mosaic:

1. the atomic flower hoop, 2. lindas circles, 3. bird a month: may, 4. photo (19), 5. susans flowers, 6. Sampler Tree Embroidery, 7. Hoop for embellishment class, 8. Birdy, 9. scrappy hoop swap, 10. doodlestitch sampler for corinne, 11. Where ever the ride takes me, 12. monarch butterfly, 13. Hoop Up Embroidery for Solidia – Lady Peacock pattern by ReviDevi

You know you want some of this fun to hang in your space!  So, come on over and sign up!  Here’s the discussion thread with the link to the sign-up form.  But hurry, sign ups close at the end of TODAY!  Eeep!  No worries, you’ve got all month to make something, but seriously, go now and sign up!  I hope to see you there.

Happy mail

I cannot tell you how happy I was when I went to the post office yesterday and found this package in the mail.  I knew it instantly because *I* had addressed it way back in March when I packed up my 5 yards of neatly cut red-orange charm squares and sent them off to Utah with that self-addressed stamped envelope tucked in next to them.

I didn’t even make it home before I ripped open the package just to take a peek.  And, oh! They are beautiful, these 280 little 5-inch squares of fabric in every color of the rainbow and more!

I cannot imagine all the work that went into the sorting and stuffing of 280 charm squares multiplied by 56!!  I am eternally grateful to Kati of from the blue chair, who organized the 5 yard color wheel charm swap, assigned the colors to the participants and then took care of collecting and sorting 280 yards of fabric and putting 56 packages of rainbows back in the mail to their new happy owners.  WOW!

My head is already spinning with all the lovely things I could make with these treasures.  I think I would really like to make a whole quilt out of my double staircase block.  It would be awesome in rainbow colors.  I wonder if I should radiate from the center outward in the rainbow colors, or start in one corner and have the rainbow sweep across the quilt from corner to corner??

This is a project for some undermined time in the future.  But!  Since I cannot possibly wait that long to play with these pretties, I’ve already pulled 16 for a dresden plate wall hanging.  It’s about time I actually have some fabric art in my sewing room!

Little stack of squares

Or maybe that should be BIG stack of little squares.  Five inch squares, 280 of them.

Why, oh, why do I have a stack of 280, 5-inch squares of fabric, all in the red-orange color family?

Because I’m going to trade them as part of a fabric swap!  It’s like trading cards for the fabric lover.  Kati at from the blue chair organized a monster 5-yard color wheel charm swap.  I realize that last sentence may not make sense at all, but I’m pretty excited about it.  Apparently, 55 other people are really excited about it too because the available slots for this swap filled up in five minutes.  Five minutes!  It’s a fabric craze!

I need to give a quick shout-out to Lyanna at Purple Panda Quilts because she signed me up for the swap since I was in Chicago and didn’t know if I would be able to log on when the swap opened.   Without her, no collection of fabric trading cards for me!

A charm square is a pre-cut 5-inch square of fabric.  Fabric manufacturers often produce a charm square pack of a particular fabric line so you can get a little taste of the entire collection.  These little squares are great to use in patchwork and quilting.

In this color wheel charm swap, there are 56 participants.  Each person was assigned a particular color and purchased 5 yards of fabric in that color group.  We cut them up into charm squares and mailed them off to Kati.  I, obviously, was assigned to the red-orange group.  The directions were to purchase 4 prints and one solid in your assigned color.

Kati has the massive undertaking of sorting 280 YARDS OF FABRIC into 56 different packages and putting them back in the mail.  Yikes.  I think I may need to send her a thank you gift for all that work.  Phew!

Some time next month, I will receive a package with 280 charm squares, five total yards, in all colors of the rainbow, plus black and white.  It will be like Christmas in April.  Hooray!

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.