Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Monday, December 18, 2017

Happy Holidays

Well, the holiday crunch is on, so I'll take a moment now to wish everyone a great holiday season, no matter what your holiday is. I'm still sewing in my spare moments, and I hope I'll be back between Christmas and New Year's.

I'm taking a "wait and see" approach to Week 4 of On Ringo Lake. I'm not sure it will look good in my fabrics (blue and red), and I'll have to see a bit more of the big picture before I decide on that. Maybe it will be ok, maybe I'll add another colour (pine green?), maybe I'll tweak the design. In any case, it's a busy time, so I'm happy to have an excuse to wait!

So, be happy, be safe, and take a moment to appreciate the successes of the past year. And maybe make a plan or two for next year. That's what I'm doing!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

It's a Warm Finish!

It's Warm Inside is finally a finished quilt!

This poor quilt has really had its ups and downs. I designed it to be Quilt as You Go (QAYG), with the narrow white cotton sashings. But, between the fluffy flannel log cabin blocks and all the loose batting, it was way too dusty for my allergies. So, I pieced it all together and took it to a longarm rental place to quilt it myself.

Wait for the chorus...

That turned out to be a really miserable experience that started with a friend of the owner setting up a quilt on the machine I had reserved, and which went way downhill from there. I should have walked out right then, but alas, I was not as smart as the song. The clincher was when the owner told me that my quilting idea was wrong and looked bad, when I was about half done. Fortunately, there are other fish in the sea!

But, despite all the hardship, in the end I think it's a likeable quilt. The snowmen are jolly, and the simple quilting works fairly well on the flannel logs. I circled around all the snowglobes in the border, which made them quite puffy:

The fat red binding stands out well too. I had a couple of yards of aqua, white and red Christmas fabric that I think I meant for a border at one time. But it matched perfectly, so I used it on the back here, and filled in the remainder with the leftover snowmen fabrics from the front.

I have Mimi Dietrich's book Happy Endings, which includes this idea for piecing the label right into the back:

Since I had to piece the back anyway, it made sense to me.

So, I'm glad to have it done, only two years later than planned! I'm catching up. :D To see all the posts on this quilt, please click here.

The gnome? He kept his thoughts to himself.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Crumbs

When I was in school, and I had a big deadline looming, I often developed a burning need to tidy up my dorm room instead of sitting down to my work. Here I am, decades later, and still the same!

A few weeks ago I bought Victoria Findlay Wolfe's book, 15 Minutes of Play. It has many great ideas for sewing your scraps into "made fabric," and then using that fabric in various quilt blocks.

Down in the basement, for several years now, there's been a small, open box full of scraggly rag ends of this old Christmas fabric. Today, instead of working on Allietare, I had a burning need to sew it all together!

Of course, it was so dusty that I had to wash it again first, and I ironed it dry. But, then I tried not to think too much, and just sew the pieces together. They are a little big to be called "crumbs," exactly, but they are ratty!

You can see that my brain was turned off, because one fabric is backwards there. In the spirit of improv, I decided to keep it.

Now I have a range of approximately 9" square pieces put together:

I tried some curved piecing, but not very well! I think they will flatten out once they are cut again.

I know it looks like crazy, avoidant behaviour, but actually I feel quite refreshed! Now I can mull over how to use them while I finish up Step 2 of Allietare. Most of the cutting is done...

...and I think it will be quick to sew together. 160 blue triangles! It should be downhill from here. :D

Monday, November 24, 2014

Half Cross Stitch -- Which Way?

I have three, no, four, Christmas UFOs at the moment, and I won't finish them all, but I'm going to make a push on this one:

Dimensions Gold, "A Kiss for Snowman"
I thought it would look cute if I finished the figures before I started the background, and I think it does!

It feels like ages since I've done any cross stitch, but I think I last touched this piece in June. That was when I decided to unpick all the half cross stitches from the blue snowman body. It took two days! The trick was to pull them out without damaging the full crosses. It only took one day to stitch them in again.

Why did I put myself through that? Crazy perfectionism? Maybe. But here's the issue:

I am never really sure which way to stitch the half cross stitches. Should they slope up to the right, like the first or bottom layer of a full cross stitch, or up to the left, like the top part of a full cross? I have done it both ways on different projects. As you can see, the Dimensions instructions say to slope up to the right, like the lower layer of the cross stitch. And that's how I started with the snowman body.

But, I didn't like it. There was a clear shadow line where the stitch direction changes. So on the snowman face I stitched the half crosses parallel to the top stitch of the full crosses, which smoothed it all out and made the shading more natural. Then, once both figures were done, I realized I had enough thread left in the kit to restitch the body so it would all align.

From now on, I'll be stitching the half crosses in the way that gives the desired effect, rather than just unconsciously following the pattern!

The next step is to stitch the entire background in half crosses going the other way, so hopefully the figures will stand forward a little. And hopefully, it'll be done before Christmas!

Monday, May 19, 2014

16 Snowmen Blocks Done!

All my log cabin snowmen blocks are now done! Here's the final layout:

I have to say that my plan to randomly select my next project has been a success. Even when I was tempted to start something else over the past couple of weeks, the inital burst of energy from the quilt "lottery" generated enough momentum to carry me through. Fortunately, the chosen project was not very large, so that helped too!

The next step here will be to sandwich and quilt the blocks individually, and then join them at the end. But before I get to that, I have a backlog of projects to quilt. More on that in the next post!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Four More Snowmen Blocks

I haven't had much time to sew this week, but I do have another four of the log cabin snowmen blocks to show you.

My original plan was to use just the almost-solid blenders on the front of the quilt, and have a very graphic, more modern look. The white snowflake fabric in the block above was intended for the back. However, once I started cutting the strips for the blocks I realized that I didn't have enough for the top, and I had to "borrow" from the back.

That's what I get for buying the fabric before I finalize the design! But, I'm actually quite pleased with the way it looks, I think it adds a little sparkle to the quilt.

I hope I still have enough fabric for the back!

Friday, May 9, 2014

First Four Snowmen Blocks

I've had a fun day today, cutting the rest of my flannel strips and piecing the first four snowman blocks for my lap quilt, It's Warm Inside. Flannel is great to work with, I've found. All my fabric goes through both the washer and dryer, and the flannel is practically felt when it comes out. It doesn't fray, it doesn't stretch, the pieces stick together when you sew...easy!

I finished the first four blocks and while I was ironing the last seams open and congratulating myself on a job well done...

Whoops! LOL. Time to call it a day. But I did fix it first.

Last time I said I would give all the measurements, which I am now regretting because I don't know if anyone really needs measurements for a log cabin block. These ones will finish at 12" square. But I know estimating yardage can be tricky, so I think what I'll do is write the whole thing up in a proper pattern once the quilt is done.

So, here are the first four blocks finished, with the red and green block fixed up:

The flannels are all from Connecting Threads, by the way, from their Quilter's Candy Flannel Basics collection. And still available too!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Strip Chain Piecing

Here's my next new project, which I'm calling "It's Warm Inside." This is one of my randomly selected projects from a couple weeks ago. The concept is that we are looking out at the snowmen through window frames, while cozy inside. I was inspired by a photo of this project that was posted on Sew Mama Sew, but made by Shruti from And yes, it's just taken me half an hour to track down those links! project will be a log cabin lap quilt with several "new-to-me" techniques, including a version of quilting in sections and the strip chain piecing that I used to make the framed snowmen above. Judy Niemeyer uses a variation of this with paper piecing, which I'll be using when I get back to Riviera Star as well. So it was good to get some easy practice first!

Strip chain piecing is a fun technique that I will definitely use again. But, I made a couple of wrong moves, so I can share a few tips so you can learn from my mistakes! Plus, I'll give you all the measurements in case you want to make it yourself.*

I started by fussy cutting the 16 snowmen into 2.5" squares from two suitable fabrics I found in my stash. I had another fabric with snowmen too, but they were too small for the frames and it didn't look good. The white strips are cut 1" wide by the width of the fabric (WOF). For the 16 blocks I only needed 5 strips.

I started the strip chain piecing by putting just the white strip in the sewing machine and taking a few anchor stitches 1/4" from the edge. My fabric is a solid, but if yours is printed put it right side up. Then, with the needle down, lift the presser foot, lay one of the squares face down on the strip and right against the needle. The square and the strip should be right sides together and lined up along the right edge. Lower the presser foot and continue sewing your 1/4" seam. Once you've sewn down the square, keep the needle down, lift the presser foot, lay down the next square, and repeat to the end of the strip.

Benefit #1: No pins are needed, because the presser foot holds down the top of the square, and you can just keep a finger (carefully!) or a stylus on the bottom edge until it's sewn.

Benefit #2: All my snowmen were cut on the bias, but the strip underneath stabilizes the seam so it doesn't stretch at all.

Tip #1: Iron the seam open before you cut apart the blocks, it is more accurate. I didn't do that for the first strip, and some of the edges came out a little wonky.

Also, make sure the seam allowance is pressed away from the centre, which you can see is wrong in the photo. I had to go back and re-iron all these after I cut them apart!

Once you have cut apart all the blocks, you can start another strip and sew as before, laying each block in face down and sewing them to the strip one at a time. When you work clockwise around the block, and you iron the seam allowances away from the centre, all the seam allowances will be "down hill" as you sew, so no pins are needed.

Tip #2: Use a ruler to cut the strips apart, and keep squaring them up as you go. The next raw edge should be 2 1/4" from the opposite seam. I tend to sew a scant seam, so I often trimmed away a sliver of fabric from the centre while I was separating the pieces.

Once the four sides were sewn on, I gave all the pieces a final trim to square them up to exactly 3.5".

The next step will be to cut the rest of the outer strips, which will be in flannel, and finish the blocks. I'm hoping the contrasting fluffy and smooth fabrics will be interesting on the finished quilt. It's a lot of cutting...

...but, working with flannel like this is also "new to me," and it's been fun too, so far!

*Everyone is welcome to make this quilt for personal or charity use only.  Design, photos and text are copyrighted. Please contact me in the comments or via my profile with any questions.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Bad Behaviour and a New Approach

Well, I'm back. I've had more than my fill of doctor's waiting rooms, and I have no intention of going back any time soon!

I have not been able to do a lot of sewing, but I've definitely had lots of time to think! Back at the beginning of the year you may recall that I had bold plans to shelve all my old UFOs and start anew with a clean slate. After just four months it's clear that was a complete failure. All my UFOs have crept back onto the to do list.

Plus, I started one...

...two... projects over the break! And, I've noticed that I compensate for not sewing by buying more fabric, but I better not go into detail about that, lol. Both the new projects are foundation paper pieced. The maple leaves are batiks that have been waiting for their moment for a long time, and the winter star is new fabric, the Jack Frost 10" square collection from Keepsake Quilting. Beware -- most of these fabrics are home dec weight, and not the best for detailed piecing!

Anyway, I've forgiven myself for the new starts. It's been a stressful time, so a temporary distraction was helpful.

But I also still think I need fewer current projects. I've decided to cut them down to five categories and choose just one from each:
  1. Machine Pieced
  2. Hand Applique
  3. Stitchery/Embroidery
  4. English Paper Piecing
  5. Cross Stitch
I've realized that I am much more productive when I have fewer decisions to make. So, I made lists of all started or ready-to-start projects in each area and used a random number generator to choose which ones to work on now. I was worried that I wouldn't like the results, but actually I love them. Each time the random number came up, I felt a big sense of relief when I checked it against the list. I think any result would have been a relief -- sometimes it's just helpful to make a decision. 

So, the first round of projects will be:

  1. It's Warm Inside -- a log cabin lap quilt to be made with this cute snowglobes flannel fabric I bought from Connecting Threads last fall. A brand new project!
  2. Trick or Treat Baskets, designed by Barb Adams and Alma Allen of Blackbird Designs, in their book When the Cold Wind Blows. I saw this quilt recently on Supergoof's blog (it's the second basket quilt in that post), and I had to add it to the list. I've seen others working on it too. I like the Supergoof's pink and white blocks, and I bought a little of Connecting Threads' new Hampton Hues collection to add to fabrics from my stash. Another brand new project! And a big one...
  3. L'Herbier -- Two of the 16 embroidered blocks are done. I'm hoping this will move along easily, now that all the kinks are worked out.
  4. Texas Star -- There were only two choices in the category, this one or the setting for BFF. I guess BFF will be on hold for a while!
  5. A Kiss for Snowman -- I had an absolute craving for cross stitch over the break, and this is the project I've been working on. I did not choose a random number on this, I'm determined to get it done soon!
It will be interesting to see how this new approach works out. Two winter projects, just as summer is starting! Right now I'm feeling pretty motivated, so, fingers crossed!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mesa Santa

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a good holiday, or at least, better than us! We have been through the wringer here in Toronto, where a massive ice storm knocked out power, and therefore heat in most homes, for several days in subzero temperatures right over the holiday.

After the first night we moved to my sister's cat-infested house, which had power the whole time. I am extremely allergic, and recovering from a surgery the week before, so it was pretty challenging. But, I'm glad she was able to take us in! It could have been much worse. We are back home now and the lights are on, but it will probably take a few more days to really recover from it all.

This Mesa Santa Christmas ornament in the photo above is one of the Southwest Santas collection from Mill Hill. Do you see the cute armadillo in the lower right corner? I love his blanket too, with just a few chunks of turquoise to set it off. It was my take-along project to my sister's house. So, at least I got one more project both started and finished in 2013.

I'm sure ready for a fresh start in 2014!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Well, I'm taking off early this year, so I'll wish everyone a happy winter holiday now! I did not have time to finish all the placemats from the last post, but at the least the potholders were finished before I packed it all away:

My internet access will be sporadic, but I'll still be sewing, I hope!

And, let me be the first to ask you, have you been considering any New Year's resolutions? I have! Last night I heard a local radio DJ who has resolved to gain weight over the holidays, lol. This made me think that maybe it is time for a whole new attitude to New Year's resolutions. Feel free to leave any of your "anti-resolutions" in the comments, and I'll be back around the New Year with mine!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Start on Christmas

Ever since the deluge of "Christmas in July" marketing emails, and many blog posts too, I've been completely off the idea of Christmas. I understand that the fabric companies need to give you lead time to make your Christmas projects, but I just can't think about Christmas when it's hot and sunny outside. It's my conditioning. But, now that we've had a couple of cold and rainy days, suddenly, a cozy Christmas project seems just the thing!

So, this is a new-ish cross stitch project, "A Kiss For Snowman" from Dimensions Gold Petites. I say new-ish because I actually started it last year, but it was so similar to my Lima Beans project that I put it away again. It is stitched on 18 ct aida in crosses and half-crosses with varying weights of thread, similar to other Dimensions Gold Petites projects that I have done. The stitching will finish at 6" square, and the piece is destined for the centre of a Christmas pillow. The last Dimensions Gold project took me 5 months, so I'm not sure that I'll finish this by Christmas, but at least it gets me in the right mood!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Smoky Mountain Santa

Here's the last Appalachian Santa from Mill Hill, the Smoky Mountain Santa. It's been in a partially done state for quite a while - I think I started it 18 months ago while waiting for my car to be smog checked at Canadian Tire - so I am happy to see it finally completed.

I hope everyone has had/is having a great Christmas. Mine has been excellent. Plus, I got an extra present when I logged on today - my blog just passed the 10,000 page views mark! That's a good-feeling milestone.

Back to quilting tomorrow. I've started the machine quilting on Edward's quilt, and the nine patch flimsy just has four long seams left too. My goal is to have them both quilted and bound before the next meeting of my quilt guild at the end of January. Celtic Spring will be a year old next month, so I'd like to finish it before the end of January too, but I don't know if that's reasonable. Everyone has been asking me what I plan to buy in the Boxing Day sales tomorrow, and I've been saying that I really can't even fathom any more new projects right now. I am so ready to close out some of these lingering projects! I am in a finishing frame of mind. Let's hope it lasts. :D

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Blue Ridge Santa

When I saw Jillian's finished Mill Hill ornament Melchior last week, I thought it could be a good way to test out my wrist again too. This is the second of the Appalachian Santas, the Blue Ridge Santa. I stitched it entirely while watching dippy Christmas movies. This was silly fun at first, but believe me, I am WAY past the saturation point on Christmas now!

I have the third one half done and ready for the beads, but I think it will go back in the box for the time being. I'm not sure if I'll be posting again before Christmas or not, so if not,

Happy Christmas!

Related Post

The first Appalachian Santa

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happily Stripping

Here's the photo that got Eleanor Burns on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.  It's from Failblog, and the caption reads "Nobody wants to see that.. ever."  To me, what's really funny here is that the teenage boys (and Ellen, apparently) who run Failblog assumed that Burns didn't understand the double entendre.

I saw this when it first posted on Failblog, but it wasn't until I watched Eleanor on TQS that I heard about Ellen's involvement. I would love to say that I stopped reading Failblog because I'd matured, but the truth is that the ads became so intrusive that I couldn't hear the videos! Here's my all time favourite photo from Failblog:

Today's title includes the word "happily" because I have just figured out that I can sew strips without pins.  It is extremely freeing!  Not to mention way faster.  Right now I am making placemats.  These ones will be with the Christmas fabric I just bought at Fabricland:


These are nice, wide strips that will finish at 3.5" and are mostly from a lightweight home decor fabric. They went together so well that I was inspired to try it without pins. Then that went so well that I tried it with quilt fabric. First with 2" finished strips, and then when that worked, with 1" finished strips:

The real breakthrough came this morning when I tried to put the final chequerboard together, also without pins:

Every corner came out perfectly! Win!

The secret is to keep the strip with the seam allowances that are ironed upwards on top, with the seams pressed the other way on the bottom strip. This happens automatically when you are alternating directions like I did here. Then the presser foot pushes the top seam against the bottom one, and does the work for you. I have a few strip-pieced quilt projects similar to these waiting in the wings, so I am thrilled to have improved my process like this!

Although I have never read a book from Eleanor Burns, I really enjoyed her Legends show on The Quilt Show. She wrote her first book before she finished her first quilt! I identified with her quite a bit. :)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tipsy Tree Brooch

It was like opening Pandora's box when I pulled out the Allegheny Santa the other day! Those Mill Hill kits are addictive!  Here's another quick finish to show:

Cute, eh? This one is almost all beads, with some satin stitches and Smyrna crosses to give variety.  Less than four hours, all in.  My mom wants one too, so I have kept the pattern this time. I think I can dredge up enough supplies from my stash to make one more.

I'm getting in that holiday mood!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Allegheny Santa

Just a quick finish to show you today.  I've been working on this while waiting for my replacement bulb for my sewing lamp.  It's one of the many Santa ornaments that Mill Hill has produced over the years.  This is one of the three Appalachian Santas.

Usually I work on these while on the road.  They are great take-along projects, and can be done in a small space and with any reasonable light.  I've done quite a few over the years!

In any case, my new bulb arrived yesterday, so now I am spoiled for choice while I consider what's next!
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