Friday, August 31, 2012

Coaster of the Month - August

I wasn't sure what to do this month, then earlier this week I saw a tutorial at Canoe Ridge Creations for their contribution to the Festival of Hexagons series of hex tutorials which just finished up.

I've been meaning to get around to paper piecing some of them, but this was the first actual hexagon I've cut and used.

This was nice fast project, it took me less than an hour and that included a few minutes with a seam ripper (don't ask...)

I stitched around the edge with white thread, then some Aurifil around the hexagon, then my common sense deserted me and I started making sewing triangl-y bits around the border...I don't know what was up with that, I thought I'd use more of the variegated thread for some amazing effect... if I were to do it again, I'd just sew around the center hexagon with a few rows of thread. 

The back?  I just grabbed a couple of pink scraps.  I don't think I plan on turning this over too often, but I do plan on making some more of this shape, it was a fun project.

One thing you might be wondering if  you don't have a hexagon template is "How the heck do I make a 1.75" hexagon?  The website Incompetech has a great free tool to be able to make your own hexagon or triangle templates for paper piecing, graph paper, and a few other fun things.  You just plug in the size you need and voila!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mario Pillow - Mission Accomplished!

Angela at Cut to Pieces is in the process of doing a Mario Brothers quilt a long.  Now I played Pong on our Atari console as a kid, Kangaroo anyplace I could find it, and even Sonic the Hedgehog for like THREE hours as a  teenager to impress my boyfriend, but I certainly skipped right over the whole Mario thing.

I did manage to grow up to be somewhat of a video & board game lover (my husband works in the game industry so it's the least I can do?) but since I never played it, I don't usually really understand what all the excitement is about.

Pillow Back with extra 1.5" strips
My friend Scot really loves Mario.  Like "hoping for a Mario themed wedding cake" loves. I made the mistake of telling him about the quilt along even though he had already been haranguing me (if you read this Scot, don't try denying it) yes haranguing me to make him something Mario related.  I had no desire to  because well...Mario just isn't "pretty".  Then this quilt along showed up and the amount of work that is going into those blocks, well, you have to be really committed.  I've been doing so much hand stitching and quilting that my body isn't up to something of that magnitude right now.

 Scot is commuting 1100 miles today to go to a Seattle gaming convention (or visit me, I think its a toss up), and with my husband prefacing his visit by saying very unhelpful things like "Why don't you make Scot some Mario coasters ?" I decided I better make something before I was driven to violence.  Since Angela is awesomely posting PDF's of the blocks as they go in the flickr group for the QAL...

I decided to take the PDF of the Mario block, and break it down into longer strips instead of 1.5" squares  By just adding 1/4" seam allowance to the end of each color block, I was able to cut down the wear and tear on my body.   Luckily I finally got a 1/4" piecing foot which made this SO much easier (and straighter) when I put it together. I ended up with close to a 19" square, which could've been made a wee bit smaller to fit my 18" insert.  It's possible other people have done this for the QAL, I haven't had time to look through the whole group lately.

I thought I should use some embroidery too.  Scot likes to be told he's awesome (a Canadian thing?) so I put it in writing for him, I need to keep practicing that skill (embroidery, not flattering my friends).

He'd wanted to make himself a Piranha plant footstool after seeing a tutorial for it, so I figured he'd appreciate one on his pillow too, and I found an interesting take of it online .

Joann's Fabrics had all all the colors I needed in Kona cotton for this in stock (a miracle)!

I used fusible interfacing on the back of the embroidery to protect it, and since I had practiced zippers for my pouches earlier this year, I opted for a zipper closure.  It took a long full day to do the cutting and sewing, and a shorter day to do the embroidery.  I am not totally displeased with how it turned out (that counts as my version of a compliment to myself :).  I've put it in the "guest bedroom" (futon sofa residing in my husband's game room) on the bed for a surprise when he gets here in a few hours , and I now I feel I don't have to do anything else nice to prove I'm a good friend until his wedding next summer!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Zakka Style Sew Along - Pleated Coin Purse

what? you say its slightly lopsided?
This was one of the Zakka Style projects I was looking forward to the most.  I was worried because it involved a purse frame & a new lining technique.  I was SUPPOSED to do this technique for a couple of garments I've made, but I was nervous about it. I followed the excellent, straightforward instructions for this particular Zakka Style project and before I knew it I'd done it!

The outer fabric is Lotta Jansdotter's small spring buds in Espresso (sigh that makes me want coffee) and it's lined with Valori Wells Liv in Coral from the Cocoon collection.  I'm not sure the combination was the best choice, but I get to imagine giant butterflies landing on delicate flowers, so I'm happy.

My purse hardware is from Bagpurseframes on  They have an amazing amount of purse hardware, their items ship from the source so they take a bit longer to make it to you, but it was kind of fun to get my first mail from China and it got here in plenty of time for this week's project!  Now that I've almost successfully accomplished my first purse with a frame, I'm looking forward to planning more in the future.

I think my only complaint about this is that it doesn't have a wide enough mouth for how deep it is to put your hand in and dig around the bottom and root around for stuff, if you are the sort to put "stuff" in a purse.

 I can't actually picture using it for change, it's 2x bigger than I'd want a coin purse to be I think - but filling it with a lip gloss, compact and eyeliner? Perfect.  If you didn't line it with batting and used interfacing it'd be much more flexible to bring the bottom up to you, so I may try that the next time.

ooh the light is glistening off the beads!
As shown, I have more of these frames with different colored beads. I'd love to alter the shape of this to make a glasses case for my husband, but I think he'd object to the giant beads, so I'll have to make one for my sunglasses instead.  At this rate my purse is going to be full of things I've made, which pretty cool now that I think of it.  Great challenge... I need to empty out my purse and make a container for every single thing in there. Then I need to make my own purse, shoes, and knit my own socks so I wander the streets in 100% handmade goods!

Saturday, August 25, 2012 3 lb. Remnant Overview & Autumn Fabric Giveaway

The Quilting Gallery is hosting a blog hop party of giveaways to celebrate back to school times.  The full list of participating blogs will be up on Monday, so make sure to stop on by there and check it out.  It's good timing for me, since there's a better chance people who are interested in seasonal fabric will see this! Please feel free to look around. 3 pound assortment
I wanted to go over my Three Pound Remnant bundle from They're out of stock today but they'll be back.  Last month described them a bit more in detail on their FB wall, so I got intrigued enough to roll the dice.  I always search for reviews & pictures before I order a bundle so I have a better idea of what I might get, and would hate to forget to do my part.

Description: You will receive three pounds of cotton fabric, approximately nine yards of fabric. Assortments are packaged at random with end-of-the-bolt remnant fabrics. Individual fabric pieces can range in size from 1/8 yard up about one yard each.

This is good or bad depending on your outlook, I ended up with 9 different fabrics, about one yard each.  However since I either don't like most of them, or they aren't suited for my style, I'm a bit let down, I was hoping for smaller cuts and more variety.  I do think the bottom middle one will be fun to use (Velocity Tonal City in Navy - Jessica Hogarth for P&B fabric)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Heather Ross Nursery Versery - Live On Stage

My favorite spider of all
I'd been waiting for Heather Ross' Nursery Versery to be available at Intrepid thread, I really just wanted to make sure to get the Itsy Bitsy Spider print because it's so freakin adorable, but when Rachel at Stitched in Color decided to throw down the gauntlet and challenge us to do something with this line, I gave in and got a bundle from even though I had no ideas at all.

The only other Heather Ross fabric I've gotten my hands on is one of her guitar prints, which also arrived this Tuesday along with my Nursery Versery bundle. (Oh If only I'd gotten into sewing a year or two earlier!) and I decided to do something that incorporated it.  "It's Raining" is not my favorite Peter, Paul and Mary song by far, but it seemed apt for the print, especially as soon it's going to be rainy season here again. (Just to note, I'm torn between "500 Miles" and "Lemon Tree" ;)

So that's what this is, Peter Paul and Mary on stage giving an outdoor concert.  I resisted the tempation to embroider long blonde hair on the female pig though...

I was going to make a mug rug originally, but the size kept increasing,and it turned into a er...somewhat rectangular wall hanging (9" by 12"). I used embroidery (poorly!) hand and machine applique & hand stitching on this.  I also learned I really need to practice binding corners on smaller projects!


 I used Rowan Fabrics shot cotton for the grass (considered embroidering blades of grass onto it but nixed the idea) Essex linen for the stage, Art Gallery Pure Elements in Fresh Blue for the embroidery/sky.

I like aspects of it, but mostly I like that I did something outside of my comfort zone.  I dig tweaking other people's patterns and ideas, but I've never really improvised like this before and I'm not a creative type at all, so its nice to know that my brain is capable of making silly things.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wonky Star Engagement Quilt Top

I finally finished my 4th large quilt top.  I wrote about the inspiration for this in June when I made my cat bed.  The stars use quite a bit of fabric, and involves tons of cutting & trimming, so I'm glad to be done with this part.  I added a border to it right after I took it down,  it was a bit smaller than I wanted it to be. The tutorial I used for for the wonky stars is on The Silly BooDilly blog.

I got this done the night before my husband went on a work trip, and while tempted to ask him to go hold it up for me at 6 am before his flight, resisted.  None of our trees are really set up for anything to hang evenly, so I jury rigged some zip ties and dangling twine off a magnolia tree, and managed to get it hanging "somewhat" evenly.

This is going to be an engagement gift for my lovely ex-husband and his fiance - he said he liked blues and greens, and she liked oranges and reds, so I attempted to work a lot of those hues into it.  Sadly I ordered the fabric before I got a Kona color card so I ended up not quite as thrilled by some of the colors in person.

After making a lot of the solid stars, they were reading as flat and dull to me, so I decided to mix some prints into it - are all my choices successful? Probably not, but he's given me some duds of gifts over the years, so I'm not too concerned ;) With the prints, and adding a few stars in Art Gallery's Pure Element's empire yellow, I feel it has a lot more life in it now.

It is now sandwiched, and I've decided to do a binding-less quilt.  That wasn't exactly my plan.  I ordered 118" Kona Premium Muslin for the back, measured carefully enough to cut strips off to border the front, then found myself 2 inches short since I neglected to take what would be the new larger size of the front into account.  I'd say I wont make that mistake again but...I'm sure I will. On the bright side the Kona muslin is actually pretty soft and snuggly, I will probably use it in the future too.

My plan is to do hand quilting around a lot of the stars, though I am thinking to do a series of machine quilted squares around it just to make sure it is well stabilized first. Luckily I think it will be a long enough engagement that by the time I finish, it hasn't become a wedding gift!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Zakka Style Sew Along - Little Pocket Pillowcase

Having been under the weather all week, I had decided to pass on this Zakka Style Sew Along project until some time down the road.  Then Heidi at Fabric Mutt posted her version with a smaller pillow instead of a pillowcase, and I was all charmed by it.  I decided to I had to go ahead with something similar.

I'm often in danger of  not starting a project, or putting it down and never finishing it, if I don't get to it while its on my mind, and I was afraid that would happen to this.

We have friends expecting a boy in October, who have a 3 year old girl.   I plan on making a baby blanket for him, but since I've only been crafting/quilting since earlier this year, hadn't made anything for her.  I'm pretty sure it's a crime to give a present to one kid without giving one to the other, so I'd always had this project in mind for her.

I made the diamonds larger (and no they didn't line up).  I used a bit of Woodland Tails by Riley Blake & Monaluna's Fox Hollow on the front & Lesley Grainger's Pretty Paisley Flannel for the back and bear.  I plan on using the same fabrics for the baby quilt.

The dimensions ended up being 10" by 12"  I'm thinking of this as more of a "Traveling Bear Sleeping Bag".  When I took it outside for its photo shoot and carried it back inside under my arm, I decided I might want to make myself one, it travels nicely that way!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hey, so I remembered libraries exist!

I was a rampant library goer since elementary school, you kind of have to be when you're an avid reader.  After I was done with all my "higher learning" and moved back to WA in 2003 I just never got around to getting another library card.  When I started looking into quilting at the beginning of the year I saw a ton of books I wanted, but with full bookshelves and that thing called a "budget" I was in a bit of a quandary about figuring out where to start.  I've bought a number of sewing books that weren't that useful and I didn't want to repeat that with quilting/crafts.

I used to pacify the guilt I had at borrowing books instead of buying them by reminding myself that since I didn't have kids, but taxes went to support schools and libraries, that I should take advantage of the library services as much as possible.   Once I remembered that, I ran to get a card pronto!

Our library system is awesome, Seattle has so many branches I've managed to get a ton of books in the last two months so I could winnow through them and see which ones I felt I needed. (By the way, technology has sure advanced, I was totally embarrassed to find out that you don't check your books out at the desk anymore, you just go to a computer and scan them all in - I mean even held books are just on a shelf in alphabetical order by lendee name and you just go in, grab them yourself, check em out yourself...60 seconds tops, its amazing.)

First picture in Denyse Schmidt's Quilts - decided I must buy it no matter what, must make beds and all!
I have a technique for figuring out which books to purchase.  I use business cards to mark projects I'd like to make as I browse through them.  If I bookmark more than two projects I consider it, and if it has 4 pages bookmarked its a "must buy".

Yep, the only reason I'm writing this post is to say that if you aren't utilizing your library I highly recommend it!  My most recent purchases are;
Denyse Schmidt: Quilts - by Denyse Schmitdt and Bethany Lyttle
Fat Quarterly - Shape Workshop for /quilters -  by 4 awesome people
Doodle stitching: The Motif Collection: 400+ Easy Embroidery Designs by Aimee Ray

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rainbow-y Kona Patchwork Wheel Quilt in Progress

Blargh!  I've spent the last week sick, the kind of sick where you're loopy and babbling nonsense and people giggle at you.  The kind of sick where you don't leave the house and don't even want to go outside during the 8 weeks of sun Seattle gets a year.  The kind of sick where, horror of horrors... you can hardly sew....

I am optimistic that I am almost coherent now.  I finally felt up to working on the stitching and binding of my Handstitched quilt.

Alyssa over at Pile O' Fabric hosted a Kona charm swap last month. (She may be doing more so I'm keeping an eye out!)  I got to choose from some lighter purples (ewww!) and I chose crocus and thistle.   I figured when I got my charms in I'd just put them in a drawer and forget about them.

When they got here though, I was all OOOOH and AHHH at the pretty rainbow inside the envelope.  Though it would've made sense to put them away until later because I have hrmm... 3 large quilts, one lap quilt, and one mini in progress....

Poppy Makes - patchwork wheels quilt
I saw this really cool quilt over at Poppy Makes... using patchwork wheel blocks.  There is a great tutorial for this block over at Don't Call Me Betsy.

My hope is to match most of the Kona solid charms with prints, and end up with a variegated rainbow of a quilt.  (I do not trust this idea will translate into reality, but I'm giving it a try anyway!)

This is a bit of what I have started for this quilt.  This one is going to take a long time because my fabric stash isn't nearly big enough to have all the colors in it, and matching will be done by luck instead of purposefully ordering for it (we'll see how long I can hold out).  I'll certainly be rearranging things for a long time before making any placement decisions.

Alright, time for a good nights sleep so I have the energy to get back to hand stitching!  (Just kidding, I'm going to watch some Top Chef Master re-runs first ;)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ali Makes Wine Part IV: Labels

The Banana Pineapple Viognier "mist" wine I just bottled is really meant to be drunk within a year or so unless you add extra sulphites to it (which I didn't).  Because of this I figured I didn't have to come up with an impressive label to stand the test of time.  I wasn't feeling creative so that really worked in my favor!   I opted for a very basic banana/pineapple picture but I felt I had to do something to it.  As I think the Polaroid quilts I've been seeing around Blogland are interesting, I decided to incorporate that into the label.  This way its like the banana and pineapple are posing for pictures during a date at the school dance. 

Only one wine kit I've used came with its own labels, so I tinkered up the rest myself (albeit not with my own artwork so much).   You can order generic labels, but it can be a lot more fun to do your own, and if you are giving out wine to friends and family it feels great to have the bottle to show a bit more of your personality.  As I was trying to figure out what to do for this last wine, I thought I'd revisit my my previous "work".

The very first wine I made was not from a kit.  I went to a local market and bought a bunch of red & concord grapes, red & black plums, red & Rainier cherries for the main fruits, and raisins,  golden raisins & a banana for body.  Oh and on top of that a can of Welches grape juice.  It actually became quite drinkable after a year or so.   It takes a lot more work and care to wing it, so thats why I'm grateful for wine kits.

My husband really likes Fennec foxes, so I made my first ever Photoshopped project for the wine around them.  I am not a giant fan of Photoshop since I don't use it often enough to remember how to do what, but I managed to  get 5 different elements together in one photo & I love how silly my label turned out. 

This wine tasted much worse than the label looked!

Last years wine "cooler"

My first wine kit

My favorite label to date

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Zakka Style Sew Along - Sweet Sugar Cookie Sack

There are only 5 weeks left after this one in the Zakka Style sew along over at LRStitched.  I am doing two of them for sure, and possibly four. I really think quilt and sew alongs are my favorite things I've discovered this year!  This week the Zakka Style project is a sweet sugar cookie sack filled with felt sugar cookies.

I really have no use at all for felt sugar cookies, but what I do have a use for is a fun way to package some cat toys.  Last year I made a couple of catnip toys for Christmas presents, and I am hoping to get a bit more creative each year, as I've yet to meet a cat that was impressed by the same old gift.

With that in mind, I decided to embroider my label with a ca friendly motif.  I used Essex linen in steel for the body, an Anna Maria Horner chocolate lollipop print for the trim & mammabird in violet by Valori Wells for the label.

For thread I tried Aurifil for the first time, a variegated pink and white in 12 weight, the thickest thread they make.  I don't think my machine appreciated it to much, it was acting cranky!

I just made two catnip "cookies" since the holidays are so far away still.   Plain old cheap felt for the cookies themselves, with double sided web tape fusing the top layer of felt "frosting" on so it would stay secure before decorating with a "sprinkles". (Hey, I'm getting really good at put words in "quotes"!)  I stuffed the toys with poly-fil and a tablespoon of Sojos catnip.

I'm pretty sure the bag should be able to sit upright by itself,mine does not I don't think I trimmed enough off the inside corners, but it probably would if filled with heavier objects such as homemade cat treats.

I made the mistake of leaving the catnip toys out  while I ate lunch, and went back into the living room to find my kitty Tzatziki  hanging out on the ironing board playing with them already.  I guess that makes it a success!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Totally Groovy Quilt Along

I was a bit behind on the" getting ready to get started on this" bit of the Totally Groovy QAL over at Pile O' Fabric

Friday afternoon I ordered my pattern and 22 hours later I got the mail and it was here!  Carolina Patchworks happens to be not too far up the road, which I DID know when I pinned the picture months ago but had since forgotten.  That's Gasworks park in the background, a place where I've gone since I could walk for picnics, field trips,  concerts, and had the most successful kite flying of my life!

I think I have my colors mostly narrowed down, but not quite.  I don't want to go with all Kona because I find a lot of the colors dull and flat when used in  large chunks.  Moda Bella swatches are so teeny it's not that helpful to try to chose from their color card, though I'm trying.  I love Pat Bravo's Pure Elements, but the colors seem to run on the more vibrant side, and I'm trying to go a bit more subtle with this (that and they tend to be a bit more expensive and this quilt takes quite a bit of fabric!)

I got kind of enamored of this bundle at the Fat Quarter Shop, and was torn between it and a pale washed beachy theme, but since it gets so gloomy here a lot of the year I thought I should play it safe and go with a bit more of a cheerful color scheme. 

I think I'm going to only make a throw or twin sized quilt from this pattern, since I don't think my husband would like our bed to be covered with something so retro.  ( I mean I asked but he seemed non-committal and I get the oddest looks from him when I ask him questions about quilts ;)

 It DOES look like, however, that if I wanted to add on to it after finishing the top, it is easy enough to change my mind and make a larger size.  Anyhoo, I think I'm going to opt for something along the colors to the left there. Oh choices choices!

Friday, August 3, 2012

I'm done! I'm done! I'm done!

Thank goodness for cat kennels!
Ok, I'm not done but I'm caught up!  I stayed up until 1:30 am Friday morning finishing the embroidery, making the backing, and sandwiching my Modern Medallion quilt for Handstitched class.   My husband wasn't home to hold it up for me so I just took a few quick horrible pictures before taking it back in to start marking for hand quilting.

I wet blocked the top (that was fun to try), and got a lot of the waviness out of the center medallion & paper pieced blocks.  I may do it again, as there is some rippling at the outer edges and the center has stretched again during sandwiching.

I had my share of problems with this quilt.  99% of them were because I didn't follow  written instructions, or watch a video all the way through to see what I was supposed to do.  That didn't stop me from failing to follow directions over and over again though!

Things I did "different"
- Square quilts are not my "thing"  so I added a couple of strips of fabric to elongate it into a rectangle.
- Altered the embroidery towards the center - some of its a hit, some a miss.  I was all over the map with Indian additions & lopsidedness.
 - Adding a ginkgo leaf stencil to two borders for the hand quilting. (I'm pretending ginkgo trees are from Morocco instead of China).

Quilt Back
Quilt back: I didn't really want to piece together fabric for a backing, but I hadn't planned ahead and then it was time to put it all together!  I used some leftover solids and a print, excess 2.5" strips from the border, some of the sheeting I used for the center medallion, and two 1/2 yards cuts of Illuminate in Orange from the 1001 Peeps collection by Lizzy House (I accidentally ordered half a yard from two different shops in the same week...hadn't planned on using it for this) I'm pretending the little candle holders are  genie lamps!

Peeps Illuminate in Orange

Tzatziki making herself at home

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ali Makes Wine Part III: Bottling

checking for clarity
So the third part of making wine (unless you are aging it for long term before getting around to it) is bottling.  This is the part I like least, as its messy and involves quite a bit of cleaning, but it is satisfying to get it accomplished (and it does make the living room look prettier once it is wine equipment free!). 

The wine is ready to be bottled when it's perfectly clear, which is much easier to see with white wines than reds.  The wine also should be free of carbon dioxide, if not, it will keep be a bit bubbly when you uncork it. 

Aging wine before bottling does have the benefit of giving it time to release any residual CO2 so you can avoid potential fizzy wine.

floor corker
I've upgraded a couple things from the basics, mainly from a hand corker to a Portuguese floor corker my Sister-in-law got me for Christmas a couple of years ago (which means I can bottle the wine all by myself, and if I arrange everything right I can sit in one spot without moving around to fill and cork the bottles, where I used to have to have my husband hand cork or risk having the bottles sit out getting exposed to air for too long) and a Buon Vino Automatic Auto Bottle Gravity Filler, which stops filling a bottle at a certain level, so you don't accidentally overfill it. I did try upgrading to a gadget that squirts sanitizing liquid up into the bottle so I didn't have to soak them, but it never worked.

bottle tree
After washing and sanitizing your bottles, it's easiest to let them drip dry them on a bottle tree next to where you're going to be doing the bottling.

When its time to fill them,  I set up 5 or 6 bottles at a time in a large pot to minimize splashes or spills so it doesn't make too much of a mess (note, I always make QUITE a mess during this process anyway, with splashing sanitizer and all). Then it's an easy process to cork one bottle while waiting for the next to fill.

Waiting to be labeled
After all your wine is bottled, you then get to deal with the cleaning and sanitizing again of all your tools, the carboy, and the messy floor.   The bottles then sit upright for a few days to make sure that they don't have CO2 in and blow a cork out.  After you label them, you can store them on their sides or upside down (if you use actual cork) or you can store them upright if you use the plastic corks that are becoming more common in wine bottling.

This batch of wine made 26 bottles, I did not siphon off the wine off the residue on the bottom into a new container before bottling so the bits of solids at the bottom started mixing back into the wine when there was quite a bit left.  This ended up costing $3.50 a bottle with the corks, chemicals and all.

Last but not least (and certainly funnest!) will be labeling.