Saturday, February 27, 2010

Picking the fabric

People often ask me how I pick a fabric for a quilt.  First off, I have been stash busting for 4 years now, so I try to use what  have first (but after 4 years - I am happy to say that my stash is fairly small now!).  In the beginning of my stash busting I had to buy some red fabric and I made alot of log cabin quilts using light and dark strips to use up those late '80's calicos.  I like those old calicos - they all play together very nicely and make beautiful quilts.  Here are photos of 2 of my log cabins.  I've used left-overs bits to make checkerboard borders.  The left-over strips got made into quilts too - I just had to buy border fabric for the pastel one.  And more than 1 baby quilt was generated from the left-over strips too!

But, along the way, I got caught up with buying some "crazy" fabric.  Fortunately, I'm not a person who buys huge amounts at any one time - 1/2 a yard will go a long way for a scrap quilter.  I had to come up with a way to use those crazies - my Octagon Flowers is one of those quilts.  You just need a kalidoscope ruler to make these units.  Very easy!  I used a navy to help "frame" them and I love this fun quilt.  I think it is a pattern that would work with so many different fabrics as long as you use yardage to cut the strips for this quilt because it isn't fat quarter friendly.   Another "crazy" fabric quilt is my bargellos.  I like both of them very much, but the large one (pattern by Bonnie Hunter) I am going to remove the outer border and replace it with a darker/more solid fabric.  Like I said, I just like to "frame" those crazies in!  That large bargello used lots of impulse fat quarter purchases (I used just the colors that reminded me of a big field of flowers)!

Can't decide?  How about just picking 1 color to use.  I've done this more than once!  The smaller I cut the pieces, the more variety I use.  As long as I feel the fabric "reads" the color I want - I use it.  That green ocean waves quilt has some very interesting fabrics, but as a whole, it works.  The blue quilt used LOTS of odd blues, let me tell you!  The "white" is actually a small print that I had enough yardage on hand to use - so use it I did!

Odds and ends of  scraps - make great coin style quilts or wonky log cabins.  The coins I sort by color family.   In the quilt below is a small anchor block I made that my son really wanted in this quilt, so there it is!  The wonky log cabins - I just use anything (the centers are novelties cut into hearts and appliqued down).  Again, you can see that I used a solid or solid-ish fabric to frame it all.  I think I bound it in orange, but can't remember off the top of my head and don't have the photos here to refer to!  Again - these quilts were made using scraps and I bought yardage for the sashing/borders.

But my very favorite way of sorting my fabrics is by season.  Winter, Fall, Spring, Summer.  Fall tends to be my favorite color scheme.
That 3rd Fall quilt  - I started with the center fabric that I did have yardage of - and then picked the co-ordinating fall colored fabrics from my stash.  There are some "uglies" in there, but when you put it altogether you don't notice them!  This quilt is backed in flannel and one of our favorite couch snuggle quilts!  I liked the pattern so much that I made it again - again in Fall colors (the pattern is by Gayle Bong).  I am going to look for a nice Summer floral to use and will make it again.  You all know me by now - if I really love a pattern, I will make it over and over again - which would explain why I've made 3 Shakespear in the Parks and will be making it again this coming year in.... browns and pinks!

As much as I like the Fall colors, I do use Summer colors too.  Here is one...
I don't think you can go wrong with blue and yellow!  I had a chunk of yellow to use so that was the starting point!  The rest of the quilt - all scraps!  Even the star points are made with different fabrics, but they all look similar.  The borders - I bought after I made the top.
Very often, I will start with a color family and start making the blocks.  Once the blocks are made then I will buy the sashing fabric and border fabrics.  Because I like scrap quilts, a few fat quarters work really well for adding a new spark to my stash, without adding a ton of yardage.  BUT - it is usually cheaper to buy yardage, so in that case I will buy 1/3 or 1/2 a yard of fabric.  Think of the extra as "free".  Generally, fabric that I NEED to buy is the background, sashing or border fabrics.  I will buy 2 yards of a border, 3 if I want to use the same fabric for the binding.  I don't mind piecing my borders.  I usually make big quilts - if you make smaller quilts then maybe you don't need so much.  I also don't mind having a little left-over - makes for a good scrap basket!  Once everything is done or very close to being done - I buy the backing.  I love a nice backing.  Maybe one of these days I will piece a backing using scrap 10" squares - another great way to use up your stash.
Basically, when I get to a fabric store - I will only exactly what I need in of border/binding/sashing fabric (except I live so far from the store that I will buy an extra 1/4 to 1/3 yard of each just to be "safe") .  I will have the blocks made so will know about what I'm looking for. Sometimes I can't find what I am looking for, in which case I just put my list away for another trip.  If I want to start a new log cabin - I make sure I have red for the centers!  Or - if I need a focus fabric for a new top I want to start - I look for that.  Then I will buy a few new "sparks" of fabric for my collection.  Just a few!  Often times it is the impulse purchases that are the hardest to find a use for!  And - if I am running low on background fabric - I get that.  I mix and match my backgrounds alot so again - I don't buy a whole lot of any one yardage.  If a top is finished - then I get the backing.
So - that is how I buy/use my fabrics and how I decide which fabrics to use together.  The worst thing you can do is to be frozen by indecision.  Just pick a pattern and go with it!  You have to start somewhere and for me - that usually means making that first cut into a NEW fabric - scraps are ever so much easier for me to use, but in order to create scraps you have to first cut the new fabric for something!
Top photo - my son hugging his favorite quilts!  He is such a quilt lover that I don't really give too many quilts away anymore - he gets more attached to each one of them than I do.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A week in February

Ta-Da!  My Disappearing Nine Patch.  I think I will put a narrow cream inner border and a wide brown outer border (will have to buy the fabric first).  I wasn't sure I would like it - but I really do!  It makes me think of warm tropical beaches - somewhere with lots of flowers, sandy beaches and beautiful water.  Yup, it makes my February a little less gray!  It was a good choice of a pattern - something fairly quick and easy.  I still have trouble breathing and get very tired even ironing or sewing for any period of time.  It is that cold winter air - does me in everytime I go outside.

It has been a busy week!  My son is on school vacation and I have been busy trying to keep him occupied.  At first I felt badly that I didn't make any plans to go to the mountains, but with my breathing - it all worked out for the best.  And - we have kept busy and he has been very happy!
Saturday we went out to a shopping center - a  new favorite of mine because there is a big grocery store and the tram drops you right off at the door!  The mall was full of people in costume for Fashings so I thought that would be a bit of a fun grocery shopping trip!  There was also a professional troop there with very elaborate costumes for Fall, Water, Winter, Fire, etc. but it was very hard to get close to them as they were doing a dance to music... but I got my son a spot on the 2nd floor where he could look down and see everything.

 The only thing - the grocery store was jammed pack and I couldn't deal with it -so we ended up not getting any groceries!  I had a few items I wanted for our Chinese New Year's Menu, but decided it would be better to improvise instead of battle the crowd.  And, in keeping with Chinese New Year's Eve tradition  - I throughly cleaned my house for good luck.  Why not - it is a good February tradition to have, I think!
Sunday we went to the park for a bit of sledding fun - there is a hill a bit further on.

Monday we ran errands.  Tuesday was Fashings and we went downtown to see the parade - which was fun and festive even if a bit cold!  This float was from a bakery and they were handing out free krapfins to everyone!  A krapfin is like a jelly donut, but not as sweet.  Soooo good!  In the photo you can see my son's little hand getting his treat - we had a perfect spot to watch the parade!  His gym had a children's Fashings party last week and his costume was a knight, but it was too cold to wear to the parade, but there were many spectators in costume, so that was fun.

Wednesday we ran errands and were up in the old part of the city.  Here is the view looking down the hill (I swear, all old cities are built on huge hills!).  OK - can't get that photo to load HERE - so just scroll down!
While out, we also stopped at the game library.  They have over 500 games here - X2.  1 copy is for in-house playing only and the 2nd copy is available for borrowing.  You can keep the game for 2 weeks.  So, we came home with 2 games and have been having fun playing them several times a day.  Believe me - in 2 weeks I will be ready for different ones!  The game library is a wonderful resource and I am so happy that it is available to us!

Look where else we went!  Not for long - although I could have spent all day there!  Many rows of fabric, lots of notions, etc.! I didn't buy any fabric!  Nope.  Just a pants pattern for my son.   But at least now I know where the fabric store is! 1 tram and 1 bus ride away.  My friend showed me how to get there (the one I am teaching to sew) and while there she purchased her very first pattern for a simple dress for her daughter and the fabric.  As soon as she gets that fabric washed - we are going to start the dress.
Thursday he had a 1 1/2 hour workshop at a bakery making baked goods.  It only cost 3 Euros and the people who were running it were fabulous!  The kids had a great time (he went with a friend) and they came away with bags  full of their baked masterpieces!
Today he had a 3 hour craft class at the Children's Museum.  They started out with paper mache-ed balloons and created puffer fish using crepe paper, markers, craft supplies, etc.  His is almost finished - they gave me a dowel to drape more crepe paper off of to make seaweed and then I am supposed to attach the fish.  Really cute and he had fun!  Then we spent another hour at the museum playing.  The entire thing was 5 Euros, which means it was basically free because the admission to the museum costs that.  So, I was happy that I was able to get him reservations for both the bakery and the museum events.  I am feeling pretty proud that I am learning the ropes here and finding things to do, even with my limited German! 
In the meantime, I also had another sewing lesson with my friend!  We are working on her Trip Around the World - 1 complete segment is all done so progress is being made!  She is not going to believe how quick it is to make a dress compared to making a quilt.
Tomorrow is another day and we are off to see my husband's brother. It is a few hours by train so we will stay overnight and come back on Sunday.  It is very cheap for all of us to take the train because we have a family pass which gives us a great discount and my son is free on the pass. I find it pretty amazing that I can go by train for a couple of hours cheaper than I can take a taxi several miles within the city.  I've only taken the taxi 2X here - once to bring my DH home from the hospital and the other time to rush my son TO the hospital.  So, I guess they are worth their fare too.
Speaking of hospitals... last week my DH had his 3 month post-cancer scan /blood work and everything looks great!   His next scan will be in October.   To celebrate he brought me home these beautiful roses!

Anyone still reading?  I really should try to do shorter posts more often, but I am sooo tired by night-time that I go to bed!  My days are so busy.  I just figured I best post something today before all my news grows into a novel!  Besides, I have an Aunt who checks up on me via my blog and I don't want her worrying that I've dropped off the face of Earth!  In anycase - that was my week in February - the weather continues to be gray, gray, gray - spitting snow or rain depending upon the day, but we are keeping busy while waiting for spring!
And now I'm going to sleep - because I have a train to catch tomorrow!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Too Pretty to Cut

This fabric collection is from a "tower" I bought ages and ages ago - all Moda fabrics.  Isn't it pretty?  And tropical.  A bit of sunshine during a cold, gray, extra gray winter.  Did I mention... gray?  But - don't you think it might be just a little bit too pretty to cut?  Do you have fabric that you think is too pretty to cut?

Just look at these beautiful prints.  Ahhh.  It is a pile of fabrics that I like to take out and look at and "pet" a little bit every now and then.  So pretty.  But what does one actually DO with such a fabric?  Hummm.

Well this week that fabric finally met my rotary cutter.  Please do notice that I have found my green cutting mat!  Actually DH did - it was on top of our cabinets - being stored nice and flat, just very out of sight!  I thought I was going a bit wiggy because I really did think that I left that mat here - and sure enough I did.   Anyway - I cut just a little 4.5" strip off of each fabric to make a pile of 4.5" squares - and seeing that each piece is 1/2 yard - there is still plenty left over just to admire.  But isn't it so much more fun to admire your fabrics when it is in a quilt!

After being sick, sick, sick for 3 weeks (chest X-rays and all, but new meds are helping and I actually have energy to sew again - in little spurts) I decided to go with the easiest pattern of all time.  A nine-patch.  I don't even bother matching up fabrics because it won't matter because. ..  now watch me make it disappear....
Yup - the good old Disappearing Nine Patch!  All the blocks are different and I am being careful to place the big prints in the squares that aren't sliced.  I mean really - now that I've worked up the nerve to cut that big print fabric once, please don't think I am going to cut it twice!  I think this is going to be a great quilt... very tropical!  I'm glad that I finally did cut that fabric!
I need to check out the book below for other big print fabric quilt ideas!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Winter Knitting

The past few knitting projects, sigh.  They aren't bad, per say, just not exactly what I expected. 

First up, I made my sister this little key-hole scarf.  I like it alot, but she is a much better knitter than I ever will be and with the chunky yarn and plain knitting - you can see uneven-ness.  Still, it is nice and soft and I do like the design.  I might try to make it again some day, but add some sort of pattern to it.  This is Debbie Bliss Chunk Cashmerino.

Then, I made Omi a little knit hat and matching scarf.  You might remember that Omi gave me her knitting needles so I thought I would make her a little thank-you gift.  I used Baby Alpaca Brush yarn from Plymouth  yarn and it is nice a soft, but I think a bit itchy around the neck when I tried out the scarf, plus it tends to shed.  Also - the scarf is a bit smaller than I would have liked, but I was out of yarn.  Still - it is wearable - either the way I have it in the photo or the other way with a scarf pin of some sort.  I have no pin so just tied it in the back for the photo.  The hat makes up a bit on the small size with the yarn I used, but Omi has a small head so that is perfect.  I think she will like the set.

My winter hat was "lost" so I had to make another one.  I used a stiffer yarn - and the fit just isn't the same.   When I first put it on - I like it.  But - it works itself up into a peak while I am wearing it.  Sigh.  Like I said - just not the same fit as my lost softer hat.  If any of you have a link to a pattern for a winter hat that has a nice rounded top - please do share!  I like a hat that I can pull down over my ears - this new style of hat that just barely covers your ears is not for me on a cold, winter day!  My Nana used to knit really nice rounded hats with a brim- she almost always used a brown/tan tweed like yarn and put a small pom pom on the top.  I loved those hats, but that was many years ago and I don't have one.  Whaaa!   In anycase, I figure that I will wear this hat for the rest of this winter, knit myself a new hat and give this one to Goodwill next year.  While this hat wasn't the perfect fit for ME, someone else might really like it.

Then, I tried to make a little bag to slide my cell phone into.  I thought this yarn would felt/shrink - but it didn't really.  It just isn't what I wanted.  I am going to line it, probably put a little zipper on it and make a button loop closure for it.  It will be cute when finished - but I don't have the zipper/button, right fabric for a lining to finish it just now so I've set it aside for a bit.  I have one more skein of this yarn - it is only 33 yards per skein, but that should be enough to make 2 phone cases.  It is The Cat's Meow brand yarn that I picked up somewhere on clearance - the company went out of business.

My favorite knit item this year has been my beautiful Honeycomb Mittens.  The wool is so nice and warm and I wear them every day and they barely show any sign of wear.  In the fall I made my son a pair too and my DH a pair (but on DH's I used a slightly different pattern).  I will definately be making this pattern again and again - as needed.  The yarn I used for mine was from Brown Sheep Company - Lanaloft Worsted Weight, that you can find here .  Recommended needle size is 8 and I used a 5 - so it is nice and thick (warm!).  But - it did take 1 1/4 skein of yarn - I hate that!  DH's and my son's mittens are made with Briggs Little yarn.  The pattern is from Homespun Handknit - Caps, Socks, Mittens and Gloves.  I did add a purl row before starting the pattern and ending the pattern to help define it better, plus I did not do the thumbs as suggested - I like to put my thumb opening on a safety pin.
Other than the mittens, I've been at odds with my knitting this winter.  Nothing seems to catch my fancy or I don't have the right size needles or the correct yarn on hand.  But - I've still managed to used up alot of yarn!  2 skeins for the keyhole scarf, 2 skeins for the hat/scarf set for Omi,  most of 2 skeins for my stripped hat (the left-overs will make perfect mitten stripes), 1 odd-ball skein for the little bag, and the wool I bought specifically to make the mittens.  I have 1 skein of sock yarn and will probably cast on a pair of socks sometime this week.  I also have a little bit of baby yarn that I can play around with  - except it is pink and my family keeps having boys!  Still, I think a few little baby hats will keep my fingers busy.  I will be happy once I use up the yarns I have on hand.  I think it is very hard to find a pattern for yarn and yardage you have on hand - I much prefer to find a pattern I like first and then go buy the yarn specifically for that pattern.  So one thing I won't be having - a yarn stash!