A Beautiful (yet insanely busy) Day in My Neighborhood, and Other Sew Along News

I know – it’s Monday.  That means it’s release day for Block 3 for the Moda Be My Neighbor Sew Along, and you know what? I’m ready, kind of; Continue reading “A Beautiful (yet insanely busy) Day in My Neighborhood, and Other Sew Along News”

Be My Neighbor Sew Along, Block 2

In general, I’m not a ‘fallish’ kind of gal – but today’s kind of fall, I’ll take! I’m sharing the view outside my studio window this morning (from outside my studio window).  Continue reading “Be My Neighbor Sew Along, Block 2”

The Sometimes Perplexing Scant 1/4″ & What’s Thread Got to Do with it?

“Use a scant 1/4.” I’ve read this in multiple patterns and though it’s not necessarily a difficult concept to get my arms around, knowing why – or more importantly when – to use it has always escaped me for some reason, until yesterday.

First, let me show you the current view from my desk at any given time during my day (when I’m not cutting fabric or living life, in general).

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Carina Gardner’s gorgeous Posy Garden on the bottom shelf (from which I’ll be creating my next project, no question!) and the Sweetwater Bella Solids Collection on top which, if you ask me, has got to be one of the most joyful collections of simple solids ever assembled on purpose. I’m in love with these fabrics together beyond words!

Add to this to my growing love affair with Bella Solids in general, I’ve been trying to carve out some time to create a quilt with Moda’s Sampler Shuffle – a series of 30 – 6″ blocks designed by Moda designers – which were released to quilt shops last November at Quilt Market, Houston.  I can’t say I’ve seen them created with Bellas, but as I’ve spent the last week or so staring longingly at the above image, The Sweetwater Bellas became an obvious choice.

So far so good…

Sweetwater Blocks
Blocks 1 and 2 of the Moda Sampler Shuffle set of blocks, in Sweetwater Bella Solids.

All was going well until I made the 4th block, which had an awful lot of pieces (equating to an awful lot of seams)

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Needless to say, I made it once, but decided to remake it. Here’s why:

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The block on the right is Block 1 in the series which does have a fair few pieces, but went together comfortably with a standard 1/4″ seam allowance, finishing up at the correct 6 1/2″ needed.  The center block, however, is my first attempt at Block 4, using a standard 1/4″ seam allowance without thinking much about it. It’s at least 5/8″ too small all the way around. The block on the left is a remake if Block 4, using scant 1/4″ seam allowances.

Meh. 5/8″ isn’t all that big of a deal, right? Actually, it’s not the end of the world, until you’re trying to put a bunch of blocks together that are supposed to be the same size. 5/8″ can be a lot and I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to have to stretch my seams that much to make them line up comfortably.  This is where the proverbial ‘scant 1/4 inch’ comes into play and why it is sometimes a pretty handy and necessary process for making our blocks the right size.

A scant 1/4″ is really nothing more than this:

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A scant 1/4″ is merely defined as a slightly smaller than 1/4″ seam allowance than a standard 1/4″ seam allowance. Where it’s useful in particular, is when you’ve a small block with lots of small pieces.

Essentially, it all boils down to just how many seams we’re incorporating into any given block.  Think of it this way – the more seams, the more seam allowances; the more rows, the smaller each block has the propensity to become as we go along, depending on how much attention we pay to seam allowance with each seam we create.

ALSO! In case you wondered – the fineness of the thread we use can make a difference as well.  It’s why when I first tried Aurifil 50wt , I switched to it without even passing Go or collecting $200 (Monopoly never really leaves your psyche once you play it as a kid, ya know? But lest I degress…). Anyway, while you wouldn’t think the density of thread would matter much, I find that it makes my seams less bulky, which can make a sizable different across the span of a quilt, not to mention – a bunny outfit.

Sophie Daytime Nighty Aurifil
According to the bunnies, their clothes fit a whole lot more comfortably when the seams are less bulky.
4 Sampler Shuffle Blocks
As I go along making 30 – 6″ blocks, it matters in the grand scheme that they’re all as close to 6 1/2″ (unfinished) as possible, if I want them to line up fairly comfortably in a finished quilt.

“What did you do with the poor, little too-small block?”

Great question.

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I made it into a little 6″ placemat I can use at my desk for a bowl of soup while I’m working over lunch. It also makes a great little nightstand mat for my cell phone. In all, what I appreciate about Sweetwater fabric collections is how versatile they are.  for the binding of my little mat, I used a fabric from the Cookie Exchange, a current Sweetwater holiday line. My point is, when it’s altogether – it’s festive and Christmassy – but often, when used individually, Sweetwater Christmas fabrics are versatile enough not to scream CHRISTMAS! unless you want them to 🙂

In the end, the question begs: is it really critical to pay so much attention to precision at the tiniest level with respect to seam allowances and thread density? Well, yes and no. It really comes down to two things – the longer we’ve been quilting, I think, the more it begins to matter to us that our work reflects our level of experience. Secondarily, every little seam, whether attentive to exactness of seam allowance or what kind of thread we use, adds up.  For the purpose of this post – I’m just giving you a little food for thought 🙂

I wish you happy sewing my friends,

Pam

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Ciao Bella!

Lest I drift dreamily into the 80s movie, Breaking Away, about 4 young men (including a very, very young Dennis Quaid with very, very washboard-like abs; go ahead and watch the movie trailer that I linked above just for fun – you’ll see them!) who spend their days mostly trying to avoid going to college. The main character is Dave (played by Dennis Christopher) a soulful guy who’s taught himself Italian and walks around his hometown of Bloomington, Indiana speaking it as though he came over on the boat (leading especially his dad to think his only son is totally off his rocker).  The main premise of the movie is that Dave wrangles his three buddies into a quasi Tour de France bicycle race in their town. The subplot, however, involves Katherine – a beautiful college girl with whom Dave falls immediately in love when he sees her at a college bar. He calls her Katerina and she actually assumes he’s Italian (which he doesn’t exactly argue at the time), obviously there to study in America.

WAIT, you say.  Isn’t this a quilty/sewing/fabric blog?

The short answer is YES.  The long answer is that you’re reading the thoughts of a girl who grew up in the 70s and 80s, who has a slightly roundabout (and often flowery) way of looking at the world.  In other words – if I’m explaining something, I sometimes like you to know the details behind how it sits in my brain. Ask my hub – I always get to my point, and LUCKY YOU – you get to know a little more about ME as we go along.

(Are you rolling your eyes yet?)

Ciao Bella! It’s what Dave said to Katerina when he saw her.  It’s an exclamation that means Hi Beautiful! And it’s what I think of every time I hear the word Bella as it relates to Moda Bella Solids.  Ciao Bella! Hi Beautiful! I can’t help it – it’s a singing sort of feeling!

(See how I got around to my point there? Now how about if I chill as I start my next paragraph so you don’t think I’m totally off MY rocker)

The reality is that Moda Bella Solids have been around for some time and though similar to Kona Solids with respect to the quality they’re known for in the industry, I love Bellas most for the fact that whenever I’ve wanted to pair a Moda printed fabric with a solid, I need only seek out my handy, dandy Bella Color Card to find an exact match.

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Bella Solids making their debut in Serendipity Woods!

That’s why I was thrilled when it was recently announced at Spring Quilt Market that Moda would be releasing Bella Designer collections assembled by some of our favorite designers!

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Ciao Bella – Hi Beautiful! New in the Woods: The Fig Tree Bella Bundle

The beauty of these Bella Designer Collections is that each designer assembles the 12 fabrics that most exemplify the palette they tend to draw from when creating their collections.  What’s more, each has also designed projects to go along with their Bella grouping. Above is Joanna Figueroa’s of Fig Tree Quilts, which arrived on our shop last week.  Along with it…

Sherbets Creams Booklet
Fig Tree Quilt’s Sherbets & Creams pattern booklet of 7 patterns, including one being used for a Sherbets & Creams Sew Along at the Fig Tree site.

One of the coolest things is that all the patterns in the booklet not only utilizes Joanna’s fresh, summery Bella Solids, but also a variety of different cream prints to complete the projects.

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Guess what was enormously fun for us to assemble? You guessed it -our very own Happy Scrappy Little Creams Bundle

Now, before I start floating off the ground speaking italian like the aforementioned Dave from that great old (already?) movie – I want to just say that although the Fig Tree bundle is our first Ciao Bella! bundle – it’s certainly not our last.

Next Up…

Sweetwater Booth Quilt Market
The Sweetwater Bellas arriving later this month!

Welcome to the Sweetwater Spring 2016 booth. I mean, how much Sweetwater Heaven can we take in one spot?! Not only are we geeked to the nth degree for the arrival of Treehouse Club (used in the quilt on the far right), but see the mini block quilts on the left wall? Yeah…those are the Sweetwater Bellas, and before you even have to ask – yep. We’ll have the pattern booklet for the minis too!

Did you know that Ciao means both Hello and goodbye, in Italian? If you didn’t, you do now.

Ciao Bella and Happy Sewing,

Pam

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A BOM Update & Why You Need a Sewing Corner

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A tiny upcoming BOM hint.

First – a BOM update in the form of the above photo.  Yes indeed, kits are being assembled and gorgeousness is about to happen, friends!  We’ve still got a little over a month before the July 22nd first ever Serendipity Woods Block of the Month project kickoff and I’m pleased to announce that already – the response has been extraordinary!  Rather than spend too much time reiterating about it (of course if you need a refresher or are newly in-the-know about it and want more info – DO click the link – quicklikeabunny!), I want to inspire some thoughts on sewing spaces and why they matter.

First, let me start by saying I completely GET that for most of us, available space is at a premium, especially in busy homes with children. Often that means sewing machines come out of a closet when needed, only to be tucked back into that closet when we’ve whipped up whatever something we wanted or needed to make.  Sometimes that’s unavoidable and it is what it is; yet its hard to feel inspired to sew when the process of sewing involves SETTING UP all the time.  Ideally, having a space somewhere where all our sewing happiness can live without having to be put away is so great because it allows us to sit down to sew whenever the mood strikes or whenever the free time presents itself (like naptime…oh yes, I remember naptime!).

When my kids were small, my machine was set up in a fairly large space in our basement.  It worked great because for one thing, my sewing space didn’t have to be neat all the time! It was also right off our family room so the kids could be playing nearby and I was close if they needed me.  The other great thing about basement sewing spaces is that often there’s plenty of room to spread out. I took a moment to search ‘Basement sewing room’ (since I just don’t seem to have a photo of mine from the past) and just LOOK what I found:

Miss sews a lot Sewing Space Progress
This space belongs to Miss Sews A Lot and reminds me a fair bit of my (past) basement sewing studio – in a word: SPACIOUS!

Now, while I do miss the spaciousness of my basement sewing studio, I learned a couple of things – first of which is that I honestly don’t technically  need that much space all in one spot (but trust me, I love spare closets!). Not to mention – the biggest drawback to having a basement sewing studio is DINNER; rather, having to drop everything to go upstairs and make it.  I realized what I really wanted to do was to sew some and work some, then sew some and work some more.  I found that with a basement studio, I was less inclined to volley back and forth between the two and more inclined to do one for a long period, then the other. That wasn’t really working for me.

So. Enter a room like this:

Phamplet 1971 Governor's Residence
This isn’t MY formal dining room, nor was it ever (not even in 1965, before I was born, for the record). It’s the formal dining room of the Minnesota Governor’s Residence , just for fun – I picked it so we could all bask in its superfluous, nonsensical (and especially golden) formality.

Formal.  I am not. WE are not. Never have been. But still, for the last few houses, we’ve been graced with a superfluous room – a formal dining room…usually right off the kitchen where clearly I make dinner…or someone (like my handsome Superman) does. Did I mention not technically needing all that much space in one spot?

Fast forward to this afternoon when I took this photo:

Sewing Corner
Yep – you guessed it.  This is a small corner of my dining room, right off our kitchen.  Were it not for the fact that the rest of the room is occupied by bolts (and bolts and bolts) of fabric, I may have more room for my sewing space; but remember – I technically don’t need very much room all in one spot (I could use a little more room for bolts of fabric, however, as evidenced across the hall in Superman’s office. That’s obviously where Bonnie & Camille’s Little Ruby Collection lives).

For sewing – I really just need one corner.  You really just need one corner.

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A foldable TV tray covered with several layers of quilt batting and a layer of Insul Bright with my favorite pretty fabric makes for a great block pressing table.  My iron lives on the little wrought iron shelf/stand too, so it’s handy but not taking up space on the mini ironing table I may want to fold and put out of the way.  See my little basket of fabrics I’m using for one of my active projects? And my scrap bowl, for just especially the scraps I’m using for our BOM project (for reasons I can’t possibly share just this very second)?  All handy and only what I need – not what I don’t. Don’t get me wrong – there are nearby closets for the ‘don’t need right this minute,’ and you’d better believe I use them!
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A portable block pressing board is a must as far as I’m concerned so I can carry my pieces from wherever I’m cutting (in my case, an adjacent table that always has my mat set up, but maybe yours is on your kitchen counter temporarily for the day).  Mine portable pressing board/carrying tray is a Quilter’s Cut & Press by June Taylor that I simply recovered on the one side with my favorite happy fabric. There are a variety of brands out there, but I like this one best because I can hang the handle from my next favorite studio tool…
3m hooks
Never underestimate the value of the almighty 3M Command Hook . I’ve mentioned it in previous posts – I use them everywhere.
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I get it. It may not be practical for you to hang your projects from 3M hooks in your sewing corner, but I love them. What you see are the 3 projects I’m currently working on as well as some clip boards for shop happenings. Even my wire file holder on the wall hangs from 3M hooks. Also, because I can see my WIPs, I’m a whole lot more inspired to spend a few minutes here and there to make progress on them.  It also keeps me thinking twice about starting a new project if I can see the ones that aren’t yet finished. I like to have a few projects going at once, but not too many or my crafty brain gets cluttered.
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Two more magical words: Binder Clips. Another one: Brilliant.

 

Sewing Corner
You’ll obviously see that a good amount of what also occupies this corner is shop stuff – superfluous to your needs as a sewist who just needs a corner of space for sewing.  The printer, the monitor, the patterns on the wall (with more 3M hooks – I’m telling you, they’re genius). The bottom line is that everything is handy and nothing is there that I don’t need to just sit down and sew when I have a free minute or two.  Even my sewing machine…
Charlotte and Jane
…is Jane, my 1956 Featherweight. She’s small, portable, and great for piecing.  I do have other machines and sometimes get them out for various reasons – but I love Jane most because she’s small and usually all I need to sew a nice little seam (or two, or a hundred).

So ‘What’s the update on the Modern Heritage Block of the Month prep,’ you ask? Okay, okay…

Large Cross Block
…one more sneak peek photo of my progress in prepping for our upcoming Modern Heritage Quilts Block of the Month. Of course click on the link if you haven’t yet signed up to join us. It’s going to be incredibly fun!

I’m really excited for us to get started on our Block of the Month project too.  In the meantime though, I wanted you to have a chance to spend a little time thinking about your space and how to make it most inspiring for you to create, JUST when you want to create. I hope you have at least a little sewing corner you can call your own.  I’d love to know more about it, if you feel like sharing.

Until next time – happy sewing 🙂

Pam

Bundles, Stacks and a Finished Quilt

Hi Quilty Friends!

I know, I know…it’s been a while, again!  That said, what a wonderful November we had at Serendipity Woods Shop!  While it’s true that we’ve been bringing in lots of pretty new individual fabrics every day, we’ve also brought in some pretty full collections too, like…

Mon Ami Bundle Manufacturer Image
Mon Ami by Basic Grey for Moda Fabrics
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Redwork Revival by Color Principle for Henry Glass
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and Hazel by Allison Harris of Cluck, Cluck, Sew for Windham

We’re also extra excited for the continued growth of our very own cheerily entitled Happy Little Bundles section.  It’s actually the fastest growing section of our shop!

Some of our newest bundles include:

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Dandy Turtles 8 Piece Bundle, including fabrics from Riley Blake as well as our newest manufacturer, Lecien.
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Our Happy Little Aquas Bundle, featuring fabrics by Moda, Robert Kaufman Kona, and Studio E.
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…And despite the fact that Halloween has technically passed this year, our Happy Little Halloween Bundle of fabrics from various Moda lines continues to be very popular!

But I really want to tell you about another  new addition that’s arrived in the Happy Little Bundles section – we call them Happy Little Scrappy Stacks, and they look like this:

Happy Little Scrappy Stacks are made up of 100 – 2.5″ precision cut pieces of 50 different fabrics.  ‘How am I supposed to make a quilt out of that?’ you ask?

Easy peasy. Here’s one for ya…

Scrappy Stack Quilt
2015 Serendipity Woods Happy Scrappy Stack Quilt

…you pair each of your 100 – 2.5 squares with some 2.5″ Kona Snow strips to go around each one (sewn just like a log cabin block only without so many rounds), use 1.5″ strips of Kona Medium Grey (or any other handsome solid that strikes your fancy) for sashing strips, sandwich it, quilt it, toss on a binding – and you’ve got a 72″ square Happy Scrappy Quilt.  It goes together quite quickly too!

This week, I’m moving on to creating a quilt with Hazel – a line mentioned above by Allison Harris of Cluck, Cluck, Sew. You may or may not see what I see, but I’m in love with this fabric line because even though it’s awfully springy – it has struck me from the start as quietly and JOYFULLY Christmassy too.  I’ve decided to whip up up a quilt designed by Lori Holt (of Bee in my Bonnet/Farm Girl Vintage fame) called Sugar Stars.

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Springy ,yet quietly and JOYFULLY Christmassy too – Hazel.

Happy December, friends.  I’m going to work really hard at getting right back here by week’s end with a post of my finished Sugar Stars Hazel quilt. Thanks, as always, for sticking with me 🙂

Pam

Forward Propulsion with Helpers

sleeping

Good morning, Quilty Friends!

Sans the two ponytails (which have never represented a good look for me, ever), the even-across-the-forehead bangs (which never exist for girls with cowlicks), and the fresh wrinkle-free face (but let’s pretend mid-forties aren’t accompanied by laugh lines and a deep crease between my eyes because I’m inclined to communicate with great expression) – this is what I imagine I look like at 7:22 am on this fresh, new Tuesday morning. The past three months as a new quilt shop owner have been quite a whirlwind of activity, and though I’m exhausted for many reasons, I’m happy to report it’s a good sort of exhaustion, because doggone it – I feel more solid every day that we’re moving in the right direction.

Since my last post (about two weeks ago), there’ve been great things going on, and also not-so-great. Because I pride myself in the eternal wonderment of a glass-have-full attitude, it’s only logical for me to focus on the good since there’ll be plenty of other opportunities to share some of the not-so-good (if the mood ever strikes, that is).  For starters, people are really starting to find our little shop, and EUREKA! They’re liking what they find! I can’t help it – the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about that is this image from the 1985 Oscars:

Slightly misquoted and vastly misunderstood (but you get the point), I've always loved Sally Field for her earnest gratitude and willingness to express it from her heart.
Slightly misquoted and vastly misunderstood (but we all got her point and I hope you get mine), I’ve always loved Sally Field for her earnest gratitude and willingness to express it from her heart.

The bottom line for anyone starting a business such as this is that we’re faced with assembling things to sell that we think  others will like. At the beginning, there’s this grand imagining that we will know exactly what people will like, because we ourselves like it (right?). But lemme tell ya – the apprehension soon creeps in, and I start thinking, ‘What if I have horrible taste? What if I haven’t the first clue what others will like?’ I must admit, the hardest part has been in reminding myself of the fact that ours is a new store, therefore virtually unknown to shoppers out there.  I’ve had to shut out the self-doubt and just go with my gut as I’ve shopped.  So far, so good, and I’ve had lots of help. Most of you know that my husband (affectionately known as Superman around these parts) is also my business partner.  He’s been extraordinarily supportive (if not slightly hard to keep up with).  I have to admit, I can’t remember the last time I made a really well thought-out dinner, but mostly he’s a better cook than I am anyway, and the kids are pretty tolerant about such things.

A few recent shop updates to share…

Hexie Heaven

The above fabulously fallish fabric from the Forest Frolics line (oooh, that was fanstastically fun to say!), was an unbelievably hot item in our shop last week! Because the little hexies are just the right fussy cutting size for 1″ hexies, and I just happened to mention the fabric on an English Paper Piecing page to which I belong on Facebook, we actually sold out of an entire bolt in one day! Fortunately, I was able to secure more the next day, so I now have enough that it’s continuing to sell comfortably with several other fabrics in the line.

Also new in our shop and selling well are something we affectionately call, ‘Happy Little Bundles.’  Essentially, this is a growing new shop section that is comprised of fat quarter collections of fabrics that just look really nice together. What you should know, however, is that these happy little bundles weren’t exactly my idea. Mmm hmm. More helpers.

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It all started one day when I began to enter my studio in the mornings to find the bunnies and also other things – let’s just say, askew.  For instance – each of the bunnies that lives in my studio (and there are many) has a specific spot in which they generally live.  Some of them like it atop the big window because they are able to see all around the studio.

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Others live upon another adjacent shelf.

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Or by Sophie and her delivery bike (and her mouse friend, Meg), atop my file box.

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The weird thing though, is that I’d begun to notice that the friends weren’t always in their usual spots on some mornings.  For instance…

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The above is Daisy and her friend, Jack.  They usually sit together on yet another shelf.  Recently though, I have found Jack (more than once)…

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…on the floor, nearby my fabric racks. Maybe he just fell, right? Totally conceivable because his usual shelf is right near this as well. But then another day…

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Erin and Cecil (whose usual shelf is waaay across the room) were also on the floor right nearby my fabric racks. Then the day after that, the bunnies were all where they were supposed to be, but the fabric wasn’t.

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All these fabrics were on pegs the night before, folks. I swear.

A few mornings later, I discovered my always-neatened-the-night-before cutting table was adorned with these:

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Fortunately, someone is wise enough to close the blade on my rotary wheel.

Well – I had my theories, but it wasn’t until I walked in one morning to find Poppy, definitely NOT on her usual shelf across the room…

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…that my suspicions were validated.

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Caught red (rather, Pink) handed.

Now that you all know a little about the curators of the Happy Little Bundles (and this post has obviously taken me all day to finish), I think I’ll just share the link to our Happy Little Bundles Shop Section.

So you see, I have helpers, helpers everywhere, but strangely, not a soul to help me to finish a blog post I started at the crack of dawn this morning (remember the blinky-with-bangs at the start of this post?). Anyone want to know why it took me all day to get through this blog post? Well, it looks like this:

…but more about that tomorrow.

Good night Quilty Friends 🙂

How to Fall in Love with Every Fabric in Your Precut Bundle

Today, I had every intention of sharing with you a tutorial of this great little mini quilt I just finished.  I even spent a really loooong time putting it together, but to be truthful – it was so long (and still wasn’t done yet), I decided against finishing it, in exchange for just giving you the nuts and bolts of some things I learned as I made it, that are much more important than a tutorial would be in the first place.

For starters, I’ve been thinking a good deal about how attracted I am to so many little bundles when they’re all neat and tidy in their little roll or stack.

1 Moda Chirp Chirp By MoMo
Take the above little beauty I fell in love with recently and had to have. It’s called Chirp Chirp, designed by MoMo for Moda fabrics. So cute, so springy!
2 See How Pretty?!
I opened it and still loved it!

Invariably, however, as I began to sort through all the difference fabrics in the little collection, I started picking favorites. Then I started separating my favorites from my not-so-favorites.

Can I talk to you for a sec about this not-so-favorite fabric in my Chirp Chirp bundle? It reminds me of a 1978'sh shower curtain.
Can I talk to you for a sec about this not-so-favorite fabric in my Chirp Chirp bundle? All on it’s own, it reminds me of a shower curtain from 1982.

My point is, when I first started using precuts, I was tempted to only use the ones I loved, considering that maybe I could use the ones I didn’t love in some other project. Then I realized that I’d never use them with some other project. Why? Because they’re all meant to go together. What’s more, even the fabric above that reminds me of that dated shower curtain, is really a beautiful fabric on a larger scale!

So with the mini quilt I made this week, I decided to cut in half one fabric strip each of my Chirp Chirp jelly roll, ignoring my preferences, in exchange for just trusting the designer and manufacturer of the fabrics in the collection.

I put all my strips in a bowl and selected each strip blindly as I pieced.
I put all my half-strips in a bowl and selected each strip blindly as I pieced.

Incidentally, I also threw caution to the wind and didn’t press a single block until it was finished.

Look how awful it looks before I pressed it :/
I knew it was straight though, because I cut my strips perpendicular to the straght edge of the block, every time I cut, even if it looked uneven with the other edge of the block.
I knew it was straight though, because I cut my strips perpendicular to the straight edge of the block, every time I cut, even if it looked uneven with the other edges of the block. See how the top edge aligns with the backwards 9 measurement line? (it’s backwards because I’m a lefty, folks. I roll with backwards often. I consider it character building!)

Anyway – when I did get to pressing each block, one edge at a time, they all turned out straight.

...and hmmm. Those fabrics sort of look pretty darn good together, don't they?
…and hmmm. Those fabrics sort of look pretty darn good together, don’t they?

My finished Chirp Chirp Mini Quilt

Barn-Raising Mini Quilt Tutorial
Eureka…just as I suspected. Even though individually I wasn’t fond of every single fabric of my jelly roll on its own – I LOVE how each fabric plays it’s own role. See the shower curtain fabric in there?  Looks great doesn’t it?
My relatively recent love affair with Aurifil thread is also going strong! I pieced and machine quilted with Aurifil 50 wt, 2021 which is the perfect Natural White to match my background fabric.
My recently acquired love affair with Aurifil thread is still going strong too. I pieced and machine quilted with Aurifil 50 wt, 2021 which was the perfect Natural White to match my background fabric.
Even Sophie Bunny loves our new Chirp Chirp quilt!
Even Sophie Bunny loves our new Chirp Chirp quilt!

And there it is – my favorite quilt project to date with lots of good thing learned.

Happy chirpy, springy, quilty Friday, friends!

Pam

Farm Girl Fridays with Lori Holt!

Whew! This busy-ness of spring catches me by surprise every year.  Whether it’s the lingering athletic activities (and the potluck provisions they involve), garden prep, or another graduating senior (we’re on our 4th), I seem to forget the flurry of activity that goes on every year at this time.

That aside, I have been able to stay up to speed with an ongoing quilt-along I jumped into 2 weeks ago called Farm Girl Fridays (just haven’t had a moment to post about it yet!).

A great book together with my selected fabrics for the quilt along!
A great book together with my selected fabrics for the quilt along!

If you’re unfamiliar with Farm Girl Vintage, it’s what I would consider a distinct style of quilting, truly brought to life by the author and host of the quilt along, Lori Holt of http://beeinmybonnetco.blogspot.com. Lori’s quilting style has a specifically vintage/cheerful/farmy flair to it, whether throughout this book or any of her previous (of which I have 3 – all excellent).  In a word, they’re HAPPY, which is always my favorite.

Below are my first four blocks:

Block 1 Farm Girl Vintage
Block 1, Apron Strings.
Farm Girl Vintage Block 2
Block 2, Autumn Star.
Farm Girl Vintage Block 3
Block 3, Baby Chick.
Farm Girl Vintage Block 4
Block 4, Baking Day.

If you’re interested in joining along with Farm Girl Fridays, it’s not too late! You can either scroooooll back up and click the image of Lori’s book (with my great fabric choices!) or visit Lori at http://beeinmybonnetco.blogspot.com .

Happy Quilting!

Pam

Why (and how) I Made the Switch to Premium Quilt Fabrics

Happy Monday! I’ve been posting quite a lot about ‘quality fabric buying,’ and up until now (without necessarily meaning to) – I think I’ve been a little cryptic. What I want to share today is what I mean by quality fabric. What I’m really talking about is Premium quilt fabric, but what does that mean and why does it make a difference?

For starters, I’ve been making quilts for a long time. As I’ve said before, I’ve used fabrics that run the gamut, including those that I look at now (from beneath a quilt I spent hours and hours making), and I cringe. The truth is that mostly, I bought what I could afford at the time, and as a young mom of six growing children, it wasn’t a lot. Rarely did I have time to even go to an actual fabric store, so oftentimes it meant strolling through the craft aisle with a cart full of kids, in whatever store I was in for another purpose, being pulled in by a fabric that caught my eye based on pattern, and buying 2 or 3 yards. That fabric was then added to my ‘stash’ for later use and coordination with some fabric (or two or five) I intended to find later (but often never did), once I fell in love with some pattern I’d find in a book. All well and good, right? Not really because half the time I didn’t have that fabric with me the next time I was at the store, which then only meant another one-hit-wonder would catch my attention in the same fashion. So what I wound up with was a bunch of fabric whose patterns I loved, but really didn’t coordinate together.

That said, I certainly had plenty of success over the years at coordinating fabrics together to make quilts. However, the process became about matching colors, which then opened me up to the dilemma of ignoring my discerning eye for quality fabric in exchange for a color or pattern that matched perfectly. Are you beginning to follow me, here? In a word:

Hodgepodge.

Moving on. Let me now share an image of one such fabric that caught my eye in the store a year or two ago:

Cute FabricCute, right? It’s good quality too; 100% cotton, nice dense thread count, very soft, like any good quality fabric should be. And it has lots of colors I like for the purpose of creating a whole quilt, beaming with lively colors! Now let me show you the selvedge edge:

SelvedgeAre you getting where I’m going with this? No pattern name, design collection, nothin.’ What if I need more of this fabric? What if I’m trying to match it perfectly with the same quality, same exact color match, same everything? I could call around and explain what it looks like or search online, but odds are – I wouldn’t find it.

About the time all this started occurring to me, I began learning more about Premium fabric brands and the thoughtful collections they assemble. I fell in love with Moda’s Little Apples, April Showers and Color Me Happy. Then I discovered Riley Blake. Have you SEEN Country Girls? To Norway with Love? EVERYTHING designed by Lori Holt? These are fabrics that a) have a recognizable name I can seek out, b) are great quality so there is no guesswork to be done in terms of even feeling the fabric, because I already know it’s great, and c) are part of collections of several different fabrics intended to coordinate together. There are several premium manufacturers out there; these are just the two I love most.

Aren’t premium fabric brands really expensive?

The answer is yes and no. In general, premium quilt fabrics are of better quality and yes – tend to be more expensive than your average ‘Printed Exclusively for Hobby Lobby Stores’ fabric. There are, however, ways to conquer the price difference from what you or I may have bought previously (see how I plopped you right into my happy little sand pile of Premium quality goodness? That’s because if you are not already basking in my sand pile by your own choice already, I want you to join me!). Here’s how I did it:

  • Once I figured out which collections I was in love with, I started shopping around. I can tell you that some brick-and-mortar quilt stores will carry part of a collection, but not all. I have found that to be true with my local Field’s Fabrics. If you can catch a good sale, you’re in with at least some. That said, I have all of ONE real quilt store in my area (that isn’t a ‘big box’ store like Field’s). I stopped in about six months ago, for the first time, delighted to meet the owner and share my new status as a lover of premium quilt fabric. She then cheerfully walked me around the store, showed me where to find all the different brands and lines (as the energy of this fabric heaven welled up inside me), then told me on the slide that they customarily DO NOT HAVE SALES. What? For a few moments I thought, well, it’s premium fabric; I guess that’s the trade off. Then reality spoke and I left the store, never to return. I suspect that this ‘No Sales’ policy is not universal, so do visit your local merchants and ask questions. If we can support local, I think it’s right to do so, as long as they meet us halfway.
  • I started shopping online. After leaving the aforementioned ‘No Sales’ store, I began to really delve into the online world of fabric shopping. Because I now had names of fabric lines I loved, I could search and compare prices. Craftsy.com is a great source, and they have amazing sales! FatQuarterShop.com is also on the up and up. Lastly, since I have an Etsy shop myself (where I used to sell my recycled animal friends, but am on hiatus for now), I seek to support my comrades. There are some great little sellers out there whose prices are more than fair.
  • Consider last season’s fabric lines. Like fashion, manufacturers are always introducing new lines. If you have to have the new lines right when they come out, you’ll simply have to be comfortable with the MSRP – manufacturer’s suggested retail price (but there are sales to be had – so find them). Otherwise, I find that I’m still discovering some of the retired lines are fabulous enough that I want to grab them before they’re really gone. As a warning, you WILL encounter sellers (on etsy, in particular) that treat retired fabric lines like out of print books, by pricing them sky high because they are out of print. I guess it’s just a matter of how badly you want the fabric as it relates to how much you’ll pay.
  • As previously (perhaps relentlessly) mentioned, I discovered PRECUTS.
    • 2.5″ or 5″ Charm Packs, of the entire line
    • Jelly Rolls or Rolie Polies (depending upon the brand) in either 2.5″ strips or 3.5″ strips, of the entire line
    • 10″ Layer Cakes, of the entire line
    • Fat Eighth, Fat Quarter, or Half Yard Bundles, of the entire line
Charlotte's favorite activity:  Playing with my fabrics. She's quite a little coordinator!
Charlotte’s favorite activity: Playing with my fabrics. She’s quite a little coordinator!

The thing about precuts is that although if you really add it up, they are a bit more costly by volume than yardage, I believe it’s worth the trade-off. They allow me to incorporate a variety of fabrics into my quilt projects, especially when combined with solids like white or ecru, to really accentuate the patterned fabrics. I recommend either Moda Bella Solids or Robert Kaufman Kona Solids. They tend to be more reasonable in price than the printed fabrics created by these same premium manufacturers, yet still the same great quality. The best part is that most big box stores sell the entire collection of solid colors, so I can find them locally.

Next Up:

Storing your Precuts: My Eureka Technique