Monday, April 13, 2009

New obsession - Purses!

I think I just woke up one day and figured out what I was doing wrong with my previous purse making efforts. I'm still not sure if I figured it out in a dream or if it just 'wasn't the right time' to figure it out, but either way, I've been consumed with purses. From clutches to sacks to regular ol' squares and rectangles. From buttons to snaps. From ribbons to leather.

I'm not going to bore you with too many pics at once, just these first couple of efforts created prior to my discovery of my invisible thread stash. Frankly, it was taking twice as long to complete an item because it was taking so long to find matching thread in my bins. I do want to say that I am having so much fun with them! At

night I sit in bed with my little side lamp on so as not to keep hubby awake and look at my swatches, match things up, draft some designs and when I get home from work the next day and after dinner with the fam I hit my studio with all pistons firing. It's so fulfilling and I've already had some oohs and aahs from coworkers and in-laws. And I have already had a denim request for purchase (yay!!!). After mucho research I've settled on my price points as well, so I'm on my way with this new line of items!

Celtic Series

I've been working on a series of 3 Celtic inspired faux chenille quilts since the summer and am almost finished with the final one. They are all lap sized at 36x48.

This one I call Celtic Ocean and it has a coordinating blue eyelet fabric backing.

This one I call Celtic Walnut and it has a tan microsuede back (super soft and snuggly!).

The one I'm almost finished with is green, so I'm thinking of keeping with the earthy-type names and going Celtic Moss or something similar. They all have the same Celtic design in the center, so I figured I'd capitalize on that aspect for the naming. I started off thinking it would be Celtic (color) Cross, but then when I realized my most obvious choice for the green one would be Moss, I didn't want the Celtic Moss Cross. So, I just dropped the Cross.

I love doing these faux chenille quilts, but if I spend too much time doing them it makes me miss hand stitching. And if I wait too long in between, the callouses on my fingertips begin to go away and then I have to start all over poking myself and building up the callouses again. But there's truth behind the old "blood, sweat, and tears" saying when it comes to quilting! They've each only been washed once so far just to get the fraying and bunching started, but I'll wash them at least twice more before selling them.

Happy quilting! Trina

Shipshewana, here I come...

Finally! I haven’t been home since Thanksgiving and the ‘powers that be’ have finally approved that darn vacation request. I’ve already started my list of Shipshewana and Nappanee stores I’ll be hitting. DH will either have to come grumbling along or it’ll just be my mom and me in search of fabrics and goodies galore. If you’ve never been or never heard of the Shipshewana Flea Market , all I can say is oh my goodness. Busloads of folks from all over the country trek to Shipshewana for their Flea Market, Auction house, antique stores, Amish Acres and their Round Barn Theater (where I saw their version of It's a Wonderful Life when I was there last!), etc. Their season starts around Memorial Day (if I remember correctly…it’s been an awful long time since I worked at the Flea Market during summers home from college). Just thinking about sitting in the auction barn watching folks bid on horses and such brings such fond memories. And don’t get me started on Yoder’s Department Store…that’s where I hit my last goldmine of Moda and Thimbleberries fabrics {sigh}. I know most every community in northern Indiana can use my retail therapy money since the RV industry isn’t doing so well up there and I’ll be more than happy to oblige. Working in the RV industry myself, I've got to help where I can! Well, time to get back to my list of items to search for...quilt stuff...purse stuff...bag stuff...table runner stuff...redwork embroidery stuff...forget the sugar plums, I'll have visions of quilting notions dancing in my head! Every trip to back home is for me like remodeling...plan on twice as much time and 3 times the money in the budget.

Quilts and purses and notions, oh my! Follow the Yellow Brick Road pattern, Dorothy!

Appreciating What's Left Behind...

For the past few weeks I’ve been finding some wonderful fabrics. I’ve always been drawn to anything that’s been “left behind”. Whether it’s grabbing the end of the bolt, rummaging through the “discontinued” table, gladly taking the small scrap that a friend didn’t have a use for, or saving the shirt that has a hole, snag or stain too big to fix, I love taking those that could easily be left behind or, God forbid, thrown out.
I put “discontinued” in quotes because I’ve never quite understood why any fabric is discontinued – at the very least there are always new people learning to craft that would be seeing that decade-old fabric for the first time and love it like we did. And when I find something at the back of my storage area that I remember buying way-back-when and wishing I had more of it yet can never find it again, it’s kind of sad. To say that it makes me nostalgic may be a better way to phrase it. I’m not sure, but it’s not a great feeling no matter what label is put on it. Maybe that’s because I don’t think I’ve ever met a fabric that I didn’t appreciate and want to bring home with me…

Quilting in the South

One of the wonderful things of being a quilter in the South is that it is so warm so much of the year. When others may have hung up their hobby for a few months while temps exceed 100 degrees is one of the best times of the year for me to stock up on fabric and go on my annual search for “LBs” (Left Behinds). Sales sales and more sales! June through September (some years even through Thanksgiving!) no one seems to want to hand quilt. Go figure…who wants 15+ pounds of fabric and batting across your lap when you’re already sweating buckets with the AC cranked up in a usually futile attempt to counterbalance the 95% humidity trying to sneak in every crack your house has! Once you've lived here for an extended period of time your blood thins and what I used to think was a comfortable 60 degrees now feels like a rather cold 60 degress. We always have those Winter months to really buckle down and get everything done while it’s cold…we actually had about a dozen nights this year when we had freezing temps and several days/weeks with temps under 60 degrees, so don’t think it’s always hot and balmy in good ole Florida. Almost everyone keeps a ready stack of burlap in their garage to cover all the Hibiscus and fruit trees ( though a good freeze really concentrates the sugars of my oranges!) If nothing else, we have Hurricane Season when several times a year for hours at a time it isn't advisable to leave your house - you've seen the news, I'm sure!

While growing up in northern Indiana I found that I was able to quilt year-round. Since transplanting to Florida several years ago I have simply become more cyclical around the temps. Spending summers on purses, cutting many, many quilt kits, maybe assembling some lighter quilt tops or hand-tying then transitioning into assembly for hand quilting when the weather cools. To have spent all summer cutting every intricate square, rectangle, triangle, whatever shape, plus all of the measuring, matching, seeing what fabric ‘goes’ with what, there is something so relaxing and relieving when the weather cools about just being able to then flip through all those kits and just start sewing.
I am so looking forward to Spring and Summer to start cutting again! My fingers may be sore from the stitching through the Winter, but before long I'll be complaining about my wrists from the pressures of cutting all Summer and 'round and 'round we go...

Fall Leaves Quilt

Finally finished a 12-month project!

I was looking for something in my studio and came across a quilt that I had started too-near a year ago. I finally put the final stitch in the binding tonight. Whew! I loved this quilt from the moment I started it, but lost my way along the path to completion. I frequently struggle with looking at the same project for days on end so always have several things going. I was thrilled when I came back across this quilt and fell in love with it all over again. I wanted to do something special with the stitching in this project. I didn't want to do a meandering stitch. I didn't want to do a continuous repeating pattern.

So instead, I went against my norm and stitched leaves all over the lighter blocks. Had I realized how many leaves that was going to be, I might have taken the easy road and made a template. But, nooooo, I had to make it more difficult by freehanding every leaf. What was I thinking? It turned out great, having variances in each leaf, but, boy, it was time consuming!

I'm going to miss it when it finds a new home, but it was certainly fun in the meantime!

And here's our newest addition helping me out as much as she can from the other room as she's not allowed in my studio, but she'll wait for me in the chair right outside my door so I have to take frequent breaks to appreciate her...

Faux Chenille Instructions

I was asked for instructions on this faux chenille technique.

I began with a regular square block and cut somewhat amoeba-shaped appliques. The shape of the applique is important because after you stitch your lines you will be cutting between each and every one of those stitched lines therefore you should be able to slide your scissors in one end and out the other.

The applique is stitched to the center of the block with stitches approx 3/4" apart. I suggest practicing on a scrap to ensure your scissors will slide comfortably and be able to cut between the stitches. Widen if necessary, but should not exceed 1". There are a lot (!) of lines you will be cutting so comfort is key. We all know or at least can guess that after cutting a few hundred lines if the stitches are too tight your wrist and hands are jelly regardless of Comfort Grip. I made my first line on the applique down the middle to make sure it holds its place and shape - I machine stitched using a very light combination of starch and basting spray to hold it in place and even with that combination the applique liked to slide if I tried starting at one end instead of the middle.

I was systematic and cut all appliques, stitched appliques to the blocks, assembled the rest of the quilt, and only then cut between the lines on the appliques. But if you prefer to see progress more quickly it doesn't hurt to cut between the lines of the appliques as you go.

Once assembled, the first washing starts the fraying seen above. Each time the quilt is washed it frays and separates those rows more and more. I used darker appliques with white background and metallic thread for a bolder contrast because it was the first I had done and wanted to see clearly what the effects were and how quickly they came about. You will have a different look of you stitch your lines with the bias versus against the bias. It's fun to play with the different effects!
Another version is to use several layers of fabric instead of batting and it is the same concept as above, but you will be cutting through all EXCEPT the bottom layer, so it's important to have a strong backing fabric as it will be the proverbial glue that holds the quilt together. If using a thinner backing fabric because it has the "perfect print", then you may consider leaving the backing fabric and the next layer up uncut for strength. That version is shown below. On this one, I used the top primary fabric layer, then 2 tan layers, then 1 natural muslin layer, and finally a twig print backing and cut all but the backing layer. Given that this uses several layers of fabric instead of backing it turned out shockingly heavy!

I hope you enjoy! Trina

Faux Chenille

I love this "faux chenille" technique! It's time consuming, certainly, but the right fabrics separate and fluff so nicely and it's fun to see how much better it looks after every washing. It's almost like the cheaper the fabric the better it plays. Sewing all of the lines and then cutting in between each line certainly takes a chunk of time, but it's more tedious than it is difficult. But I'm proud of my first attempt at a new technique! And while the edges fray, it gives the cat something to play with...she likes to help when she can.

This particular quilt does use batting, but one of my next projects will be using the same technique except using 4-6 layers of fabric in place of the batting. I've seen it done and it looks great. It can be very heavy with that much fabric layered in, which isn't needed often in Florida, but someone will love it up north! Trina

Leftovers & Mismatches

Have you ever been frustrated with your leftovers and mismatches? I'm talking about those fabrics that were individual impulse buys and not planned to be used for anything in particular. Those fabrics that had to be purchased because they were on sale. Those fabrics I had to have or the walls would cave in. Those fabrics that were purchase solely because there is a 4-inch gap in storage that has to filled - right now. I needed that orange cotton fabric with the huge, flourescent purple Zinnias all over it. Really? Did I really need it? Did I really need it just because it was a high quality brand name? At noon on a bright and sunny day it somehow still manages to glow. So then I have a debate inside my head. Well, I could make a scrap quilt. How about a woven basket. Maybe I could save it in the hopes that someone will request a custom quilt and just be begging me to find some orange fabric with big, purple Zinnias. I could throw it into a quilt kit and hope the other fabrics downplay it somehow. I would never call a fabric "ugly", as all fabric in it's own way has a purpose and can be beautfiul...but, oh my. What's a person to do with that fabric that can't seem to find its place in the world?