Sunday, December 31, 2017

Lessons from Christmas 2017

At From Bolt to Beauty world headquarters, Christmas 2017 lingers. The tree is still up and decorated. Toys litter the living room floor. It’s an appropriate time to look back at the events of the past month—the holiday fairs and parties and shopping—and admit it: I botched it all up! I thought I took on a manageable number of holiday activities, but I ended up committing myself to too much.

Case in point: two Christmas tree quilts. I was so proud of myself, back in November, when I came to the realization I wouldn’t have time to quilt either of them before Christmas. I sent both projects off to a longarmer, which meant I was on the hook for binding only. Bind them I did—finally!—on December 23.

The first quilt is for my family to keep. I used it to chip away at my red and green stash, buying just a little yardage to flesh out the fabric pull.

The beauty of this tree block, designed by Amy Smart of Diary of a Quilter, is that it works with small-scale prints as well as large ones. Before this project, I had no idea what to do with the green and white Trellis print from Heather Bailey’s Up Parasol collection (pictured in tree on right, below), but it works perfectly here. I love how it reads as a lower-volume green without being a light green.

This quilt reminds me that I can veer from my palette on the back of a quilt. The main print on the back, from Anna Maria Horner’s Field Study line, wouldn’t have worked on the quilt top. It has too much cream in it (I used mostly white on the front), and the green is too different. Paired with the three leftover tree blocks and the same cherry red used on the top, however, the AMH print allows the back to both work well in its own right and complement the design on the other side.

The quilting, done by Lisa Teichmann of Garden Gate Quilting, is perfect for this project. The easy-breezy orange peels look ornament-like against the Christmas-tree backdrop.

After finishing piecing the first Christmas tree quilt, I moved on to a second! Whereas the first one focused on cherry reds and grassy greens, the second incorporated pinker reds and yellow-greens. (I get a kick out of seeing the same design rendered in different palettes like that.)

The Bonnie and Camille print from April Showers inspired the palette. It’s not a Christmas fabric, but the red flowers remind me of poinsettias and I like the gray it introduces into the palette.

The back features more Bonnie and Camille. As with most of my quilt backs, I cut a length of fabric vertically and filled it out with a columns of scraps to make a back that would accommodate the size of the top. (More on that approach to piecing backs can be found under the Techniques tab.)

Christmas 2017 was a happy one. We were all healthy, so all of our plans (mostly) went off without a hitch. But binding quilts two days before the holiday was for the birds. If it weren’t for all the other stuff I was doing—the quilted ornaments and belated-birthday sewing and guild commitments—two binding projects would have been doable. Let’s hope I can hold on to these lessons for the next 12 months and make the holiday season of 2018 saner!

How did you hold up over the holidays? Were you crafting at the 11th hour?!

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Monday, December 18, 2017

What to Do with a Mini-Charm Pack

I am a lover of precuts—jelly rolls, charm packs, and layer cakes all have their place in my stash and in my heart. I like having a cross-section of certain fabric collections, and buying precuts is less expensive than investing in fat quarters or yardage of an entire line.

Each kind of precut has its advantages and disadvantages, but I think mini-charm packs—sets of 2.5-inch squares—are the least practical. There’s only so much you can do with those tiny pieces of fabric. When I received a mini-charm pack of Kate Spain’s Voyage at my guild’s fall retreat, courtesy of Moda Fabrics, I knew I would have to put those squares to good use right away, lest they wither away unused in my stash, so I challenged the other retreat-goers to sew something with their packs and present their creations at the December guild meeting.

I decided to make an En Pointe Bag, from Kairle Oak’s tutorial on Moda Bake Shop, which proved to be a cute bag and enjoyable sew.

The colors in Voyage are gorgeous!

Everything for this project came from my stash, including the Essex Linen exterior, Lotta Jansdotter lining, and Denyse Schmidt binding.

The interior of the En Pointe Bag features a single pocket.

A binding along the top gives the bag a clean finish. No turning required!

Note to my future self: If you make this pattern again, remember you veered from the instructions a bit. That is, you interfaced the patchwork panel, pressing it lightly with your iron just enough that the interfacing would fuse. This technique worked well and gave the final project the body you were looking for!

The bag is interfaced, which gives it great structure.

The other participants in the challenge came up with different project ideas. One person made a reversible bracelet. Another designed some baskets. Others made everything from potholders to mini-quilts. It was fun to see how we each took the same little bundle of squares in our own direction.

If you are the owner of an unused mini-charm pack, I ventured into the From Bolt to Beauty archives to find other projects you could tackle with your precuts.

Earlier this year, I made ornaments from a mini-charm pack of Basic Grey’s Juniper Berry ...

And back in 2015, I followed a free pattern from the Fat Quarter Shop to make this runner. (The instructions call for mini-charm packs, but you need so many of them that cutting up a charm pack will yield all the printed squares you need for the runner size. I used scraps for my version.)

Do you have other recommendations for using up a mini-charm pack? It’s only a matter of time before I have another in my stash!

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Run, Run Rudolph!

After Thanksgiving wrapped up, I made note of four crafty Christmas-related tasks I wanted to take care of before the big day:
  1. Bind two Christmas tree quilts
  2. Label and ship a baby blanket to a friend
  3. Make a dozen ornaments for the school holiday store
  4. Sew and cross-stitch an annoying Christmas stocking, the trauma of which may push me to (a) hit the egg nog hard, (b) watch It’s a Wonderful Life on a loop, and/or (c) curl up in fetal position until December 26
I have yet to start any of the first three projects, but I’m happy to announce that the blasted Christmas stocking is finished and about to be shipped to the recipient.

Sure, the finished stocking is super cute and looks simple enough. Sewing the outer stocking, lining, and cuff together, however, is a hassle. (Full disclosure: I drafted the pattern pieces myself and volunteered to make this stocking, so I’m really not in a position to gripe.) This is the fifth such stocking I have made over the years. I’m thinking it will be my last!

If you want to tackle another handmade gift, I do know of some last-minute, non-stocking projects you could bang out in these last weeks leading up to Christmas. I’ve test-run all of these designs, and they’re available for free here on my blog or elsewhere. I’ve categorized them, to the best of my recollection, by how much time they require. Good luck!

Less Than an Hour

Pixie Basket (Fabric Mutt): As long as you don’t make them by the dozen, as I have, these tiny bins are quick sews. And they’re fun to fill and gift.

Gift Bag for Beer Lovers (From Bolt to Beauty): Two dollars, some pearl cotton, and a half hour is all you need to make this six-pack holder.

About an Afternoon

Library Totes (Sweet Jane’s Quilting & Design): These bags require more time, but they’re beauties—and a great way to use up random jelly-roll strips.

Boxy Lined Pouches (Pink Stitches): I sewed this pattern as a makeup bag, but it could just as easily be a pencil case, project bag, or gift bag.   

Closer to a Weekend

The Tree Is Trimmed (From Bolt to Beauty): I designed this wall hanging years ago, and the recipients still display it each year.

Cargo Duffle Bag (Noodlehead): This tutorial comes from Anna Graham, my favorite bag designer. This project isn’t for the faint of heart, but a walking foot will make the process easier.

Do you have a stocking story in your closet, something that wasn’t impossible but more work than you care to do again? Let us know in the comments ...

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Sneaky, Sneaky, Sneaky Me!

It drives me batty when another quilter, somewhere on social media, posts an unrecognizable corner of a project because he or she is doing some secret sewing and cannot reveal any more. (It’s not nice to tease!) Likewise, it’s hard when I’m the one doing the secret sewing. I often use Instagram in particular to bounce ideas off of other sewers. Doing so is not an option, however, when the future recipient keeps tabs on my projects via social media.

My quilty BFF, award-winning quilter Kim Soper, had a very special birthday this month. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do some—alas!—secret sewing for her.

Two years ago, I bought her five half-yards of Geninne’s Moody Blues from Cloud 9. (This line is now out of print, but you can see all the fabrics and an accompanying free quilt pattern on the Cloud 9 site.) Kim is crazy about Geninne’s bird illustrations, and I intended to gift the fabric to her as a bundle. At the time, though, she had just moved into a new house and still had a little one with her during the day. I decided that a gift of fabric would have saddled her with yet another project she didn’t have time to do.

So I held on to the cuts of Moody Blues, patiently waiting for an opportunity to start sewing with them. Then, this past summer, I started making my Birds in Blue quilt ...

My goal with the pattern selection was to use as much of the Moody Blues fabrics as I could without cutting the birds into too-small bits. The pattern I chose, by Cheryl Brickey and featured in an old issue of Quilty magazine, fit the bill perfectly. (Psst ... I sewed with another of Cheryl’s plus-sign patterns here.)

The hardest part of this project—aside from keeping it a secret!—was working with the limited palette. At one point over the summer, I had to put this quilt to the side to work on higher-priority projects. When I returned to it, I flipped out a little bit. When did I decide to make Kim an orange and blue quilt?! But I didn’t. I decided to make her a Moody Blues quilt, and in addition to the copious amount of blue in the collection, there is some high-contrast orange, which is how I decided to use Cotton Couture in clementine for the inner plus signs and why I went with the Essex Linen in steel for the background (I think the gray tones down the contrast of the complementary colors).

There is also some teal in the Moody Blues fabrics, but it appears sparingly. (See the picture, above.) So I gave teal its own spotlight on the back of the quilt. I’m thrilled with the Anna Maria Horner floral print, Lizzy House pearls, and chunks of teal in the piecing there.

So that’s the story how I kept some secret sewing under wraps for over two years. And I didn’t tease you once with an in-progress shot. You’re welcome! ; )

What’s your take on secret sewing? Let us all know in the comments.

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Making the Most of Retreat Sewing

Last month, I went to Cape Cod with my guild for a weekend of sewing and socializing. It was crazy fun and went all too fast, but I was pleased with my accomplishments for the weekend: I wrapped up three quilt tops!

I have friends who work on a project from start to finish at retreats. That isn’t appealing to me. Even at home, I need multiple projects at different stages of being sewn and quilted to keep things interesting. To me, a retreat is more like a sweatshop than a creativity fest—I want to get things done!—so I aim to maintain a good level of productivity.

I choreographed my work for the weekend like this: I had all three quilt tops planned out in advance, with all the necessary fabric selected and cut before my trip. For two of these projects I sewed blocks, too—it was easier to nail down the layout at home instead of on retreat, where design boards are in short supply.

The first project I tackled on the Cape was an easy blue and orange baby quilt. I finished the top the first day at the retreat, and that quick success propelled me into project #2: another Christmas tree quilt. My final project was that same baby quilt pattern in subdued colors.

My Christmas tree project is at the longarmer, and the subdued baby quilt is basted and waiting to be quilted by me. The blue and orange baby quilt, however, is 100% done. (For the record, that’s a month in advance of the deadline. The baby isn’t even slated to come until the end of the year!)

Project Details

Quilt pattern: Little Man from Simplify by Camille Roskelley

Size: 40.5" x 51.5"

Fabrics: This fabric pull was easy to assemble—a fat quarter or less of each print was all that the pattern required. I had a little bit of the animal print in my scraps. The other fabrics are from a Maywood Studios bundle of Dawn KimberBell basics that my husband bought for me. The background is Kona Lake.

The backing features a low-volume print from Bonnie and Camille’s Happy Go Lucky line. All the fabrics I used were from my stash!

The Rest of the Year

I have two more finished quilts that I need to blog about before year’s end. I will also need to bind my two Christmas tree quilts, make a bag, and sew and cross-stitch a stocking. You are my witnesses: I will not add any last-minute sewing projects to my to-do list! Usually, I ditch sending out Christmas cards so I can add another project or two into the mix. But the cards have already been ordered and are waiting to be sent. This holiday season will be marked by sanity! (Alas, I can make no promises, however, about the new year.)

How does the next month look for you? Will you be making up to the last minute? Will it be sewing and quilting all month long, or are there other holiday crafts you enjoy? I used to make my own Christmas cards. Hahahaha—that will never happen again!

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday, Let’s Bee Social, and Needle and Thread Thursday ...

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Two Words: Free Scraps

November is the busiest month of the year for me. It always includes a visit from my family over Thanksgiving, a visit from my husband’s parents before they head south for the winter, and my older son’s birthday. Then there’s the submission deadline for QuiltCon on November 30. I want to submit at least one quilt this year—right now I have zero finished!

All of this has me maxed out, but that hasn’t stopped me from taking on a big reorganization project here at From Bolt to Beauty world headquarters. I’ve overhauled my sewing storage and decided that I need a clean slate on the scrap front. Would you like to help me with that endeavor? I’ve collected several lots of scraps. Ninety-nine percent of them are at least 2.5-inch squares or bigger. Most are prints. Some are solids. If you live in the United States, you’re welcome to claim whichever lot(s) you’d like. I just ask that you pay for shipping. (I’ll be sending by USPS, probably by flat rate envelope or box because it will make things easier for me. I’d expect to pay $7 for a flat-rate package filled to the brim with scraps.)

To claim your lot(s), add a comment below. Important: If you’re a no-response blogger, you’ll need to provide an email address in that comment. I’ll follow up via email to figure out PayPal payment and your shipping address.

: )

** Right now, everything is spoken for except lot 12. Thanks! **

Lot 1: PinksClaimed by Cortney

Lot 2: RedsClaimed by Kathy E.

Lot 3: YellowsClaimed by Cortney

Lot 4: GreensClaimed by Elaine W. on Bloglovin'

Lot 5: Blues, part 1Claimed by Allyson

Lot 6: Blues, part 2A claim on this lot is pending

Lot 7: PurplesClaimed by Elaine W. on Bloglovin'

Lot 8: BrownsClaimed by Julia J. on Bloglovin'

Lot 9: Neutrals/low volumesClaimed by Ann O.

Lot 10: ChristmasClaimed by Kathy E.

Lot 11: Denyse Schmidt (both big-box lines and quilt-shop collections)Claimed by Beth P.

Lot 12: Downton Abbey (this includes five finished blocks and scraps from this quilt) Claimed by Melody A.

Lot 13: Denims/home dec/other substrates (I’m happy to split up this lot because some of the pieces are substantial; list what you want in your comment)

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Long Time, No Blog Post

Quilty friends, hello! I haven’t popped in, in a month and wanted to give you all proof that I’m still here and sewing. Blogging is a blessing and a curse. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve met and the skills I’ve learned through it, but it is a time suck. And what does my blogging time cut into? My sewing time, of course.

So since I last blogged I’ve been doing a lot of sewing and quilting. I’d love to share the highlights—and corresponding pretty pictures—with you.

First off, I helped my guild, the New Hampshire MQG, wrap up a charity project we were working on. This post, over at the guild’s site, will fill you in on all the details. What I’ll tell you here is that the design is by Krista Hennebury, a Canadian quilter and designer, and it is a great scrap buster.

It can be hard to find a good group quilt project. If you choose one with a lot of special cutting or matching seams, you could be in for a big headache. This one worked out well. A guild mate and I handed out scraps from the guild’s stash, asking sewers to supplement with their own scraps, so there was zero precision cutting up front. Then, when piecing the leaves into rows, we strove to get the green stems to match up between the blocks. Inconsistencies that existed elsewhere in the leaves—which is what happens when you have a bunch of people working on the same project, right?—were rendered undetectable. Yahoo!

Also, I had the pleasure of venturing to Cape Cod with my guild for our annual fall retreat (we also retreat in Maine in the spring). I hadn’t been on a guild retreat in a while, and a weekend with my friends was just what I needed.

I spent a good chunk of that weekend working on a second Christmas tree quilt. (Check out my first one here.) I also pieced two baby quilts, which are in the process of being quilted and bound, and scored some awesome swag: two of Latifah Saafir’s Clammy templates.

Surely that was enough to make for a fabulous weekend and worthwhile retreat. However, my guild mates and I also enjoyed a trunk show with Melissa Averinos. I know Melissa’s work well, but seeing it in person is a different experience. Pictures don’t capture the texture of layer upon layer of fabric or the subtle low volumes she uses or the intricate detail of her piecing and applique.

The retreat was just a few weeks ago, and I am already raring to go again!

Are you active in a local guild? I am thankful for the NHMQG! If you haven’t hooked up with an organization near you, I recommend checking it out and considering getting involved with the planning, programming, and meeting execution. You’ll get so much more out of the experience! After two years of serving on the board, I am stepping down, mainly because my whackadoodle family life makes attending nighttime meetings difficult. I am still plotting ways to contribute, though. Right now, I’m thinking of reviving some past programs, like organizing a monthly fabric swap or a designing a guild T-shirt. : )

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ode to Art Gallery: A Finished Quilt

My marathon of summertime piecing has given way to a marathon of fall quilting, and it feels good to wrap up another project!

My Ode to Art Gallery quilt, first written about here, is done. In typical Michelle fashion, I pieced a mostly monochromatic backing, in shades of teal. (I also did that here and here.) And then, predictable again, I followed certain seam lines to create a simple allover quilting pattern. Finally, I bound the project in the same Kona Nautical used for the pluses, and—ta da!—I have another finished quilt!

OK, now for some pictures. First, the front (if you’re wondering how I developed this palette, check out my previous post about the subject) ...

And the back, in all of its teal-hued glory ...

You can’t tell from the above picture, but the deeper teal fabric is from Anna Marie Horner’s Loominous line. I got it in a scrap bag (there were many one-yard-plus cuts in that “scrap” bag!), and it’s really not my thing, at least not for a quilt front. But it works well here, as the star of the back.

Are you an Art Gallery fan, too? Who’s your favorite AG designer, or what is your favorite AG collection? Let’s gush about the fabric manufacturer that invites us to “Feel the Difference” in the comments!

(BTW: I think my favorite line is Bonnie Christine’s Sweet as Honey. Both palettes are sooo pretty, and I have eyes for the deer and bird and bee fabrics! The ridiculous thing is, although I have plenty of Bonnie’s fabric, I don’t have any from Sweet as Honey. True story!)

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