Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Can I Steal Your Ideas?

When I started blogging, I was on the search for community. I wanted to connect with people who were just as crazy as I was about fabric and sewing and quilting. I found what I was looking for (thank you!), but it wasn’t quite enough. I needed some in-real-life quilty friends.

What’s a blog post without pretty pictures? These fat quarters
have nothing to do with this post, but my mom got them for me
for Christmas. Aren’t they pretty?

Then the New Hampshire Modern Quilt Guild entered the picture. Joining that group gave me the in-person connections I was looking for. And we have a blast. In addition to our monthly meetings, we have workshops (see my posts here and here), retreats (see here), and other fun events.

I received this Lola Pouch for Christmas from Patch the Giraffe,
another NHMQG member.

My guild is planning for the year ahead, and we’re considering how we may choreograph our meetings differently. Workshops and retreats are great ways to get to know fellow guild members, but they happen just a few times a year and not everyone attends. How can we encourage new friendships and teach new skills each month? Here is what’s on my mind ...
  • Ice breakers. What activities can we do just to get people talking?
  • Block of the month. The BOMs we’ve done to date have been sizable commitments, and that has deterred a lot of people from participating. What can we do on a smaller scale that is still rewarding and that encourages new skills?
  • Challenges. I’m pretty sure we haven’t done any challenges within our guild. (We have, however, participated in some as a guild through the national MQG organization.) What are some fun ones?
  • Collective knowledge. There is so much experience and knowledge in our guild! How can we share it with other members?
I scored this awesome mug, sold by Patchwork Threads, during the Yankee swap
at the NHMQG’s Christmas party.

If you’re in a guild, I’d love to hear what has worked for your group, what you’ve found compelling, and what you’re likely to do again. Please share your best practices in the comments. Thank you!

If you’re not in a guild, I recommend trying one out. Each one is different, but after visiting a few, you may, like me, find a group of supportive, talented sewists who make your quilting hobby even more fun.

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Best of 2015? That’s Debatable.

Earlier this month, Cheryl of Meadow Mist Designs put out the call: Compile your best posts of 2015 and participate in an end-of-year linky. Sign me up!

If I look at the numbers, my best posts—those that received the most traffic or garnered the most comments—are easy to spot. They’re the ones that featured giveaways or received some third-party seal of approval, like my post for the Fat Quarter Shop Jolly Bar Blog Hop or my tutorial for the Moda Bake Shop. Not surprising, right?

In my non-quantifiable personal opinion, this is the best of From Bolt to Beauty from 2015 ...

Best Personal Confession
Transformation Complete: I’ve Become My Mother

Best Evidence That I’m a Quilting Bad Ass

What Happens on Retreat Stays on Retreat?

Best Excuse for Writing about a Family Pet
Rose, Textile Enemy No. 1

Best Rationale for Justifying a Large Fabric Purchase
Behavior Modification for Quilters

Best Way to Use Up Jelly Rolls … So I Can Buy More Jelly Rolls
Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll Quilt

If you’re feeling creative, I would love to hear what you would like to see on next December’s best-of list. Best Embarrassing Moment in Front of a Quilting Celebrity? Best Non-Sewing Use of a Sewing Notion? Best Single-Day Purchase of a Staggering Amount of Fabric?

I have a full year to make good on your ideas. I hope not to disappoint!

Linking up to ...


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Friday, December 18, 2015

Quilting by Check

I’m closing in on having made two dozen baby quilts, throws, or bedspreads in my fledging quilting career, and so far I’ve quilted them all myself. I like being responsible for every step in making a quilt; I like saying that a quilt is 100% mine. Although I almost exclusively straight-line quilt (an exception is here), I think my quilting adds to the overall design of my projects. 

Using a pattern from Meadow Mist Designs, I pieced this quilt top last year with the intention of gifting it at Christmas (yes, Christmas 2014). Straight-line quilting wouldn’t do this design justice. It really needed something less linear. I tried my hand at free-motion quilting to see whether I could FMQ this entire throw. It was not fun, and I decided to call in the reserves.

The front features Winged, by Bonnie Christine for Art Gallery Fabrics,
swathed in Kona Snow.

That is where my friend Mary came in. Mary does amazing work on her Handi Quilter, and the quilt that had me wringing my hands was for her an opportunity to have some quilting fun.

This is what fun looks like to Mary! : )

The quilting is best viewed on the back.

I adore these sweet scrolls!

And these stars? Love!

I’m very pleased with this project, finally complete a year after I originally planned to gift it. I have a second quilt that’s with another friend for quilting. (Mary does only custom work; this second quilt will be quilted with a simple pantograph.) Friends tell me this is “quilting by check.” I’m not sure how I feel about it, especially for those throws that I could fit through my Janome 1600P-QC. It transforms quilt making into more of a collaboration. Hmmm ...

The back features more Winged. The green-blue fabric is Kona Sage.

What do you think? Have you ever hired the services of a longarmer?

And if you have, do you still quilt some of your projects yourself on occasion? If you have some longarmer horror stories, I want to hear them, too. (Read what my friend Jen experienced with one of her quilt projects.) Now’s the time!

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday and TGIFF ...

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Sew Mama Sew's Giveaway Day!

** The giveaway is closed. Congratulations to the winner: #126 Veronique. The mini will be traveling from the U.S. to her in Ireland. **

Welcome readers of Sew Mama Sew! You’ve landed at From Bolt to Beauty, a crafty corner of the interwebs where I chronicle my sewing and quilting adventures.

First, a word or two about me …

I’m Michelle. As the mama to two little monkeys, I crave peace and sanity. I find that at my sewing machine, where I make quilts and bags and the occasional pillow or window treatment. Some of my projects from the past few months have included ...

Clockwise from top left: Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll Quilt, Boxed Zipper Pouches,
Bright as Yellow Mini Quilt, Right Round in Lizzy House Fabrics,
Mini Charm Mix Table Runner, Sew Together Bag, Dogwood Blossom Quilt,
Lotus Blossom Quilt, Moose-y Rail-Fence Quilt, Jane Market Bag,
Bring on the Dancing Horses, and Another Sew Together Bag.
Center picture: Orange Peel Pillow.

I have also tried my hand at designing my own quilts, including the item I am giving away today ...

This mini quilt, named The Tree Is Trimmed, is 21 inches by 25 inches and is ready to hang. It features fabric from Basic Grey’s Evergreen line and was pieced and quilted by me. For chances to win this beauty, read the rules below. To make your own version of The Tree Is Trimmed, see the tutorial here on From Bolt to Beauty or here on the Moda Bake Shop.

* * * * *

This giveaway is open to anyone anywhere in the world.

For a first chance to win, leave a comment, telling us what one sewing- or blogging-related resolution you hope to keep in the new year. I, for one, plan on getting proficient at taking and posting better pictures.

For another chance, leave a second comment, indicating how you follow me—on RSS, Bloglovin’, Instagram, etc. (Nope, I am not on Facebook.)

Instagram users can get a third chance by reposting my IG post about this giveaway and using the hashtag #frombolttobeauty.

Old and new followers are welcome to leave a comment. If you’re on the fence about following me, give me a month. Both here and on Instagram, it’s all crafts all the time. We’ll laugh. We’ll cry. And by the end of the month if you’re not into my scene, we’ll part as friends. No hard feelings.

This giveaway is open through Sunday, December 13, at 8 p.m. eastern time. Mr. Random Number Picker will select a winner. I’ll post the winner here and email him or her. Good luck!

BTW: I typically respond to comments on my blog via email, but I will not be able to respond to everyone that comments on this post. My apologies! Rest assured that I read every comment, though. : )

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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ho, Ho ... No!

I had promised myself that this year my holiday sewing projects would not get out of control. I’d choose a reasonable number of items to sew and gift. Lots of ideas would have to fall by the wayside. So be it.

And then, on Black Friday, my reality skills went out the window. I saw some jolly bars on sale at the Fat Quarter Shop and thought that I could add another throw-size quilt to my Christmas to-do list. Because, really, half the work was already done—it was precuts, people!

My inner voice of reason chimed in: I would have to finish everything else on my list before embarking on this latest pet project.

You, dear reader, are my witness. I will not break into those jolly bars until I have ...

Quilted and bound this super-size throw:

Design: Thimble Blossoms’ Jellybean Quilt

Finished piecing/quilting/binding this mini:

Design: allpeoplequilt.com

Finished piecing/quilting/binding this mini-mini (this has since been finished and can be viewed here):

Design: My own The Tree Is Trimmed

And pieced the four quadrants of this quilt top together, pressing everything, so I can take the project to the longarmer:

Design: Laura Jane Taylor, in Quilt-opedia

Sigh. Listing those projects is sobering. I know producing another quilt from start to finish in the next 20 days is a long shot. Last year, I had two pieced quilt tops at this point in the holiday season. All I had to do was learn how to free-motion quilt and they’d be done! In the end, one was gifted a few months late and featured some minor FMQ. The other quilt originally intended as a Christmas 2014 gift has become a Christmas 2015 gift and is with See Mary Quilt for quilting.

What did I accomplish for last Christmas? I finished all of these projects ...

Clockwise from top left: Mini Miranda Bag, Library Totes, Sew Together Bag,
Quilted Tissue Cozies

And posted this gift-bag tutorial ...

Not bad, right? I’m hoping to have similar success this year. Gulp!

So how is your holiday sewing shaping up? (This is a safe space. No judgment here!) Are you swiftly checking completed items off your list, or are you (as I suspect I will have to) paring down your expectations?

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Behavior Modification for Quilters

My husband and I have two sons, and we sometimes use incentives to encourage desirable behavior. Our younger son, for example, is supposed to wear hearing aids but doesn’t tolerate the sensation of having a little chunk of (very expensive!) plastic in his ears. So we started with getting him to hold a hearing aid in his hand for 10 seconds and rewarding him with a TV show or iPad time. We worked up from there ... holding for 20 seconds, for 30 seconds, touching a hearing aid to his ears, etc. The plan is working: Now he’ll tolerate a hearing aid—not turned on yet!—in his ear for several seconds. On my good days, I call this “positive reinforcement.” On my more cynical days, I call it “bribery.”

If that strategy works for a 5-year-old, surely it could work for that 5-year-old’s mama. My challenge? Not to eat any Halloween candy.

Perhaps other people could eat a piece a day or whatever and not fall off the deep end. I knew that for me, though, one Kit Kat would lead to two Kit Kats, if not half a bag of them. (And it really is about avoiding the Kit Kats—they’re the gateway candy to harder stuff, like Milky Ways, Almond Joys, and anything with dark chocolate.)

If I could endure an entire month coexisting with Halloween candy in my house, I would buy myself some just-because-I-like-it fabric. I’m happy to report I succeeded. I haven’t been an angel—I still ate my fair share of cake over my sister’s baby-shower weekend and had a Swedish fish here and there (Swedish fish are a staple in our pantry, not Halloween loot). But look what my self-control earned me ...

Eep—I know! I’m a big Basic Grey fan, and I’ve been very excited about the design house’s most recent line for Moda, Mon Ami.

I consider this one of the focal prints in the line. Isn’t it dreamy?

Ack! And these dots—they’re perfect for stashing!

Here are some other peeks of the line,
including Basic Grey’s signature Grunge in charcoal.

I rarely buy an entire line, but I didn’t stash enough of an earlier Basic Grey line—PB&J—before it went out of production and I didn’t want to make the same mistake with Mon Ami. I don’t have immediate plans for these 40 fats. They will have to “age” in my stash until I find the perfect project for them. : )

Are there new lines you’ve got your eyes on? Do tell!

Linking up to Let’s Bee Social, Sunday Stash, and Sew Cute Tuesday ...

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Quick, Make a Bag!

Do you recall my flying geese dilemma? I was considering pairing these fabrics with a light-colored Essex Linen for a quilt of crazy-big flying geese.

I decided that was a Bad Idea. The blues were beautiful but wouldn’t stand out against the Essex Linen. I could have returned all those fabrics to my stash, but the Amy Butlers (those second and fourth from the top) were purchased specifically for this quilt and had the potential to spend an eternity in my stash.

Don’t get me wrong: I adore those two fabrics, both from AB’s Cameo collection. But between their large-scale designs and super-gray undertones, they might not play well with other fabrics. So before I could issue them a one-way ticket to my stash drawers, I quickly cut them up for a bag.

See? They are gorgeous fabrics. They need to be used and loved, not merely visited by me when I check in with the rest of my fabric hoard.

The pattern is Alicia Paulson’s Jane Market Bag. It is the perfect bag pattern—like a simple grocery bag all grown-up with two exterior pockets. I’ve made this pattern at least 30 times (no joke). If I know you in real life, it’s only a matter of time before I make you one.

So this project got me thinking ... I really love Amy Butler’s designs (see this post for more gushing). Is there an epic AB quilt in my future? It would be fitting to make a best-of quilt with my favorite AB quilting cottons. Can I pull off the necessary fabric pull, though?

Some designers’ fabric is conducive to mixing and matching between collections. Bonnie and Camille—with their aqua, teal, true red, and navy—come to mind. And then there’s Cotton and Steel, with a palette that all four of its designers share. I don’t think Amy’s collections work together in the same way.

What do you think, is it possible? Do you have any advice on how I should approach this project? Better yet ... Have you made such a quilt yourself?

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

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Use All the Jelly Rolls!

Buy the Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll pattern here.

I’ve succumbed to the allure of precuts on many occasions. Who can blame me? They’re a cost-effective way to get a cross-section of an entire line, and because they are precut, there is less work for me.

Jelly rolls are not as versatile as other precuts, though, so they tend to linger in my stash. I have four of them right now, and it’s time to put them into service as quilts. Two of the four feature Christmas fabrics, so I decided to use them up first by making quilts for Christmas giving. The holiday deadline was the kick in the pants I needed to get going!

First up: my Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll Quilt. Most of the fabrics are from a jelly roll of Basic Grey’s Evergreen, but I supplemented that lot with some Evergreen fat quarters and some strips from a jelly roll of Basic Grey’s 25th and Pine. My goal was to cull the lighter, airier fabrics and sew them with a few well-placed color-saturated selections. I omitted all the super-Christmassy fabrics, striving for a more wintry quilt that could be used throughout the cold months here in New England.

I love the results. The Scandinavian feel of the Evergreen line is going to be perfect for the recipients I have in mind.

This is a happy accident. I miscut the background fabric and had to make
do with a neutral pattern in its place.

Christmas quilt #2 is in the works. It’s going to feel great to trim my jelly roll stash down by two!

Do you have a go-to pattern or two for your jelly rolls? If so, I would love to hear about it. And if you’re able to resist jelly rolls in general, can you teach me how to do that, too?

Buy the Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll pattern here.

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The Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll Quilt

The Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll Quilt is now a full pattern and includes instructions for five sizes (child, lap, twin, queen, king) and two design options, as well as tips for getting the best results sewing long columns. It is available through my Etsy shop.

A printed version for wholesale is available. If you are interested in carrying it in your shop, please drop me an email at frombolttobeauty [at] gmail [dot] com. 


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Old Dog, New Tricks

Have you noticed the recurrent themes in my blog posts? The list includes my love of Denyse Schmidt fabric, my fear of free-motion quilting, and my avoidance of hand sewing in all its forms.

Apparently, even old dogs—or at least middle-age ones—can learn new tricks because look what I’m working on ...

I know! EPP! I was in need of something crafty to do while watching TV with my husband or waiting around at soccer practice. That, paired with the arrival of my Glitz fabrics for the current Michael Miller challenge, compelled me to give English paper piecing a try. And you know what? I really like it. It’s mindless in a good way and surprisingly forgiving.

I did buy a book (All Points Patchwork) to learn more about EPP techniques, but I’ve perused the pictures more than I have read the words. Still, it’s nice to have a good reference should I need it with my hexies or try my hand at other shapes.

I plan to finish this project as a mini that will live in my foyer. The center clover fabric is from the Glitz line. The gray Cotton Couture solid, also by Michael Miller, is left over from the lining of this bag. I plan to sew another border around the gray one, and I originally thought I’d use some of the white Glitz fabric for it. Now I’m realizing that the little tails from the gray border will likely be visible through the white. Grrr! One way or another, I need to make a decision and run with it—this challenge quilt is due at the end of November!

Have you ventured into EPP and can offer some advice to a newbie? I’d appreciate any dos and don’ts you have to share with me!

P.S. For those of you who read the title of this post and thought it might contain something about my new pup (first featured here), this is for you ...

Miss Rosie, our four-month-old golden retriever pup. Don’t let the cuteness fool you: These days, she’s a defiant adolescent!

Linking up to Let’s Bee Social, WIP Wednesday, Needle and Thread Thursday, and Sew Cute Tuesday ...

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

When Your Flying Geese Head South

I got it in my head last month that I needed to make a quilt with oversized flying geese—like, really oversized. I had been wanting to piece something with Essex Linen and to sew a palette of saturated blues. Surely one quilt project could check off each of those boxes.

I got fairly far with my vision, or so I thought. I decided to make some of the geese out of made fabric. I would sew a few random pretty blocks and join them with bits of scraps, comparable to Victoria Finlay Wolfe’s technique but with more structure. I would cut the other geese out of yardage.

I started with the largest of the flying geese, which measures 15 inches by 40 inches. I really liked the results ...

One of my giant mutant flying geese!

Then I moved on to the scrappy geese and decided I hated them ...

Trust me, viewing this in person with the other blocks was total ick.

Annoyed with how things were going, I didn’t bother sewing the linen on here. But I had already sacrificed my last few blue Lizzy House butterflies for this block. Ack!

The geese with the made fabric seemed fussy. Perhaps the problem was an issue of scale and my approach would be better suited to something smaller? I kicked the scrappy geese from my flock, tweaked the palette, considered a pop of color … and still felt that I was on the wrong path.

Maybe these blues will do the trick?

As I forced the creation of this quilt along, I knew I was on the verge of losing my sewjo. So here’s what I did when my flying geese headed south ... I folded all the fabric up neatly and hid it from view. I cleaned my house. I did a little online shopping. And I decided to wrap up some projects that would be surefire successes, ones that would require little brain power or creativity at this stage of the game.

Here are the geese-less projects that are now on the sewing table:

My Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll Quilt. The quilt top is fully pieced. I just need to sew the back and quilt this project. With the easy piecing comes easy quilting. I’ll be stitching in the ditch on this one. Yes, please. I hope to post the finished quilt and tutorial before Thanksgiving.

My Obsession Quilt. I started my Obsession Quilt almost a year ago with a thorough excavation of my scraps. It’s time to finish her up. One quadrant is done. I just need to complete the other three. And heaven help me, if I’m unable to do that in the weekend retreat I have coming up, I’m heading south with those geese of mine!

I know I’m not the only one. What do you do when you’re in danger of losing your sewjo? I promise not to judge you if your solution involves alcohol, credit cards, or (my go-to) cleaning projects, like organizing your bathroom drawers. (Hey, I might not have control over my quilt projects, but I have control over those drawers!)

Linking up to WIP Wednesday and Let’s Bee Social ...

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