Monday, March 30, 2015

Nieve's Circus Tent

Several weeks ago my niece, Nieve, turned two.  She is getting interested in the idea of building forts on the couch, so I thought maybe she would like a place of her own to play in.  I sat down to stitch using this pattern as my guide, but modified to fit my parents' card table and to have more of a circus-y theme.

Each of the four wall panels are made of Kona Tomato and Kona White with Kona Ocean (or is it Pacific?) as the door and window panel.  The roof is made of Kona Tomato with Kona Canary bunting attached.  There's a small bit of Kona Canary along the base, too.

The door and window are lined with Remix fabric, which coordinated beautifully and gave a circus vibe to the whole thing.  Inside I made two cushion covers out of Remix too, so she has a bit of comfort and a place to sneak a nap.

I spy Dad's quilt on the couch!  Boy that would look nice with coordinating cushion covers, wouldn't it?
Some day....
The wall panels were first held to the roof by little pieces of Velcro 10 inches in from the corner. It turns out this was not enough to let them hang without getting baggy, so my mom whip stitched the top of each wall to the roof.  Thanks, Mom!  Each wall panel also has little flaps that fold over and attach to Velcro tape on the adjacent wall.  You can probably see that better in the pattern than you can here on the circus tent.

The window and door roll up and can be secured with ties, but Nieve liked the idea of hiding in there and generally left them down.  The window was made larger than in the pattern so that it could act as a puppet theater.  Do you remember the puppets I showed you a few weeks ago?  The idea was that Nieve now has her own monkey, lion and tiger as part of her circus.

For now, Gram is having more fun with the monkey and lion than Nieve is.
See her kneeling on that poor tiger?  
I think she is really enjoying it so far.  I can not wait for the weather to get a bit better and it can move outside.  I hope she has a blast in it with her friends (or her Dad...who will absolutely be in it as much as Nieve will be).  

Thanks, Dad (AKA Granddad) for the photos of our favourite birthday girl!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Ultimate Super Tote

A massive thank you to each and every one of you who left hits, tips and suggestions on my blog post and IG feed giving me your experiences in creating a Super Tote.  With your help, I'm delighted to say I have finished my very first Super Tote and I absolutely love it.

I have been watching so many of you make Super Totes with personal touches.  I knew when the day came that I made my own I wanted to tweak the pattern to suit my use of the bag. Needless to say, my chicken scratch covered the pattern within hours of my printing it.

The pattern is wonderfully written. Very clear instruction with easy to follow diagrams.  There are lots of ways to personalize your tote included as optional extras in the pattern itself, which was a nice touch.  

I started with the two large exterior pieces of  the bag.  I knew I wanted to use the Wordfind print from Playful as the "background" on the front panel.   The handles (and gusset) are of Essex Linen Navy because I wanted them to be extra sturdy.  The handles have batting inside and are a bit wider than called for in the pattern.  They're stitched...and quilted...and reinforced by stitching Xs at their base, giving them strength and form.  I used Annie's Soft and Stable as my interfacing to make the bag...well, soft and sable.  I wanted it to hold it's own shape, but squish under an air plane seat.  I found it to be pretty easy to work with even when at some points I was stitching it two layers thick plus several layers of fabric.  Not a bother.  On one side I put a slip pocket in Architextures and a key fob.  I also hid one side of a magnetic closure between the Wordfind print and the interfacing.  On the other went a internal zip with Architextures lining on the pocket.

That was as far as I could get in one day.  The next day I returned to add pockets to the front and I realized the Wordfind was just too much pink for me on the back.  I'd have to add pockets on both sides to break it up a bit.  Onto the back, I added a half pocket that I divided into two with basic stitching down the middle.  It was a nice way to also better secure the fabric to the interfacing.  The pockets are lined and have light, fusible interfacing between the two layers.  Instead of piping (as called for in the pattern) I just did a binding of Navy Essex on the top of the pocket to finish it.

On the front there's one massive pocket in Viewfinders  that again is lined, with interfacing and a binding on top.  Between the two layers I added the other half of the magnetic closure.  Boy it's hard getting photos of pockets on a bag, isn't it?

Next came the gusset of Essex linen backed with more Annie's Soft and Stable.   I pinned, and pinned and pinned and that worked well for me.  No blood was shed.  I hear, too, that Clover clips would work here as well.  I didn't have enough to make it all the way around so I had to stick to pinning.  Now, my gusset ended up being 2 inches taller on the left and right as compared to my bag (you can kind of see it in the photo).  I don't know why that is, but it was easy enough to cut that extra bit off.  I lost a bit of the pleat, though, on either side.  Next time I'll have to make the pleat it a bit longer to be sure I keep enough of it on the bag.

For the lining, I used the Jacks print from Playful.  I used interfacing between the layers on either side of the recessed zip.  I tried to get away without it, but you guys wouldn't have it.  I'm glad you stopped me from making  a huge mistake - I love it now that it's re-done and in use.

Inside you'll see another internal zip on one side and elastic pockets on the other.  I wasn't convinced that the elastic pockets would really be used (by me) or that they're high enough in the bag for me to find them (and the stuff in them).  I decided to give them a try, though, on one side to see how it went.  We'll see if they stay in my next super tote.

I used more Wordfind (scraps now) as the pocket lining in the internal zip.

And extra wide 1 inch thick elastic on the pockets.  I wish they were lined but at this point I was just getting tired and wanted this pretty finished.  It would have been easy enough to line them, though, so if they stay in the next Super Tote I'll add that to the pattern.

I do not like how the lining is just free floating inside the bag.  It seems kind of "baggy" and unrefined.   I can imagine myself snagging it when grabbing something at the bottom of the bag and pulling the lining fully out.  I flipped the bag inside out and added tacking stitches at 4-6 spots along either side of the lining gusset.  I just tacked the lining to the Annies hoping to keep it anchored a bit.

On the top of the bag the pattern tells you to top stitch along the upper edge.  I tried, but it looked just awful.  I'm pretty bad at that in general and this bag was no exception.  I decided to add another strip of Essex binding along the top and used navy thread that was then nearly invisible to stitch it down. I like it SO much more that way than as wobbly top stitching along the edge.

All in all I am delighted with how it came together.  It will come with me on a business trip later this week so it'll have the full test.  Stuffed with EPP and knitting, passports and reservation confirmations it will be shoved under the seat in front of me and strapped to a wheelie suitcase.  I'll let you know how it goes!

My photographic assistant, Miss Molly.  She's loving the first rays of the spring sunshine during our photo shoot.

Monday, March 23, 2015

New York State of Mind

In February I got a small case of the winter blues.  I wanted something fun.  Something new.  Something to look forward to.   You know how it is.

I decided to register for a New York Beauty piecing class and have really really really been looking forward to it since.  I have been all over Pinterest searching for inspiration.  I have been pulling fabrics from my stash and have been daydreaming of the mini 4-block quilt I want to make.  It was a wonderful boost to my imagination (and winter spirit) just to have registered.

This past Friday (20 Dad's birthday) my day had finally come!  I popped into the car with my sewing machine, a small suitcase of fabric (but what if the absolute perfect fabric was left at home? you had to bring it all....) and a pillow case filled with my mini ironing board and rulers and set off for Dublin.  Happy happy happy.

This class was hosted by the Quilter's Guild of Ireland, taught by Ana Buzzalino using this quilt, New York Sate of Mind, as our guide.

There were 12-15 people in the class, with each and every one (no exception) using a full array of batiks.  Some were full of lively colors (gorgeous oranges and purples) but others had more shades of brown and green than I have ever seen in my life.  I was the weirdo.  With lots and lots of Sesame Street in my child hood, it bubbles up in my head at times like these:

One of these things is not like the others,

One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

We were given templates to make four blocks or one full circle.  The instruction was quite brief and basic - quick intro to paper piecing and how to fit a curved seam (with many pins).  Really the huge bonus of having a teacher with you for the day was to ask questions and get practical hands on help.  In that way it was brilliant.

I started piecing (using techniques from my Craftsy class) the arcs immediately, loving every bit of it.  I used a Cotton and Steel basic print (yellow) in combination with a rainbow of charms from our last charm swap.  They give you so little space in these classes I was always digging to find what I wanted.

Before I knew it, though, I had four arcs pieced!

And struggled a bit with the inner piece but just learned more pins is always better than fewer pins.  The outer L-shaped piece was a treat after I got that inner curve squished in there.

By the end of the day I had four blocks pieced, making one circle.  Woo hoo!  It's not perfect. I cut off a few triangle points, but I at least know now why that happened and how to avoid it in my next block.  I'm delighted with the layout, the color, the yellow pulling it all together.

I absolutely love it.  There will be three more to make a four block "mini".  It's not too mini, though, as this piece is 16.5 inches square UF.  

At the end of class we all gathered as a group holding our block for a photo.  Everyone had their batik block in hand except me.  The really nice woman next to me in the photo (who was on the other side of the room and hadn't seen me piece all day) looks at mine, looks at me and says "well, that's different".  Um, yeah.  Hilarious.  

I'll sign off with a photo from Friday morning.  While I was driving to Dublin, I had the perfect view of our eclipse.  It was a really stunning even to witness.  This photo was taken by my friend Dion back in Galway.  Thanks, Dion!  x


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Super Tote Inspiration!

It comes in the funniest of ways.  This time from two completely unrelated sources.

1. I am travelling at the end of this month and am itching to make something new to travel with me.  A zippy pouch?  I have many.  A purse?  Too fiddly.  What to make, what to make.....

2.  I was reading blogs over my lunch today and saw a super tutorial to make a tote bag. 

A tote!  But I need a zipping top to shove it under an air plane seat.  What's that, you say?  A Super Tote!!!  The light came on.

Oh, yes.  Paypal has this way of enabling spontaneous purchases.  Before I knew it I had a brand spankin' new Super Tote pattern printed out at my desk.

I am home tonight pulling pretty fabrics....

Clearly Playful from FSQ is my first choice, combined with two Essex linens.
and playing with Google image for a bit of inspiration/orientation.

Here is my question for all of you.  Have you made a Super Tote?  Do you have any hints or tips to share? Or any ideas of what you'd add into the pattern?   I see lots of cool suggestions like adding internal zipper pockets, using one massive cross-body loop instead of two handles, internal key fobs or external smaller pockets.  It's kind of fun daydreaming a bit, isn't it?  I'm totally jazzed to start stitching over the holiday weekend.  Bring it on!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Quick Strip Paper Piecing: A Craftsy Class

I love paper piecing.  I love the crisp points and the amazing designs you can create that would be a nightmare with traditional piecing.  I do not dig the ridiculous waste of fabric.  This waste has put me off making a larger project using paper piecing.  

I decided to take a Craftsy class on paper piecing to learn a few tricks.  Just before Christmas their classes were on sale, so I figured it's my best time to try out my first one.  I registered for Quick Strip Paper Piecing taught by Peggy Martin.  She's a good teacher with complete instruction, easy to follow printouts and clear videos.  At time it's a bit too basic, but that would make the class quite accessible for a very early stage quilter.

The idea is to strip piece your blocks to both save time and reduce waste.  The patterns are included in the class and are pre labelled with measurements and arrows to dictate the direction of your sewing to make your life SO EASY.  I'm loving it.  

The pattern I'm using here is the easiest one in the class where you sew only straight lines.  The mindlessness makes super sewing after a day at work.  The class does include more complex compass blocks and a New York Beauty that I will tackle in the near future.  Her instructions on the video make it look do-able.

For fabric, I'm using the Mimosa line and Kona Ash from the shop.  I would normally have used a white/cream, but I didn't want the points of the yellow blocks to be lost if a piece of white flower randomly was pieced next to the Kona white/cream.  Ash it is, then.

As for waste, there still is some.  It's in no way the amount of waste that I would expect from making six blocks the traditional way.  This is all of it....  not bad, right? 

I have decided to make a quilt top of 9 blocks so that you can see the secondary pinwheels appearing between the primary yellow blocks.  For now it lives on the design wall in little 1/4 block pieces.   With any luck I'll have a finished top to show you within the week!

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