Sewtopia – Chicago

 

Lindsey and me at Sewtopia

Lindsey and me at Sewtopia

My daughter, Lindsey, and I spent this past weekend at a sewing event called Sewtopia which was held in Chicago. Sewtopia is a 3 day sewing retreat for the online sewing community which occurs 2 times a year in different places around the country. During the Spring retreat the focus is on education and we had 2 fabulous instructors!

Latifa Sattir

Latifah Saffir and our sewing space at the Drake Hotel

Latifah Saffir traveled from Los Angeles to teach us her Molehill Quilt design which is all curved piecing. The curves are rather long and shallow and sewing them was a breeze after Latifah gave us tips and showed us how to sew them.

Lindsey arranging her Molehill blocks.

Lindsey arranging her Molehill blocks.

Did I mention that Lindsey is pregnant? 37 weeks pregnant to be exact. She lives in the Chicago area and so did not travel out of her usual stomping ground to attend this event which we had signed up for longer than 9 months ago. She and Latifah are both engineers and Lindsey could really appreciate the engineering that went into this quilt design.

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The final layout was decided.

The “Molehills” are all made and then some of them are cut and repositioned such that you end up with a rectangular quilt with straight edges made from all of those curves. You have to admit, that is some engineering! The name comes from a play on the saying about “not making mountains out of molehills”. These arcs are large (24″ wide) but not tall and so they are definitely more like molehills than mountains. This pattern is due to be released by Latifah later this week. Click here to go to her website.

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12 pieced Molehills = baby sized quilt

I did a fair amount of prep work for a Molehill quilt top of my own but wanted to spend more time figuring out a layout. I decided to help Lindsey construct her blocks so that we would get to the assembly while the instructor was still available to guide us. So . . . I don’t have any molehills of my own to show right now.

The following day we had Rita Hodge from Red Pepper Quilts who came all the way from Melbourne Australia to teach us how to piece Y seams to make the Kansas Dugout block. This block is sewn together using many, many, many, Y-seams. Did I say “many”? No exaggeration! This looks rather simple but was like putting a puzzle together.

My finished pillow top. 22" square. Each block is 5.5"

My finished pillow top. 22″ square. Each block is 5.5″

Lindsey's finished pillow top.

Lindsey’s finished pillow top.

DCMQG members with Rita Hodge (in the middle)

DCMQG members with Rita Hodge (in the middle)

The photo above is Rita’s quilt which is made up of 100 Kansas Dugout blocks. The templates for this block in 3 different sizes can be found on her website here and sewing directions are on her blog here.

Michael Miller Fabric Challenge fabrics

Michael Miller Fabric Challenge fabrics

The attendees of Sewtopia Chicago where issued a sewing challenge several weeks before the event. We were each sent 6 pieces of Michael Miller fabric and asked to create something quilted from them and bring it to the event to be shown all together and a few would be chosen by judges to win prizes.

Lindsey's entry into the Michail Miller Fabric Challenge.

Lindsey’s entry into the Michail Miller Fabric Challenge.

You could add other Michael Miller fabrics to your piece. Lindsey ended up making a pretty large quilt. We were sewing the binding down right before we went to the opening registration where we had to turn our items in.

Michael Miller Fabric Challenge

Some of the items entered into the Michael Miller Fabric Challenge

My entry was the Dragon Fly quilt pictured above (and below) with just a few of the the other entries.

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My quilt: “Well Dressed Dragonflies”

During lunch the day of the judging the attendees requested to vote on their favorite of the challenge items and the staff agreed and made it happen. Guess which quilt won “viewers choice”? Mine! I thought the dragonflies were pretty cute, but it sure was great to know others did too. It is a paper pieced pattern by Amy Friend that can be found here.

I do not have photos of the items that won the judging. If the Sewtopia people post photos of them later I will edit them in. The winner made a bag with amazing piecing and the words of the song “Over the Rainbow” free motion quilted into it. Second place was a fabric iconic Airstream trailer and 3rd place was an adorable rag doll.

There were many other wonderful sponsors for this event including Bernina who provided sewing machines for many of the participants, Pellon who provided rolls of batting and Reliable who provided irons. The organizers and staff were all truly amazing.

DCMQG Members

I had so much fun with these ladies!

I didn’t realize there would be other DC sewers at the event, but found that there were 3 others when I got there. Kristina on the left above has moved to Chicago is now a student at Northwestern University. Stephanie and Lauren flew in from DC for the event and it was such a pleasure to get to know them better.

To say that it was a wonderful weekend is such an understatement that it seems stupid to even say it. I sewed, I learned new things, I met new people and I was with my daughter who lives much too far away from me and who’s life is about to change forever. I feel as though I’m the luckiest woman alive. To top it off – I’m going to yet another retreat this coming weekend! Mid Atlantic MOD will be happening in Lancaster, PA and I will be there with many of my friends (some feel like daughters) from the DC Modern Quilt Guild. I can’t wait!

 

 

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Dinosaur Baby Quilt

 

My dinosaur quilt and the soon to be parents.

My dinosaur baby quilt and the soon-to-be parents.

My daughter and her husband are expecting a baby boy in May and I wanted to make him a special quilt. My daughter suggested that I make one with a dinosaur theme. After doing an online search for ideas I found this wonderful quilt by Daniel Rouse titled Hero’s nemesis.

Quilt by Daniel Rouse

Quilt by Daniel Rouse (photo used with his permission)

I basically copied what Daniel had done except I used different colors and a different dinosaur.

I started by making a quilt top out of Disappearing Nine Patch Blocks.

Disappearing Nine Patch quilt top.

Disappearing Nine Patch quilt top.

I wanted my quilt to have a triceratops on it. My family has spent a lot of time in Montana and the Museum of the Rockies has a wonderful display of triceratops skeletons. I found a wall decal of a triceratops skeleton that was the right size and traced around it.

Tracing around the wall decal.

Tracing around the wall decal.

I then made a patchwork of half square triangles that was somewhat larger than this tracing.

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I used the product Thangles to make my half square triangles and they made the process go pretty quickly. They come in all sizes, but I used the 1 1/2″ size.

Thangles

Thangles

I then layered the grey quilt top wrong side up with the teal patchwork on top also with the wrong side up and then put the traced skeleton on top of that.

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I pinned these pieces together well and brought it to my sewing machine and stitched around all of the skeleton pieces using my free motion foot.

I stitched around each bone in the skeleton.

I stitched around each bone in the skeleton (twice).

I ended up sewing around each piece twice. I just was not confident that one line of stitching would be secure enough. I am not the best at free motion stitching!

After tearing the paper off, I turned the piece around and started to trim the grey away from inside each of the bones which exposed the teal patchwork underneath.

This is the fun part!

This is the fun part!

As you can see, this is a raw edge reverse appliqué technique.

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I used some leftover fabric and HSTs to piece together a fun backing.

The back.

The back.

I knew that the quilting would not be very obvious due to how busy the grey top is. I did some straight line quilting in sort of a sunshine fashion arising from the dinosaur and then some landscape type quilting underneath and bound it in teal.

Finished quilt.

Finished quilt.

This quilt was so much fun to make. Thank you to Daniel Rouse for sharing his process on his blog. He has made several quilts using a stencil technique and each one is absolutely amazing and unique!

My hope is that this quilt will keep my new grandson warm and secure for years to come. I can’t wait to meet him!

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Victoria Findlay Wolfe

The Needlechasers of Chevy Chase hosted Victoria Findlay Wolfe this past week. She drove to the DC area from NYC where she lives and talked to our guild on Wednesday and taught a 6 hour workshop on Thursday. She is amazing!

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She showed many bright and beautiful quilts which included pieced-together scraps.

Her lecture on Wednesday was about “15 Minutes of Play”. This is the title of her first book and also describes what she tries to find time for every day in her sewing studio.

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She told us about growing up on a farm with a beloved grandmother who sewed (polyester!) scraps together into quilts. Victoria ended up going to art school and eventually fell in love with quilting and used this technique of playing with sewing scraps together to incorporate them into her own quilts.

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She changed into several polyester jackets during her lecture.

Victoria encouraged our group to try anything and never to think you’ll never make a certain design because someday you might want to. Her example of this was her Cow Quilt

The quilt she thought she'd "never" make.

The quilt she thought she’d “never” make.

On Thursday we came with our sewing machine, rotary cutter/mat, and a bag of scraps and she showed us an easy method of making fabric by piecing the scraps together in a way that they could then be cut (again) into usable pieces. (Thereby making more scraps!)

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Thursday workshop

Victoria showed us many examples of mixing the “made” fabric with “unmade” fabric to get even a bigger variety of patterns in our quilts and then set us free to work on our own pieces.

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Some workshop participants cut their scraps into dresden shapes.

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Others cut into diamonds, wedges, hexagons, etc…

It was a very fun couple of days to spend time with this wonderful quilt artist and learn about her process of creating the type of quilts that she makes. It certainly has made me think more “out of the box” about cutting things up – including old tops or blocks that I never intend to finish because I no longer like them. Maybe by cutting them into other shapes and adding other fabrics that I do love, I will make these older pieces into something that I will treasure.  I can’t wait to give it a try!

On Wednesday afternoon a few of us took Victoria to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Museum in DC which currently has a special exhibit of antique quilts from Virginia and Maryland. The Needlechasers guild is booked to take a tour of this exhibit together this summer and I wanted to preview it. It was wonderful to see these old quilts.

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Don’t you love her orange shoes?

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DAR Exhibit – “Eye on Elegance”

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The details on these quilts were astounding.

To see such a variety of quilts, old and new over the course of a couple days this past week was quite a treat for me. You can see Victoria’s blog post about it here.

If you ever have a chance to meet Victoria Findlay Wolfe, hear her speak, see her quilts or take a workshop with her, make sure to do it! You won’t be sorry.  Thanks Victoria, for a great couple of days!

 

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One Hour Top by Fancy Tiger Crafts

Free pattern download

Free pattern download

I just finished sewing this One Hour Top by Fancy Tiger Crafts. I used a knit fabric that I bought in December from Girl Charlee as part of that months’ “KnitFix“. I received 6 two yard cuts of knit fabric and didn’t know what they looked like until they arrived at my doorstep. I’ve seen some amazing things made out of the different knits. I thought this easy top pattern would be a good choice to make a quick top.

Easy top

Easy top

The pattern is a free download and is only two pieces – the front and the back. The two pieces are identical except for the front neckline dipping down lower. I made some ridiculous mistakes making this top and the first one was that I cut out two fronts instead of a front and a back. I had to cut them separately to line up the stripes and I guess I was thinking I would cut 2 backs and then cut out the scoop of the front neck, but suddenly I realized I had cut 2 fronts and had to decide what to do. I could just make it up using 2 fronts and the back would dip down too. However, in the end I decided I would just sew an extra piece of fabric to the back neck area (with careful matching of the fabric design) and no one would be the wiser (except for those of you reading this!)

Back neck - fabric added

See the lower line of white stitching? That’s where I matched and added fabric.

Knit fabric which doesn’t fray and this very busy print enabled me to get away with this.

The “One Hour” pattern gives instructions for folding over all of the raw edges to finish the top. It does not give directions for sewing on knit bands as I did at the neck and the sleeves. I really didn’t think that folding under the curved neckline and topstitching it down would look good. I was afraid of the stretching that might occur or losing the stretchiness of the fabric where I topstitched. I did not have any problem hemming the shirt this way however.

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I found a wonderful suggestion for how to make knit bands that can be found in the directions here of another easy top that is a free download called the Hemlock Tee by Grainline. Making the bands can be tricky because the knit tends to roll at the edges and you have to fold these bands in half and keep the two edges flat and together while you sew them onto the top. This tutorial suggests that you cut the bands wider than needed and then mark a guide to the left of your serger needles/blade to run the folded edge along. By doing this you are cutting off the edges that may be curling and sewing the flat area together.

I used a strip of washi tape as a guide here.

I used a strip of washi tape as a guide here. The left edge of the band is the fold and I am serving  two layers of fabric together on the right. 

This creates a nice even band. It helps to make it longer than you want too so that you can cut it to exact size afterwards as sometimes the fabric stretches as you start or finish the piece. If you are sewing this band on your garment in the “round”, you do have to unpick some stitches on either end in order to join the piece together.

Flat piece with unpicked stitches on both ends.

Flat piece with unpicked stitches on both ends.

Now joined to make the cuff that will be sewn onto the sleeve.

Now joined to make the cuff that will be sewn onto the sleeve.

I could have serged that “unpicked” area on this cuff, but I found that the fabric didn’t shift enough to bother with doing that and just sewed it on to the sleeve this way.

So what were the other ridiculous mistakes I made? Two things. 1) I paid attention to matching the stripes but I didn’t realize I should have been paying attention to centering the motifs on the fabric vertically too. At first glance you might not notice this, but if you really look, it is obvious that the design is not centered. 2) I obviously have a “front” and “back” problem because I sewed the seamline in the the neckband to the middle front of the top instead of the back!

Some of my followers wanted to see the other fabrics I received as part of the Girl Charlee KnitFix.  Here they are!

Girl Charlee KnitFix fabrics from December

Girl Charlee KnitFix fabrics from December

What in the world am I going to do with all of these? I like the One Hour Top but not enough to make it again. It is quick but so completely shapeless that I need to try something else.

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The Moneta dress by Colette and sewing with plaid

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Moneta Dress

I bought this red plaid knit fabric from the online shop Girl Charlee. I know that it looks like flannel and it kind of feels like flannel. However, it is a nice soft knit. I bought it in December along with their “KnitFix” which is a group of six 2 yard cuts of different knit fabrics. When you order a KnitFix, you don’t know exactly what the fabrics you get are going to look like but they promise they will all be high quality and “on trend”.

The collar has a little center piece that hangs down in the back.

The collar has a little center piece that hangs down in the back.

I seem to be enamored with “mysteries” lately as I also signed up for the Amitie Mystery Block of the Month in December. I haven’t cut into the other knits yet but will soon. There is a Facebook group for those who are sewing with these knits and there has been a lot of sharing of favorite patterns and tips for sewing with knits.

Unable to "cut on the fold".

Unable to “cut on the fold”.

Cutting out this plaid dress was quite a bit of trouble. There is no way you can fold this knit fabric in half and have it line up exactly right. In order to be absolutely sure that the 2 halves were identical, I had to cut it out without folding. I cut one side and then turned the pattern over to lay it on the other side.

Bodice

Bodice

For the bodice I actually marked some of the darker black parts of the plaid on the pattern in order to get it just right. This was very fussy but definitely worth it.

Pockets!

Pockets!

The Moneta pattern has pockets and the collar and sleeves are optional. The pattern says that it’s skill level is “beginner”. I would hate to see a true beginner try to make this dress. There are a number of tricky parts – but I will say that it has very good directions – including a link to a video that shows a lining technique for the sleeveless version. There are also good directions for inserting clear elastic into the waistline which is done to keep that area from stretching out over time.

Knit Moneta dress by Colette

Megan’s sleeveless version

My daughter made the sleeveless version last May. Isn’t she adorable?

The Moneta pattern has quite a bit of “negative ease”. This means that the garment measurements of the bust and waist are less than your own measurements. The bodice is meant to s-t-r-e-t-c-h and be very form fitting. I think this is more appealing to a younger sewist like my daughter than it is for me. I made a size larger than my measurements called for and it is still very close fitting. Because of the knit fabric, though, it is very comfortable. I am looking forward to sewing with my KnitFix fabrics next!

Notes to myself about making up this pattern –  Size XL. Added 1 inch to center of sleeve. Added 1 inch to length of bodice and graded bodice out to make waist about 1/2 inch larger on each side. Lined the bodice with the same fabric I made the collar out of. Lengthened the hemline by 1.5 inches which is about the size of the hem I turned under. Used ballpoint needles in both my sewing machine and serger. Used a double needle with regular thread in the needles and wooly nylon in the bobbin to hem the skirt and the sleeves. Also used my black latch bobbin case in order to loosen the tension on the bobbin when using the double needle. Used 3/8″ plastic elastic from JoAnns for the waistline but would have preferred 1/4″ if I could have gotten it. Sewed the waistline with a zig zag stitch on my sewing machine rather than using the serger. I would love to make this dress again but would rather not have to match a plaid or stripe!

 

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Disappearing Nine Patch

Disappearing nine patch blocks

Disappearing nine patch blocks

I’m starting on a small quilt that I hope will have a lot of texture and decided to make “disappearing nine patch” blocks. This is an easy way to sew a block that looks rather complicated but isn’t that difficult to sew.

Sew a nine patch block together

Sew a nine patch block together

I randomly chose to use 3 inch square blocks to make my nine patches. I cut up as many gray or black and gray fabrics that I had and of course I had to purchase some more in order to have a great variety. That silvery dotted fabric is one I bought in Hawaii on a trip.

Cut the block down the middle both vertically and horizontally.

Cut the block down the middle both vertically and horizontally.

Once cut, I rotated the upper left and lower right pieces to put the small square at the outside corners.

I rotated 2 of the pieces.

I rotated two of the pieces.

You have other options at this point. You could orient these smaller blocks in any way you desire and you would get different looks.

Sewn together.

Sewn together.

The nice thing about the way I did these is that there is no fussing with lining up the seams to “nest” together except at the very center of the block. This may not seem like a big deal, but think about it. Every time two seams meet, it is desirable to have them ironed in different directions and this can get pretty complicated with this many seams.

Can you imagine sewing the block above by cutting out all of those pieces individually and piecing them together? It would take forever and be so inaccurate. At least if I did it, it would be.

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15 blocks on my design wall.

My finished blocks are 7 1/2″ square unfinished or will be 7″ square finished. I have 15 done and 33 left to go. If I lay them out with 6 blocks across and 8 blocks down, the finished quilt will be 42 X 56″ which I’m told is a good size for a baby. This is not what the finished quilt will look like however. There is going to be a big twist to make it special for the exceptionally special baby it is being made for. More to come!

 

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Mystery Block of the Month – #1

I have signed up to receive fabric, pattern and instructions from Amitie Textiles in Australia every month for the next 12 months to make a Mystery Quilt designed by Jen Kingwell. Happy New Year to me! This BOM actually began a few months ago and that is why it is dated 2014 instead of 2015. Here is my first mailing:

Mailing #1

Mailing #1

I have no idea what the finished quilt will look like, because it’s a mystery! I don’t even know what size the quilt will be although I do think Amitie Textiles would tell me if I asked – I just didn’t think to ask when I signed up. What I do know is that I LOVE Jen Kingwell’s designs and crazy choice of fabrics.

Gypsy Wife by Jen Kingwell

Gypsy Wife by Jen Kingwell

Green Tea and Sweet Beans by Jen Kingwell

Green Tea and Sweet Beans by Jen Kingwell

These are the two designs that I think I have seen countless renditions of. Aren’t they beautiful? I love the combination of piecing and appliqué. This mystery quilt I am embarking on was described as being hand and machine pieced and appliquéd. I have done a lot of sewing of all kinds, but hand piecing is probably what I have done the very least of and that’s what this first mailing entailed.

Templates made and traced onto fabric.

Templates made and traced onto fabric.

Luckily I watch my friend, Anne, sew this way frequently and so I did have some idea what I needed to do. I used template plastic to make my templates and traced these onto my fabrics with a pencil. I knew that a piece of sandpaper would make this process easier as it holds the fabric in place as you do the tracing. (Anne has a fancy sandpaper board for this purpose – but I just used a single piece of sandpaper that my husband had).

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I sewed the middle circle first

The outer ring was next

The outer ring was next

What a pain! Curved piecing is not easy to do. Of course I know this about machine piecing but I thought hand piecing would be easier.  It’s not.

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But I muddled through and came up with these:

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And then I finally got them joined together to make this:

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I’m actually pretty happy with myself. It isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad. I had to do a lot of easing to get the outer circle to fit onto the inner circle. I figure this means that I cut the templates too big, or didn’t compensate for the transfer onto the fabric or both. I will definitely take that into consideration if there is more hand piecing coming my way.

I’m anxiously awaiting the next mailing!

 

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