Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Ok, so this post has nothing to do with quilting, but I can't help myself.  To celebrate Halloween and with a nod to next week's election, may I present to you the candidates...

Yes, my boys decided to dress up as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama and I can't remember the last time I've laughed this much.

Here's Mitt borrowing a page from Nixon...

And here's Barack showing off his dance moves...

Here are the candidates at the Halloween costume parade last Saturday...

The boys were clearly hamming it up and did their best to field some tricky questions parents had about the economy and foreign policy.  To their delight they took home the prize for "Funniest Costume," and they managed to divide up the prize without any arguments in a wonderful display of bipartisanship. 
I won't tell you who was more popular at the party.  Lucky for me I'm an independent and I love them both equally!!
Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Charmed, I'm Sure

I love charm packs!  For $10 you can own an entire fabric collection and play with fabric that you wouldn't normally buy.  I can actually remember my first charm pack.  I bought it in Ohio in 2006 and it was from Kansas Troubles' Bound to the Prairie collection.  I loved to look through those beautiful squares of fabric and imagine the possibilities.  The only problem was that I could never actually decide what to make with the charm pack.  With only 5" of each fabric I was afraid that I would choose the wrong pattern or make a mistake cutting and then the pretty stack of perfectly coordinated fabrics would be gone.  Performance anxiety kept me from using the charm pack for 6 years.  But last summer I started designing projects for charm packs and I finally used my Bound to the Prairie charm pack and guess what, the world didn't end.  Now instead of hiding away in my fabric closet collecting dust, I have a little quilt that I can enjoy every day.

If you're like me and you love to collect charm packs but you're unsure what to do with them, I've got a great pattern for you.  I've made it twice, once as a gift for one of my kids' favorite teachers.  She is a Civil War buff so I made the quilt using reproduction fabrics.  I loved it so much that after I gave the quilt away I immediately made one for me.  This quilt is 15 1/2" x 15 1/2".

I actually didn't use a charm pack to make this quilt.  I used scraps from my stash.  But I know it works for charm packs because the second time I made it I used a charm pack from the Meadow fabric collection by Blackbird Designs for Moda.  I changed the borders to show off more fabrics from the charm pack.  This one is a bit bigger, 17 1/2" x 17 1/2"

Don't you just love star blocks!  And even though these stars are only 3" finished, they are really easy to make...

From 16 background colored squares cut:

4 - 1 1/4" x 2" rectangles
4 - 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" squares
(save the leftover  1 3/4" x 5" piece for use in inner border)

From 16 star colored squares cut:

1 - 2" x 2" square
8 - 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" squares
(save the leftover 2 1/2" x 3" piece for use in outer border)

Instructions for one star block:

On the back of each of the 8 - 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" squares draw a diagonal line from corner to corner.  Place one square on one background 1 1/4" x 2" rectangle with right sides together like this:

Stitch on the drawn line, press the seam, press the seam open and trim leaving a scant 1/4" seam allowance.

Repeat on the other side of the rectangle as shown below:

The final star point unit should look like this:

Repeat to make 4 star point units.

Then assemble the 4 star point units, 4 - 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" background squares, and 2" x 2" center square one row at a time as follows:

To ease assembly, for the top and bottom rows, press towards the corner background squares and for the center row, press towards the center square.

The quilt takes 16 star blocks.  Once the center of the quilt is assembled you can use an extra fabric for an unpieced border as in the Civil War version of this quilt -- I cut the border fabric 2" wide.  But here are the cutting instructions if you like the look of the Meadow version of this quilt and you'd like to use more of your charm pack fabrics:

For the inner border...
From reserved background 1 3/4" x 5" pieces and 1 additional light charm pack square cut:

52 - 1 1/2" x  1 1/2" squares

For the outer border...
From reserved star 2 1/2" x 3" pieces and 4 additional darker charm pack squares cut:

32 - 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" squares

Refer to the photo above for the border assembly.  I machine quilted this quilt by stitching in the ditch between each star and along both sides of the inner border.

So there you have it, the perfect little quilt to showcase your favorite fabrics from that charm pack you just don't know what to do with.  You can make this quilt in weekend as a gift or, better yet, for yourself!  Just don't wait 6 years to do it!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Buyer Beware

I love buying fabric on-line.  Beautiful photos, unlimited selection, no lines or traffic, and I can shop in my pajamas.  What could be better?  Buyer beware -- there is a dark side to internet fabric shopping.

As you know, my computer was recently on the fritz, but what I didn't mention is that while it was in the shop I was working on submissions for a weekend quilts magazine.  Fabulous timing.  Two weeks before the deadline I discovered that I didn't have enough border/binding fabric for one of my submissions.  I wasn't sure I remembered where or when I bought it (one of the hazards of a growing stash), but I was able to find a scrap of selvage with the manufacturer's name on it.  It was a blender type of fabric, so I decided to check out the manufacturer's website to try to find the name for the exact color. 

I borrowed my husband's iPad and through the screen protector film and fingerprints (the kids love the iPad), I was able to discern 8 different green fabrics.  After consulting with my daughter, I was pretty sure that the color that I was looking for was "Bright Lime Green."  So I found an on-line store that carried "Bright Lime Green" and ordered a yard.  I also decided to order a half-yard of a darker "Medium Green" from a second store that I had never used before just in case I decided to go a different route with my outer border.  Shopping finished, I happily moved on to another project.

4 days later, the "Bright Lime Green" arrived and it was decidedly not the right color.  I still had 10 days before the deadline, so back to the iPad I went.  I tried a third store this time that had helpful descriptions next to the fabric photos.  I was certain that "Mojito" had to be the right color, but to be on the safe side, and because the price was right, I added a half-yard of "Envy" to my cart too.  While shopping, I found a fourth store that had some "Bright Green" and because I was still convinced that I was working with a bright green fabric (it looks much brighter in my sewing room) I rolled the dice and bought some of that one too.

Another 4 days passed and "Mojito" and "Envy" arrived.  Close, but no cigar.  One was too light and the other too gray.  "Bright Green" came on the same day and I discovered that I was not, in fact, using a bright green on my quilt.  Now I was panicked.  6 days until the deadline and it was a Saturday, which meant that anything I ordered that day would not ship until at least Monday.  I grabbed the iPad and pulled up the website for a store that I knew shipped quickly.  They had two greens that I hadn't tried yet:  "Sea Green" and "Light Yellow Lime."  I seriously doubted whether either would be the green I was looking for, but I was beyond reason now and bought a half-yard of each anyway.

The anticipated delivery for my latest purchase was Thursday, one day before my deadline and just enough time to wash the fabric and slap on a border, IF I had the right fabric.  But Wednesday I opened the mailbox to discover an envelope from the store that I had never ordered from.  Remember the "Medium Green" that I ordered on my first go around - 12 days before?  I had given up on the order because I hadn't received any sort of confirmation or tracking number, and in any event I had only ordered the darker green on a lark.  I carried the envelope into the house, tore it open, and lo and behold, it was the right fabric.  I laughed out loud (to Casey's delight) and couldn't decide if I was more relieved that I finally had the right fabric or exasperated because tomorrow's mail would bring two more half-yards of the wrong green.

I finally finished the quilt top and sent it off to the magazine on time.  But now I've got 3 1/2 yards of random green fabrics (actually the entire line of greens, with the exception of "Forest" which I'm actually thinking of buying to round out my collection) and a whopping credit card bill.  One half yard of "Medium Green" cost me approximately $55.  That is, hands down, the most expensive fabric I've ever purchased.

Top:  Medium Green
From Left:  Bright Lime Green, Mojito, Envy, Bright Green, Sea Green, Light Yellow Lime

And the moral of the story?  Beware of on-line fabric shopping. 

I guess it could also be:  Know your color before you buy.
or maybe:  Don't shop using your husband's iPad.
or better yet:  Buy bigger cuts of fabric. 

Take your pick.  I'm going with "Buy bigger cuts of fabric!"

Happy Quilting.