Friday, December 3, 2010

Triumph!!! The Sewing Project is Almost Done!

Today, even though the recipient reads this, I'm posting a picture of my sewing triumph.

I'm extremely proud. Seriously, beyond measure, over-the-top PROUD. This was a hard project. Four parts, the first two relatively easy. The third part, because I didn't know enough to do it by myself, was horribly difficult. I shared that saga earlier. The fourth part, though, everyone told me to to avoid.

bits and pieces of Part Four
My mentor said to skip it. The Chemist said to skip it. Everyone I talked to said "It's hard. Skip it." Kim said "Bring it with you, I'll help. You can use my machine."

But, well, The Adventurer didn't just pick up being stubborn from nowhere. My genes are partly responsible. And so I said, "Nope. I'm going to try it."  And, my mentor, being the very good friend that she is, told me what I needed to know in order to attempt Part Four.
"Draw your sewing line, and then don't sew past that when you make the angles/corners." 
"Cut out the pattern on the sewing line, and eyeball your 1/4" seam allowance, so that your sewing line is accurate." 
"Here's the measurements in case the scan didn't come through at 100% size." 

Putting it Together

She was also horrified to know that "whoever got (me) started didn't tell (me) about not sewing past the seam allowance...." -- until I reminded her that No One got me started.  I mean, she inspired me. Another dear friend pushed me a little. My mom took me shopping. But no one sat down with me and said, "Now, when you piece a quilt block, make sure you......."  Nope. I was on my own for that, and this has been a huge learning experience for me. Trial by fire, ya know?

So, having learned all I needed to after Part Three, I decided I really could tackle Part Four. And when my mentor saw the pictures from Part Three, she finally gave me the last bit of info I needed; I took that as a vote of confidence and today I dove right in.

Part Four 
And a short (ummm, 3 hours?) while later, I was done. On my first try. With the ridiculously hard Part Four that everyone said I shouldn't try. But which I totally rocked. On my first try. So, yea, I'm a little proud.

All Four Parts. Pardon the Size Discrepencies;
 that will be fixed when it hits Finished Product level.
I hope. 
Not too bad for a beginner without a sewing machine, huh? I sure hope the intended recipient likes the finished product.  I plan to put all the finishing touches this weekend. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sewing Project UPDATE -- I Did It!!!!

Well, I was almost ready to give up. I mean, really, three tries and no closer to success and I was getting a smidge discouraged.

My third or fourth attempt went into the trash. Seriously. I didn't even bother salvaging the parts of it that were okay.

I emailed my mentor again and finally asked her the question I should have asked ages ago -- how do I attach a piece that has to be attached on two sides????   She answered with the magic words: "Don't sew past your seam allowance."  In other words, when sewing down the first edge, don't cross that invisible 1/4" line of the second edge.

You'd think that would be a common sense sort of thing, but it wasn't. Suddenly, it all clicked and I tried one last time, from scratch.

I recut my fabric. Again. I reassembled each individual unit. Again. We're talking fourth and fifth attempt here at some of this. I began attaching the units to each other. Again. And this time.....this time, it worked. And I'm so excited, I'm going to show it to you, even though someone out there is going to get this for Christmas. I figure, the recipient has no idea she's the recipient, so it's okay. Right? I mean, you guys don't know, and I'm not telling, so I can show off my hard work, can't I? Of course I can.

It's still not perfect. One bit is slightly shifted from where it should be. I decided I don't care. In a few hours* of work, I finally had a presentable piece. Done.  The 3rd piece in a 4 piece set. I will try to tackle the 4th piece, which everyone tells me to skip, over the weekend. I think with all that I've learned through the trial and error of this piece that I might just be able to handle the 4th one. We'll see.

In any case, in one afternoon** I was able to go from this --

(take two: second attempt whole block, alongside the 2nd version of the center piece;
see how the green triangles on the outside do NOT line up with the green triangles on the inside??
Yea, that's a bit bad in this design...)
To this --

(final cut: the final version. Imperfections and all. Notice, only one green triangle doesn't match this time!)

Overall I'm quite pleased with myself. It wasn't easy, but I did it. And I don't hate sewing yet. Pretty cool, huh?

*(it took me one hour to cut and assemble the basic units; each outside arm, then each square that makes up the center pinwheel; it then took me 30 minutes to assemble the pinwheel, and then between 30 minutes and 1 hour to attach all 4 outside arms to the center pinwheel; remember, this is all by hand)

**slight lie, there. The first attempt after the bits seen in the first photo is the one that went in the trash. That was about an hour of work over the weekend. The final cut was done on Tuesday, yesterday, in an afternoon's time. But it did actually take one more failed attempt between the 2 steps shown. I'm a slow learner, I guess.....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sewing is HARD.

Just thought I'd throw that out there.

I can't post pictures, in case various gift recipients are reading. Although, if they are -- take this as fair warning: If you think you might be getting a handmade gift from me for Christmas, chances are high that it won't actually materialize.

(ha! catch that pun??? hand sewn.....material-ize??? Yea, I crack myself up.....)

Anyway -- sewing is hard. Squares I can do, more or less. Triangles, not so much. Mitered corners?? Strange shapes that join triangles??? Even worse -- sewing something that has to be connected on two sides. HARD, I tell ya. Hard.

But, these people, the intended recipients (who are daily dwindling to lesser and lesser numbers, as I face the reality that my ambition far exceeds my actual ability....) -- well, these are important people. People I love. People I want to impress. People who I know will value the effort.

And so I trudge on. Ripping out stitches, re-cutting fabric, AGAIN. Re-stitching the ripped out bits. Again. Because I have high hopes that I might really, truly, if I work really, really, really hard until I'm out of time -- I might actually finish enough of these little things to be able to give them to more than one person. That's the goal. The plan. The, as it stands right now, pie in the sky.

My mentor is walking me through it and has solved the biggest of my problems, so there is some hope. (I still haven't sent her pictures, either.....I'm such a bad student!). She is such a natural teacher that even via email I'm able to figure out what I did wrong and how to fix it. She's pretty cool that way.

And, she did tell me that part four of my little project was probably too hard. So, if it gives me fits, it's only my own fault for even trying. After the difficulty with part three, I'm thinking she's probably right. Except there is this teeny tiny stubborn part of me that wants to try anyway. Even though part three still isn't perfect and is just barely "good enough."  So, one more go at part three, fixing the last of my errors, and then I'll decide on part four. Thing is, it's full of those mitered corners and wonky shapes and bits being connected on two or more sides and triangles and, well, it's a seriously complicated bit of work.

I just keep thinking, "yea, but it's a seriously cool bit of work, and if I pull it off, nothing in the sewing world will ever scare me again......"

So, back to the sewing room (aka, dining room table). I've got stitches to rip out, and cloth to cut, and sewing to do. Wish me luck. I'm gonna need it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Getting Ready for Christmas

I have been so busy! I'm working on Christmas gifts and finding myself under deadlines I didn't know or anticipate having.

Every year I make an annual photo memory book for us to keep. I use Picaboo X - if you're looking for an easy, professional quality photo book program, this is the one you want. It's a free download, you work on your computer, not on-line, and the flexibility is amazing. There are thousands of very scrapbooky backgrounds available, too, as well as simple stuff that doesn't look froo froo at all.

Every year, usually in the weeks before Christmas, they offer a Buy One Book, Get One Free coupon. Normally this is Buy a Large Book, get a Medium Book (of the same book; you don't get to then make a 2nd, different book) Free.

Well, this year, expiring Monday, November 15th, they are offering Buy 1 Get 1 -- same size copy. Same size, people. So now the recipient of the free copy gets a large instead of medium.

AND -- even better! -- they just started offering Calendars! So that's on the list, too, and under the same Buy 1, Get 1 offer, only until Monday. So suddenly, the projects I was working on and planning to finish next month all have to be finished right now. -Gulp-

The good news is, I'm done with the first calendar (except for waiting on pics from my sis-in-law.....). The second calendar will only take me 30 minutes or so, as I'd already done it over on Kodak Gallery so all I need to do is more or less transfer that over.  And The Book is almost done. One last day of work should do it. I hope.

Which will finally give me time to work on the sewing project I've got going. Someone is getting a set of pieced, quilted coasters/hot pads. If I manage to figure it out and get them done. they're proving harder than I thought they would be, which stinks, 'cause I was hoping to get more than one set done. That's looking less and less likely. We'll see. Maybe I'll get some good sewing time in this weekend - it's another 3-day weekend coming up, and we're just going to stay home and relax. So, maybe.

In any case, all of this explains why I have been, and am likely to be, absent from the blog the past few (and coming) days. Christmas gifts can't wait, not when I'm on a deadline.

What projects do you have going on at your place? Have you started Christmas preparations yet? I'd love to hear about what that looks like at your house.....

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Fabric - Help me Find a Project

We got a box in the mail earlier this week. The box itself was not a surprise; I knew it was coming. I knew it held 2 letters for The Writer. I even knew it held fabric for me.

I didn't expect so very much fabric, though, nor such gorgeous colors.

I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to do with them.

The red is too burgundy to go with my red, white & blue quilt, and honestly, it would be a terrible shame to not use these together, since they coordinate so very, very well.

My first thought was maybe quilted coasters. A good friend of mine wins blue ribbons for hers all the time, so I asked her to send me a pattern. I'm thinking maybe coasters will make nice Christmas gifts for people.

Then I saw how much fabric there is, and I started to get a little ambitious. Maybe a table runner for myself......

I think I actually might have enough fabric to do both, if my very basic pattern idea and calculations are correct. I need to run it all by my good friend, the blue ribbon winner, and see what she says. Right now I'm thinking a very simple design, more or less patchwork. I don't know that I'm ready for anything too fancy. We'll see....

I'm so excited to have some new stuff to play with. I'm no where near done with my red, white & blue project, not even close!, but right now, the thought of some small, simple projects (like the coasters) that will let me actually get to "Finished" sounds like a treat.

I'm also a little bit blown away with the kindness and generosity of the giver in this case. I was told I was being sent "some leftover fabrics" -- which turned out to be so, so much. One bit of leftover is over 2 yards long (though only about 18 inches wide; still, way more than I had dreamed of receiving!). The other bits are all over a yard long, 2 of them being around 18 inches wide, and the last being roughly 3 feet by 3 feet square(ish).

I'm so excited by all of this. Thrilled that the giver is confident enough and interested enough in my very new, very baby hobby to gift me in this way. I don't know if she realizes what a vote of confidence this is for me, but it is. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but for me, this little gift of fabric says more than, "here, have my scraps." To  me, it says, "I saw that one square you did, and I think you did a great job, and I really want to encourage you in this new pastime because I think you are good at it and will enjoy it."  Besides also saying, "...and I value our budding friendship as well...."  So, Kim, if you're reading -- thank you. Very, very much.

If any of you have project ideas, I'd love to hear them. I'm such a novice that I'm open to any and all suggestions you might have. Just remember -- I'm still a beginner, so, keep it easy!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Reader finds a New Hobby

Thanks to the influence of a few friends (well, two in particular....), I've started a new hobby, project, thing. This will be my "mom needs down time" activity, I think.

It all started some zillion months ago when A Labor of Love turned into a rather relaxing, fun thing to do for a friend, and I found that I enjoyed this task that had seemed so daunting at the get-go.

Then I was in Texas and visited a very dear friend, who excitedly shared with me the Jelly Rolls she got for her birthday, and explained how she planned to use them. An idea began to form in my head, and this friend agreed it was a good idea.

Then I called the other dear friend, the one for whom the Labor of Love was done, and ran my idea by her. She enthusiastically sent me a shopping list so I could start off well.

And then my mom and I went shopping, and I found that a quilt shop, if it's a good one (and Painted Pony 'n Quilts is definitely a good one!) can be a really, really fun place to shop. Oh, my. I wanted to take home so much more than my budget allowed.

But, I was good. I stuck to The Plan. I bought one Jelly Roll, and one Pattern, and then just the extra fabric I needed since I was tweaking the pattern a bit. Then later I went and bought just the tools* on my suggested "must buy" list, as compiled by the two dear friends, and one dear aunt who chimed in.

And now I'm home and off to a running, or rather cutting/sewing, start.
My jelly roll turned into this,

and then this,
(front view)

(back view)

and now this.

One block down, 15 to go.  Plus a border after that.

 Wish me luck -- I don't own a sewing machine, you know, so this is going to take a while. But what fun I'll have in the meantime!

*tools purchased: a 45mm rotary cutter, a 3"x18" quilter's ruler, and a little plastic seam presser/creaser thingy. The cutting mat I had around from my scrapbooking days sufficed for now as a cutting mat. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What a Nice Surprise!

This past weekend I was in Texas for a very brief visit, which was lovely.  More on that later.  This post is about the most precious surprise that was awaiting me when I arrived.

A dear, dear friend, JM, emailed asking what my favorite color was.  I told her blue but elaborated on shade so that she'd know exactly.  Turns out not everyone is as familiar with coloring box colors, and so "cerulean" wasn't as helpful a term as I thought.....

She told me she had a little package to send, and where in Texas should she send it. She would not elaborate beyond that, so I had no idea what to expect.  I told my aunt to be on the lookout, explaining "It could be a fabric postcard, it could be an envelope, it could be a box, I have no idea....she won't tell me!!!" 

The package arrived at my aunt's house and she told me, "It won't take up too much room!"  JM told me "It's a large brown envelope, folded in half."   Aargh! My curiosity was high, but none of the things I imagined could have prepared me for what I found.

At first glance I wasn't sure what it was for, though I was instantely in love with the workmanship.  So beautiful!! And the color is spectacular!  Gorgeous blue on the outside, with pinks and lavenders running around inside and in the trim. Gorgeous!!

 I pulled out the tag and read the poem on the back -- it spiraled around the tag (which will now do double duty as a bookmark for my Bible...) and I only got  a  little dizzy reading it:

Roses are red
Cerulean the new blue
I'm not sure this matches, 
I hope it will do!

You read lots of books
But to get one new, 
The shipping to Brazil 
Just will not do!

Enter technology, 
The Chemist agreed;
The Kindle arrived
In lightning speed! 

Since I don't have one
(there is no need)
This pattern was just 
For you, Indeed! 

I hope you enjoy, 
It is sent with a smile
Sending lots of hugs
Across all the miles!

Made especially for (me), from (JM) in (midwestern US)
March 2010

I laughed. I cried. I smiled. I wished I'd had someone take my picture while I opened it, because to rob my sweet friend of seeing the joy on my face as I opened and understood her gift....JM, I hope this blog post will suffice!!! 

My Kindle used to wear basic black.....sufficient, hard for protection, a sweet surprise from The Chemist to protect this bit of technology.  On trips the hard cover will still be used for extra protection.  

 But at home, and around town, the pretty new cover will come out to play!  Doesn't it look nice in there??? It's a perfect fit, and the pocket will be a great place to stow my ID or a debit card if I'm carrying just my kindle around sometime. 

 The outside is quilted in pretty loopy circles, the inside with almost a paisely design, and a heart in the center space where the Kindle goes.  

I recognized the fabric immediately as some that JM had snow dyed not too long ago, and that thrilled my heart so much, to have something made with that fabric, to know just how much love and work went into this project from the very beginning. 

For an interesting read, pop over and read her account of making the cover, which also appears today!

The card said "sending lots of hugs" and I can definitely attest to that fact; I felt every one as I looked at each stitch, each new detail, and knew that a dear, dear friend (who I've never met "in real life") had crafted this just for me. For no other reason than "just because."  

Just because I'm important to her, as she is important to me. 

Thank you, JM!! You are a precious, precious friend.....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Labor of Love: Ready to Mail!

I reset the last piece, which turned out to be easier than I imagined it would.

Then I signed my name to the center block, and wrote a sweet note to my dear friend, and now all I need to do is find an envelope and get to the post office.

Thank you to all of you who helped me out along the way, either with advice and tips or just encouragement.

Now, what should my next project be?

(Missus Wookie, I do not have quite enough of this fabric for a whole quilt, but I'm open to other ideas!)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Labor of Love: Block Complete!

I thought during our Christmas Break I'd have tons of time to sew and this block would get finished in no time.  I was wrong.  Turns out, having your hunny home, you generally have less time to do all those little lazy things you'd like to do.  At least, that's how it goes at my house.

Finally on Friday I made the time, and after several false starts, finished sewing the quilt square I'd promised a dear friend. 

When I started this project, I half-seriously declared, "It's just sewing a bunch of straight lines, right? How hard can it be??"  Well, turns out, it's a little bit hard.

What is hard about it, when sewing by hand, is keeping your quarter-inch seam at one quarter inch.  I painstakingly sewed one stitch, then the next, always placing my next stitch even with the one before. Doing that, I figured, I'd wind up with a nice, straight, even line.  Wrong again. I got to the end of that first row and was a full inch!! in from the edge. My nice, straight line went on the diagonal somehow.

I carefully pulled out all those stitches, grabbed a pen, and measured and drew a straight line, this time a consistent quarter-inch from the edge. Not sure what possessed me to try and sew straight without a line in the first place, but with the line, things went much better.

I finished joining row after row, pausing to press the seams open between each two, and by the end I was quite confident in my new skills. And, mostly it turned out okay.  I forgot to line up the last piece "just so" and it is obviously shifted to the side from where it should be. I am seriously thinking about taking it off and re-attaching it, this time with some attention to where the center rectangle actually is.

I've left the edges untrimmed at this point, because my dear friend said she could trim it or otherwise take care of it when she attaches the sashing around the edges.  With that disclaimer, I now, finally, present to you:

Labor of Love: Chimney Sweep Pattern: To JM from TH : )

So, JM, how is it? Sign-worthy, or should this one be my practice run??
I have LOTS more fabric, just in case!