Monday, March 28, 2011

Spectacular Stash

I took a few hours off from Blue Ribbon Designs this afternoon to spend some time with my husband...he has been gone on his yearly bass fishing trip to Texas and had returned home over the weekend. Since he has been on a ten day vacation and I have been working and taking care of things at home, he promised me upon his return that he would take take me to a semi-local quilt shop. So, this afternoon, we headed out...we stopped and had lunch on the way....and then he was kind enough to let me shop for about 45 minutes. He had given me a gift certificate to this shop for my birthday...and it had been burning a hole in my pocket since the middle of February. It is just over an hour away, so it was nice to spend the drive catching up, just the two of along the way we saw two eagles, a large group of deer, multiple hawks, and even a few turkeys. Once there, I was in complete heaven...and yes, I managed to spend my gift certificate plus a little more. I found some fabulous trims and hand-dyed jumbo rick rack - all by Moda...I fell in love with the button trims and there multiple colorways to chose from...but at $10.99 a yard, I just picked a couple. I also found some FABULOUS cotton quilting fabrics and a new ruler for paper I got a couple yards of fabric (not shown) for some applique projects in the future. All in all, it was a nice afternoon....and quite inspiring!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Paper Pieced Patchwork

Today I am in the middle of cutting and serging 144 pieces of linen for an upcoming class, it is a big job, but actually pretty relaxing - I just put on my iPod and get in a rhythm. After I finished cutting all the pieces, I decided to take a short break. I have been anxious to work on a very intricate paper pieced quilting project...but before I started, I definitely wanted to do a little paper piecing refresher and get my brain back into that way of thinking (those of you who quilt and have tried paper piecing will completely relate). I decided to do a small heart block and use up a few more of those scraps I have been saving. This block is 8" x 8" finished...and I am not sure what I am going to do with it yet...maybe a small pillow or a pot holder. As soon as I started, I got back into the flow and I am now ready to tackle the more detailed project in my "to-do" pile. I took a class in paper piecing at a local quilt shop several years ago and many of the tips and tricks have actually stayed with me. I really enjoy foundation piecing - you get great points and exact lines, plus you can have unique and very small shapes. As much as I would like to start my bigger project today, I am going to be diligent and get back to serging my pile of cut linen....tomorrow is another day...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Plethora of Pincushions

Today I continued to lower my fabric scrap stash and made four more tuffets. I made another Random Strip Rectangle...then tried another style (Double Nine-Patch) from the pattern "Tuffets" from the Schnibbles collection by Miss Rosie's Quilt Company...finally, I made a design of my own by rearranging some of the pieces. I was able to once again use my AccuQuilt GO! fabric cutter with the 2" square die and the 1" strip cutter die to cut my scraps. The Double Nine-Patch was quite fun to do, but very tiny...the small patchwork squares you see that make up the nine-patch are a finished size 1/2" x 1/2". Working on these was a nice break from a few work challenges I have been facing...a couple hours of sewing in the afternoon is always a "spirit lifter". I look forward to trying the other four styles included in the pattern...and maybe making up a few more of my own. I already have plans for a few of them...and who knows, maybe I will give a couple away when I reach another follower milestone (hint, hint)...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Little Blue Bungalow

I have always been a fan of Weeks Dye Works...not only do they have quality hand dyed products for stitchers, quilters, knitters, crocheters, and crafters - they also have fabulous, consistent, and colorfast fibers! Did you know that Weeks Dye Works is the first hand over-dye company to be certified a “Green Company” by American Textile Specialties?...or that all their dyes are organic and environmentally safe and made in America? These are just a few reasons I adore their floss, linen, wool fabric, pearl cottons and sewing thread; so when they asked me for a free chart they could post on their website, I just had to design something new and special...

So, stop by the Weeks Dye Works website and explore...check out their about their dyeing process...view an extensive list of designers that use their fabric and fibers....and the check out the "Free Designer Charts" (hold your cursor over "Designers" in the top menu) to get your own copy of the new complimentary chart ("Little Blue Bungalow") that I designed especially for them! You will have to scroll down, as they listed my design at the very bottom of the will need Adobe Reader to open/print the chart....and as always, this design is protected by copyright law - thank you for respecting my copyright. You will also find free charts from some other favorite designers - Cherrywood Design Studios, SamSarah Design Studio, and Just Another Button Company!

This fun little design definitely brought some springtime cheer into my household - I enjoyed working on the design and making it into a floral pillow. The model is stitched on 35-count WDW Angel Hair Linen with seven colors of WDW cotton floss...including two of the great new colors just released at the Nashville Needlework Market (Capri and Charlotte's Pink).

I hope you enjoy this special new complimentary design - another gift to you for your continued support, friendship, and encouragement - thank you for allowing me to "pursue my passion"...and if you need a new project, I hope this chart will entice you to visit your favorite needlework shop and purchase some of the larger designs in the Blue Ribbon Designs catalog!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Scrap Happy!

Like many quilters and seamstresses, I hate to throw fabric scraps away...for some reason I have always saved even the smallest pieces...then I proceed to feel guilty as they fill up a drawer and take up space - it's a catch-22, if I throw them away I feel guilty; if I save them I feel guilty. Last month, my dear friend Kimber gave me a fun polka dot box...and I decided it was time to go through all those scraps, and use this pretty box for the salvageable pieces. So, this afternoon, needing a break from a ton of design layout work, I decided to bite the bullet and go through the scraps...and boy was I surprised at the minuscule pieces I had collected. As I looked through the drawer full of scraps, I reminisced about all the projects I had completed over the last several years, many of which I have given away as was a sentimental process. Finally, I narrowed the scraps down to a good box full...and of course I was inspired during the process.

Remembering an adorable pattern my faraway friend Robin sent me, I decided to immediately use some of the scraps and make some pin cushions. The pattern, called "Tuffets" from the Schnibbles collection by Miss Rosie's Quilt Company was perfect to help organize my ideas...and then came the fun part - I grabbed my AccuQuilt GO! fabric cutter and the 1" strip cutter die and started cutting the scraps into usable pieces. I really enjoyed piecing these tiny tuffet tops - it was addicting...and even better - I used some of those pesky fabric scraps! The bottoms of each are beautiful pieces of hand-dyed wool fabric.

I actually cut way more strips than I needed for these four pincushions...and since the pattern has directions for six different tops, I will be trying more in the next few is a great stress reliever while I am building class tutorials and binders. I already have plans for many of these special little tuffets...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Satisfying Sunday Sewing

This morning I made time for a little Sunday sewing - I recently finished a special small cross stitch model and wanted to use it for a pillow. After going through my stash and trying many different fabrics, I decided on a blue batik and a floral print ("9" by Sanae for Moda - which is a retired fabric, but is still available in some quilt shops). It was thoroughly enjoyable putting this fun flowery pillow together! I used my AccuQuilt Go! fabric cutter to cut 1 1/2" strips for the blue batik frame and 4 1/2" strips for the outer border. I made the pillow to fit a 14" pillow form...and as I do with most of my pillows, I made it with an opening in the back for easy changing and cleaning.

If you are wondering where you can get this special little Blue Ribbon Designs cross stitch design, details will be here soon. It is a complimentary chart and will be available for download in the near future...yes, you heard me correctly, it is a NEW freebie! Keep an eye on my blog and when details are available, I will share where you can find it....

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Quilting for Comfort and Joy

Today, March 19th, is
National Quilting Day to celebrate, I made sure to make time to quilt this afternoon.

After going through some of my stash patterns, I found this adorable little applique quilt - it is by
The Wooden Bear
and is titled
May Flowers
(from the
Little Quilts Squared
series). I definitely took some creative liberties (as you can see if you visit the link for the pattern) - I completely changed the colors...and the shapes of the flowers and leafs...I wanted it to be cheerful and springy. I was able to cut most of the pieces with my
AccuQuilt Go! Fabric Cutter
which made it quite fun (using several strip cutter dies and the GO! Rose of Sharon by Sharon Pederson die) I was able to play with fat quarters and fabric scraps in my ever growing stash.

Over the last year, I have really grown to love machine applique...for me, it is addicting...once I started this project, I worked on it all afternoon until it was completed. I already have it hanging in a small quilt stand in my living room...and it is bringing me comfort and joy!

I hope you make time this weekend to work on a project that brings you sheer happiness...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Experimenting with Laminated Cottons

I have been wanting to try working with laminated cottons for quite some time - in fact, I purchased some of this unique fabric several months ago - but was waiting for a good project pattern. Yesterday on my excursion with Merry I found the perfect pattern to try out these "all the rage" coated cottons. The pattern is by Sweetwater and is called Pack and Go from the Sunkissed contains instructions for three sizes of bags: small (6' x 5"), medium (9" x 5"), and large (12" x 5")...although you could easily adapt the pattern to any size you like!

For those of you not familiar with cotton laminates - they are similar to oil cloth, but not quite as heavy. It is a quilting-weight cotton sandwiched with with a thin polyurethane coating making it substantially water-resistant. Great for making items such as raincoats, diaper bags, cosmetic bags, aprons, lunch bags, or picnic place mats/blankets. These coated fabrics are the new trend in quilt shops and are popping up in fabulous prints and colors. Laminate cottons do not really have any "give" can't straighten the you will want to pick patterns without a lot of piecing or detailed sewing. You will want to cut a single layer at a time with the right side up...and you won't want to use any pins, as pin holes will remain in the fabric. I used an all purpose cotton thread with a sharp 80/12 top stitch needle...and I had great results using the roller foot on my sewing machine (which I was thrilled to use again, as I bought it for repairing my husband's leather motorcycle suit) - a Teflon presser foot or non-stick glide foot would also work well. Another note - only use a warm iron on the wrong side of the fabric, if absolutely necessary - this coated fabric will melt.

I was a little nervous when I started out, but as you can see I loved working with laminated cotton - I actually made six bags this afternoon. Now that I know how much I enjoy it, I will be looking for some fun prints and colors to work with...and I will definitely be trying more projects!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Heavenly Chocolates

Happy St. Patrick's Day to those of you celebrating today...I hope you are wearing your green and you have a chance to enjoy a nice cold green beer or margarita!

This morning I took Simba to his monthly grooming appointment and I was lucky enough to spend my late morning/early afternoon with my dear friend Merry...and if you are already wondering, yes she made these phenomenal chocolates for me! Don't they look like they came from a wonderful gourmet chocolate shop?! Merry and I have both had a rather rough week and definitely needed a little "girl time"...but I had no idea she would try to fix all my problems with a gorgeous plate of delicious chocolates....even the presentation was fabulous (my foofing obsession has rubbed off on her) - I love the polka dot plate and festive green ribbons. I have already savored one of the hearts - which had scrumptious, creamy, ooey gooey caramel inside....there are even homemade peanut butter cups, and a chocolate truffle (in the center ) - yep, I am so spoiled (and she is so amazing and thoughtful)...and I will definitely need to do some extra workouts this next week. Plus, I almost forgot to mention she brought me her last jar of Jalapeno jelly (which is "to die for")...she definitely treats me like a queen!

Merry and I made a trip to a wonderful local quilt shop - and of course we found some new fabrics that we just had to give a new home...then we went to our favorite little Japanese restaurant in town and thoroughly enjoyed our sushi lunch....and then somehow, *poof*, my terrible week was not so terrible anymore.

May you enjoy the company of a good friend and a sweet decadent treat to soothe your soul...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Queen Bee Pillow

Back in December, I posted that my good friend Mary stitched "The Queen Bee" by JBW Designs for me (which is so perfect!)- many of my friends call me "B"...and honey bees have a special place in my heart, as my grandfather was a beekeeper - she knows all this and cross stitched this design especially for me...a truly touching piece. Plus, she knows how much I love to sew, quilt, and create and let me decide how to finish it!

Feeling inspired by the fabric "June Blooms" from June Bug by Alexander Henry Fabrics, I decided to finish this special cross stitch into a pillow sham for a 15" x 15" pillow. I found a great sage colored fabric in my stash that matched the stitching and coordinated with the "June Blooms" print for the inner frame - this was a piece from a scrap bag without a selvage, so I am not sure of it's origin. I thought it would be fun to do a piped pillow - so I also used the sage fabric to make coordinating piping...this was made super simple with three things: my AccuQuilt Go! Fabric Cutter (used to cut 1" strips of fabric for the piping...I also used it to cut strips for the pillow cover), my Groovin' Piping Trimming Tool (fabulous!), and the piping presser foot for my Designer Diamond. All in all, it took me about 2 hours to complete this pillow cover from start to finish - and I totally adore it...just looking at it makes me happy! Special thanks to my friend Mary for cross stitching this piece for was a joy to finish it today....

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Framed Charm Squares to GO! Quilt

It has been a gloomy few days here, with rain/sleet/ I just had to make time to do a little quilting. I started this Framed Charmed Squares to GO! quilt on Saturday....cutting all the pieces with my AccuQuilt GO! Fabric Cutter. I used four different dies: 5" Square, 1 1/2" Strip, 2 1/4" Strip, and the 2 1/2" Strip...and had it cut in no time. I finished piecing the top on Saturday...then on Sunday, I made the binding and sleeves and pin basted the layers. Tuesday I made time to do the quilting...and finally, after a crazy busy morning, I worked on the binding this afternoon. The fabric is Charlevoix by Minick and Simpson for Moda...I just love the summery look of this fabric - the colors and the cherries make me happy! I had purchased a charm pack weeks ago and wasn't sure what I was going to make with it...then when I found the AccuQuilt pattern, I just knew I had to make a trip back to the quilt store and buy some yardage. I chose the yellow as sashing, as I really wanted to work with some bright, springy colors to uplift my mood. I was so happy with how this lap quilt turned out (it is actually labeled a baby quilt, but it is a nice lap size)...and so was Simba...the second I put in on the sofa to take a photo, he jumped right up and curled up on it (and he is still there - he looked so cute and content, I just didn't have the heart to move him).

The time spent in my sewing studio definitely did the trick - my "spring fever" is still in full effect, but working on this project definitely cheered up my mood! Find a little time to work on a project that brings you joy...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spring Fever

I have spring fever - it's not a secret...I honestly can't wait for sunshine, clear days, green grass, leafs on trees, and walks in the park...really, any sign would make me happy. Today is cold, gloomy, grey, overcast, and raining...and that is not helping with my spring fever...I'm ready for the season to change. Just as the rain/sleet was really starting to get to me, my husband and I spotted a large group of robins in our yard...the first robins of the year! Across the street is a large cherry tree and an entire flock of robins was having a feast - a beautiful sign of spring - exactly what I needed to see today. Travis was laughing as I ran to get my camera...I just had to get a few photos before they flew away...something to remind me that springtime is really on the way (if only it could arrive today)!

The gloomy weather has been the perfect excuse to lock myself in the studio - I have been busy working on class kits, some small magazine models, and I am almost finished with a nice size quilt I started over the weekend. I used a sunshine yellow fabric to sash my quilt, just to brighten up my mood....hopefully I will have a photo for you real soon. This evening, I will be doing some finishing work and maybe do a little more quilting...I am not going to let my spring fever inhibit my creativity!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Halloween In April

In April, I will be headed to the Elms Hotel in Excelsior Springs, MO to teach a class at the annual Heartland Stitch Counter's Society Stitch In. This year, the theme for their event is Halloween, so they asked me to create a Halloween design especially for their group. This special design titled "Through The Trees" has quite a few specialty stitches and some new finishing techniques. In the class we will be covering the stitching of the sampler and needlework smalls, working specialty stitches, finishing techniques for each of the smalls, personalizing the pieces, and making twisted cord. I am definitely looking forward to making the trip to Missouri and meeting this large and talented group. (My understanding is, this event is sold out with a waiting list.)

For you Halloween fans who are not able to attend this retreat and want to know when "Through The Trees" will be available to the general public...well, you will need to be very patient, as I like to wait at least one year from the event to release teaching designs. More than likely it will be released in the fall of 2012.

This weekend, I will be busy working on class kits for this event and the one I am teaching the following weekend in Junction City, KS...two very large groups means lots of materials to prepare! I am very excited to be hitting the road in April and meeting new groups of needleworkers - it is going to be a marvelous time...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In My Sewing Studio

I haven't had a chance to do much sewing lately...between recuperating from the flu virus, various BRD deadlines, and preparing class kits and materials for two large classes in April, my plate has been overwhelmingly full. After focusing on my completely covered desk this morning, I decided it was time for a little reward - some afternoon sewing therapy.

I chose to work on another mini quilt - "Spinning Spools" - measuring 12.5" x 12.5". I was wanting a fresh, springy quilt to hang in my kitchen....and these colors worked perfectly (my kitchen is black and white). I love how these blocks look like spools of thread...and using a striped fabric for the center of each block gave the appearance of thread wound on the spools. This was a great afternoon project that gave me just the creative boost I needed.

I was also able to use my brand new Quilt In A Day "Triangle Square Up Ruler". I had seen Eleanor Burns use this ruler she designed on her television show and I knew I had to have one. After mentioning it to my girlfriends, I actually found one at a local shop and couldn't wait to try it out for myself...and it worked like a dream. I was able to easily trim and square up all sixteen of my half-square triangle units, which definitely helped my piecing. I am always on the lookout for good quilting notions and this one was a superb addition to my sewing studio. Eleanor Burns has a great video (which can be seen by clicking on the first link above) that shows how to use this handy little tool.

It was enjoyable to spend a couple hours in my sewing studio and complete a small was a wonderful stress-free afternoon.

This evening I am back in my stitching nest, working on a couple Halloween ornaments for Just CrossStitch Magazine. Tomorrow, after a lunch date with a good friend, I will be working on class kits for a couple large teaching events in April - I have over 200 pieces of linen to cut and serge - so I will definitely have more time in the studio, only tomorrow it will be with my serger...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Stitching Nest

My home has several "stitching nests"...those special places I like to curl up with my needle and work on my current project. Whenever I am going to go stitch I always say "I am headed to my stitching nest"...there is just something cozy about calling it my "nest"...maybe it stems from my love of just feels appropriate. I even designed a piece in my early years called "My Stitching Nest" that hangs above my favorite stitching chair.

Last week, during the height of my flu epidemic, my dear friend Lorrie dropped off a belated birthday package - I was not feeling well enough to open fact, I didn't even come close to feeling well enough to open it until this past Sunday. It sat on our living room table all week and everyday, my husband would say, "I can't believe you haven't opened your gift yet"...but I really wanted to wait to open it when I could enjoy and appreciate it. When I opened it, I was speechless - a handmade "Bel's Stitching Nest" sign...complete with an actual nest!

Lorrie attached a detailed note telling me about this slate tile sign and how it came to be...the thought and time that went into this project made me feel so very special...her kindness touched me deeply.

A friend painted the large piece of slate for her...but Lorrie thought it needed more, so she added the bird's nest and filled it with treasures. As you can see from the enlarged photo, the nest is overflowing with personal touches. There is a vintage pewter button (from an antique tin of buttons found in an old Indiana barn) that actually looks like it has an ear of corn on it...a piece of white linen and a red button from the drawers of her Great Grandmother's old Singer sewing machine...beautiful blue hand-dyed silk thread and ribbon...a lovely piece of lace...and even a piece of cotton sampler fabric! It truly is how I envision "my stitching nest" and such a personalized gift...isn't it wonderful?! There are not words to describe how touched I was by this gift - Lorrie, you are amazing!

I just had to share this unique handmade treasure with you and some of the details that make it super special. I am beyond blessed to have so many generous, creative, and talented people in my life. I hope reading about this will inspire you to give a gift from the heart...