Monday, December 31, 2012

I have been trying to find an hour here and there to work on my kaleidoscope quilt for my friends in Minnesota.  An old college roommate of mine's late mother-in-law was a quilter.  Sadly, she died quite suddenly last year, and they generously offered her stash up to their quilting friends.  I came home with around 40 lbs of fabric (not sure how many yards, but it was A LOT!).  Anyhow, I decided to make a lap quilt for them incorporating some of his MIL's fabrics and some of mine.  Heavy preparation for the opera auditioning season, along with rehearsals for and performances of 2 big productions at the Metropolitan Opera and dealing with some sick baby issues forced me to table much of my quilting for a while.

Things have finally started to calm down here, and I am continuing on my latest quilt. Above is the design inspiration I am using for my kaleidoscope quilt.  I have no idea where I found this picture, so I cannot credit it- I didn't take it, anyhow!  I love how the alternating blocks create larger circles and stars from a distance. 
 I completed all the 8" blocks this afternoon (49), and had planned on a square 7 x 7 layout.  After putting them all down on the bed, I think I may go with a 6 x 8 layout, making the quilt 48" x 64", which I think is a better shape for a lapquilt..  I may add a small boarder...we'll see.  Colors are blues, greens, and browns, with just a few pinks to add an extra dimension.

Here they are all laid out on our bed.  It's similar to my inspiration photo, but a more subdued color scheme.  Photo is a little blurry as I was using my point and shoot camera because dslr was in the baby's room.
Unfortunately, I will be leaving town for work in a week, so probably won't get this one finished before the end of January :(.  Nice to be busy, but have been missing my hobby!  Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Finally Finished Flying Stars!

Well, I finally finished Lucy's Flying Friends and Wonky Stars baby quilt!  It wasn't the scale of the quilt or the difficulty, but simply my schedule which made this such a drawn-out project.  Also, USPS said it should get to it's three-year-old recipient by today, so I think it's safe to post pics of my newest finish.

The idea was to do a wonky stars baby quilt with some of the charm squares I got from recent I Spy charm swaps, mostly some "flying objects" prints, like birds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, etc. 

As for the stars themselves, I used 5 different versions of the wonky star block.  A smaller, 4" charm square (like the upper right blue butterfly block below), the larger 5" charm square (like the orange and pink duck star in the top row center left), an off-center star with 4" charm (dragonfly in top row), one block with two small stars (seen in the second row), and a 2.5 or 3" charm (I can't remember off hand) square (just right of the red owls in the middle).  The fabrics used for the points of each star were close color matches (though not perfect) from my stash. 

The finished blocks are 13", so the quilt is 65" x 52" with no border. Lucy's mom said this quilt was going to live on Lucy's bedroom wall, so it didn't have to be "bed-sized".  Original plans were to make it square and a bit smaller, but I just couldn't bring myself to make a quilt that couldn't be a bed quilt if needed, so I made it long enough to work as a little girl's bed quilt. 

I am really happy with how it came out, and have a few favorites, including the dragonfly, the pink fairies, and the green monkey.  The colors are fairly gender-neutral, but enough pink and purple to give it a bit of a girlie touch.

For the back, I decided on a giant "reverse wonky star", using the background tan solid from the front as the star fabric, and constructing the background for the star with pieced fabrics from similar color groups. I then framed the giant block in the tan solid, and then finished it off with scraps.  Kinda wish I had made a bigger star, but that's OK, I still love it :)

Last weekend, mom, baby and I took a little trip to an apple orchard outside of Syracuse, NY (where my wife and I are currently preparing for Tosca with Syracuse Opera (come and see us this weekend if you're in the neighborhood).  Baby girl was scared of the ponies at the pony rides, but oddly fascinated by them (mostly interested in how they ... um... pooped).  We mostly ate apple cider donuts, picked apples, and tried to keep warm in the blustery 40 degree weather.  On the way home we stopped by a roadside pumpkin and gourd stand.  It was on the honor system, which meant no one was around, so I could plop my quilt up on the stand and get some very non-Manhattan scenery for this quilt-shoot!

The leaves are just past their prime, and though it was cold, everywhere you looked was so gorgeous, with inspiring deep oranges, fiery yellows and rich reds and browns.  By now, most of the big pumpkins were gone, but we picked up two tiny ones for little baby to play with and decorate.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cute Russian Fabric!

OK, I am pretty sure I have never blogged about a fabric before, but this one makes me so happy, I just have to share!

Little Kukla by Suzy Ultman is now on sale at The Intrepid Thread, one of my favorite on-line fabric sellers.  Over the past year or so I have had very bad luck finding Matrioshka (Russian nesting dolls) fabric I liked.  I have a couple of projects which require it, but nothing I saw on-line fit the bill.  Well, here's just what I have been looking for, and I am excited to order some of my very own.

I love the raspberry and brown fabrics, and the onion dome fabrics are so cool!  I have two pressing quilts on my list when I finish the starry baby quilt, otherwise I would get right to work on a new project with these.  As you may recall, my wife is Russian, and so naturally these fabrics will make a cute little quilt, fitted sheet, dress, etc for our little girl.

By the way, this is not a sponsored post, just my own blabbing about something I like.  But I do recommend Julie at the Intrepid Thread- she's great to work with, and my fabrics always arrive quickly and wrapped up like a sweet little present...who doesn't love getting presents!

I will post some pics of my finished baby quilt in the next few days.  It has been quilted, and is awaiting trimming and binding, but daddy's got some other pressing matters that need immediate attention (like learning an opera) first.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Babe in blanket

I am currently working on a baby quilt for a regular reader of this blog, so I can't give you an update with pics, but the top is done, and I am piecing together a back with I am so excited to show you when finished!  It's a wonky star quilt, and for the back, I made a single large wonky star, with a colorful patchwork background, and the star itself in the quilt top's background fabric.

Trying to describe a quilt is boring, so I will now post some candid photos from this afternoon of my girl goofing around in our Crazy 9 Patch picnic quilt.  Isn't fun to see your work getting used and enjoyed?

As much as I love giving away my quilts, it sure is fun to use them now and again!
I hope to get the baby quilt done soon- pics to come.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back from the USSR (sic)

Well, I am back from St. Petersburg, Russia, where I spent the last 10 days with my wife, daughter, and in-laws.  Mom and baby are still there for another 2 weeks while dad is back home in NYC because of work.  Had a lovely time, and was able to finally finish my Greek Cross quilt for our friends Katya and Sergei.  Before I reveal the finished quilt, let's look back a bit on how I got there...

Here are the 42 blocks laid out on our living room floor.  Between the entertainment center and the couch these blocks barely fit on the floor, and this is the largest workspace I have in the house!  How am I going to finish this thing with another 7 inches for the double boarder on each side, plus allowance for batting and backing?  I was a little concerned.  I could have taken the couch out of the living room while I basted, but ugh!  That's a pain!!!

After figuring out the block arrangement, I sewed them together, laid it out on our bed and admired it while plotting my next move!  Let's see...I need a roughly 100" x 90" space plus space to move around the quilt for basting...I am in some real trouble.  Maybe I could baste half the quilt at a time, but I like to tape down my backing to the floor to make sure it's perfectly aligned and free of any wrinkles, and that would be tough to do.

Very luckily, a neighbor of ours had some free floorspace, which I was able to use to baste a couple of nights later.  This is the largest quilt I have ever machine quilted (queen size), and really wasn't looking forward to it.  The basting took every quilting pin I had, and dipped heavily into the regular safety pin stash I had almost thrown away several times. 

Here's the quilt after I finished basting.  Handy Tip: I used one of those gardening kneeling pads to make all that kneeling less painful.  The only downside to this process was that our neighbor's A/C was out and it was, like, 95 degrees in there...not fun, but it's one way to speed up the process.  I have never basted anything so fast!

For the quilting, I chose the fastest and simplest quilting strategy- straight lines.  Though I think I have most of the kinks worked out of free motion quilting on my old Singer, I wasn't willing to risk not finishing because of skipped stitches, thread breaks, or any other roadblocks (at this point I really only had a few hours of sewing time left before we boarded the plane to Russia).  With walking foot attached, I straight line quilted about 4 inches apart, using Connecting Threads yellow cotton thread, and I was very happy with the result.  Of course, each quilting experience teaches me new thing, and one new thing I am taking to heart is not to regret the mistakes on the current quilt, but to simply enjoy the process and the result, and take whatever "mistakes" I made in design or execution, and not make them next time around.

Well, with maybe one hour of sewing time left before we left town, I decided that hand-stitching the binding would be the best use of time, so I sewed the binding fabric to the front, and packed up needles, thread, and quilt to finish the job when we got to Russia.  Hoping my wife would help, I figured we'd bang out the binding in a couple of hours. Well, to make a long story short, our luggage didn't make it with us, and when it finally arrived the next day, my wife got really sick, so we lost a couple of days work.  Eventually I bound it all myself and we presented the finished product to Katya and her daughter Sasha while at a lakeside cottage outside St. Petersburg.  Here are a few pics.

Here it is on our bed at the cottage.  It's so rewarding to see a finished quilt on the bed!  I have only made three bed-sized quilts, but they are the most satisfying for me to make, as they show so well spread over a bed rather than a lap, I think.

I requested that Katya and Sasha help out with the photo shoot before I said a final "goodbye" to the Greek Crosses.  Oh, did I mention why I chose Greek Crosses?  Well, Katya and Sergei are Russian Orthodox, but the more detailed Russian Cross (also called the Eastern Orthodox, or three-barred cross), seen below

wasn't really an option for two reasons: 1) it was a more complicated pattern, and I wouldn't have had time to finish before we left, and 2) I think such a specific symbol might be inappropriate to paste all over a quilt you would be sleeping under.  The Greek crosses are a bit more generic, but are still a symbol of an Eastern Orthodox christian church, and as my wife is Greek, I thought it was a nice tie-in.  In addition, I chose the 1001 Peeps Orange Towers fabric, with its onion-domed tops to give a Russian feeling!

In this picture you can also see the straight-line quilting.  At first I had planned to do about 3x the lines, but just ran out of time.  Look, I didn't even have enough time to take a decent up-close pic of the quilt :)

Baby Eva is helping display the quilt!

Backed with my huge stash of backing-worthy fabric, and sewn with a racing stripe down the middle!  It was definitely a race against time, but I won!!!  Gold medal for me :)

Monday, July 16, 2012

A WIP for Russia.

As my wife and I are preparing for our trip to St. Petersburg, Russia to visit her family, the pile of gifts is slowly growing.  Like many other cultures, gift-giving is a big part of Russian culture.  Our family and friends are so generous and sweet, and this time I hope to surprise my wife's best friends with a quilt!  I chose a variation of the Greek Cross quilt, and am piecing it using Jennifer's (from Ellison Lane Quilts) Across the Sea Quilt-A-Long tutorial.  I have expanded the quilt to finish at around 94 x 82, so it will hopefully fit their bed.  I didn't ask them what size their bed is, as that would give away the surprise (maybe), but we think it's a little smaller than a queen size, so I'm sure it will be close (I hope)!

The fabrics we chose are a mixture of stash and new purchases for the project.  I'm using a natural muslin (meadowlark premium) for the background, and mostly greens, purples, and oranges.  Below you can see the first finished block.  The muslin looks blue in the picture, but it's not (of course :) ), and the fabric is 1001 Peeps.  Another adjustment I made to the tutorial instructions helped me save a little time (I think):  instead of cutting a square and four rectangles to make the cross, I combined the square and two of the rectangles into one piece of fabric (making allowances for the missing seam allowances...does that make sense?), which eliminates some cutting and sewing.  This alteration gives you one long piece of unbroken pattern, which I like anyhow, so it was a time-saver and a visual improvement (to my taste). 

So far, I have one block done (above), and the three strips which make up each cross have been pieced and ironed.  When I finish this post, I will begin assembling the three strips and complete more blocks tonight.  Oh, also I have to mention that I have started using spray starch (Mary Ellen's Best Press Spray Starch Alternative), and it has helped clean up my piecing, I think.  Fabric doesn't shift or stretch so much when piecing, and it smells like lavender!

Because I am pouring my free time into finishing this quilt, the baby quilt has once again been put on the back burner, but as this is extremely time-sensitive, I hope the baby won't be too upset with me :).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A quick project

I have all my blocks done for the Flying Wonky Stars baby quilt I am making for our friends, but had another project I wanted to do while the baby slept today.

Two fun gifts our daughter received for her first birthday (7 months ago) were a set of alphabet blocks (with the Russian alphabet) from my sister

  and a set of wood blocks that, when assembled, made a Russian cathedral (I gave her that).

The problem is that she's too young for either.  I have let her play with the cathedral blocks, but at 19 months, she not really interested in carefully stacking the blocks according to daddy's instructions. She basically stacks two or three on top of each other and then knocks them over: great fun, but I'm sure at least one of these blocks will go missing, and when she's old enough to want to make the cathedral, it will be missing a tower or a wall or something.  The alphabet blocks are so cute, but she likes to chew on them, and the paint comes off a little...probably some kind of safety hazard, right?  Well, she can still play with them with supervision, which she occasionally does.

Anyhow, I decided to try my hand at making a little drawstring bag to hold the blocks- my first non-quilt-related project (outside of hemming pants or curtains).  I found an easy drawstring bag tutorial on Ashley Connelly's blog The Creative Place, and I am really excited with how it turned out and how quickly it went.  Here's the final result:

I used a cute little cat and mouse fabric called Purfect Mischief from Connecting Threads (it was/is on clearance for $2.95/yd), and for the trim I used an old purple fabric from my stash...don't remember the name.  The lining is a crimson fabric (forgot to take a pic of it, and am too lazy to do it now) also from my stash.

The funny part is that I WAY underestimated the size I would need.  Actually, I figured it might be a bit small for either set of blocks, but I decided that, since it was my first bag, I should just follow the directions and let this one be a trial.  It was very simple to do, and took about an hour and a half.  So nice to start and finish a project in one sitting!

UPDATE:  I had so much fun (and mom and baby went outside to play) that I made another bag.  This one is for the cathedral block set, and it measures about 11" x 14", and the blocks fit just fine!

This time I remembered to take a picture of the inside of the bag...Doh!  I could have taken a pic of the inside of the other bag!!!  Oh well :)

There you can see the blocks in their new home :).  This bag is just the right size to make as a drawstring backpack for my little girl and her doll.  Will have to add that to the To Do list!
It feels like my Flying Wonky Stars baby quilt is going to have to wait patiently for another few days while I go on a start-and-finish spree with another bag and a new fitted sheet for the baby's bed before it gets any more of my attention.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spring Finish

Finally finished what was actually a really quick quilt.  It just took forever because I had so little time for quilting this past couple of weeks.  It's a picnic quilt (70" x 50") based on Elizabeth Hartman's Crazy Nine Patch Lattice quilt design.  By the way, if you don't follow her blog, Oh, Fransson!, check it out- she designs and makes beautiful quilts!  I would have loved to use a white background for this quilt as Elizabeth does, but I was a bit skittish about using a white fabric on a quilt that a 19 month old girl was going to be using so much.  We went with a copper color- it's Kona, and I am over the moon about it.

The pattern is kind of a wonky 9 patch with 10 inch finished blocks.  I upped the size from 7 1/2 inches because I just needed a bit bigger quilt, but didn't want to make something like 20 additional blocks.

The quilting is what I have heard called "Matchstick" quilting.  I used a walking foot to make straight lines across the quilt in random places, with a finished look similar to a pile of matchsticks.  The above picture shows a very wrinkled finished product, but you are able to see the quilting a bit more in this shot.  Since the colors are orange, green, and brown, I chose four different colors of thread to quilt (light brown, dark brown, orange, and green).  You can see them a bit better in this next picture.

You can also see the random lines of the matchstick quilting.  It's a nice "design" because as long as you can stitch a straight line, it's pretty fast and easy.   All you need is a walking foot and some masking (painter's) tape. :)

Once again, the binding is all by machine, and though I really do prefer the hand-sewn finish on a binding, I have been so anxious to finish and use my quilts lately that I have been on a machine-binding tear!  As you might notice from the above pic, I commited the sin of mixing top and bobbin thread colors.  The back (bobbin) was green and the top was white.  This created no problems, and in fact, I LOVE how it turned out, so I will be doing it again and again!  You can also see that I am so anxious to finish that I start pressing the pedal down on the machine and get a less than straight line from time to time!  I believe my machine is partly to blame for this one.  It's very difficult to regulate speed with the foot pedal on my 1950's Singer, and so I sometimes get a less-than-smooth acceleration.  Well, I ordered some of this binding fabric (called Gipsy Glitter) along with a few others that appear on the quilt top last week, and thought it would lighten a quilt that felt a bit on the dark side (of the color spectrum, not The Force). 

 Here's my angel, just past her 19 month birthday, testing out our new picnic quilt.  Why didn't I notice that she had smushed up berries on her sandals BEFORE she jumped onto the quilt?  Oh well, it's gonna get dirty eventually!  That's one thing I am quickly learned as a parent- you can't own much of anything and expect to keep it nice and clean, because babies love to throw, chew, crumple, and drool on whatever looks new and nice.  So if you want to save it, put it on the highest shelf!  New and Nice are not so important to me now...cute and sweet and angelic have replaced them on the priority scale, and our little girl certainly tics all the boxes for us!

A proud "quilt dad" (copyright reserved, Quilt Dad) displaying quilt back and proof that he is indeed both a quilter and a dad.  Note baby carefully examining my stitches.  :)

Thursday, May 31, 2012


I am working on two projects right now.  The wonky stars baby quilt and a picnic quilt based on Elizabeth Hartman's Crazy Nine Patch Lattice quilt pattern.  I have put down the Wonky Stars baby quilt because I really want to start using the picnic quilt ASAP.  We are using a twin bed sheet for picnics right now, and it's hard to "keep up with the Joneses" in the park when you are rockin' a nasty old green sheet.  Granted, when my wife sat on a blackberry (the fruit, not the phone), I was glad it wasn't the new quilt, but I'm still anxious to show off my skills to all of the neighborhood moms!

The pattern requires 23 9 patches, so you need to make 27 of them.  I am making 3 stacks of 9 using slight variations in the fabrics.  My wife wanted all orange patches and I wanted blues and greens, so we compromised and did a mix of the three.  The stripey fabric in the upper right corner of the block below is the anchor fabric, containing some brown, blue, green and orange.  It's from the line "Toomuchery" by Helen Dardik, and I love it!  I am including another fabric from that line in the third set of 9 (which I am cutting and sewing during baby's nap today).

Last night I received an order of fabrics I absolutely HAD to have in order to finish the picnic quilt.  Of course I had what I needed, but not the ideal mix of fabrics I wanted.  Fortunately, had a sale (don't they always?), and I got most of my fabrics for about $4/yd. 

You can see the other "Toomuchery" fabric in the middle, as well as "Castle Peeps" orange flags, which will be included in the 3rd nine patch along with the Toomuchery and the green bamboo fabric.  I think I'm gonna like this block the best :).  We'll see.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

First completed star

Here's the first block in my Wonky Star baby quilt.  I am using the little tutorial from Victoria's Silly BooDilly Blog Wonky Star Tutorial, but since I am using two different sizes for my star centers, I had to alter dimensions to make each overall block the same size.  Though it's a girl's quilt, I am going with gender-neutral colors (blue and brown, but also pink, red, green and yellow), but settled on a theme of Flying Objects.  These objects mostly include birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and bees.  I have also thrown in a couple of  less obvious flying objects, like pigs and monkeys (as in "when pigs fly" or "when monkeys fly out of my butt"). 

It's nice to be sewing again, and I love being able to do quilt after quilt, and each one is so different!  Of course, even if I decided to do the same quilt pattern, size, and fabrics, it would be so unique- but I won't be doing a repeat quilt pattern for a while, I think, as there are just so many I am excited to try!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Back in the Saddle again

I am feeling especially "western" having just returned from a short trip to Reno, Nevada (hence, the title of my post).  Happy to return home to my cozy bed and my machine, which has been collecting dust for almost a month.  While in Syracuse a couple weeks back I was able to visit a LQS and pick up a couple cute fabrics, some quilting tips, and a hankerin' for a fancy, new-fangled machine.  Having resisted the temptation, I am gladly cutting fabrics for my next project, a baby quilt for a dear friend of ours, whose baby is 2 1/2.

The quilt will center around select charm squares I received thru two recent charm swaps.  I picked out the 16 fabrics, mostly birds and butterflies, along with accent fabric from my stash, and will likely do a wonky star design.  I will update you when I get a bit further along!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A time apart

I am off-line with regard to my sewing activities until mid-May, so I don't have much to report on the sewing front.  Living in a hotel room in Syracuse as I rehearse with Syracuse Opera for Madama Butterfly, which opens on April 20th.  Anyone in the Syracuse area, please come! 

I had a chance to stop by a lqs (Calico Gals) last weekend, and had a great time chatting and getting handy tips from experienced quilting staff on everything from spray basting to machine binding.  They also tempted me with the latest and greatest features in some of their Baby Lock machines.  Wish I had an extra $2000 to spend on a fancy new machine, but then I might have to change the name of my blog :). 

Living with no car really does make one feel a bit cut off from the world, and being able to connect face to face with other quilters is a luxury.  Hmmm... maybe I should join my local quilting guild after all!

Being on the road also means being separated from my wonderful family, and on Sunday I spent a wonderful Easter afternoon in Eastern Pennsylvania with them and our friends, the Hoys.

We hadn't planned on this visit when I left, so I was thrilled to see them helped break up the 3 weeks apart!  I was soaking up every minute with my little angel.  We had an Easter egg hunt and a fantastic dinner provided by our hosts, then a sad goodbye as we parted ways. 

OK, back to business!  While I was at Calico Gals, I found a fun Christmas fabric (on sale!) which I really liked.  No immediate plans for a Christmas quilt, but when you seen a fabric you like, you must buy!!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Finally Finished Supernova Quilt

Ahhh!  Finally finished my Supernova Quilt!  Here it is, hanging out in our park across the street.


This was so much fun to make, but it just took a while, as I was especially picky about getting everything lined up just so.  Even so, it's not perfect, but I love the color combinations and the fabrics I used for this one. 

Many thanks to Lee at Freshly Pieced for leaving her Supernova Quilt-Along tutorial up for a year :)  Her design is wonderful, and I am so thrilled to have stumbled upon it!  If you notice the very middle square, it looks like an eye. 

 This fabric is called Gatsby Abstract Masterpiece, and it was not fussy cut, but when I arrived at piecing this block (the last one I completed), I saw what looked like an "Egyptian eye" in the middle, and was worried that our friends would be creeped out by it.  Well, the Egyptian theme is also found in a lot of Art Deco art, so it's theme-appropriate.  Also, we hope they will imagine that we are always thinking of them rather than always watching them...

Here's my lovely assistant (AKA wife) modeling it for you.  I chose a palette of green/yellow, blue/teal, and raspberry/purple for this quilt, and used Kona Ash for the background.  I know this is a staple of the modern quilter, but it's the first time I worked with it and really love how it looks with these colors.  I quilted it using roughly a 1.5 inch stipple design.  Unfortunately, halfway through the quilting process I noticed that the needle tension had been bumped (by me) and was not set quite properly, leaving me with a lot of requilting to do in parts of the quilt.  Will my FMQ'ing woes ever end?!  Well, at least my technique is getting better and more consistent!

For the backing I wanted a contrast from the modern pieced top, so I went with a simple big stripe of alternating blues (it reminds me of Delft pottery).  I chose an old-school floral print because it reminds me of the sheets (in red) my parents had on their bed growing up, so it feels very homey and cozy. 

Binding is called Gatsby Circles from P & B Textiles.  It goes with the generally Art Deco theme I wanted with the fabric choices I made on the top, plus the circles are fun, and tie in the golds, blues, and greys on both the top and back.  I love Art Deco, and our friends who are getting this as a surprise gift do too, so we hope it's a big hit!  Again, I did a machine binding.  I always prefer hand bound, but time just doesn't permit right now.

I also wanted to show you this cream fabric, which has silver, bronze and gold dandelion seed heads on it (Imperial Collection Starburst Linen).  I love it.

See the resemblance?

So here it is in action on our bed.  Thanks for stopping by!