Tuesday, December 15, 2009

sewing in the New York Times

Confession: I adore the New York Times.  I read it online daily, and frequently forward articles on to my friends from grad school who I think will enjoy them.  Now, I'll share a good one from the Fashion and Style section by Michelle Slatalla, called "Altered by a Sewing Machine" 
Go ahead, read it-- and if you have any idea as to what sort of machine she's using, I'd love to know!
I think what most crafty ladies know is that sewing can't always be about the finished product.  There's a real process that can't be rushed.  I try and focus on this process, though I'll admit that I enjoy it with the knowledge of a finished piece in the end.  What do you think?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Giveaway Day winner

Thank you all so much for playing along with me.  I had so much fun reading each and every comment.  You all are an interesting bunch!  After my last "interesting" fact, here's a follow up: since my birthday is so close to the holidays, I have a June wedding anniversary to keep the celebrating even.  Anyway, here's the randomly chosen winner:

C-Joy said...

A Christmas baby -how sweet! My interesting this is that I was married in a bookstore <3 Thanks for participating in the giveaway :)

Congratulations, C-Joy!  Can't wait to do this again!
I have a few fun things to show you soon-- as well as my solution to the annoying buttonhole problems on the AB Liverpool dress.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2009 SMS Giveaway Day!

New people: thanks for coming! Return visitors, thanks for coming back!
It's that time again-- Giveaway Day! Here's what I have for you at the Sweat Shop:

Some fat quarters I've been saving/hoarding from Anna Maria Horner:

Also, a pillow I made. Here's the front (careful viewers will see some AMH in here, too):

And here's the back, made out of super soft corduroy:
It's on a 16" pillow form and it's an envelope back, so I suppose if you hate the pillow you can just use the form.

Now, the details:

I'll leave this contest open until December 6, 2009. To enter to win, please leave a comment, and tell me something interesting about yourself, and then I'll pick a winner. Here's something about me: my birthday is December 23, and I love having it so close to all of the holidays because I feel like everyone gets to celebrate with me!

Thanks for playing!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Grandma Ginny

Yikes, two posts in two days-- and of two completed quilts!
This is the completed wonky/maverick star quilt that I made for my Grandmother-in-law, Ginny. I got a little worried about my youthful colour choices, but as my husband said, "She doesn't need to be reminded that she's old." She's very sweet and very tiny-- so this is a sweet and tiny quilt.
(Cassidy likes it, obviously)
I decided to only use the yellow roses for the centers, and if I would've planned it a little better I probably would've fussy cut something more graphic. The borders are 2.5" squares out of a few different fat quarters I had around here. The border is my favorite part-- Michael Miller Dumb Dot. Sometimes I think there's merit in the old school quilt philosophy of a dark binding (at least, that's always the advice I get-- and usually ignore-- at my local quilt shop)The back has 3 of my leftover stars, some Heather Ross stripes, and some aqua fabric from JoAnn Fabrics that I can't seem to get rid of. I stippled it in pale pink thread, partly for interest but really so I could see where I was going.
Also, word on the street is that I'm getting a NEW CAMERA for CHANUKKAH. Expect better pictures coming to the Sweat Shop soon!

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I finished this one a while ago, but I gave it to the recipient as soon as it came out of the dryer, meaning I didn't get a picture (click on it to see the full quilt).
Here's one he took for me:
All scraps, and based on this quilt. I stippled it in white, and my favorite part of the quilt is a part you can barely see-- faux bois as binding! The back is red and aqua.
George is a dear friend of mine, who is dating another really good friend. He had a really rough autumn, and I tried to help in my small way.
All I need to add to the Liverpool are the button holes (which I have to do by hand-- gah), and I started another scrap quilt. Pictures of both soon!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

the liverpool

Ever since seeing this pattern on Amy Butler's website, I knew I wanted to make it.
I've never bought an AB pattern before, but have made some out of "In Stitches" and the free ones from the website. I broke down and bought it today, along with some fabric that was 50% off:It's Erin Michael's Mod Mum, from Uptown-- the same line that brought those gorgeous paint-by-number birds. I was pleased to score this fabric, especially on sale. I figure that if the pattern doesn't turn out, I can always tear it apart for a quilt. I haven't started cutting yet, but I'm pretty excited. I think I'm going to make the short dress with long sleeves. Pictures soon, I hope!

Friday, November 20, 2009

a giveaway I'd love to win

Yep, it's a Flea Market Fancy giveaway.  Go over and check it out!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Sometimes I'm a little late to the game.
Like now, when I decided to finally give the very popular wonky/maverick star block a try:Each of the squares are 5". The centers of half of the blocks (like this one) are made from Dance With Me, I believe it's the Yellow Kayla pattern. The other half will be an assortment of my floral prints. All of the points are scraps-- I realized that mine have gotten a little out of hand lately, and this is good for the littlest ones.
I'm hoping that this will come together quickly, as I want to make this one in time for Christmas. My husband's grandmother, who I adore, was widowed in September. This will be her first holiday season without her husband, and I hope that something feminine and warm can provide a little bit of comfort. I thought this pattern was just familiar enough for a woman of a certain age, but fresh enough to remind her of me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mr. and Mrs. K

Two Nicoles, one post.
The first Nicole is my brother's girlfriend. I decided to make her a tote bag for the upcoming holiday season out of some of my favorite fabric:The pattern is the Flourish Tote. The instructions were clear, it probably took me a total of 2.5- 3 hours, and I'm happy with the construction. I wouldn't recommend it as a first bag pattern for anyone, as there were some slightly advanced things like curved corners and sewing through so many layers. The only thing I need to add is some gray grosgrain ribbon going through the loops in the top. I used quilt batting instead of fusible fleece, and decided with all the heaviness not to put the darts in the bottom corners. Here's a shot of the inside, showing the six pockets (more Heather Ross stripes and dots):
The second Nicole is a friend of my husband's from law school, and she recently got married. Since she's a good friend, and warrants more than a blender, I made this for her and her new husband:
Click to enlarge-- also, it's really sunny outside here today!
All of these fabrics came from my stash except for the gray kona (I think it's called Charcoal). I took my original inspiration from Alissa's Sparks Baby Quilt but quickly deviated. Each of my center squares are 4", and I fussy cut birds:Then I added a rectangular border around each bird, and alternated the direction of the rectangles (vertical, like the one above, and horizontal). For the horizontal blocks, I added 2.5" of the gray to either the top or the bottom (half of each) and then sashed the blocks. The outer border is 6" on the top and bottom, and 3" wide on either side. I quilted 1/4" around each seam. I love the back, too:
(It's windy-- ignore my shoe at the bottom!)
I used the rest of my bird fabric (IKEA-- and the same fabric I used for my bedroom curtains) and more Lotus. Here's a closeup of the quilting, from the back:

I can't wait to put this in the mail and send it off to NYC! It feels so good to finish something, especially two things that make me proud.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

tiny blocks

I had a Snippets jelly roll sitting around, and while I need a new project like I need a hole in my head, I decided to make 40 of these:The green and white block measures just 3" square, and the border strips are 1.25" before being sewn. These are the smallest pieced blocks I've ever made. You can find the instructions and inspiration quilt here.
I think I'm going to set them differently, though-- maybe on point? Maybe I need to make another 40 blocks? I have plenty of fabric left over, even after this:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

no-sew tutu tutorial!

Happy Halloween!
Last night, for a costume party, I dressed up as a ballerina. Here I am, in my homemade tutu:
Sorry for the weird picture-- it's raining today.
Anyway, here's what you do:
1)Take a piece of elastic, and fit it comfortably around your waist.

2) Tie the ends in a sturdy knot. No need to sew these together, because of the volume of the tulle will cover just about anything (ugly upper thighs included!)

3) Take 10 yards of the stiffest tulle/netting you can buy. I got mine for $1.29/yd. at Joann Fabrics, in pale pink. With scissors, cut it into strips about 3-6 inches wide. Again, no need to be exact, and many of my strips were pretty crooked.

4) Take each long strip and cut it in half.

5) Tie each of these strips around the piece of elastic in a single knot.

6) Wash, rinse, repeat.

7) When you're finished, put it on over a leotard, and you're good to go. You can fluff it a little, and honestly, I couldn't stop touching it all night.

My leotard came from the children's section at Target, and I put my hair in a bun, wore dance tights and ballet shoes. Super easy, very comfortable, readily-identifiable costume. If you make one, I'd love to see it!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

fuzzy math

Here's the nearly finished quilt top, all for me:I'm going to add a big polka dotted border around it, but am still deciding on the width of it. All of the orange sashing and cornerstones are 3" before being sewn. That's about double the width of the block borders (all cut to 1 3/4"). Using this crude math, I think it'd look pleasing if I make the border double the sashing, or 6". I'm really very pleased with this; selfish quilting is fun! I'm still trying to decide on the backing, and also the quilting. Especially the quilting, and even the thread colour. Normally I quilt in the colour of the sashing, but I'm afraid the orange might be too vivid on the blocks (plus, the orange is really made of magenta and yellow warp and weft).
Here it is again, in the sun on my front yard:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

sashing fun

Thanks for the sashing suggestions for my HR quilt. Here's what I've decided on, with Butch's obvious approval:I'm sashing in the orange, which I already adore. I was most concerned about the way it'd look next to the bright orange AB print (on the left) and the sherbert-y Flights of Fancy on the right. But I'm very pleased so far, since it makes the paler prints stand out more than I'm used to.
I'm using five fussy cut 3" squares for the corners. I've decided that the corner pieces will be the same all the way across, so the top row are the bikes, the second are the ice cream trucks, etc. I'm planning on a pretty wide polka dotted border (that plan could change). I'm also trying to think about something brilliant for the back. Maybe another solid?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

a Heather Ross story

A while back, Ms. Heather Ross herself posted a great opportunity for a handful of lucky fabric junkies to buy some of her stash. Since I still haven't won a single giveaway, I count it as a true victory that I was able to purchase some Munki Munki love.
Ms. Ross picked out some good stuff: sushi, toadstools, bicycles, dogs, ice cream trucks... and she even included a white tank with a patch of farmer's market sewn on the front, which magically fits me.
Fast forward about a month later, and I was trolling the arts and crafts section on Craigslist. You may or may not remember that I got my amazing Singer 201 on Craigslist for next to nothing. There's of course plenty of junk listed, but then I came across a posting listed "highest quality Westminister fabric, $3 a yard". Yes, it read Westminister instead of Westminster, but I let it slide. I drove to a far suburb, and to my delight, a young mom who had a baby boutique selling baby slings decided to shift her focus, so she wanted to liquidate her HEATHER ROSS LIGHTNING BUGS fabric. For yes, three. dollars. a. yard. She had the orange and blue stripe, and the polka dots in a few colours. And I happily bought a ton. I decided that two Heather Ross encounters-- both serendipitous, to me at least-- warranted a quilt of my very own. So here's what I've started:I think this is the only time I'd consider sushi, mushrooms, dogs, campers, ice cream trucks and a ton of stripes and polka dots coordinating fabrics (click to enlarge).
But what to do about the setting? I'm thinking about sashing it in either this: or Joelle Hoverson's gorgeous peachy Net of Jewels, which is sort of like shot cotton:
Or, there's always white kona cotton. But I do that a lot. What do you think? Are the dots too busy? Or could it look as great as the cover of Material Obsession? (I kid, I kid-- there's no way it'll ever look half as amazing as that quilt. But I do love the polka dots...)

Monday, October 19, 2009


A six week blogging break was really nice, I won't lie. I have a ton of VQB blocks to catch up on, and I feel really embarrassingly bad about it. But I'll get there.
Meanwhile, a lot of sewing has happened around these parts. I just finished a commissioned quilt using Pashmina, and really, I didn't like this quilt at all until I created the back. Why is it that so many quilters like their pieced backs better than the fronts? Here's the front of the whirlygig quilt:Here's the back:
And here's a close up of the four sisters again, just like Carolyn's quilt:

I've cut into my Heather Ross stash and have finally started on a quilt for ME. More tomorrow!

Monday, August 31, 2009

new Amy Butler collection: Love

If you're following me in Google Reader, I'm guessing my title got your attention.
Why haven't I heard about this new collection on the zillion blogs I follow?
Amy Butler's newest collection is called Love, which makes it super annoying to google, as you just get a bunch of fabric junkies saying how much they loooooooooove AB.  Anyway, I got the tip from an email from Wish Upon a Quilt, who said that Love is due out in October, and the entire first printing is already sold out.  I managed to find a couple of pictures at the Quilted Castle.  What do you guys think?
Also, I went on a skirt making binge this weekend-- pictures soon!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Baby M update

Baby M was finally born, and so the name of the quilt will be re-named with her official name: Katelyn.  I get weirdly superstitious about sending baby things off to expectant parents before babies arrive, so this one (and her big sister Maggie's quilt) are still sitting at my house.  I'm pleased to send them both off today!
Rebecca is on her way to California, so as soon as she gets settled I'll be sending her quilt her way, too.
I really need to do a post with all of my quilting bee updates-- I think I've fallen victim to the dog days of summer.  That should be out of my system soon, I promise!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

wild thing

Thanks for your comments and ideas yesterday! I went to my local quilt shop and they happened to have a pattern that I was anxious to try out:And some charm packs that will make my life (or at least fabric selection) easier, Pashmina by Moda:It looks a lot more brown on the screen than it does in real life. To me, at least, it reads more orange which makes it more palpable to me. I'm using the pale one on the far right, second row, as my background for the whirligigs. I seem to be the last one to make one of these quilts, but I'm looking forward to it.
I'm also looking forward to showing you some more Rachael-typical quilts!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

another sister, another quilt

After the whole quilting debacle on the Carolyn quilt, I was glad to hear from my stepmother that Carolyn was in fact very surprised and pleased.  So was my stepmother-- she's actually commissioning me to make a quilt for another one of her sisters, Connie, who has an October birthday.  Connie also has a pretty traditional home in New Jersey, and so I need to go just barely outside my comfort zone yet again. 
I've been going through Flickr and my favorite blogs looking for inspiration.  Do you, loyal readers, have any brilliant ideas for a pattern or fabric line for this new quilt?  Again, I don't have too much time, so I want to get started on it right away.  Any thoughts and ideas will be appreciated!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

phoebe bag

I haven't made a bag in quite a while, and I really needed a new one. I dug into some of my IKEA stash, and followed Rebeka's instructions for her easy Phoebe Bag:
(Butch is the best purse model ever)
Honestly, the hardest part was turning the flap right-side out, and sewing around that curve. My usual critique with handbag patterns is that the strap tends to be too short and out of proportion with the rest of the bag, but that's not the case here. The only hardware needed was a magnetic snap, which I already happened to have. I love this purse. I think it'll be one of my go-to patterns for holiday gifts this year (real life friends, forget this immediately).
The fabric for both the lining and the outside is home-dec weight, so I decided to skip any interfacing. It holds the shape really well, and it feels sturdy. The inside is a green, white and yellow IKEA print I got on clearance.It's very hard to photograph the inside of a purse! That bit of pink on the inside is the pocket I added. It's a keeper, for sure.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

dress shirt revamp

I saw this tutorial over the weekend, and knew I had to try it out:
And so I did.
I've been buying a ton of dress shirts from Goodwill for a quilt I've been working on, and decided to sacrifice one of the shirts for a cute dress (click to enlarge). I followed the instructions exactly as to how to deconstruct the shirt (a size large), but then amended the directions as follows:
Since I'm smaller than the tutorial's creator (5'2", size 0) I was able to get away with using both sleeves as the entire bodice without the complicated insertion instructions. I left the hem on the skirt as-is, hemmed like the bottom of the shirt it previously was. I also used my machine for the ruffles, using 2 long basting stitches on each.
The bodice on mine is a lot longer than the original posting, but I'm actually really happy about that: with the elastic at the waist, I can pull it up to make it shorter or pull it down to make it longer. I'm totally wearing it to work tomorrow with a cardigan.
Total cost: $2.00 at Goodwill, as I already had the elastic and thread at home. I could make this a million more times, and probably will!

Friday, August 14, 2009


Yikes, what a week! I finished the Carolyn quilt exactly 4 hours before my stepmother boarded a plane for NY. The plane happened to leave at 6:00 AM, and so I don't have a picture of the finished quilt because I was binding like a zombie. The binding is red, by the way, and I quilted it in crossed diagonal lines, forming diamonds after my quilting disaster. I'll probably be able to add one later, hopefully of Carolyn actually opening and loving it!
I've been really busy doing non-sewing things lately, so that's why it's been a little quiet here. I do have a lot of quilting bee blocks to show, and another quilt to put together, so things will hopefully go back to normal soon. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 10, 2009

escape to IKEA

I know I've spent a bit of time kvetching about the heat at the Park Ave. Sweat Shop, but really, yesterday I woke up and it was 88 degrees inside. At 8:00 AM.  So what do my husband and I decide to do?  Why, drive to IKEA for a fabric buying trip!  
These birds will be bedroom curtains:
And I think I'm going to make a pretty simple quilt out of these two fabrics for my bed: 
I also got a few yards of a kelly green fabric with huge white and yellow hearts on it on clearance-- I think it'll make cute yoga bags for the holidays this year.
I've also finished quilting the Carolyn quilt and have been working on the binding, and I've started an obligatory red and aqua zigzag quilt-- the kind without half-square triangles.  This could be the first quilt I've started in a long time without a recipient in mind.  I'd really like to have a "boy" quilt and a "girl" quilt made and ready to go at a moment's notice.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

and... we're live.

I had to be at work at 5:30 AM today (compared to my usual 8:00) because a local news station was coming to film a 90 second piece.  Of course, I freaked out about what to wear-- more so than what I was going to say (I'm a ham).  I know that pastels and blue look good on camera, and since I wanted to look approachable yet professional, I decided on a light blue button down shirt tucked into a wrap skirt I made last year out of this fabric: 
The video is already up on the website, and really, the skirt photographed well. I was pleased with my choice.  

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I give just about all of my quilts away, and looking back at the 2009 list of recipients so far, I see a number of happy occasions: new babies, weddings, birthdays, just because, housewarming. Then, there are those that I make and give to hopefully comfort and help heal. I both love and hate making the second kind. I feel like those quilts could become a little more special to the person it's going to, but I hate making them because I know those people are in pain, and making them a quilt is about all I can do.

This little quilt is for a two-year-old named Aden. He was in a horrible car accident last week, and managed to break a leg and his skull (among other injuries). His aunt works with my husband, and as soon as I heard about the accident and his long hospital stay, I knew I wanted to make him a quilt. Here it is:And here's the back:I don't know why, but Swiss dot never photographs well.
This is the smallest quilt I've made this year, which I felt was important since it'll be in the hospital with the little boy. I quilted it in straight lines with my favorite yellow thread. This was put together very quickly from my stash-- there are fabrics from a lot of the quilts I've made this year, with the addition of some very cute cowboy fabric that I've held on to forever. I'm going to handstitch the binding tonight and wash it. Hopefully Aden will get it tomorrow.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

ripping seams

Oy vey, I can't wait for this quilt to leave the Sweat Shop.
I've spent about 3 hours stippling the quilt, and have broken 4 needles. I re-threaded the machine, changed the bobbin, got all the dust out, and took a break. The front looks fine, but the back has tension problems.
Also, I did too good of a job picking out the green thread: it blends in exactly with the front of the quilt, so I can't see where I'm going. Here's a horrible picture of some of the worst quilting I've ever done:

So, I'm ripping out all of the quilting, and I'm going to quilt it in straight lines. I'm putting this on here to show myself that I can remedy this problem. Wish me luck, it's going to be a long, thread-covered day.

Friday, July 31, 2009

my first commissioned quilt top

Here's the Carolyn quilt top, on my newly landscaped front yard:As I've mentioned before, my favorite part about this is the outer border-- all of the fabrics I chose for the pinwheels were inspired by that pattern. Here's a closeup:To avoid having to piece the border, I had to wait and see how much I needed to buy, as this runs parallel to the selvedges, rather than across (like a typical jelly roll strip).

In my dream world, Moda would realize that those stretchy jelly roll strips, while easier for them to produce, aren't half as easy to work with as cuts that run the length-- rather than width-- of the fabric. Cutting the borders this way makes sure that the edges don't ruffle and instead lay flat. I got this tip from my favorite quilt shop owner when I was buying the aqua and brown Snow Flower for Mr. and Mrs. D's quilt, and sure enough, it made a big difference.

I still need to piece the back, making sure to include four of these little girls to represent Carolyn and her three sisters. The backing is a really soft faded denim-colored blue, which I think will make the quilt a bit more dimensional (I didn't realize how green the top was until I put it all together).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

thread storage

I'm not one of those women who get all crazy at places like the Container Store or have piles of Tupperware always ready.  But I do love to repurpose items, and finding a good hiding place makes me feel clever.
I used to store my thread in a shoebox, then I got one of those ubiquitous wooden thread racks that I planned to paint some brilliant color, like aqua or orange, but I never got around to it.
Then, a fortuitous event occurred: I had the option of giving a very old metal four-drawer film strip cannister cabinet a new home.  My home.  It's an ugly gold and black with silver pulls, but I will actually spray paint it soon.  It was made by the H. Wilson Company, probably in the 1960s.  The drawers are each lined with a plastic liner with 90 indentations per drawer that are the perfect size for most of my thread.  The little Guttermans don't fit very well, but I'm using the wooden rack for those.  It's incredibly heavy, and I totally love it.  Pictures to come soon.
I haven't been sewing too much lately because it's super hot and our furnace and AC are getting replaced this Saturday.   That's an annoying and unsexy (not to mention very expensive) project, so expect to see some scrappy quilts (read: more economical) coming soon!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Fresh from the dryer, bound and ready to go to Milwaukee:It's a good thing, too, since her birthday is July 30. I started and finished this one in no time at all.I found some packages of ready-made quilt binding, so while the binding is thicker than what I typically go for, it was really very easy. I think one of my favorite parts of the entire quilt is the one green corner.
This quilt isn't very large, but I'm hoping it gets used while on the couch, or as a picnic quilt. Nicole and Max go to a park and listen to jazz with a bottle of wine pretty frequently. This one is surprisingly heavy, because of the home dec fabric on the front, and the yellow on the back is also pretty thick. It killed my fingers while binding, especially with the dense stippling, but it was so worth it.
I've also just added the final borders on to the Carolyn quilt and will be basting it shortly. It's really coming together, and I'm liking it a lot more.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

this is more like it

My second commissioned quilt, in progress:
This is for my brother's lady friend, Nicole. Her birthday is coming up, and she loves yellow. I used a cheater panel for the middle and I'm totally in love with this little quilt. I used some of my solid scraps to make a wide border around it, and went around 1 1/4 times (see the double wide border on the left-hand side?) That made it as wide as I wanted it to be, and also I liked that the panel was now a bit off-center. I ran out of yellow thread when I was about 80% done quilting the top (the part where Cassidy is standing) is unquilted.
Here's the pieced back, again, all from my stash:
There's a tiny strip of leftover Patchwork Promonade from the front on the back. The wrinkled part hasn't been quilted yet. Am I the only one who can't lay out a quilt without a dogfriend joining the party?
I've decided that I need to buy Dual Duty XP thread in color 7310 in bulk. It's the same thread I used (and ran out of) on Rebecca's quilt, and I did the same thing here. It's a pretty butter yellow color, and I've gone through no fewer than 5 spools of it in the past month. Yikes.
I'm unsure what colour I'll use for the binding. Maybe I'll make it scrappy, just to add to the whole thing. I totally adore this quilt-- I told Max that if he and Nicole ever break up, I want the quilt back (I kid, I kid... mostly.) Once the quilting is complete I'll post better and brighter pictures. I think this is just what I needed to go back to working on the Carolyn quilt.