Wednesday, April 29, 2009


OK, maybe not fame, but my first thought when I saw this was, "I'm famous!"  My torso is on display in the seventh row, all the way to the right.
Thanks, Made by Rae, for making me even more proud of my top than I was before. 
I promise I won't let it go to my head (except for today).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

nine-patch thoughts

You know I just finished the Stephen quilt (formerly known as the Lotus ) and it had 25-patches that I made easily with strip piecing.  But I realized that in all the quilts I've made, I've never made anything involving the humble nine-patch.  I like it, though I always think of the Purina logo. 
I'm not the only one who has thought about these easy blocks, though; Crazy Mom and Twiddletails  have, too.  I've decided that I'm going to make a bunch of two-colour nine-patch blocks for my next quilt, making at least one per day.  Weirdly, I woke up about 90 minutes early this morning and knocked one out already (no picture yet, but it's four pink Amy Butler Martini Dot squares and five green striped City Girl squares).  I want to use different fabric in each block.  This will be good to use my overflowing scrap drawers.  Care to join me?  

Sunday, April 26, 2009

pleated purse

This purse is going to live with my quilting bee friend Stephanie's mother-in-law in Florida:It's made from this tutorial, and I used some of my favorite IKEA canvas and an orange and white swiss dot for the lining. The tutorial was just OK-- the bag is very cute, and I didn't run into any problems. I wouldn't recommend it for a beginner-- I'm glad I've had previous purse making experience.
It's going to Stephanie's mother-in-law because she was kind enough to pick up an extra ABC panel for me, just like the ones we used for Stephanie's month.
I hope she likes it!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

spring ruffle top

As soon as I saw this tutorial, I knew I had to make it. I had the fabric in my stash, and followed the pattern exactly, except I didn't add the patch pockets. To me, it would've made it look too much like an apron.
Here's a better shot of the very top:I took this picture myself, awkwardly at midnight. But you can see the cute pleats, and hopefully see the ruffly detail on the straps. The best part about the pattern, in my opinion, are the directions on how to shape the sides-- I took in 1.5" on either side. Otherwise, when I tried it on, it looked a little too much like maternity wear. It's going to be nice out today, so I'm going to wear it! Hopefully I'll get some better daytime pictures of it, too.
Oh-- and my cutting table is finally cleared off! We'll see how long I can make that last.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Here it is, nearly finished. The Stephen:I couldn't resist taking pictures today, as it's finally sunny and I'm home at a decent hour. All that needs to be finished is one side of the binding (the short edge on the right-hand side). Here's the back:
I know it looks white in the picture, but the back is actually a baby blue pinstripe. The strip is made up of orphaned blocks that just didn't make the cut for the front. When I was taking pictures, a woman walking a dog stopped to compliment me on it. I actually got a little shy talking about it, which kind of surprised me. Still, I was pleased. I free-motion quilted it, and it's a little larger of a stipple than I typically like-- my machine was getting grumpy from all of the seams. This is the first time I've stippled pieces as small as 2.5" squares covering a decent-sized area. I'll probably take more pictures of this one once it's completely finished (out of the dryer, with all my extra threads snipped) because I love it so much.

enter this giveaway

Katie is having a very generous giveaway in honour of her birthday.  Go over there and check it out-- tell her the Park Ave. Sweat Shop sent you!  I'd like to have my own giveaway sometime soon... maybe when I hit 100 posts?  
Lotus quilt update: it's almost finished.  I cut into my Lightning Bugs dot (which I've been hoarding) for the binding.  I'm kind of afraid this might have too much white in it to make it manly, but I love it regardless.  I hope that if I love it enough, it'll rub off on others.  It's also no longer square, courtesy of big zigzag borders on two sides.  Pictures to come soon!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I know that everyone says, "Oh, I've never won anything online before!" But seriously, it's true-- or rather, it used to be true for me, until I was the sole entrant in Stephanie's generous giveaway. Look what I got (photo courtesy of Ms. Stephanie):Yay! Thanks, Stephanie!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

spring cleaning

The actual, physical space of the Park Ave. Sweat Shop is in complete disarray, and pretty much has been from moving in two years ago. I'm a messy person, especially a messy creator-- I need to see everything, all at once.  I can't just clean, either. I must have specific instructions.  For example, I can't "clean the family room" but I can get rid of all of the old magazines, or water the plants, or clear off the coffee table.  That's why this sewing room-specific list is perfect for me.  I definitely need to follow this.  I love that there are plenty of commandments that start with the word "sew".  Won't you join me in checking these off?  What will you tackle first?  Inspire me!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Yesterday, while trying to remember the name of the coffee fabric Mary selected (Bistro by Deb Strain), I went to Moda's website to jog my memory. I looked at all the new collections coming out, and one made me pause: Zanzibar by Sentimental Studios. What you guys probably don't know is that I honeymooned in Zanzibar, one of the most magical places ever.
Zanzibar is a small island in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. When most people hear that I've been there, they assume-- as Sentimental Studios does-- that if it's sub-Saharan Africa, it must be a place to safari. Not so.
There are no giraffes, rhinos, big cats or elephants, as Moda's collection would like you to believe. It's an island with a strong Indian influence. That means rich silks, overdyed cotton, kangas, and bold prints. It's called Spice Island, as they grow and export spices like cinnamon, vanilla, and pepper. The main animals we saw were the colobus monkey (below) and amazing sea life.
So, I'm sorry for the kvetch. But really, I know there aren't too many Westerners who have experienced Zanzibar, and it's just a huge misnomer for Moda's collection. I ought to make my own Zanzibar-inspired quilt, no animal prints necessary.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

AQB2-- May

Yikes, everyone's really getting their fabric out early-- and I have June, so I better decide what I want to do for my turn! Mary decided her quilt will be called "Time for a Coffee Break". I decided to make "time for a wine break" as I sewed. Here's what I came up with:See the coffee cup in the center?
The fabric she sent were Deb Strain's Bistro. The wide border reminds me of stained glass, and you guys know I love a good dot. Definitely reminds me of Starbucks. What do you think?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

lotus in progress

I don't know why I'm taking my sweet time on this one.This is the quilt top that is currently a square, and after looking at it out in the sunshine, I think I'm going to keep it a square. I'm insanely happy with the way this is turning out, but it's still too small for the person it's going to. I'm going to add some more borders.This was the easiest way for me to use two different fat quarters for the borer. All I did was cut them into 3" wide strips x width of the fat quarter (about 21"). Then, I sewed the strips together, alternating red and blue. When I finished sewing a strip to one side of the quilt, I cut off the extra, and started sewing the next side (like making one round of a log cabin, all the way around the quilt). It's easy to see in the picture; three of my corners came out blue, one came out red (above). Love it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

adventures in needlepoint

First, can I even begin to tell you how hard it is for me to take a picture of a mesh canvas at night? Here's my final and best attempt, if you can believe it:
The picture looks better than it does in real life! I went to my local needlepoint shop-- which is different from a cross-stitch shop, which I learned after first visiting a cross-stitch shop that couldn't really help me. I wanted to follow the directions quite closely, as I'm in love with these pillows and wanted to make my time worth it. So I learned the differences between needlepoint, embroidery, crewel, and cross-stitch. I won't go into it, because it's not nearly as exciting as the details of this project, but you can google it, if you're interested.

I originally thought I wanted to stitch this on 7 or 10 hpi (holes per inch). Turns out that's really quite large, and the shop didn't carry it. The higher the number, the smaller the finished design ends up being (for example: 7 hpi would yield a much larger product than 14 hpi, which is what I ended up buying). One of the advantages to going to a local place instead of winging it in the floss aisle at Michael's is just like when you start out quilting: sure, once you know what you're doing you can find the Robert Kaufmann or Alexander Henry between the lesser-JoAnn brands, but starting out it's pretty intimidating.

The woman at the needlepoint shop was able to determine exactlywhat kind of canvas would be best for my project, and about how much to buy. I'm going to have some left over... maybe I'll make some bookmarks or something. The canvas above cost me about $20. Then, she was able to show me the kind of floss I needed that would provide accurate coverage, be durable, and wasn't something I needed to split, because that drives me crazy. It's still by DMC, that craft superstore standby, but this is size 3 Pearl Cotton. It takes 12 different colors, which makes it fun but not obnoxious to do.

I'm really enjoying this project-- it's so perfect to work on while on the couch. I do wish it was a bit bigger, but I'm sure it'll look OK when I'm finished. I'm also still working on the Lotus quilt. I added a fun border of Good Folks and Andalucia, which is keeping things interesting. My one sticking point is that it's currently a square, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about square quilts. What do you think? Should I keep it a square, or try and lengthen two sides? How would I do that?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

PTQB-- April part two

Switching gears from the other quilting bee blocks I made for April, here's what I made for Erin:Erin asked for squares and rectangles, and sent lots of red and yellow prints. I made an 11" block with 31 different pieces. This will be such a cute summery quilt; the block reminds me of ketchup and mustard at a picnic.
Happy Easter, if that applies to you.
I've also been busy with the "Hug" needlepoint pillow... I'll be sure to post pictures soon, along with an account of my first visit to a LNS (local needlepoint shop).

Amy Butler's everything bag

This is what I've been spending most of my time on this weekend:I mentioned in my last post that the only project I really wanted to try out of the Little Stitches book was "The Everything Bag". I was hoping I'd be able to carry it without looking like I was carrying a diaper bag... but I'm thinking I'll hold on to this for a mom-to-be. I'm pretty happy with how it came out. I read a number of reviews of this online, and was most freaked out by the 2-layered peltex divider in the center. I didn't have a problem attaching that, but it was super annoying to maneuver around when I was attaching the lining to the outside. Here's the lining:
Yep, those are the same fish that I used here. Who would've thought that fish and pears would go together so well? I decided to use fabric for this that I already had on hand, after the sticker shock of the various interfacings. This required the previously mentioned Peltex, fusible fleece, and a mid-weight fusible pellon, setting me back nearly $40 at JoAnn. With a coupon. I carefully followed the pattern, except that I sewed on the side panels without having the outside pockets attached, so it's missing 2 pockets. I think it still has plenty.

If I was to sew it again, I would do a couple of things differently.
  1. I would use a shorter length of elastic in the lining pockets, because I think they gap a little more than I'd like.
  2. I'd make that silly divider not go quite out to each edge (is a divider really necessary in a diaper bag? Seriously, I'm asking-- I've never carried one).
  3. I'd forget about buying the expensive fusible fleece and use scraps of quilt batting instead. The fusible fleece didn't ever really fuse, and I followed the instructions.
  4. I might make the straps a little longer, though I guess it could get a little out of control.
I think that's about it. I'm crazy in love with the fabric, and that I managed to keep both of the directionals going the right way. I think it's about time I start working on a quilt, and get away from all of this baby crafting.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

little stitches for little ones

Two book reviews in one week! I know I'm a little late with this one, but I just got it from my local library. I don't have children, but I'm at that magical age when people start to think that's a good idea. And I support that by making them things, typically quilts.

I love that this book has a double wire ring binding, meaning it'll lay flat on my sewing or cutting tables (or ironing board, wood floor, etc.) I also like that the "how to sew" information isn't right up front,and that the patterns are printed on heavier, almost glossy paper. For library books, and things I want to keep for a long time, that's extra important as I have to trace the patterns.
The multiracial kids that model in this book are rediculously cute-- just look at the cover.

I was flipping through the book and realized that everything looked great and fun... and that ALL of the fabric featured was by Ms. Butler herself. Makes sense, I guess, but other sewing books by fabric designers (Seams to Me and Weekend Sewing immediately come to mind) show other fabric designers' fabrics. I tend to gravitate towards stuff shown in fabric I like (really a basic concept, but true for me), I liked just about everything at first glance.

The Everything Bag looks like something I might be able to get away with carrying, and while I love the shape of The Modern Diaper Bag, it looks enormous on the model's shoulder. That's my one beef with Amy Butler bags-- they. are. huge. I made a Birdy Sling and it was very heavy with all that interfacing, and it went nearly to my knees (or at least felt like it).

I wasn't too impressed with the stuffed animals because they all looked a little flat. The last two projects, a photo album and brag book, looked like nice quicker options.

I'll probably try my hand at the Everything Bag, and see how the instructions go. What do you think? Have you made anything from this?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

PTQB-- April

Stephanie sent some great fabric that looks a lot like stuff I'd pick out. Tula Pink, polka dots, aqua, brown and green... clearly, a girl with good taste! She wanted a log cabin, but one that wasn't wonky. This is what I came up with:
The only fabric I added was the very outer border-- look familiar? This is a twist on a traditional courthouse steps pattern, but the widths of the fabric are different. I was very careful to keep the directional prints going the same direction, most notably the butterflies. This was much less time consuming than Chen's but I love it just the same.
Next up: Erin's block.

Monday, April 6, 2009

a hug and a kiss

As I mentioned in my previous post, I dislike needle-turn applique. I do, however, like spending time with my husband, especially crafty-productive time while watching TV. Look what I just bought from EmilyPeacockTapestry, via Etsy:This will be the perfect couch project (and yes, I splurged for both pillow patterns). These will look divine in the sweatshop. I really hope the pattern is clear, and that I can find all of the right DMC thread colors-- I think these are just about perfect and I really don't want to change anything. I can't wait!

In quilting bee news, I got the best mail ever: no bills, no junk, just envelopes full of fabric goodness from Stephanie and Erin!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

material obsession: fanciful flowers

From the Material Obsession book, I decided to try one of the patterns out for (another) college friend of mine who is expecting a baby girl. I picked the Fanciful Flowers design-- one they call "advanced".I really don't like doing applique by hand, and after one disaster of a practice block, alleviated my problem by machine stitching very close to the flowers' edges, and using a lightweight fusible interfacing for all of the flower parts and the back of the white. Here's a picture of the huge (18 1/2" square) blocks that I've made so far:What can I say, Butch is a good quilt model.

I didn't work at all on the Lotus quilt today; it's been raining and I really needed to work with some fun happy colors. This is a total stash/scrap quilt. Some Amy Butler, some Sandi Henderson, some of this and some of that.

In other news, here's what else has been happening at Park Ave.:

That's our new chandelier and our new "Midas Gold" faux tin ceiling. This is our foyer, directly above where I took the first picture. The crown molding isn't up in this picture, but it is in real life.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Irish Chain revamp

You saw the 25-patch blocks that I made out of the Amy Butler Lotus. As I previously mentioned, I kind of screwed up making a traditional Irish Chain quilt. I hadn't sewn the blocks together, but I had already made 4 of these:I wanted this quilt to be a 2-block quilt, with the 25-patches in between the other block. So, I put those aside and came up with a few of these:
Closer, but still not quite right. Too flat. I tried reversing the colors, with an outer white border and an inner red one. I kind of surprised myself with how long it was taking me to find something to make me happy-- typically, I'll just dive right in and be happy with the result.
And as they say in Pulp Fiction, "DISCO." This is right. Here it is, nestled among its' 25-patch friends on my design wall. I got some Good Folks in the mail yesterday, and decided to dedicate 2 of the fat quarters to this cause. The yellow-green in the Lotus is complimented by the yellow in these, and that inky gray/blue also adds some interest.
The orphan blocks will probably make it into the back. This quilt is for a friend of mine who asked for me to make him a quilt. This is a modern floral quilt-- and yet I think it's still masculine. What do you think?

Friday, April 3, 2009

material obsession

Here's my first Park Avenue Sweat Shop book review. It will take a lot for me to actually buy a book-- I'm a giant library champion, and when it comes to craft books, I'd rather spend my money on fabric or fun tools. So this book, Material Obsession: Modern Quilts with Traditional Roots by Kathy Doughty and Sarah Fielke, came to me from my local library. I think that quilt books *can* be judged (at least a little) by the cover. And I like this cover, a lot. There are 23 (!) different quilt projects inside, arranged from very easy to advanced, and I like that they put the obligatory "quilting basics" section in the back-- having the basics covered, I like to get right to the good stuff.

The fabric combinations are really refreshing-- one of my pet peeves is seeing quilt books showing quilts done in all one line. Of course those look great, when they were designed to go together. Seeing fabrics from all over come together and mingle is much more special-- to me, at least.

Just about all of these are hand-quilted, and some have applique that looks kind of optional (on some blocks, but not all) which is also inspiring to maybe try.

My favorites: Retro Starburst (easy); Out the Window (intermediate); Fanciful Flowers (advanced) and Dotty for Dresden (advanced, and also the gorgeous quilt on the cover).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

good advice

You guys were right. The Lotus should go into a quilt. While I really don't need another new project (I'm pretty behind on the Geese in the Forest BOMs...) I just couldn't resist:Here's one of the many 25-patch blocks I've been making. The other fabric is tiny orange polka dots on white. This was originally going to be a sort of Irish Chain quilt, but then I realized that I made these with only two fabrics instead of three. I didn't like how it looked next to the other typical Irish Chain blocks, so I quickly changed gears. I'll do something cute for the alternating blocks, probably some sort of squares within squares.