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.

Monday, July 20, 2009

a lack of confidence

I spent 2.5 hours in a quilt shop yesterday.
Normally, I'm in and out in about 30 minutes-- I make decisions pretty quickly. But yesterday, I needed to pick out fabric for the Carolyn quilt. I decided on an easy pinwheel pattern from Material Obsession called Cowboy Baby. Since the quilt in the book was tiny, about 40" x 48", and I have limited time, I decided to make my blocks twice as large (you know how I love the big blocks).
But I had the hardest time picking out the fabric. My eyes always go immediately towards stripes, dots, brights, solids and contemporary prints. I knew that those wouldn't do for a lodge-inspired quilt living in the Adirondacks. This is probably the first time ever that I've been continuously second-guessing my choices. I had a lot of help from the women at the shop, which was great (though one thought I was nuts for not putting dark binding on every quilt I make, but that's another story).
Since the quilt is surrounded by a large border, I had help picking out the print used as the border in this pattern as my inspiration.

I haven't bought the border yet because I want to cut it parallel to the selvedge as opposed to the way it's shown in the picture, and I need to know the length first. It's actually pretty cute, with half moons and red flowers on a dark blue background. Most of the fabric I picked for the middle of the quilt is from the same line, American Primer:
I'm not in love with this, though I did like it much more next to the border. Maybe I just need to wait and see.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mr. and Mrs. D

This is a wedding present, just about a month late, for my stepbrother and new stepsister-in-law:I went to my favorite nearly local quilt shop (an hour away) and bought the stripes for the binding, the pale aqua border, and I splurged for the good stuff for the back:That strip in the middle was going to be a fifth row on the front of the quilt, but I knew I wouldn't get around to ordering the 2.5" x 7" piece of fabric I needed, so I decided on a big border instead.
I also joined the Cult of Mettler yesterday-- that thread is amazing. I used nearly 3 spools (and nearly $10) of the silk-finish. I picked aqua, and it blends into the border and the flowers in the backing perfectly. Between using a ton of safety pins, superpremium thread and a new needle, this quilt came together really easily, despite all of the little pieces.

I quilted diagonal lines 2" apart. I always forget how much I love straight line quilting. Because this quilt is pretty busy, I thought that stippling would've been just a little too much.
Once I put the binding on, I'll be ready to send this to southern California. I know they aren't expecting this, so it'll be a nice surprise.

Friday, July 17, 2009

so excited!

I just got asked to create a quilt on commission! My stepmother has a sister, Carolyn, turning 60 next month and wants me to make a quilt for her. Of course I said yes!
The one thing (besides time) that's making me nervous is that my stepmother's sister (my step-aunt, I guess?) lives in a log cabin/lodge house on a lake in upstate New York. The quilt should evoke a lodge, and my stepmom wants me to also incorporate the theme of "sisters". There are four girls, all with first names that start with the letter C.
So, I think the quilt will be much more traditional than I typically lean. Which is fine-- good, maybe, to test my boundaries. Do you guys have any ideas?
My first thought was to make four patchwork girls, but I'm unsure what else I should do. Trees? Those houses that are so popular? My mind is really reeling, but the timing is great: my husband is going out of town for the weekend with his brother, so I have the whole weekend to sew. And the weather is really cooling down, so it should be a good time to quilt.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

crayon roll

As I mentioned, my friend Rebecca has a daughter turning two in August. I don't know too many two-year-olds, but I remember seeing a lot of crayon rolls around the holidays here in Blogland. I looked at a few of them, and with my $0.25 box of Crayolas, went to work. Here's what I came up with:Rebecca carries a purse the size of a golfbag, so I know this will fit no problem. The surprise is how looooooong it is:That's a 24-box.
I tried my hardest to match all of the colours of crayons to scrap fabric, and I think I did an OK job. The red is some linen I had in my stash that is unfortunately not quilt-friendly, and the back is some of my favorite Alexander Henry. Amazingly, the crayons were the only thing purchased for this. I had fun arranging the crayons and finding little scraps. Each piece is about 2x6". I trimmed them down to about 2x5 after sewing all of the colours together.
I hope they both like it!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

half square triangles

Inspired by this quilt, I decided to try it with my 12 Deer Valley fat quarters:Apologies for the sunset picture...
You can see there are 12 HSTs across, one of each fat quarter. They are trimmed down to 5.5" square. I decided to lay them out in diagonal rows, and am pleased with my original placement. Here's a close up:
This is for my good friend Rachel in Wisconsin, who just bought a house. Her style is a little more traditional than what I choose, and she said she's decorating in red and tan-- next to purple, those are the least popular colours in my collection.
I had a hard time deciding what solid to use. My original thought was white, but I wanted to make it a little more exciting. My second thought was dark brown, but I still wasn't happy. Then, I wanted a blue, but this blue is very tricky to match, and it made some of the prints look muddy. Luckily, with my fat quarters in hand (still fresh from the Fat Quarter Shop, in their great plastic bag), the woman at my local quilt shop was able to steer me towards this color, which I'm calling pumpkin.
Does it work? I've been staring at it for a few days now, unsure of what I'm going to do for the back. These Deer Valley colours are so specific, and while I absolutely adore them, they're nearly impossible to coordinate with other lines (or, ahem, cheaper JoAnn fabric for the back). I might actually have to spring for the good stuff. But which print?

lots and lots of sewing

I feel like it's been forever since I posted, but I guess it was just on Saturday.   A big problem with the Park Ave. Sweat Shop is that the physical sweat shop space seems to be about 15-20 degrees warmer than the rest of the house, despite two big open windows.  With an iron and a very bright lamp over my machine, it gets to be a little unbearable.   Regardless, I've been doing a ton of sewing. I don't have any pictures today, but here's a little teaser:

1) I made an orange dress completely out of my stash.  I even managed to cut into some of my Lightning Bugs fabric.

2) I added a border of 2.5" squares around the Mr. and Mrs. D quilt, and will probably add a larger outside border on (at least?) two sides. Color suggestions encouraged and welcome!

3) I've made a half-square triangle quilt top out of the persimmon colorway of Deer Valley.  I'm not a very good HST maker (even after trimming off those little dogears!)  The other half of the squares are a pumpkin-colored Marcus solid. 

4) I took a stab at making a crayon roll for Rebecca's daughter who is turning two next month.  This was an easy and fun project that cost all of $0.25 for a new box of Crayola Crayons.  

Pictures to come soon, I promise.  My memory card can be read by my camera but not by the computer for whatever reason.  Off to buy a new one today!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

AQB2-- July

Anna sent out fabrics that coordinated with a fantastic vintage sheet she plans on using for the backing:She sent nice big pieces, and wanted a scrappy block. I used scissors instead of a rotary cutter which gave my pieces a satisfyingly almost-wonky-almost-straight look. I love the center of that Heather Bailey flower, and I'm curious who designed the pale pink fabric-- the birds and birdcages were fussy cut, and my very favorites for this block. I see lots of red and aqua quilts out there, and think I need to make one-- but with a healthy dose of ballet pink.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

a nun and her quilts

from "Sisters Face Death with Dignity and Reserve" by Jane Gross, New York Times 7/8/09: 

There were goodbyes and decisions about giving away her quilting supplies and the jigsaw puzzle collection that inspired the patterns of her one-of-a-kind pieces. She consoled her biological sister, who pleaded with her to do whatever it took to stay alive.

Even as her prognosis gradually improved from hours to weeks and even months, Sister Dorothy's goal was not immortality; it was getting back to quilting, as she has. She spread her latest on her bed: Autumnal sunflowers. "I'm not afraid of death," she said. "Even when I was dying, I wasn't afraid of it. You just get a feeling within yourself at a certain point. You know when to let it be."

I read the New York Times daily, and found this mention of how an elderly woman near death is still concerned about her quilts and quilting pretty touching.  Not to get too sappy or deep, but I like to see when and how creating and sewing provides an outlet.

Thanks also for all of your love on the Rebecca quilt.  I'm glad I get to hold on to it a little longer, as she doesn't need one more thing to pack!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Yay, internet has been restored on Park Ave. just in time for me to show you my newest finish, for my good friend Rebecca. She's moving from Dallas to northern California next month, and I decided she needed a quilt to commemorate the occasion. She's definitely a perfectionist, and I wanted to make sure I did my absolute best work on this one (I know I should be that way about every quilt... but...)This could be called JoAnn, because all of the materials came from there (but the good stuff, of course). I used the same circle template that calls for 7" squares of fabric, but then I put the blocks aside for a while, because they just looked a little too skinny. My original arrangement called for all of the yellow circles to be in a row, and all of the patterned ones in a row. I wasn't feeling good about it, though. After thinking and working on other projects, I added a 3" border around each block, changed the order, and I'm in love. I had two spare blocks-- I was too tired to try and make a fifth row of three-- so I played with them in the back:
It didn't photograph well, but the back is orange with white dots because orange is Rebecca's favorite color. I stippled it in pale yellow thread:
I'm also particularly proud of the binding and my mitred corners! I think this came out so well because I used a lot of pins while basting, and I also consciously chose to quilt one big square before moving on to the next. Those tips are probably obvious to most of you, but they were lessons that took me a silly long time to figure out.
As I type, the Sarah quilt is in the washing machine. I can't wait to get that one sent off!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

and the winner is...

Stop by and congratulate her!  Thank you all so much for playing.  This was so much fun for me, I'll have to do another giveaway soon.  The Neptune charm pack and other assorted goodies will be headed all the way to Western Canada, just as soon as she sends me her address. 
I started binding the Rebecca quilt last night, and I'm in love with it. Structurally,  it's my best one yet.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my home computer will be up and running again as soon as tomorrow.

Monday, July 6, 2009

annoying technical difficulties

I guess all technical difficulties are annoying, but as I mentioned in my last post, the 4th was rainy.  It apparently zapped our cable modem, because I'm officially unable to get online at home (I'm posting this from my local library).  The technician will be out Wednesday.  My first thought was, "But I have a giveaway!!"  I'll leave it open until tonight at midnight, EST, and will pick a winner first thing tomorrow morning.  

I have a lot to show, too-- doesn't that always happen?  I finished the binding on the Maggie and Sarah quilts, and am nearly finished with the quilting on the secret quilt, which will soon be named Rebecca.  I say "nearly finished" because I ran out of yellow thread when I was doing the densest stipple ever.  Who runs out of thread?  I couldn't believe it.  Here's what I'm using for the binding (Alexander Henry Bangle Dot):
ALEXANDER HENRY "BANGLE DOT" Turquoise fabric by yard
After celery Swiss dots for the last two big quilts, I can't wait to look at something else!
Don't forget, the giveaway ends tonight!

Saturday, July 4, 2009


I took advantage of a rainy 4th of July and finished quilting this monster:(rare shot of both lhasa apsos)
This was the largest quilt that I've stippled to date, about 65" x 94", and it went fairly well. I decided to add some curlicues in the quilting, just to make it a little more interesting. My cousin's favorite colour happens to be my least favorite: purple. I realized that I really didn't have much-- if any-- purple in my stash and subsequently the quilt, so I bought lavender polka dots for the back:
Here's a close up of the center stripe, which is my favorite part of the quilt:The binding is the same that I used for Maggie. I still need to attach it to the back, for both this quilt and Maggie's. The purple backing and the batting were the only purchases made especially for this, and there are over 150 different fabrics in the top.
This will be living with my cousin Sarah in Michigan. She's the oldest cousin on one side of my family, and after seeing our Grandpa Fred quilt, she wanted one. I was happy to oblige.

I'm happily surprised that this is my 10th finish of 2009. Also, looking back at the other nine, I realized that more often than not, I choose polka dots for the backs. I think I'll consider it a Park Ave. Sweat Shop signature.

Friday, July 3, 2009

100th post giveaway!

It's my 100th posting on this little webspace of mine. I figured a giveaway was in order, and I happened to pick up a Neptune charm pack today, just for giving away. I have some other goodies I"ll throw in, too, but that's a surprise. I really am grateful for all of your support and feedback. Sometimes creating can be a bit lonely, but knowing there are other (mostly) women out there feeling the same way about fabric and design makes me feel good. Leave a comment on this post, telling me your favorite thing about your hometown, and I'll pick a random winner on Monday. Good luck, and thanks for reading!I've started on a long term quilt project, just for me. After seeing all the half hexagon quilts out there, I decided it was a good use for my Hello Betty charm pack. I also used an American Jane Snippets pack, and have been scouring online looking for other 1930s charms. If you have any good sources, let me know. I don't normally choose those fabrics, but looking at the quilt so far, I really like it:After all of those blasted nine-patches, I think I needed a break from squares. It's a lot of fun to play with the fabric placement on this one. Speaking of nine-patches, I have about half of the quilting done on that quilt. I decided on stippling it, but adding some loops. I also used bamboo batting for the first time, and it's amazing, like everyone says.