Monday, May 30, 2016

A Quilt for Jakub

A few years ago I met members of my family, on my dad's side, who live in Slovakia. There was a whole clan of family that I figured must live there but never knew about. When trying to research my geneology I found them by shear luck. We visited them in Slovakia in 2012 and Jozef and his wife, Andrea came to visit us two years ago.

We were happy to learn that they were expecting a baby and I immediately started thinking about what quilt I wanted to make them.
I was immediately attracted to two beautiful log cabin quilts in blue that I had seen on Instagram. Giuseppe and Amber both made beautiful quilts, so I figured why ruin a good thing. I made a log cabin quilt in navy, aqua and low volume prints.

We took the quilt to Irvine Ranch Estate Historical Park to photograph it. I was so disappointed when we arrived and most of the buildings were walled off with chain link fencing for reconstruction. There is a fabulous old red barn there that I was planning on using as the backdrop.
I did see this old tractor with it's rusted wheels. 
edited with Snapseed and Brushstroke apps

This old dilapidated house added some texture to the photo.

The quilt is made from various strips ranging from 2.5"-3.5" wide. I had a great time pulling fabrics for the quilt and arranging them to make a cohesive quilt. I wanted it to be a rather large baby quilt, one that would grow with the baby and maybe take him through the pre-school years.

When it came time to quilt this piece I wanted it to be soft and cuddly for the baby so I just did random wavy lines anywhere from 1/2"-2" apart. The quilting is also very improvisational and added a nice dimension to the piece.

To give the quilt a fun jolt on the back I used the cardinal print from a line of Charlie Harper fabrics that I have been hoarding.

When it came time to bind the quilt I was a little stumped and didn't know what to do. I thought using one color might be too stark and distract from the quilt so I used a grey dot on the low volume side and a navy solid on the blue side. I think that was the best way to finish this quilt.

I'll be packing this up and shipping it off to Slovakia this week. I sure hope it arrives safely and baby Jakub will get many years of snuggles with this quilt.

Quilt Stats:
Pattern: Improv Log Cabin
Fabrics: Blues and Low Volume from Stash
Backing: Charlie Harper Staggered Cardinals from Birch Fabrics
Batting: Warm and White
Thread: Pieced with Aurifil 50 wt.
Quilted by me on my Bernina 820 with Connecting Threads Essential 40 wt. in Ivory
Binding: Kaufman Greenwich in Navy and Summertime Dot in Grey
Size:56" x 58"

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Gardening Update

I haven't done a gardening update in quite some time. To be honest, last year's summer garden was such a disappointment, I wasn't sure if we wanted to put in the effort and expense into another drought riddled garden. I do love the satisfaction of growing my own food. I enjoy the time outside and it's good for my mind and spirit to get my hands dirty.
We had the best winter garden we have ever had. We harvested cabbages galore. I made sauerkraut and we are still eating it. The citrus trees never disappoint. Our lemons, limes and mandarins were outstanding. We are still enjoying the carrots and herbs.
The artichokes were a little on the tough side so we have let the remainder of them go to the flowering stage. This one is going to be a beauty. It's about seven inches across at the base. I can't wait for it's purple flower to emerge.

If this season is like seasons in the past we will have a bumper crop of figs. I hope I can find some new fig recipes. I'll be searching Pinterest for new to me recipes. 

The tomatoes have started setting down fruits. This Big Zac tomato can yield fruits as large as 6-8 pounds! If I get one that big I will have a party! I can't imagine being that lucky to grow that big of a tomato.

This Black Seaman Russian tomato is a new variety for us. It is a medium sized black purple tomato.

This Italian Red Pear tomato was recommended by my nursery man. He said it never disappoints. I hope he's right. 

The super sweet mini red tomato will be a hit with the grandkids. They usually never make it all the way into the house because the grandkids eat them fresh off the vine.

All the squash plants are doing well. We have several varieties of squash planted including my favorite Romanesco Zucchini.

We are trying something new to us this year, Straw Bale Gardening. The bales got off to a slow start, I think because of our lack of rain. All it takes to condition the straw is water and blood meal. The recommended conditioning time is two weeks. But mine have taken closer to four weeks. They finally look like good composted soil. For a while I thought all I was going to be able to grow was grass and mushrooms. 
The first round of seeds I planted in the bales did not sprout very well. Only a few cucumbers germinated but none of the squash, pumpkins or watermelons did. So I planted again and I am waiting for the seeds to sprout. 
I did go out and buy new pumpkins, cucumbers and watermelons to plant in the bales. This time I bought little plantings since they are getting a later start. 
Our weather has been rather cool so the beans have not popped yet. 
I'll be doing another update in a few weeks and hopefully there will be lots more growing in the garden.

I planted some petunias in the bales and they are doing great. They help to take away from the ugly bales until things get growing a little more.

There are a few blockades up around the bales to keep Martha from eating the dirt and blood meal.

She's so darn cute, but I can't let her eat the fertilizer!

We have put several weekends into getting things started and hopefully we will have a bumper crop of fruits and vegetables this summer. Living in Zone 10 has its challenges but we are ready for them and have installed a drip watering system in the bales, carefully check for pesky insects and are keeping an eye out for the rats. So far there is one rat that we are trying to catch or poison...whichever comes first. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pressed Flowers

One of my favorite quilt bee challenges, ever! My Stitch Tease Bee mate, Agniezska, asked for pressed flower blocks, complete with tape and the names of the flowers on it. 
For the first block, I actually picked 4 different flowers from my garden, pressed them and then decided which one would be the easiest to make as a quilt block. I pressed a carnation, a Chilean evening primrose, nasturtium and a bearded Iris. It reminded me of my teenage years when I pressed random flowers and kept them in a scrapbook.

Here is the first block. I used the raw edge appliqué technique and then embellished the flower with some extra thread work.

For the second block I resorted to Pinterest and found several different ideas but decided to try to recreate this gorgeous page of pressed flowers on musical themed paper.

Using the above photo as "inspiration", I cut various flowers from several different fabrics and then placed them on the sheet music fabric. I added some random leaves and cut gingham print fabric to look like wash tape. This time I used invisible thread to top stitch the flowers to the fabric and finished it with a free motion written label. I'm not sure they look like wild flowers but that's what I called them.

I heard from Agniezska that she received the blocks, today. All the way from California to Poland!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Big Reveal

Last year I was a member of a fabulous bee called Bew Sewcial. This bee is an improv bee and the challenge was limited to using only solid fabrics! The bee took me way out of my comfort zone. I learned so much and if anything it taught me to take more chances. Although I opted out of the bee for 2016, I am so glad I was able to meet so many of the members this last February at QuiltCon and I am also thankful that I gained so much knowledge from all of them. I have grown tremendously in confidence and skill through my year learning, virtually, from these lovely and talented women.

When it was my month to be queen in the bee I asked the group to make curved shapes in their blocks. For color inspiration I used this photo and asked that there be a tiny bit of black in each block. 

Each member of this bee is so very talented and as the blocks started arriving in the mail I became more and more excited and confident in my choice of  colors and curves inspired blocks. My husband and I would pick our favorite blocks as they arrived but in the end if I had to pick a favorite I would not be able to. Each block is unique to the maker and all very special to me. 

Once I had the blocks arranged and sewn together, I decided to treat each block as a mini quilt. This allowed me to quilt each block differently, trying new shapes and motifs. I am starting to feel more confident with my free motion quilting. It's true, the more you do the easier it gets. I need to improve on my starts and stops. I hate burying threads, so consequently I will never enter a juried quilt show. I am fine with my lazy attitude to free motion quilting. I make quilts to be used and I think back stitching makes the quilting less likely to come out through years of use.




Because the quilt has so much going on with all the colors, shapes and varied quilting I decided it needed a faced binding. I made the binding using the same fabric as the backing.

I am very pleased with the way this quilt turned out and I am so grateful to the women of Bee Sewcial for allowing me to be a part of this bee. 
Our youngest son has already put dibs on this quilt. I thought is looked very "1960's" with all the bright colors and fun shapes. He has a mid-century modern house, so it might be a match made in heaven.
Bee Sewcial

Why have I never taken a quilt to be photographed with this background on our Main Street in town? I wanted to photograph it by some modern buildings, but that is why this post is so long overdue...I never found the right building.

Quilt stats:

Finished size: 54"x72"
Fabric: variety of solids
Thread: quilted with Connecting Threads 40 wt. in Cream
Collaboration: blocks were made by the amazing women of BeeSewcial
Quilted by: myself, free motion on my Bernina 820
Batting: Warm and White
Backing: Art Gallery Pure Elements Raspberry Rose
Binding: faced, using this tutorial. Fabric same as the backing. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A May Scraptastic Tuesday

I started a new and fun project this year. For each month I have to make my bee blocks for my friends I've decided to make them a pot holder, as a little extra gift. These are all made out of scraps and each one has been different so far this year. Each one has been a last minute inspiration but I recently discovered a friend on Instagram who makes the cutest little sewing illustrations. I've used some of her drawings as inspiration, bought a few of her 99 cent patterns and I've come up with a few of my own. It's been really fun. I am also heavily influenced by the lovely sewing illustrations of Katsa Wikman. 
I make sure to use two layers of InsulBright and I also use a layer of batting so that these pot holders are usable and heatproof. The last thing I want is for someone to get burned while using a gift I've made them.
These are just too fun not to make one everyday. 

I'm linking up with Nicky and Leanne of Scraptastic Tuesday. 
What's your favorite way to use up scrap? 

Scraptastic Tuesday