Category Archives: sewing

Art Quiltlet: 5/52

Art quiltlet,

This one is inspired by Matisse and his cutouts. My kids and I really studied Matisse while putting together Issue Five of Art Together, and I enjoy him so much. (You can sample a free excerpt of Issue Five, Drawing With Scissors, for ideas on exploring his cut-outs with kids.) One of the waiting rooms in which I spend time has a print of one of the cut-outs, and I decided to try a small one.

Unlike Matisse, I didn’t just take scissors and begin cutting; I drew my shape on paper and traced it onto fusible adhesive. I tried out a few pairings of complementary colors before settling on this one, and I matched thread to fabric so that the focus is on the shape with no distractions from contrasting thread. I decided to bind it for a finished look. I was undecided on quilting within the orange section and ended up leaving it. I’m still undecided.

I’m having so much fun with this little project. It’s good to have an assignment: every week, something must be done on a 6″ x 8″ “canvas.” And I’m enjoying using this medium of cloth and thread and seeing what I can do with it. It’s exciting.

Sewn: Music Box Jumper

oliver + s music box jumper at

At the end of the summer, Oliver + S had a sale, so I sat at my laptop with my daughter and had her pick out a couple of patterns. She chose two, and said she’d like me to make this one, the Music Box Jumper, first. While it’s rated lowest in difficulty by Oliver + S, I disagree. It was going to be a skill-building pattern for me, and I’ve been sewing for more than seven years now. So when the pattern arrived, it sat. I ordered fabric for it (Lizzy House Chasing Butterflies in Forget Me Not), and still, it sat. I sewed many, many other things, organized my fabric a few weeks ago, and decided it couldn’t sit any longer.

I had not done a yoke with facing before this.

Yoke with facing, check.

I hadn’t done pleats, at least, not carefully measured box pleats and such. I’ve gathered skirts to a shirt to make a dress, but that’s not quite the same.


Pleats, check.

I have sewn French seams before, and I used them on the skirt of this dress, because after hiding everything in that yoke and facing, why leave any raw edges in the skirt? I had not, however, made buttonholes on my machine. I practiced, a lot. For days. The dress was in a holding pattern until the kids went back to school after a week of snow days and I could fully concentrate on those darn buttonholes. Red Panda (who gets lonely in my son’s room while he’s at school) lent his support.


Buttonholes with buttons, check. G chose the butterfly buttons. She chose well.

A view of the back of the dress, with six, count ’em six, buttonholes and buttons.

Music Box Jumper, back.

And another closer view of some of the buttons because BUTTONHOLES.

buttonholes again.

My daughter, at this point, mistakenly believes it’s just the normal thing, to have most of your clothes made by your mother, out of fabric and patterns you chose. Having her is a handy excuse, I guess. Look at the skills I’m gaining by sewing for her!

Art Quiltlet: 4/52

We survived the not-a-blizzard just fine. We never had blizzard conditions here and we only got about 18″ of snow, and yes, “only,” because I lived in New England last winter so it really didn’t seem like that much. Luckily we didn’t lose power. Just in case, we picked up some terra cotta planters to try this. We didn’t need them but we still want to see if it works. Unlike in New England, a huge amount of snow has already melted. Also unlike in New England, my kids have been out of school all week. The learned helplessness in the face of snow down here is incredibly frustrating.

But! On to this week’s quiltlet, whipped up fairly quickly Thursday night. I’ve been head-down in learning new things while sewing a dress for my daughter (post upcoming, as soon as I work up courage for the buttonholes) but meanwhile in the back of my head I was thinking about what to do this week. The Rolling Stones song “She’s Like a Rainbow” was running through my head because it was on in the car, so that was my inspiration.

She's Like a Rainbow art quiltlet,

I layered white on the top and bottom with flannel in between (my very lightweight “batting”), then sewed strips of colors down. I traced my own drawing onto organza, layered it on top, and stitched. This stitching isn’t loose like with the flower a couple weeks ago. I used a walking foot, which is why the curves aren’t always graceful. But I wanted a more controlled line, too, and my free-motion quilting needs practice. Plus, organza! Slippery stuff. Then I cropped and trimmed and finished the edges.

I like the back view too.

She's Like a Rainbow, back view,

I’m jotting the date and a bit about the week on each of these. I’m confused because an entire region of the country just shuts down for a week!

Spate of Sewing

Besides my weekly quiltlets, I’ve been sewing other items as well. Before Christmas I ordered a bunch of knit fabric to make some things for my daughter. I began with brightly colored leggings.

oliver + s leggings at

I use the pattern that comes with the Oliver + S Playtime Tunic + Dress collection. G usually wears leggings and a dress or skirt, and she loves bright colors. It’s fun to make her leggings. I got a bit sidelined by the holidays, but then I began again with a tee shirt and leggings out of aqua polka dots.

oliver + s tee and leggings at

The tee pattern is also Oliver + S, from the Family Pack. The skirt she’s wearing isn’t handsewn, it’s purchased. She decided to go for a monochrome look here. We bought a couple of yards of the same fabric in pink; she asked for a tee and skirt from that.

tee + skirt at

I’d like to see her pair the pink skirt with the blue tee and leggings, but she’s in charge of what she wears, so. She wore this set with the multi-color polka dot leggings in the first photo and it looked adorable. The tee is the Oliver + S pattern again, and the skirt is just a basic skirt with an elastic casing.

Finally, I bought some Cloud9 knit fabric on sale at Joann with a coupon to make a wearable muslin of Seamwork’s Mesa pattern for me.

Mesa at

This is a size small, lengthened five inches because I wanted it to work as a dress. I’d like to make another version out of one of the Charley Harper Maritime Knits, and I think the next version will be lengthened by only three inches, extra-small neckline, small torso, and medium hips. Because while this one is definitely wearable, I’d like it a bit smaller along the neckline and a bit looser around the hips.

I still have two yards each of green and purple knit to make more leggings, tees, and/or skirts for G (I forget exactly what she “ordered”). And I’m sure there’s enough leftovers of various knits for me to make myself a long-sleeved shirt (maybe?). I reorganized my fabric earlier this week or maybe last week (days ran together; I had a sick child at home) and rediscovered a few yards of Tammis Keefe cats that I think should be a Dress No. 1. I’m also working on a sampler quilt in Lizzy House Natural History, but that needs its own post. In other words, I’m whipping through bobbins like they’re snacks over here.

In non-sewing news, we’re under a blizzard watch, which is hugely annoying as former, more northern home is only expecting 2-6″. Snow doesn’t make me anxious, but not knowing what to expect as far as power outages and infrastructure in a brand-new place that doesn’t seem to handle snow well does make me anxious. We had a two-hour school delay this week due to a dusting that didn’t even completely cover the pavement, so I don’t have much faith these folks know what to do with two feet of snow beyond flail in panic. Which is fine, you know, as long as we’re not freezing without heat in a rented house where it makes no sense for us to buy a generator. If the power goes out, I can’t sew, but I can knit until my fingers freeze. So we’ll wait and see.

Art Quiltlet: 3/52

Art quiltlet at

Finished art quiltlet 3/52. Reverse applique

This week I decided to try reverse appliqué and free motion quilting. My free motion quilting needs lots of work, but this is part of this whole challenge–getting better at various techniques. It would help if I’d remember to switch to the darning foot. It’s a process, people! This little quiltlet had a few steps.

First I gathered some brown material and cut and sewed strips, making two 8×10″ rectangles, one with horizontal strips and one with vertical. Then I cut and sewed a few times to make a block with various directional stripes. I layered my fabrics with the blue on top, then the pieced brown, then the batting (I’m using neutral flannel for these so far), then the back. With me so far? Because I didn’t take photos of the steps.

Next, I drew a tree onto the top blue layer, stitched outside the line, then cut on the line, revealing the brown pieced layer underneath.

Close up of reverse applique,

Colors are off here because it was under artificial light on the sewing table.

I neatened up the cut lines a little more after this was taken. Next step was to quilt, with my wonky free-motion quilting that needs so so much practice, and finally to crop. This is what it looked like before cropping (again with the off colors on the sewing table).

before cropping,

While I think about what I’m going to do beforehand, a bit, I like doing these all in one go, and this one was sewn start to finish Monday morning. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve done reverse appliqué and the purpose of this is to get comfortable doing new things. Stretching! It’s good for the creative muscles.

Art Quiltlet: 2/52

flowers @

One day last week my neighbor called to say her son had been placed on the school bus by accident; could I possibly get him until she was home in a half hour? Of course! It’s not the first time I’ve had him over during a gap, and this time she came over with flowers, telling me how grateful she was that she knew she could call me and it would be okay. Flowers were totally unnecessary, but so cheery and welcome on my table. I also used them for this week’s challenge quilt, in which I practiced drawing with thread.

flowers and finished quiltlet at

Finished quiltlet and inspiration.

I used natural muslin and black thread, because I wanted to emphasize the line. But when I was done, I decided to add a little color with colored pencils–I looked for crayons, but for all the many art supplies I have, I couldn’t find new, sharp crayons. This piece took far less time than last week’s, but I will probably return to this technique many times this year, as I’d like to get more confident with it.

Here’s a close-up:

finished quiltlet 2/52 at

I definitely need more practice!

Art Quiltlet: 1/52

1/52 art quiltlet at

Inspired by The Uncommon Quilter, I’m going to attempt one art quiltlet per week. I’ve chosen 6×8 inches and a whole cloth base (versus pieced), but anything else goes. It’s a small canvas on which to improve skills, play with ideas, or just plain play. It’s okay if the result isn’t great; I’ll make another one the following week. As we approached Christmas I was getting a bit frustrated at the way my time was disappearing into…what? The least I can do is set aside a few hours a week to let my creative self play.

This week I gathered together some green scraps for a study in green. While it’s much more green down here than I’m used to for January–there are even flowers blooming–it’s actually fairly frigid today, and I decided to counteract that with some leaves. I used fusible adhesive for the appliqued pieces and wasn’t quite brave enough to try free-motion quilting over them. (I’ll work on that! The year is young.) I appliqued only on the top layer but I think maybe I could have gone through all three. It would be a different look, anyway. I decided to bind it with a bright green piece of (slippery) ribbon I found in my ribbon bag simply because I liked how the colors spoke to each other. I would not bind an entire big quilt with slippery ribbon. Good to know!

One of the suggestions in The Uncommon Quilter is to cut a template for the size you’re aiming for and work just a little bit bigger. The template is, in my case, a 6×8″ window in a piece of cardboard. This is what the piece looked like when I was finished appliqueing and hadn’t cut it down to size. The template allows you to tilt and crop a bit, improving the composition.

in progress art quiltlet at

The white borders are my cutting lines. Color is truer in the first photo; this one was taken in artificial light.

Pretty neat how it changes, isn’t it?

I have not, historically, been good at keeping up with challenges to do something daily. Perhaps I can manage weekly more often than not. And as a side benefit, I’ll be posting every time I make one, so this space will be a little more active. My expectation, too, is that by working creative muscles and stretching with different techniques I’ll be a much more confident art quilter this time next year. We’ll see.

Sewn: Baby Quilt

pile of nine patch blocks at

A friend of my husband’s is expecting his first child later this year. Normally I knit for the babies, but this time I decided I wanted to sew. In particular, I wanted to sew a quilt. So I ordered a fat quarter bundle and yardage of one of the prints to use as backing and got to work. I posted process shots on Instagram; I guess this took a month or so of intermittent work? The precise work in the beginning was enjoyable in its own way. To start with, I cut 81 squares and turned them into nine nine-patch blocks (above). I made sure each nine patch had the same center and none of them repeated fabrics. Then, I cut each nine patch block into quarters and arranged them into the quilt top. I sewed them all together and added a border of the backing fabric to expand it to roughly 36″ square.

quilt top at

It remained a quilt top for a bit while life got busy with an injured child, but eventually I returned to it and began quilting.

quilting at

I decided on straightforward straight lines, 1/4″ away on either side from the seam lines between the main blocks. Although I’d originally thought I’d use the backing fabric for binding, once I used it as a border, I didn’t want to. So I alternated strips of the same cloud pattern but in the other two colors, orange and green. I machine sewed the binding to the front, but hand sewed it to the back, which is the neatest way to do it. I enjoy hand sewing at times. It has the benefit of being portable, so this even got worked on at my daughter’s soccer practice.

sewing on the binding at

Once it was complete, I threw it in the washer and dryer. I’m not the only one who holds her breath during the first washing, am I? I know I sew well. There’s just something about that first run through that has my heart in my throat a little. I want to be able to confidently tell the new mom and dad that they can use this quilt, and it can get washed warm and dried in the dryer with no problems at all. Which I now know is absolutely true.

Ta-da! The finished quilt.

finished baby quilt at

My boys, ever encouraging of Things I Make, said, “Aw, if I were a baby I’d want to sleep with that,” and, “I like all the overlapping colors.” My husband (who approved the fabric choices, since it’s his friend after all) thinks the clouds are very calm looking. I used a thin (is that the correct term?) batting, so this isn’t a squishy quilt, but I think it’s perfect for laying out on the floor so baby has a clean place to hang out and, later, play. It’s small enough to be portable but big enough to be used as an extra blanket on a big-boy bed. Yay for my first quilt! Now I want to make more.

Towhee Art Quiltlet

towhee art quiltlet at

This is the second little art quilt I made in the past several weeks, although I was working on both at once for a while, going back and forth. Oh, how I miss towhees. They’re not flashy, like warblers, but I love their song so much, a cheerful “drink your tea!!” rolling out from the scrubby. I realized this past winter that they stayed all winter. I don’t know if that was new or if I hadn’t noticed before. I’d usually see them on the ground near the bird feeder, and hear them singing from the trees in the spring and summer. The first day each year that I heard the towhee singing was a celebration, a sign we’d come to the end of another New England winter. That bird’s song always made me stop and smile.

Our new neighborhood is more neighborhood-y. That’s what we were looking for, for many reasons, and the kids are definitely happier, but I miss the birds. We have your typical backyard birds here, and I mainly hear mockingbirds, incessantly repeating their phrases–which, to be fair, is what I get inside the house all day long. I miss the towhees and all the other nature that surrounded us in our woodsy corner of Rhode Island. So I decided to create a towhee out of cloth collage.

fabric applique towhee at

First I sketched the bird until I had a drawing I felt I could work with, and then I isolated different sections by the bird’s coloring. I searched my fabric stash–although I did end up buying new fat quarters for the branch, the letters (just because I really liked that fabric), and the rufous portion of the bird, as I didn’t have the just-right orangey red color. Then I traced the individual sections onto fusible adhesive, positioned them on the fabric pieces, and cut them out. Then I more or less assembled the bird puzzle onto a piece of light blue linen. I did the same for the lettering and sewed it all down.

free motion quilting at

I decided it was time to get comfortable with free motion quilting, so I made some sandwiches and got to it. Again, this is not perfect. You can see some pulling in places. But I DID IT! I used the same fabric for the binding as I used for the letters.

Here’s a picture of the back, because I’m quite proud I got the tension right on both sides for this.

back of quiltlet,

This one is about 13 x 15.5″ and was a blast to put together. I plan to add two hanging loops to the top, thread it over a slim branch, and hang it that way.

Again, books I used for techniques and inspiration:

Reverse Appliqué With No Brakez by Jan Mullen
Art Quilts at Play by Jane Davilá and Elin Waterston
Fresh Quilting by Malka Dubrawsky
Stitch Draw by Rosie James

And now I just need to decide–what’s next?

Sand and Sea Art Quiltlet

For the past several weeks, I’ve been working on two little sewn things. I think you could call them art quilts. They are quilted, and not from a pattern, and use various techniques. I shared in-progress photos on Instagram and kept thinking I’d do that here, too, but instead here I am with a couple of finished things–the first in this post, and the second in an upcoming post of its own. Before I made these I’d never made a quilt, even a tiny coaster-sized one, so I tackled many New Things while making these. I can’t wait to make more.

sand and sea art quiltlet at

I began making this sand- and sea-inspired image because I miss the ocean like it’s oxygen. There is nothing near here, absolutely nothing, that can compare to the Atlantic coast beaches of the town I left behind. I miss our local salt pond, chock full of critters we loved to respectfully observe. More than once, we have followed behind a horseshoe crab until it buried itself in the sand. I set out to sew an ocean.

sand detail (fabric) at

This portion of “sand” was created using Jan Mullen’s “stack, slice, switch” method (my inspiration books are listed at the end of this post). I gathered fabric scraps in sand colors–and remember, sand is a combination of so many components–and mixed and matched until I had a cobble that abstractedly reminded me of sand.

horseshoe crab detail at

This segment of “sand” is one block of linen printed in the center with my horseshoe crab linocut. Top and bottom is a bubble wrap print. For the bottom half of the quiltlet, I joined pieces of blue scraps cut on a slant. For this first attempt, I quilted more or less using straight lines and gentle curves, with the feed dogs up. Here’s a view of the back.

back view of small art quilt at

It’s not perfect! And I added the embroidery around the horseshoe crab after quilting, as you can see. This was my first time binding a quiltish thing, too, and check out these mitered corners!

mitered binding corners at

The finished piece is about 13.5 by 19 inches, and I need to decide how to hang it, and where. The second quiltlet is also of something I miss from Rhode Island, and you’ll see in the next post that I tried new things with that one, too.

Books I used for technique and/or inspiration for both quiltlets:

Reverse Appliqué With No Brakez by Jan Mullen
Art Quilts at Play by Jane Davilá and Elin Waterston
Fresh Quilting by Malka Dubrawsky
Stitch Draw by Rosie James