Category: Creative Process

Why I (So) Sew

Reflections on Sewing as a Hobby

Today at work, a colleague teased that since I went on a quilt shop hop for my birthday, I must have turned 80.  It’s true, I haven’t met too many 30somethings who sew quilts, but I have met many who do crafts like making scrapbooks or knitting or something similar.  Everyone spends their free time in their own way, but I think it’s important to have a (or many) hobbies and/or fun activities that you enjoy either on your own or with friends.  Why don’t more people my age participate in quilt shop hops?  Or more importantly, why do I enjoy it so much?

So…why So Sew?

For me, in the case of sewing, it can be both a solitary and a group activity.  I like doing projects with my mom where we take different parts of the project at work together, like one person choosing fabrics and cutting, the other sewing and ironing or whatever.  I also enjoy attending group sessions where lots of women come together to sew or do projects together.  The Piece and Quiet group that meets a few times a year always includes a DQ Blizzard run at some point in the evening and usually a lot of just talking and catching up in between projects.  Sewing Saturday as part of the Westside Quilt Guild is more focused on the actual sewing, but people are willing to help each other out with advice about techniques or color selection.  At home, I love listening to music while I sew and I can do it on my own but also show Aaron what I’m working on along the way.

Sewing quilts and other projects can be stress relieving.  It’s difficult to worry or think too much about other things when you’re focused on cutting the right amount of fabric or ironing a particular way to make the project come together just right.  Often I lose track of time as I become more focused on completing a piece of a project.  Sewing is one of those hobbies where there’s a clear start and ending point, with a potentially winding road in between.  In my job, it feels like everything is a winding road that never ends, so it’s nice to get to the finish of a project in my free time (although the perfectionist in me sometimes takes over and it’s difficult to finish a project if I got sidetracked with something newer or more interesting or easier to accomplish).  Ultimately, those UFOs (unfinished objects/projects) will get completed and the non-yet-started projects that are just fabrics in my stash and ideas for patterns will become the newest So Sew product!

Creativity and problem solving are necessary skills, along with some math computations, in creating new patterns or adapting existing ones.  With the internet, you can find a tutorial or pattern or example of a finished project for just about anything, and then with some patience and thought, it can be adapted to fit the right size or function I’m hoping for in a project.  Recently my aunt asked for a duffle bag to hold her yoga gear, and it’s fun to take her drawing and make it come to life…even if it’s a little challenging since I am using a thicker fabric and putting in a zipper for the first time in a long while.  I enjoy the feeling of making someone a gift that’s useful as well as looks nice and isn’t something they could easily buy or make on their own.

Color, and design are the visually stimulating parts of sewing. It’s so fun to find the right fabric for a project, based on what colors or themes you know the recipient might enjoy.  The hunt for the right fabric is part of the fun.  I’ve seen some quilts that I think would be boring for me to work on, such as only using 15 shades of off-white, or tedious like a quilt of thousands of hexagons.  They are beautiful to look at and admire the craftsmanship, but not something I would consider relaxing and/or fun to do.

As for visiting quilt stores and attending quilt shows, it’s always such a blast of inspiration and creativity.  People really can do amazing things with fabric and thread!  I come away wondering what direction my sewing will take me…will I teach a class in a particular technique or pattern some day?  Will I be able to see the evolution and learning that is happening in my own sewing skills?  When I was younger, I tried to help my dad mend his socks, but used pink thread and sewed it so tightly shut, he couldn’t get his foot in the sock anymore.  Since then, I still make mistakes, and laugh sometimes at the things that turn out upside down or not quite looking right like the leopard costume shorts that were a very strange shape until I sewed them a different (and correct) direction. In the end, I’m often happy with the result, proud of what I’ve created, and look forward to sharing it with others.  Here’s my first entry into a quilt show: a basic nine patch using pre-cut squares purchased at a flea market in Hawaii.

hillsboro showA funny story in my family began when dad wondered about this idea of quilting (which went something like this).  “So, you take a piece of fabric, cut it apart, and then sew it back together again?”  My reply?  “Well, it’s like when you take pieces of wood, cut them apart, and then glue/nail/screw/attach them back together again.”  He has made amazing furniture and other projects for me like a cedar chest, wall mirror (featuring the NW mountain range), and a wooden rack for my quilting ruler squares.

wooden rack for rulersOne of the great things about creating this blog style website, is the opportunity to share pictures of the process and products as well as descriptions of things along the way.  It’ll be interesting as a diary of my So Sewing and a way to look back and reflect.  I still remember making a pink duffle bag in Home Economics class, a Mickey Mouse tshirt with mom, and neon pink soccer shorts.  Wonder what I’ll make next?!

Thread Catcher

When sewing, it’s nice to have something nearby to catch threads…keeps the sewing area (and your clothes) a little less covered in random threads.  I found a free pattern on Amazon for the kindle to make a Fairytale Pincushion and Thread Catcher.  During the shop hop, I found the crushed walnut shells for the inside of the pincushion as well as a mini-charm-pack of squares for the patchwork fabric design.

Here’s the layout in step one:

thread catcher

Snowflakes and Stitches Shop Hop

I’ve participated in shop hops before, but I usually happen upon them on accident or I can only visit a few shops on the listing.  Also, whenever I travel, I love exploring new shops and how there’s such a variety of different shops.  Some are well established and others fairly new.  Some in old historic buildings and others in strip malls.  Many have a style of fabric or projects that their owners enjoy most which is reflected in what they sell such as civil war, modern, novelty, flannel, reproduction, or pre-cut fabric collections. In Cannon Beach, you can often find beach-themed fabric projects that wouldn’t be available among the mountain-themed quilt patters outside of Denver.  Some shops sell machines and others specialize in classes, most have samples of projects for you to get inspired.  How a store displays their fabrics and sample quilts also really varies and can create an atmosphere of creativity or feeling cramped and overwhelmed in the space.  Usually for shop hops, I can’t visit all the shops because of time involved to travel everywhere.  This time, the shops are within two general areas and I have a long weekend off work, so time to explore!  Also, it’s my birthday soon, so I asked Aaron to be my shop hop chauffeur as part of my birthday weekend.  He even gave me a Groupon for $20 to spend at one of the shops…yea!

For the Snowflakes and Stitches Shop Hop, I first visited two shops after work.  Tea Time Calicos in Beaverton gave shop hoppers a great Fast Track Place Mat pattern including fabric.  A generous project provided by a shop with lots of fabric options crammed into a small space in a strip mall store.  The shopkeepers just let you browse and have machines also for sale, but not many sample quilts to see.

Second stop, Sharon’s Quilt Attic in Hillsboro. Sharon and her friends who help out at the shop are always friendly and generous with ideas about color, pattern, and techniques to make your quilt project look great.  Steve does an amazing job on the long arm quilting machine and you can usually see some of his recently completed projects as inspiration. They have a wide range of fabrics, embroidery patters, and lots of sample quilts taught in classes.  For the shop hop, Sharon is providing an Antique Tile Block pattern and miniature pieces of fabric to give it a try. I also picked up a few random fat quarters that needed to come home to my stash!

fat quartersThen on Saturday, the big trip began…a loop to include six shops in one trip.  In McMinnville, Boersma’s Sewing Center is being remodeled but it’s open with lots of fabric available, including some reminiscent of Ohio.  Unfortunately, the staff weren’t particularly friendly, but maybe they weren’t expecting a younger quilter or were feeling busy getting ready for all the other shop hoppers. Their display of antique sewing machines was really cool!

Next stop was in Dallas at Grandma’s Attic.  This was my favorite shop of the trip!  They had lots of different types of fabrics, great packages of fat quarters, sale items, and project ideas including a free block (which came with a piece of chocolate.)  My chauffeur sat in a rocking chair to read his book next to quilt books.  The staff were all incredibly friendly, explaining the shop hop, the sample quilts, and talking with all the customers.  I wish this shop was closer to my house so I could visit more often!

After lunch at my favorite Salem restaurant, Casa Baez, we went to Greenbaum’s.  Usually I find lots of things there that I really like, but just browsed this time.  They have friendly staff and a standard poodle who wanders around to greet guests also. This time they seemed to have an especially good collection of modern fabrics and some great sample quilts.

North of Salem, in Keizer, we found two shops within a few blocks of each other.  The Cotton Patch is small but spacious with bright white fixtures and high ceilings.  They had creative displays of fat quarters and a few nice samples of finished quilts. The sample block was colorful and simple, shown as a quilt with some other block styles to finish the project.

 fat quarter display

Just up the road at Bernina Stretch and Sew, you can get your sewing machine serviced, find a small variety of specialty fabrics for clothing, and browse a small selection of quilting cotton.  For the shop hop, they offer you a choice from few different free block patterns.  The best part in this store was an enthusiastic friendly clerk who was happy to have people stopping by on the shop hop and had come up with a game for people who purchase items.  Once I picked out my fabrics and was ready to pay, I was given a ball to toss over the counter onto a cardboard game area on the floor.  Whatever amount the ball fell onto was my percentage of sale on that purchase.  I luckily got 29%…what fun!  What will you get?

shop hop gameLast stop for the day was at A Common Thread in south Portland.  Again, an unlikely location in an industrial park type area, but many friendly staff helping customers, a class going on where you could practice quilting on their machines, and fabrics of a few different styles (canvas, modern cotton, batik, flannel) to inspire projects.  They even had a great selection of clearance ($5.99/yd) fabrics.  The shop hop block looked like a stained glass window and for $3 you could buy the other three blocks to fill out the pattern.  They also gave a free bag, convenient to collect all the other treasures from the day of shop hopping.

Made it out to Sandra’s Stitches in Hillsboro.  Glad my map found it since it’s tucked away in what looks like an apartment complex and happy I had the day off since their hours are a little more limited than some of the other nearby shops.

Looks can be deceiving though and right inside is a great supply of children’s themed fabric and panels.  Again, not super friendly staff, but worth going there if you’re looking for a particular novelty fabric or panel to make into a quick project (I got something for potholders).  They also have a great selection of coordinating fabrics (moda tone on tone).

At the start of this shop hop, I picked up my passport at the Quilter’s Corner Store and I planned ahead to turn it in there when completed.  Today was the day…the end of my first complete shop hop!  Lots of great ideas at her shop, including a table runner idea that would work with any 12″ center block, shown here with the extra pieces from the free crocus block as part of the shop hop.

Thanks again to Deb (from QCS) for coordinating this event.  I’m looking forward already to the summer version, Sunshine and Stitches!  Speaking of sunshine, look what I found outside her shop…breaking through the Snowflakes Raindrops…a rainbow!

rainbow

 

Baby Imogen’s Quilt

My college friend and his wife recently had a baby girl, and I had a great time making a baby quilt for them.  The idea of a jelly roll quilt was appealing because of the number of fabrics that could easily be included, to give an “I spy” type quality to the quilt top.  I used the Jelly Roll Inspirations book, Birthday Gift pattern and started with a Moda jelly roll that included circus theme (for one of the baby’s uncle who is in a circus), music theme (for another of the baby’s uncles who plays cello and piano), and modern bright colors perfect for a Portland couple.  Deb at Quilter’s Corner Store helped me pick out the fabric for the back, white tone-on-tone, and yellow/gray polka dots for binding.

Next step was to learn how to piece together the blocks using those 2.5″ jelly roll strips.  Friends helped me decide the placement of the blocks to be the most visually appealing and one friend helped me put hundred’s of pins in to hold it in place for quilting.

Since so far, I only feel confident quilting in straight lines, that’s what I did, using a gray thread so it wouldn’t show up.  Along the way, I found a “humility or truth block”, one of the white rectangles is sewn inside out, which proves it was done by human hands and indicates good luck for the recipient!

I put on the binding with Lucy’s company during the snow storm of 2014, and presented the quilt in mid-March to Imogen.  Hope she and her family enjoy it…I surely enjoyed the creative process of making it for her!

 

Taggie for Baby Shower

A friend asked me to make a baby shower gift and another friend at work is pregnant, so it’s the perfect opportunity to learn to make Taggie blankets.  Two colleagues at work said they’re invaluable for their newborns…soft, easy to tuck in the carseat or attach to a stroller, babies love playing with or sucking on the textured ribbons.  So my friend and I went shopping at Joanns and found these cute ribbons along with matching minky and flannel fabrics to make the Taggie blankets.

 taggie materials

On to find inspiration/information/patterns online.  For this project, I used a few sources.

  • Minky fabric is tricky to sew because it’s so stretchy.  This site gives great tips about sewing with Minky.
  • Taggie Blankets are popular so when you look on Etsy or Pinterest, you’ll find lots of inspiration.  I used this tutorial which shows each step of the process.

First taggie is for a friend who is a speech language pathologist (hence the letters on the fabric).  She’s having her first baby girl…congratulations! Second taggie is for a friend to take to a baby shower…and it’s a boy!

Valentine’s Day 2014

I’ve been wanting to create some sort of Valentine’s day wall hanging for decoration and/or a table runner for the top of the piano.  Also, mom gave me the Lil Twister tool and book, so thought I’d give it a try and make the heart pattern.  Enjoy the pics!

Ghana Fabric Projects

A colleague at work purchased 12 yards of fabric from Ghana and wondered if I could make it into a duvet cover for her.  “Sure!  I’ll give it a try!”

Step 1: Fabric. She got the fabric from a family member who lives in Ghana and has this blog of handmade items. http://amaamina.wordpress.com/.  It was up to me to figure out how to wash/iron the indigo fabric, so I found directions on some fabric distributor websites. I also realized we didn’t have enough to do the whole thing in the Ghana fabric, so got a matching dark blue solid at Joann’s for the back of the duvet cover.

Step 2: How to Make a Duvet Cover.  The internet is amazing, truly.  Tutorials are helpful in showing the steps to make something new, so with a short lesson on some new techniques (learned to make a french seam so it looks really nice and finished on every side), I was ready to begin. http://www.designsponge.com/2010/03/sewing-101-making-a-duvet-cover.html

Step 3: Make Space.  If I do this again, I need to find a bigger space to lay out the fabric to cut evenly.  My living room just wasn’t quite as big as a queen duvet cover.  🙂  This picture doesn’t show the blue color, but it really turned out looking nice, with snaps as closures.

queen duvet cover made with fabric from Ghana
queen duvet cover made with fabric from Ghana

Step 4: Dog Cover.  After the duvet cover was finished, she asked for a matching sheet sized piece of the Ghana fabric to be made into a layer on top of the duvet so her two big dogs can lay on the bed but not get their hair all over the actual duvet cover.  Great idea since it’ll be easier to clean and still look really nice on the bed…plus the dogs will be happy to be still allowed on the bed sometimes!

close up Ghana fabricThanks so much, Amy, for encouraging me to try a new experience, for your patience in it getting completed over the course of many months, and for the payment and “tip” of a gift certificate to another great fabric store, Cool Cottons in SE Portland, OR. http://www.coolcottons.biz/

Home Decorating

Over the years, I’ve made simple curtains for my house and for a gathering room at church. The simplest versions can still be more personal than something purchased.  Here’s what I used to have in the “red room”, using fabric with a great print of salsa dancers!

Spring 2008 032 (Copy)

I’ve also made basic tablecloths and other table runners that are great on tables in and outside.  This is one of my favorite pics showing a picnic with my pup Lucy!tabecloth outdoor (Copy)

Here’s another project I’ve tried making before, but this time had a pattern to follow, so a much improved final product….a potato bag, for microwaving spuds (or tortillas).

potato bag

Random Gifts and Special Orders

Sometimes it’s the random request “could you make this?” that provides the most fun and chance for creativity.

Quilts and Blankets

I love making quilts for friends and family.  It’s fun to pick out the patterns and colors that they might enjoy while practicing new techniques for quilting.