Initially Yours

One of the guild activities each year is a Challenge Quilt.  This year, it was the theme “Initially Yours”.  We were to use either fabrics or styles or images reminiscent of our initials.  For me, this was a chance to make a quilt I’ve been thinking about for awhile, a landscape beach scene.

I used the “A”pplique technique of using “F”usible “F”abric and decorative “S”titches.  Included are fabrics that imitate “A”qua water, trees in a “F”orest, and “S”andy beaches.  There’s even a tidepool and kites flying since those are two of my favorite parts of visiting the ocean.

It was fun to see what other people came up with, and many of us used this opportunity to try a new technique.  Here are a few that I liked, which turned out to be the three most popular as voted on by the guild members.

(2015) This year’s challenge quilt was to use “neutral + 1 color family + zinger”.  It was again interesting to see how people interpreted those “directions”.  This was one of my favorites.

art quilt umbrella

Guild Visits

(January 2015)  This month, Portland quilt maker and artist Sam Hunter brought a trunk show and words of wisdom to inspire our guild members.  I bought one of her patterns and enjoyed the variety of her quilts (colors, types of quilting, “crap backs”)

(Fall 2014) This month, Karla Alexander visited the Westside Quilt Guild.  Her studio is in Salem, so I’ve seen her work over the years.  She is known to be a good teacher, so I’m really excited to sign up for her class in September.  At the meeting, she showed many quilts from her new book Stack, Shuffle, and Slide as well as some other quilts from previous patterns/books.  I choose two that I like most to buy a pattern for the upcoming class (and borrow the rulers needed).  I hope to choose some charity fabrics and donate the quilt when it’s completed.

I really liked a few other of her quilts, and appreciated hearing how she decided colors/rulers to use plus pointing out the shape of the “block”.

She included a bunch of wise quilting advice in her presentation:

“I am the boss of my quilts.” meaning that you get to decide the colors, shapes, techniques to include. If you don’t like something, it’s okay to change from the pattern to make it yours.

WRAP “wonder, reflect, appreciate what you’ve done, pause/plan/ponder your next project”

Modern quilts include techniques like “upsetting the grid” meaning that things could be set on their side or at angles that are unexpected.  Floating blocks and using the background as a design element also create a more modern look.

Also at this guild meeting during show and tell, I showed my ladybug quilt!  There was also a presentation to the previous board president of a collaborative quilt (my block is one of the yellow ones).  Also, I made two of the star blocks for the free BOM this time in hopes of winning the stack (someone else won this time though).

I also visited the Portland Modern Quilt Guild. A woman I met at a garage sale encouraged me to attend and a friend who quilts came with me.  Turned out there are quite a few women from the Westside guild who go there too, so many of the show and tell quilts were familiar.  Here’s a few others that I liked (sorry for poor photo quality):

I was impressed by the projects by this group, but the organization of the meeting wasn’t comfortable for me.  I didn’t feel welcomed as a guest and the updates about things focused on website updates and/or key things that only members would know.  There were some quilts donated to an organization but no description given so I had to google them to figure it out (Camp Erin serves kids/teens who are grieving).  I was surprised that some of the donated quilts were dreary colors and/or patterns that didn’t look like teenagers to me.  Again, maybe working in middle school I’m more tapped into their style.  Overall, I think I’ll look online at the PMQG blog for pictures of projects but not make the long drive over to their meetings.

Row by Row Experience – Summer 2014

This shop hop, the Row by Row Experience, is nationwide and quite simple.  Just visit the participating shops and ask for their free “row by row” pattern.  The theme is “seasons” so it might be holiday themed or use the four seasons tree fabric provided by the sponsors.  Some shops offer a kit for purchase with the fabrics needed to make it in their color palette.  Many shops are also selling license plates with funny fabric/sewing related sayings.  I’d like to collect one from each state I visit this summer.

Here’s a few of the blocks I collected in Ohio (pictures courtesy of the shop’s website or from my visit):

When I returned to Oregon, I collected another few row patterns and started work on a wall hanging using 8 of the blocks. Since I only bought the fabric pack from two shops, for the rest I used stash fabrics or picked up fat quarters to fill in sections.  It was fun to practice some new techniques, like the fusible applique.

Also, I used a new technique for basting (not pinning) the quilt that mom taught me using two boards to mimic a quilt frame.  It worked really well!  I also figured out that it would look nice to quilt with two different threads and using diagonal lines since the rows didn’t line up front to back very well.  Here are a few more pics of the process:

After a few nights up until midnight sewing, I turned in my finished quilt for the prize at Quilter’s Corner Store.  25 fat quarters in a rainbow of colors ready for inclusion into new projects and 2 yards of anything in the shop (I bought some beautiful batiks for an upcoming quilt project!  Tea Time Calico also generously gave me a free yard of fabric for including their row in my final project.  It’ll be fun to show the final project at the September WSQ guild meeting.

Charity Quilt Project

The Westside Quilter’s Guild includes a group of members who get together to work on Charity Quilt projects.  They donate to three or so agencies that provide the quilts to kids in crisis, cancer patients, or foster kids.  I’ve been wanting to participate but hadn’t been able to make the day time meeting during the school year.  July was the perfect month and it was great to spend a few hours with this kind group of women.  They encouraged me to pick out 5″ squares and a bag of binding/sashing strips to put together a quilt using the reconstructed 9 patch pattern used for the spring Charity Quilt Olympics.  All the fabrics were donated, and they’re not the usual colors I like to work with, but a good practice experience for me and rewarding to think about giving it away to someone who needs a warm cozy quilt.

I made some progress on creating the 9 patch blocks.  I’ll use 12 different fabrics combined in pairs to create some organization, but still a scrappy look.  It’s hard to tell from this picture, but most of the blocks are brown/pink/green colors and the sashing will be green.

Charity Quilt in process

Travels to Ohio

This summer, I had the great fortune to visit Ohio to celebrate my Grandpa’s 95th birthday with all my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We enjoyed a picnic in his backyard and hosted an open house for his friends from the community.

Since my Grandma was a quilter (she did the piecing) and my Aunt Jean does hand quilting, being in Ohio reminds me of the origin of this hobby for me.  We visited Aunt Jean and at 92, she has two projects going at once.  A baby quilt being hand quilted and a cross stitch project:

We also visited Amish country.  Since it was Sunday, a day of rest, no shops were open, but if they were, we’d have likely seen horse and buggies parked outside here:

amish country


I picked out this ladybug fabric since I’ve always liked ladybugs and thought it would make a cute picnic blanket.  I’m using an easy 3 yard quilt pattern (one yard each of three fabrics) and have the red fabric for the back.  The plan is to take it to have someone long arm quilt it for me with a winding bug-trail type pattern.

The first time we took this quilt out to use for a picnic, a real ladybug landed on it…no kidding!  🙂


Brown Bag Sale and other Great Finds

When visiting mom in Arizona at spring break, her quilt guild hosted a “Trash to Treasures” sale.  It was fun to look through the goodies and I found quite a few treasures, including 12 Amish style blocks ready to put together into a project.

Then, at Powells in here Portland, I found a funny chocolate recipe quilt book for only $1!

At this month’s quilt guild meeting, they had their annual Brown Bag Sale.  Some items were available to “ticket and take it” for one or two 25c tickets, other items were a raffle, put your ticket in and hope to win, and a few bigger things were listed on a silent auction.  I helped out with the process and came away with a few goodies, mostly patterns and quilt magazines, but also some Christmas fabric, a bilingual panel to give mom for a charity quilt, and a few templates and rules.  Great additions to my stash for only $10!  I even won the raffle for 3yds of marching band fabric to donate to a friend’s stash (she and her husband are both band directors).







Modern BOM

I received patterns for a modern quilt block of the month from our Sewing Saturday group.  They got permission to distribute this collection of patterns from the Knoxville Modern Quilt Guild. The other women have already started, which leads me to think about what color palette I want to use.

bom sampleI decided on my fabric collection for this modern BOM.  I’m intrigued by Amish style quilts with the contrast of black and solid color, so I’ve taken that up a notch to become more modern.  Bright, saturated colors and a black/gray print background are going to pop!  Thanks again to Deb at the Quilter’s Corner Store in Beaverton for her advice about fabric selection.

The January Block created an illusion of woven strips.  Making the February Block was my first time making chevrons, using paper piecing for precision.  Then for the March Block, the center block wonky star is from another online tutorial.  I like how the colors I chose turned out looking like the sun.

(3/15) Last night at the Sewing Friday in North Plains, I cut up the fabric for a few more blocks, and today finished sewing three of them!  A paper piecing block is also started.  I decided to color on the paper pattern to make sure I get the colors in the position I want (so it doesn’t look like a rainbow but includes all 6 colorful fabrics).

(3/16) The flying geese around in a circle block is complete now.  I think this is my favorite block so far.  Hopefully I have enough fabric at the end to make another one like it for a table runner project.  I’ve started planning the next paper piecing block and asked Aaron to color in the pattern.  It’s a helpful way to see how the block will look and plan out where to put all the pieces.

The next block is made with 25 2″ squares, then I need to figure out how to cut out a circle and then set the circle on top of another circle (red fabric) and then both on top of black.  To make the grid, lining things up carefully and strip piecing made it a quicker easier process.

(5/25) The final few blocks are now complete!  Next step is to decide about how to connect them into a quilt top.  The challenge from the guild is to have it ready to show in September.

Now that all the blocks are finished, time to put it all together and create a back.  At the September Sewing Saturday, I finished placing the 12 blocks, 11 on the front and one on the back with some scrap pieces.  At the October Sewing Saturday, it all sandwiched together with black batting (purchased off the roll at Sharon’s Quilt Attic).  I used a technique my mom showed me on youtube that uses two boards to provide the tension to flatten it out and not need pins. Instead, it’s basted with black pearl cotton and ready to machine quilt, perhaps I’ll practice free motion quilting.

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