Posts in Category: things i sew

if you can’t beat them

I’ve always been a brick-and-mortar shop sort of person, if given the option. This is especially true for me when it comes to shopping for things like yarn and fabric.

Out West, I’ve been doing my best to find local crafty shops. Obviously, different stores are different, but I’ve had some successes and difficulties finding places with a similar ‘feel’ and stock as the shops back east.

This is, I think, especially true for quilting fabric. There are lots of great options, and the options that do exist are huge, and have a grand selection in terms of sheer quantity of fabric and notions and machines. This is great on a lot of fronts – when I was ready to upgrade my machine, I was able to find the one I wanted in store, and one of the shops near me has an excellent selection of flannel for pyjamas, which is pretty important. But these stores and I, we definitely disagree when it comes to taste in printed quilting cottons.

Granted, I was a little spoiled, living so close to amazing shops like Needlework and The Workroom, but the stores out here are just – different. A lot of the fancy ‘modern’ fabric lines and designers I’ve grown fond of just aren’t stocked out here.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t options, by any means. But the prints available tend to run towards a certain aesthetic that’s either quite traditional (lots of floral reproductions and batiks) or quite – novelty-ish. Possibly arranged by theme (Star Wars, boats, cowboys, space). But nothing quite gets me like the food fabric. Oh my god, the food fabric. You’ve seen it – that bolt that’s printed with photorealistic illustrations of potatoes, or beer cans, or halved avocados. There is so much of this, and it’s definitely not my jam.


I was lamenting this on Twitter last weekend with Austen, who also had a fairly recent move from the big city to the land of novelty fabric, and she suggested an alternative. Rather than fight the novelty food fabrics, we should embrace them, with a swap. The Horrible Hyperrealistic Food Fabric Stowe Bag Swap.

We chatted back and forth for a bit, and set out some ground rules:

1) Each swap participant must sew one Stowe bag, in the small size.

2) Each bag needs to use at least two different food fabrics. Artist’s choice as to whether these two fabrics depict foods that are palatable together, either visually or gustatorially.

3) Bags go in the mail by Feb 15th.

I’ve already picked out my Foods Of Choice, and I kind of can’t wait to turn them into something ridiculous.

Would you like to play, too? Does your local quilt shop also have an Aisle Of Horrible Hyperrealistic Food Fabric? (Or do we perhaps share the same local quilt shop?) We’d love it if you joined us. If you’re planning to swap with people you know and like (?), feel free to post on social media with the hashtag #HHFFSBS.

re-entry and some imitation/flattery

Steam off the river

So it’s been a while: it’s the middle of January, and the last time I posted was Augustish. I could talk a lot about why I didn’t post (the end of the year was busy, I guess?), but I don’t know how useful that would be. It’s been a while, is all.

One of the things I learned from not blogging for so long, though, was that I miss it. I didn’t think it was that important to me to have photos of all of my projects, or to have my Ravelry page up to date, but as it turns out: it is. I’ve noticed a change in how I feel about creating, and how I feel about what I’ve made, when I don’t have a visual record to go back to. There’s something really satisfying about it – as a made thing in and of itself, I guess – and I find it helps me a lot when life gets busy.

When things are hectic, or when I’m travelling too much to have time for some of my less portable work like spinning and sewing, one of my instinctive thoughts is that I’m not making enough. Sometimes this is true, sometimes this isn’t. But having that record to go back to, being able to remind myself that yes, I made that thing and that after things settle down, I’ll have space to make more things, is actually really helpful.

So one of my goals in 2016 is to start afresh, to get back to my camera and sharing what I make. Let’s skip the year-in-review post. 2015 was big – in a lot of really great ways, but also in a lot of ways that were a lot of work. I’m looking forward to using 2016 to get my feet back under me and renew some habits that got interrupted over the past few months.


I made a quilt top.

Cheerios quilt top

Cheerios quilt top

This is Cheerio from Thimble Blossoms. I started it around Christmas time, after being inspired by Nettie’s beautiful version at A Quilt Is Nice. I didn’t set out to copy her quilt, per se, but I really liked her take on it – lots of brights and lots of contrast. It made me take a look at that pattern in a new way, and appreciate how I could use it to make a quilt that suited me.

I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a quilt pattern that’s a bit more complicated than my usual (read: not another Donuts quilt), but straightforward enough that the block construction is still intuitive to me. This pattern ticked all the right boxes, and was also a great opportunity to make a dent in my fat quarter stash.

I had to buy fabric for the background – I don’t stash large quantities of neutrals unless I’ve got a clear plan for them – but all of the other fabrics in the quilt are from stash. It’s mostly Natural History fabrics (I got a fat quarter set for my birthday last year), with a few simlarly-themed fabrics mixed in. I decided to add in some “rules” for colour mixing, which helped me keep things cohesive. I split everything into “light” and “dark” piles by value, and tried to use “light” fabrics for the cheerio sides and “dark” fabrics for the squares. I also made an effort not to repeat any fabric pairings, so that each block is unique.

Cheerios quilt top

I’m planning to quilt this myself, which is kind of an exciting plan. (This is made possible by the fact that I did two things this summer: bought a new sewing machine, and learned to use the walking foot and machine quilt.) I’m a bit nervous, as this is the biggest quilt top I’ve ever made at 66″ by 77″, but I think I can manage it.

So: hello, 2016. I’ve been making things. I’m excited to share them with you this year.

a quilt for a friend

Last week, I went to go visit my friend Flora in Vermont. We have known each other like, forever. Long enough that if our friendship were a person, it would be close to starting middle school (which, in the scheme of adult friendships, is not that long I suppose, but it feels amazing that it’s been that long since second year of university). She moved back to the States a couple of years ago, but we’ve stayed close through Skype & occasional visits.

I knew that when I made the the trek to visit her, I wanted to do something special for it. Flora is a really tough person, but she had a heck of a 2014. There was a lot of life stuff that, as her friend, I couldn’t really fix.

But I can make stuff.

So, I made her a quilt.

Donuts for Flora

This has been a good six months of scheming in the making, and it has been so hard to keep it mostly off of social media. (Not that I worried she would know I was making a quilt for her, but I wanted it to be a surprise.) I started browsing for fabrics once I got the idea on the fall, and ended up deciding on a collection of really cutesy, silly Japanese prints that made me think of her, with some more grown-up fabrics to balance things out.

I chose Donuts! as a pattern, for a couple of reasons – one, I’ve made it before, and two, it’s a really simple pattern that shows off special fat quarters nicely. It also lends itself to remaking – it’s really fun. I sort of want to make another one for myself.

All the fabric arrived in late November, and I started cutting & piecing in January.

Donuts for Flora

Donuts for Flora

I had plans to quilt this on my machine, but I’ve never done that before, and wasn’t sure I’d have time to quilt it twice if I made a mistake. So I handquilted using big, sashiko-style stitches – around each donut & center, double lines in the sashing at the top and bottom, and then a grid between donuts. It took about a month and a half to get done, but most of that was not dedicated work – in terms of actual quilting hours, I probably could have finished quilting and binding in a week if I’d focused only on this project.

Donuts for Flora

Donuts for Flora

I just finished before I was supposed to leave – I sewed the last of the binding on Thursday, and my flight left on the Saturday – and gave it to her on the weekend.

This is not a quilt that is technically perfect, but it’s a good quilt, and it’s a snuggly quilt, and it’s got a lot of love in it. Looking at it in these photos (I photographed it straight out of the dryer, before tossing it immediately in my suitcase as I was leaving the next day) I can see lots of stuff that I wish looked neater. But it’s a well made piece, and I trust my handquilting to hold up and keep everything where it’s supposed to be, and the technical stuff isn’t what’s important for this sort of quilt. The important thing about this quilt is showing my friend that I care about her, and I want her to stay warm, and that I picked out these prints that made me think of her so that she can think of me when she uses it. And on those terms, it’s absolutely a success.

She started using it right away, and I’m so happy to have made it for her and given it away. I know it’s where it’s supposed to be, and I hope it’ll keep her warm.