My Epic Fails

I just know most of you think I’m perfect. And if you don’t, you should pretend to think that way so as to not hurt Mrs. Hanson’s delicate feelings. That said, lately, I’ve had a couple of Epic Fails. Frankly, it’s unnerving, but I’m going to share because I think we’ve all had these moments. C’mon, fess up!

What’s an Epic Fail, you ask? It’s when everything goes terribly wrong, despite your best efforts. My most memorable was a dinner episode with scalloped potatoes and three ravenous teenage boys. In my defense, it was at high altitude and I maintain that I could have cooked those potatoes for hours and they’d still be hard, and the cheesy gloppy. But I digress.

The problem with an Epic Fail is that you don’t know it’s a fail, or just how epic it is until you’re there. That’s because, in the middle of a new quilt idea, there is always that moment of insecurity when you think it’s not going to work. Is it going to dazzle and scream, “Look how beautiful I am”? But somehow, if you persevere, it all comes together in the end. It’s fabric. What’s not to love?

Well, let me tell you. We have a super simple pattern we call the Five Minute Quilt. It’s a one-pager, and if you turn the paper over, on the other side, it’s the Ten Minute Quilt—the same pattern with two small borders. The Ten Minute Quilt only takes five fabrics, so it shouldn’t be that hard, or so I thought. It’s not meant to be a prize winner. But seriously. Let this picture speak louder than words.

At least now you see why we make all our kits before we show them to our customers! By the way, here’s a picture of the same pattern, different Man Cave fabrics, and a much better outcome in my opinion. (Click HERE for a link to the free pattern.)

Confidence in check, I started on my next project. I had carefully selected twelve fat quarters and decided on the pattern. I thought I was so smart because the directional prints were all going in the right direction. Yay, me! What could go wrong? As it turns out, when you have pink flamingos and their heads get chopped off because you’re not fussy cutting, it’s really unattractive, to say the least. Slightly undaunted, I decided to forge ahead with a different pattern, chopping everything I had cut for the first project into smaller pieces, ‘cuz, hey, it’s just color, right? I sewed cute little blocks together and…ick. As my son tactfully said, “Not your best work, Mom.” Totally frustrated, I put the whole project in the trash can, mad at myself and the fabric, reduced the price on the website (here’s a link to the collection so you can do better), and poured myself a glass of wine to sulk. And no, you can’t come over and dig through my trash. Sigh. Thankfully tomorrow’s another day and the start of a new project!

What did you do this week? I hope you had more sewing success than I did!

How to make holiday baking fun

I’d like to introduce you to Selena. She’s been “ahem” helping me (more like prodding me along) over the past year. She’s full of ideas and energy, so when she said she wanted to write a blog post of course I said “Sure!” She says making an apron is the way to make holiday baking fun. Personally, I think it’s more wine.

Hey everyone, I’m Selena. I’ve been spending my weekends and spare time trying to be more help than pest and learn more from Mrs. Hanson than she probably learns from me. Shhh… I think I’ve taught her a few things too.

As someone who has been taking things apart and remaking them since junior high – I love patterns and more than that, I love to modify them. I would make my mother crazy when we would go school clothes shopping and she spent all of her money on new clothes for me – only to have me take them apart and remake them. They call that customizing now! Who knew I was ahead of my time?

I’ve always loved textiles and making (or remaking) things with fabric: from clothes for my girls when they were little to my latest obsession – quilts. And… aprons. My love of fabric led me to Quilt Expressions and Mrs. Hanson.

With a little prodding, she indulged me and let me take a few yards of holiday fabric home to make a Thanksgiving and Christmas apron with her Simple Apron pattern. I love to cook and wouldn’t consider myself an apron kind of girl – except during the holidays! I start cooking before I get ready for the day (yep, still in my pjs) and continue after I’m all dressed up waiting for family and friends. Without an apron, I’d be a hot mess!

I was excited to take Mrs. Hanson’s super Simple Apron pattern (that’s really more instruction than pattern) and make a few samples to share with all of you. Can you imagine her response when I asked, with a bit of trepidation: “I’m not good at following rules, can I modify the pattern?” I held my breath and was glad she was all the way in Florida when I asked! And to my excitement and surprise, she said, “Go for it!”

I’ll admit, I thought: what, make an apron with just measurements and no pattern to trace? Uh, okay. But, to my surprise, it worked, and more than that, it WAS REALLY easy! My favorite kind of fabric project.

From the Simple Apron pattern, we’ve created the Super Simple Reversible Apron pattern. All you need is one yard of two different fabrics (we’ve got a lot of great fall and Christmas options to choose from). There’s enough flexibility with the fabric and the pattern that you can make longer side straps and extend the ties at the neck for the most comfortable fit. The pattern also has two pocket options: a single two-pocket in the center or two induvial pockets set off slightly to the sides.

They were so quick and easy that I made one for me, one for my mom, and one for each of my daughters for our Thanksgiving preparations. Nothing says I love you like a festive apron for the hours ahead of cooking and laughter – and maybe? (who am I kidding?) some wine.

So go ahead, pour yourself a glass of vino and stitch up one (or two or three) of our Super Simple Reversible Aprons! They also make great and easy gifts. We’ll include the pattern for free with any two-yard purchase through the end of November.

Who’s the fool?

This lovely scrap pile originated from what I was working on this past week. It started innocently enough with a Design Roll package of six-inch strips from Deb Strain’s Home Sweet Holidays collection, 3 ¼ yards of Century Solid in snow, and Moda’s free Chain of Fools pattern.

There’s just a certain something about a pile of scraps (and I do mean scraps!) that is so appealing to me. There isn’t anything that I plan to do with it, but it always takes me more than just a few minutes to toss it into the garbage. And before you get on me, no I don’t have bird feeders to attract birds (squirrels?) to wonderously weave this colorful mess into a beautiful nest.

I started out with the paper copy of the pattern that Moda had sent out to stores as part of a promotional package. I began to get suspicious that something was off when I started cutting. And cutting. Luckily for me, I hadn’t cut everything before I stopped and started to do the math. I still had plenty of background fabric to get the job done, even with some over zealous cutting instructions. That said, I checked the website and did find that they had corrected their error. But wait, (as the saying goes) there’s more!

The pattern is very do-able, and it’s really not hard, and it has really great diagrams. However, it’s just a little confusing when they tell you to make strip sets, and then cross-cut them into (55) 2 ½” segments. If you’re like me, you start to panic that there’s no way that you can get more than (52) segments out of each set. BUT…that’s OK because in the next sentence the pattern says you only need (50) of the cross-cuts. Phew.

Next, the pattern says, select (10) strips to make three strip sets of three strips. Seriously? Last time I checked three times three equals nine. By then I was getting used to this new math. Select (32) strips to make six strip sets of five strips. Duh? Do you mean (30) strips? Some folks may never bother with those minor details, but that’s what makes me crazy.

I was faced with a dilemma-I could rewrite the pattern (ugh) or post it as is (with the erroneous cutting corrected) with the Moda name and logo all over it. What would you do?

In the end, I put the link to the free pattern on our website because while it has some minor issues, you still have plenty of fabric to make the quilt top. And it’s darn cute. It doesn’t tell you to do anything that would waste fabric, although I guess you get to hold the extra strips in your hand and admire them?

P.S. One of the little habits I always harp on is sewing 1/8″ around the edge of a quilt top when you’re done. I know, I know, it’s always nice to be done! But, take an extra minute, bump your stitch up to a longer length, and sew around the edges from the backside. It gives the top a bit of stability, keeps it from fraying (no matter how little you try to handle it), and I think that stability helps it lie much flatter on a long-arm table. It also keeps the seams that you so carefully pressed from flipping in the opposite direction. That said, I’ve started to sew that 1/8″ around the edge of a top before I add any borders. At first, I did it because I wasn’t sure when I would add the borders—I’ve been going back and forth from Boise to Florida a LOT—and the quilt tops go where I go. I found that with that extra little step, adding the borders was that much easier! The edges didn’t stretch on me, my borders fit better, and I didn’t have to worry about flipping seams. Try it, you might like it. Plus you get to sew really fast!

The simplest things…

This week I’ve been working on revising one of my easier patterns, The BBC, to use a double border print. I’d loved the line from Lewis & Irene, but the double border print that goes with it was ordered in a moment of weakness. Let’s be honest, when would I ever make a cute little-girl dress with a bordered hem? Anyway, the quilt top went together very quickly, as easy patterns are supposed to, and mostly came out as I had calculated, which is why I sew all my patterns before I publish them.

For a while, I was in quilting bliss. The fall colors blended perfectly with the trees outside the windows of my sewing room, and I only had to stop once in a while to pat myself on the back for how clever I was to use the double-border print economically. For those that know my patterns, you know how much I hate to waste fabric! And then my euphoric bubble popped. I had to write the pattern revisions.

As quilt tops go, the revised pattern is super easy to sew, and really not hard to cut out which is where the “trick” of the pattern lies. Heck, half of the blocks are just big print squares! However, that double-border print needed detailed cutting instructions, with a diagram. Otherwise, people would yell at me, and I hate that, too. Anyway, in case you’re not familiar with a double-border print, it looks like the picture–a nice large graphic print on both selvage edges with a good amount of a blender print in the middle. You can figure in most instances that one yard of double border print gives you about a half yard of blender print in case you have a favorite pattern of your own.

Of course, it took me a bit longer to revise the pattern than expected, as I created a diagram on how to cut the focus print. Using the oddball size of the inner half-yard wasn’t a problem, but because the original pattern used only one background fabric, and now I was using three different background prints including the “freebie” half-yard, well that meant I had to write cutting instructions for two more different cuts of fabric. What’s the big deal you ask? It’s much easier to check your math if you use a calculator that has all the number buttons working. For a minute I honestly thought I was having a stroke.

In the end, I love this quilt. It really is easy to sew; the only tough part was writing nice cutting instructions for you. Sewing it was all pleasure. The fabric line is called A Winter Nap, and I’ll have kits on the website soon. It’s the perfect project for enjoying the last days of Fall.

Not on my bucket list

I promise to get back to quilting next post, but this one’s about me.

It wasn’t on my bucket list, but I survived a category-five hurricane. Unfortunately for me, and my ninety-plus-year-old dad, we were in the direct path of hurricane Ian just ten days ago. In case you want to know, we’re fine, if not slightly discombobulated. Everyone asks why we didn’t just evacuate, but like a lot of Floridians, there just wasn’t any place to go. The weather channel said Ian kept changing his mind about his path of destruction, first predicting the storm to devastate Tampa Bay, most likely just pummeling Punta Gorda with severe storms.

But then the little demon made a right turn. “Evacuate,” they said, “but don’t go North towards Tampa,” as 300,000 people from Tampa hit the road for Orlando. “But wait, there are tornadoes to the East and South, so don’t go that way,” they said. “And don’t go to Orlando, there will be flooding!”  Seriously? Where were folks supposed to evacuate to?

My dad lives in a quiet community of condos, townhomes, and villas. His place is great—right on the water—at least until a hurricane is coming right at you! At 7 a.m. we headed for the lobby of one of the large condo buildings, figuring it was structurally sound, and if all else failed we could hide in the cinderblock stairwell with the option to go up. We were discovered in the lobby by mid-morning, and through the community grapevine, were invited to occupy the vacated unit of the widow of one of my dad’s old friends. Bless old friends!

The hurricane itself was surreal. Water came in through the tracks of three hurricane-proof sliding doors and through ceiling fixtures. One-hundred-and-fifty-mile-per-hour water-filled winds can do that. After the storm’s first half passed, we had a moment of calm. Approximately 35 minutes of stillness if you calculated the eye to be somewhere between 35 to 50 miles wide and moving at about 10 miles per hour. So, I did what any crazy quilter would do. I quickly jumped in the car, unscathed in the parking garage, drove one block to the villa, rescued my new sewing machine, and high-tailed it back to the building, and lugged my precious baby up the stairs to the condo. Unlike me, it survived without emotional trauma.

Until next time! Karen

The Dreaded Four-Patch

I’m working on a new shop kit, using fabrics from Moda’s Morning Light collection by Linzee Kull McCraan (I’m telling you because I know you’ll ask), and an easy pattern that I wrote many, many years ago. In fact, it’s the first pattern I ever wrote. As a beginner, I had no idea that you could purchase patterns, so I wrote my own. Who knew? Apparently, I was a little slow to catch on.  

The pattern, Pretty in Pink (and yes, it does need a new name), is based on the dreaded four-patch. Dreaded, you say? As my friend and extremely accomplished quilter once confided in me, “That’s the hardest block for me to sew!” It’s such a perfect little patch, and oh so perfectly cute, but I guess in its simplicity it shows off any little imperfection in consistently sewing a ¼” seam. If you’ve ever struggled to get the perfect seam, read on.

I started sewing with what I once considered my “faithful-one-with-the-universe” sewing machine at my Dad’s place. (On another note, I now refer to that same sewing wonderment as the “crap machine” but I’m digressing.) Imagine my shock and awe as I realized I was “slightly” off on my ¼” seam. Moi?

Out came the rotary cutter. From some scrap pieces, I cut three, 2″ x 5″ rectangles, and sewed them together on the long edges, then pressed the seams in one direction. Held my breath for the moment of truth, and measured them, looking for a perfect 5″ square. Darn! Just a little short—I was just taking too generous of a ¼” seam. A slight adjustment on my second try, (oh, and a new sewing machine if I’m being completely honest) and I was “back in business.”

It just goes to show you (and me) that no matter how long you’ve been sewing, or how experienced you are, it never hurts to do a little “seam checking.” Years ago, as I emerged from the back bedroom, I proudly told my husband, “I’ve found my sweet spot!” I, of course, was referring to that perfect 1/4″ seam spot on my sewing machine. From the look on his face, he was clearly interpreting that much differently. Find your sweet spot every time you start a new project, or switch machines. You’ll be glad you did.

Welcome to the Neighborhood, Modern Batiks!

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Neighborhood Association, a Quilt Expressions’ Original Pattern

What comes to mind when you hear the word “neighborhood?”  For some, it’s a friendly wave as you head to the mailbox.  For others, it’s late summer evening BBQ’s, families trick-or-treating together, teens shoveling snow for those who need a little extra help, and the sound of laughter traveling along with the gentle evening breezes through an open window.  Quilt Expressions’ “Neighborhood Association” pattern, made with rich Batiks, shows the depth and closeness that results from sharing a neighborhood.  Make your own and bring some of that neighborhood feeling inside your home.  (Click here to see our original version using bright colors and grays.)

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Quilt Top Left:  Twinkle   Quilt Top Right:  Staggered Geese

When I was a (much) younger girl, I remember going to quilt stores with my mom.  I loved to see all of the bright colors and feel the different textures of fabric.  But those Batiks…they always seemed so dark and uninteresting to my uneducated eye.  Then, as I started quilting, I was drawn to the patterns stamped on the fabric and wondered how Batiks were made.  If you’re curious, watch this video from Hoffman Fabrics, filmed in Bali.  We’re so lucky to have access to these handmade, gorgeous fabrics.  And, if you haven’t traveled to the Batik section at Quilt Expressions recently, the variety of colors and patterns is incredible!  There are still many prints available that are the traditional earth-tone colors, but there are so many more options available.

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This rainbow of gorgeous color with dots, hearts, and all kinds of geometric fun?  Yep, those are Batiks!  Just about any pattern can be made with Batiks, or combine your favorite Batiks with other collections to create your own, one-of-a-kind masterpiece!

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A few of my favorite Batiks on our online shop.

If you’d like to see all of the fabulous Batiks at Quilt Expressions, stop in or visit us online.  Click here for the Batik section.

It’s Done! Must be time to move…

I’ll make this quick since it’s time to pack up the Michigan house and move back to Boise. It must be time…I’ve finished the wonky houses quilt top late last night. I know, I know, it’s not a quilt until it’s quilted, which is all the more reason to pack up and return to Boise! whole_quilt_largeI hope you like it and have had a little fun following along. Thanks for providing me an opportunity to put a little color into your day.

See you in Boise!

Karen

 

 

 

Let’s Make Some Rows!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve started sewing some blocks into rows. Not complete rows, because that would require that I had a plan and a size in mind! I thought that you might like a little explanation.

On another note, The Row by Row experience is coming to Boise–and to Quilt Expressions. (If you’d like to visit the Idaho Row by Row Facebook page, and see our “official” row, click here.) Free patterns for Quilt Expressions’ row will be available in the shop starting June 21.

So…in planning our row by row block, I couldn’t help but experiment a little, and of course add the trial “parts and pieces” to my wonky quilt.

rxrhousesThe units are simple little houses and trees, easily made with flying geese. The official Row by Row rules say that our row must be 9″ tall (finished) so that dictated the height of these units. By the way, in case you care, they are all 3″ wide. That 9″ height meant that some of my houses needed to have a little help. Remember, if it’s too short, sew some more on…

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Here’s where those little black and white checkerboard strips come in handy. I used them to make the house on the left a taller block.

Finally, I thought the row was starting to look a little washed out, so I added some columns of color squares.

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It perks up the row, don’t you think? I’m going to sew these blocks together and we’ll see what happens next!

PS–I’m counting down the days to be back in Idaho! Less than three weeks. Della can tell you in exact days, hours and minutes 😉

–Karen

 

Decker the Dog

Hello again! I saw some of you when I was in the shop in Boise–thank you for your positive comments! Today I am introducing you to Decker the dog. That’s my son, Bo, trying to get him to pose for the camera. For a big dog, Decker is a big chicken–doesn’t like his picture taken. Guess it’s true that dogs are like their owners, because I avoid getting in the picture at all costs!

decker-boAnd here’s my wonky portrayal of Mr. Decker, with LOTS of artistic license! Hey, the red collar’s the same and I think I got the nose about the right size …

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If you check out my earlier posts you’ll see the original sketch. I really wanted to use the yellow fabric for his body, but I didn’t have a large enough piece. Oh well, I just carefully sewed two pieces together. If you look closely, you can see the seam. Which brings me to my next trick: Quilter’s Choice glue. It’s a water soluble glue (that means it will wash out later) that holds well and dries clear. Anytime I need to match something up exactly, I take the new piece, fold the seam allowance under and press it. Then I dab a bit of glue on the seam allowance. I place the piece exactly where I want it to sit on top of the first piece, and heat set it with the iron to dry the glue. It’s simple to peel back the seam and sew on the pressed fold line. That’s how I managed to line up the dots, and get Decker’s red collar to line up with his body. Ditto for the ears–they were so small I would never have gotten them to line up without a dab of glue!

I’ve also started to put a few pieces together. I’m not done by a long stretch, but I’ve started to build out two of my rows.

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None of my blocks were the same size, so this is where the rule, “If it’s too short sew some more on, and if it’s too big, cut some off,” comes in to play. Della, on her soap box was too tall, so off went part of her hat and the border above it. The block of me in my orange pants was too short, so I simply added some scrap squares to make my block longer. Decker got some checkerboard squares to stand on, and some other “parts and pieces” blocks (you are making some of those, right?) got inserted for color and a bit of breathing room.

The next row I put together had two tall houses–I wanted to add a third. Rather than start over making a whole new house, I chopped off the roof of another house block, and added a scrappy bottom. I added some more vertical strips of color, and once again used some of my checkerboard “filler” squares. Notice how on the far left and upper right I chopped them at an angle? I needed to square up the unit so it will fit with the next block(s), whatever they will be!

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I know this is a long post, but I’ll end with a shot of my design wall. You can see I’ve got LOTs more work to do, but you can get an idea of the parts and pieces I’ve been playing with so far.  parts_piecesI hope you’re having fun, and sewing along with me! –Karen