Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

I hope that everyone out there in blog land / quilting land is having a wonderful Halloween and hasn't eaten too much candy (yet). I don't have any pictures of my costume just yet, hopefully I'll be able to share them next week when I get them from my friend Bryan who is our resident photographer. His work is awesome by the way, and you can check it out here.

So seeing as I don't have any Halloween-y pictures to show everyone I figured I'd share an obligatory cat picture. Here is one of my fuzzy minions, Lucius, looking very unhappy.

He's normally a very happy guy, but I was using the flash and that made him grumpy. I did make it up to him shortly after taking this picture by supplying treaties, though he probably would have been even happier if he didn't have to share them with his brothers.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sometimes I Wish I Liked Coffee

I could definitely use a cup (or better yet, a gallon) of it this morning.

I've got the quilting bug, and I've got it bad. As I sit here wishing that someone would hook me up to a steady IV drip of caffeine I can't help wondering if anyone else out there in quilting land suffers from occasional creativity-driven insomnia where the need to do holds back sleep, keeping us up until the wee hours of the morning. That's the situation I found myself in last night.

I'd mentioned previously that I wanted to make something for my dear friend Leslie who I've worked with for the past few years organizing my company's annual users conference. She's an absolute blessing and works tirelessly to make everything run smoothly, making my life so much easier and allowing me to focus on all of the marketing stuff for the conference rather than running after attendees for registration information, coordinating off-site activities, working with the hotel, and a hundred other things that I would never have time to do. 

In short, she (and her husband, Kevin) is amazing, and our conference could never be the success it is without her. I adore her so much in fact that I asked her earlier this year to be a bridesmaid when Kevin and I get married, and she of course said yes :o)

So... my goal was to make a set of super cute quilted coasters from some left over squares from the Scrumptious charm pack I used to make the quilt for my mum. I felt very daring trying my hand at half-square triangles for the first time, and although they did come out a little bit wonky, I was still thrilled with the darling little green and orange pinwheels. 

Emphasis on little

D'oh! While cute, they are tiny! So tiny in fact that I spent a considerable amount of time after work yesterday cursing and grumbling while trying to bind the edges before eventually declaring that it was a hopeless case, and setting them aside feeling very disappointed. 

Determined that I still wanted to make something for Leslie and use my Scrumptious leftovers I pondered what I could make that she could use and know how much she is appreciated every time she does. Sometime after Kevin dragged me away from the sewing machine long enough to eat dinner (the new tofu option from Chipotle, is awesome by the way!), I remembered reading this tutorial earlier in the day. It didn't look too difficult, and I was sure that I could piece something together from the remaining scraps I had. 

Fast forward a couple hours, several quizzical looks from Kevin before he finally asked "what are you making?" followed by "what's a heated rice bag?", I finally ended up with this:

(ignore the quilting, I didn't think to take a picture before I did it, we'll get to the quilting err... fun in just a moment).

I wanted to stick with the pinwheel design because I think it is just so cool and interesting, and because I wanted to practice HST a bit more. It's still a little wonky like my earlier, smaller attempts, but I'm pretty darn pleased with how it turned out. Given that I was using scraps and was down to very limited amounts of each color/pattern I decided to make it well, scrappy, and not worry too much about being symmetrical. I think if I make this again, which I definitely want to do, I will do that weird and foreign thing called "planning" and actually try to make it symmetrical. But hey, for a first time effort I don't think it turned out too bad. 

After piecing it all together and sewing the top to the liner (I just used a piece of muslin I happened to have mixed in with my stash) and inserting my tag:

Aren't they just so adorable you could scream?

and giving it all a good press, I was faced with the conundrum of how to quilt it. I recently bought a stipple pattern from Quilting Made Easy with the intent to use it when quilting the top of mum's quilt and thought "Hey this would be a great opportunity to test it out." Someday I will look back on this day and think "Aww, how cute and ambitious I was." Needless to say, my first foray into FMQ did not go exactly as planned. I didn't take a picture of the result, it was just so horrible that I couldn't bare to share it with the world. Just imagine some of the saddest and most crooked stitching you can think of and you may be close to what I ended up with. 

45 minutes (and a lot of cursing) later I was done unpicking all of the stitches from my FMQ fiasco and decided that maybe baby steps were the way to go (ya think?!) and settled on simply stitching a 1/4" border around all of the seams, and I'm so glad I did. I love how the stitching around the pinwheel ended up looking like a Union Jack seeing as I'm British, Leslie's husband is from the UK (Ireland technically, but we still like him anyway), and Leslie has visited England. It's a nice little nod to something we have in common, you know, besides being super awesome ;o)

I had really wanted to have it completed in time for our meeting today, and I might have if I hadn't had my little misguided foray into FMQ. But at 1am I finally had to face reality and acknowledge the fact that it just wasn't going to get done, at least not if I actually wanted to be more than a walking zombie today, and that sewing while really tired is probably as dangerous as sewing while drunk.

So, for now it's sitting at home on the dinning table unfinished, but I'm okay with that. This just gives me time to finish it properly and make it as awesome as I can. I'll either save it for the next time she is the office or pop it in the mail in time for Christmas. Either way, I'm hoping she likes it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

I'd Rather Be Sewing

You'd think I'd be sick and tired of sewing by now, especially after spending the past few weeks making Halloween costumes for my mum and myself (both of which were finally finished on Friday afternoon just in time for our Halloween party on Saturday!), and putting together the top of my first quilt. But no, here I am at work thinking about how much I would rather be at home sewing.

Now that all of my Halloween sewing is over it's time to get back to all of my quilting projects I'd like to get done, or at least get started on, before Thanksgiving. And today is the perfect day for sewing. It's wonderfully dreary outside and very chilly! Perfect for snuggling up at home in front of the patio door watching the fat little bunnies chasing each other on the small patch of grass between us the building behind us. I'm not sure who likes watching them more, me or the kitties.

I had an idea this afternoon for a fun little project I'd like to do to use up some leftover squares from the Scrumptious Charm Pack I used to make mum's quilt. I've been wanting to try making some pinwheel blocks and I think they would be the perfect size for some coasters/mug rugs. And I have just the perfect person in mind to give them to - a wonderful lady that I've had the pleasure of working with for the past couple years organizing and planning the annual conference the company I works for puts on for all of our users. Leslie is an absolute blessing, and I adore both her and her husband (like me, she is lucky enough to work with her husband, also named Kevin). She's stopping by the office later this week for a meeting to start planning the conference for next year which I think gives me just enough time to whip up some cute little mug rugs.

Now the only question is, can I go home yet?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Can I Move In?

This is what I asked my fiancé today when we visited the LQS. It was my first time visiting the store and as soon I stepped inside I felt like I was in absolute heaven. Or better yet, like I was home. The ladies at the store were super friendly, and not at all weirded-out by the fact that I'm a heavily tattooed sewer/quilter. The ceiling high shelves filled with bolt after bolt of fabric was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever beheld and I never wanted to leave.

My goal was to go in and get something to make a cute border on the quilt top I'm making for my mum, but foolishly I didn't think to actually take it with me, making it pretty much impossible to pick out a suitable fabric. Duh! Oh well, it just means I have an excuse to go back, right? ;o)

While I did manage to escape without boring Kevin to tears, and without too much damage to my bank account, I did splurge a little and pick up a couple fat quarters from the Bluebird Park collection. They are absolutely darling, especially this one! Who could possibly resist those adorably chubby little hedgehogs? I'm not sure yet what I'm going to make with these, but I know whatever it is will be just too cute for words. 

Now I just need to wait for payday to roll around so I can go back to get that border fabric. I just need to remember to actually take the top with me!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Spoiled Rotten

I'm spoiled rotten, of that there is no doubt, but this week I'm feeling even more spoiled than usual. My wonderful, amazing, super awesome fiancé just bought me my very first serger and I couldn't be more excited! 

I've been wanting a serger for several years but could never really validate spending that kind of money on yet another sewing machine (I already have two - a little Shark I got from Walmart/Target several years ago, and a fairly new Singer that I inherited from my mum a couple years ago when the bobbin winder on my Shark died). They're both great little machines and do pretty much everything I want them to, except create those beautiful finished edges you find on ready to wear pieces. For the longest time that was okay, until this year when I got this pattern for my Halloween costume and couldn't figure out what to do about all those edges. I could attempt to do a narrow hem, but how on earth would I tackle all of those corners without it looking like a total mess? So my options were to either leave the edges raw or pony up the cash and finally get a serger. This is where my aforementioned wonderful, amazing, super awesome fiancé steps in and saves the day by gifting me with a new machine. 

We found a Singer Pro Finish at one of our local Joann Fabric stores and took it home on Monday evening. Seeing as the next Serger 101 class wouldn't be until sometime next month and I wanted to use my new serger to finish up the Halloween costumes for my mum and myself, I spent the rest of the evening watching videos on YouTube learning as much as I could about how to thread my machine and how to do the couple stitches that I'm interested in doing right away. 

I got the chance to actually sit down and do some test, and "real", stitching with the machine last night and while it was terrifying, it was also very exciting. I did a few test runs on some scrap pieces and then finally serged my first seam on the skirt for my mum's Halloween costume. It's so beautiful!

Now I just need to finish edging my costume... oh boy, it's going to be a long night tonight!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Etsy: My Other Addiction

Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love Etsy, and that I have bought several things there from custom dyed fairy wings for my Halloween costume, to make-up, jewelry and even some awesome pirate themed soap for my fiancé.  I discovered earlier this week that Etsy is a wonderful resource for finding gorgeous quilting fabric at pretty reasonable prices.

If you read this post you know that I decided to take up quilting to make some quilts for my nieces who live in the UK. While perusing Etsy earlier this week I came across some absolutely darling fabrics that I want to combine to make matching quilts for the girls. Well, the fabric arrived yesterday and I just had to share it. (I haven't found a good spot in the house for taking pictures of fabrics and quilts yet, so please excuse the dark picture.)

I bought these from Sew Fun Quilts and I just cannot wait to use them.

I've got a (rapidly) growing list of quilts I would like to make as gifts for Christmas this year, and seeing as I've already got a fat little stash of baby clothes bundled up to send over for the holidays I think I will make the quilts for their 1st birthday in January, which happens to be just 10 days before my own. The goal is to get through all of my Christmas sewing first and then get started on their quilts, but this fabric is just so cute I'm not sure I can wait that long!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Favorite Time of Year

I took this picture the other day in the office lunch room, I just love seeing all those beautiful colors on the trees!

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year, especially here in Colorado where we are blessed with such a wide array of beautiful autumnal colors on the trees. Though, I have to admit that this year I am a little sad to see the warm weather going away. It might be the cold I refuse to acknowledge is coming on, or maybe the fact that I've lost 75lbs since February so I don't have quite as much insulation as I used to, but I'm definitely feeling the chill a bit more the past couple of days, and wouldn't mind just a few more days of warm weather. Of course, this is Colorado, and the weather here has been even more bipolar than usual, so there's still a chance for plenty of warm weather. Today is a slightly chilly 54 degrees, but earlier this week it was in the 80's, so you really never know what you're to going to get around here.

Seeing those gorgeous, rich fall colors got me thinking that I should make an autumn inspired something, be it a table runner, some mug rugs, or a lap quilt. I think I might have some nice autumn-ish fabrics squirreled away somewhere at home, and it might be nice to have a little warm blanket to keep with me at the office for those times between hot flashes when I'm a little chilly.

Now I'm just wishing it was time to go home for the day so I can get started on my next project!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Introductions and Inspirations

Hi, my name is Amber. And I'm fast becoming a quilting addict.

I decided to start this blog to have somewhere to talk about my quilting projects, family, friends, and life in general.

These are my nieces, Evie and Grace. They are my two little peas in a pod, and the inspiration for the name of this blog (more on why below).



They are the cutest, happiest babies I've ever known, and not a single day goes by without me thinking about how much I want to kiss and snuggle those sweet little cheeks.

The problem is I haven't actually met them yet. They live in England, like most of my family, and I live in Denver (my parents and I moved here seventeen years ago when I was 13). So as much as I want to hug them and kiss them, and show them how much Auntie Amber loves them, I can't do it in person and have been trying to come up with some alternative ways to express my affection for them.

As expected, my mum (who is a very proud and happy first-time grandma) and I have sent plenty of care packages to make them the most fashionable little girls around, and my mum has been able to make several trips back over to the UK to visit, but I still feel like I need to do more.

While I was starting the process of moving things around in my house to convert one of my spare rooms into a sewing/art/crafting room I stumbled across some old quilting supplies I had stashed away in boxes, and then it hit me! I could make quilts for Evie and Grace. They would be something that they could keep with them as they grow up, and know how much their auntie loves them every time they snuggle with them.

And so my new found addiction to quilting was born.

I had tried my hand at quilting only a few times before, with fair to middling success. I made a simple patchwork quilt for a friend back when I was in college that turned out pretty good for a first effort, with no direction, and no real idea of what I was doing. A few years later I started another one that I intended to give away as a gift to another friend, but when I realized that I didn't really know what I was doing the project kind of fizzled, and ended up folded up in a box in the bottom of a closet.

Feeling re-inspired by the arrival of my darling nieces and my desire to make quilts for them, and other friends and family, I decided to jump in feet first and really do it up right this time. I started following several quilting blogs and have become addicted to visiting Fat Quarter Shop almost daily to longingly look at new fabrics.

I'm currently in the middle of finishing up my first "real" quilt, which will be a Christmas gift for my mum. I'm making the Baby Lattice Quilt by Amy Smart using two of the Scrumptious charm packs by Bonnie & Camille.

I was really nervous before starting the project. I kept thinking "What if I mess up while cutting the pieces?" "What if the seams are wonky?" and worst of all, "What if she doesn't like it?" And then I remembered how pleased she was with the Jane Austen dresses I had made for to wear to a JASNA convention a few years ago, and the Renaissance Faire costume I made for her, and all the other sewing projects I have done over the years. I figured if I could make those, I could make damn near anything! So I took a deep breath and read (and re-read) the pattern directions and finally cut into the beautiful fabric I had been hoarding for a few weeks. And I am so happy I did. It has made for a few late evenings over the last week between working a full-time job, finishing up my Halloween costume, and doing some freelance web design work for a friend, but my fiancé Kevin has been very understanding of the sewing machine humming away on the dinning table, and is very good about reminding me that I do need to stop to eat once in a while.

I'm excited to have found a new outlet for my creativity and cannot wait to finish up my first quilt... so I can get started on the next one - the Joys of Christmas quilt kit which I plan to send over to my own Nan for Christmas.