Monday, November 21, 2022

My Experience at Sew Brimfield Quilting Retreat

I've been home from the Sew Brimfield retreat for two weeks; I owe you a report.  In a nutshell:  It was loads of fun!

I drove from my home in New Jersey to the retreat location near Leesburg, Virginia.  Packed and ready to load the car with my small-ish suitcase of clothes, sewing machine, tote bag of "swaps" (more on that later), big tote bag full of my projects and supplies, and my new cutting mat carrier.  

The retreat was held at the National Conference Center, a facility built by Xerox as a training center.  It is huge, with 900+ guest rooms and lots of meeting rooms and worked well for this retreat.  One thing I especially liked was that the rooms are mostly single rooms so each retreat participant had her own which I appreciated as it meant I did not need to find a friend to go with me nor room with someone I didn't know.  I forgot to take a photo of my room; it was small but comfortable, with a full size bed, a big desk and desk chair, night stand, small dresser to unpack into, small closet, and bathroom.  Very comfortable but not luxurious.  Of course, I spent most of the time in...

our big meeting room where all the sewing magic happened.  We each had our own station with a sturdy table, desk chair, and electric outlets.  There were several stations for ironing (irons provided by Oliso) and cutting (mats and rotary cutters provided - I never used the mat and rulers I brought along).  There was an adjacent space we used for demos and classes (all optional) and a smaller room that housed the Brimfield Awakening pop-up shop.  We ate meals in a separate dining room also used by other groups at the conference center.

There were about 65 participants, women of all ages, united by our love of this hobby.  It meant we had plenty to talk about!

I primarily worked on a project inspired by a quilt made by The Pattern Basket that I saw on Instagram.  She used her pattern called Confetti Cake but I made a similar design in the past with some success, Lori Holt's Great Granny Squared, so I stuck with that pattern.  I cut the squares smaller and added an additional round.   I cut everything at home before I went to the retreat, then used my design boards to lay out each block and sew it together.

Here's the ironing station, with Oliso iron, at the retreat.  I really liked the irons, was going to buy one until I found out the price!  Maybe someday.

With nearly three days of sewing while someone else cooked my meals, I was able to finish all the blocks for this quilt.  

I also spent a few hours working on Dot Dot Dot, my long term project that involves a lot of hand work.

A big part of the retreat was meeting the other women.  In real life, I know only a few women who quilt so it was fun to talk to others and see their projects.  I met two women who live not-too-far from me and belong to a local chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild so I am thinking of going to one of their meetings to see how it is.  

The retreat organizers, Nisha and Kim of Brimfield Awakening, gave us a lot of swag.   

I especially like the Stash N Store because it holds a number of tools upright in a narrow space.  I'm thinking of getting a small one to hold makeup brushes.  We learned how to make the pincushion using two charm squares and two buttons.

The retreat also had an optional swap to participate in.  If you wanted to be in it, you filled out a questionnaire of your likes, dislikes, interests then were given a participant to provide three swap items for.  (We got this information in July so had time to figure out what to make or buy.)  I was assigned Kathy with a "K" and from the questionnaire I could tell we have a lot in common;  we both like antiques and vintage and share some of the same favorite fabric designers like French General.  

For the first night's exchange, I made her a pincushion using some linen and an old doily (but forgot to take a picture of it).  For the second night, I made some sachets filled with dried lavender and gave her a vintage embroidered linen cutlery holder.  

For the third night, I made the Lola zipper pouch using the pattern by Sotak and French General fabric.   (I highly recommend the pattern.  I've made three and find them pretty easy.)

Kristen from Delaware had me as her partner.  I mentioned my love of Corgis in the questionnaire and she came through with a Corgi pencil holder and some pens on the first night and a clear zipper bag full of little treasures on the second night.  Then the third night was the fabric bucket, Laundry Basket Quilts charm pack, and the set of rainbow colored plastic boxes in a holder.  I plan to use it to hold my English paper piecing templates and papers.  What is funny is that the day before, I noticed a similar gizmo on the work station of Wendy, sitting next to Kristen, and was quizzing her about it because I wanted one.  Wendy's came from Daiso, a Japanese dollar store that I've been to in California but I don't think we have one in New Jersey.  Kristen overheard and while at this point I did not know she was my partner (it was a secret until the third night), she knew she had "done good."

So that's my report on Sew Brimfield.  If you get a chance to go on a quilt retreat, I urge you to take it.  I really couldn't make time for one when I was employed full time but am so glad I did this one.  I lost some of my quilting mojo over the summer and felt stalled on my projects but regained the enthusiasm with the retreat and my granny square quilt is almost finished.  Of course, I will be naming it Sew Brimfield.

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Friday, September 9, 2022

Bee Organized Cutting Mat & Ruler Carrier

So, I made a bag.  A very large bag!

I've had these Robyn Pandolph fabrics from the Hannah Bella line in my stash for almost 20 years.  I bought them when Miss Main Street was a child, intending to make a quilt for her bedroom, but before I got to it, her taste changed and she didn't want anything girly or floral.  I ended up making her a quilt with bright batiks instead.  So all this fabric has been patiently waiting for a project to come along.

I am going to a quilt retreat in November.  I will need to take a LOT of stuff with me (fortunately, I will be traveling by car).   A bag to safely hold my cutting mat and rulers seemed like a good idea, so I made one.  

I stumbled on this pattern by Lori Holt.  It is really quite simple to make, though it does require a lot of fabric - I think I used about seven yards in total, plus interfacing and batting.  

I made a few modifications to the pattern to work with my fabrics better.  I made the straps narrower to make use of the floral stripe and I sized my pockets to hold the rulers I use most.  The bag is similar to an artist's portfolio, with large pockets to hold an 18 by 24 cutting mat (or large design boards) and several smaller pockets to hold acrylic rulers of various sizes.

Interfacing helps the pockets hold their shape and I used fusible fleece to provide some padded protection.  The whole thing folds in the middle and snaps shut at the top, with handles to carry it.  

Above  is one side, packed with design boards and rulers...

...while the other side has the cutting mat and more rulers.   The pattern is pretty easy to follow, except that all the instructions refer to fabrics from the line Lori Holt used to make her version.  It helps to make a conversion chart for your own fabric choices and I simplified by using fewer fabrics to work with what I had on hand.  

I'll let you know how well it works "in the field" after the retreat.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Moda Blockheads 4/Little Blocks 4.5

I have 17 4.5" blocks (finished size) made and I am putting this project aside for now.

I've been making the blocks out of Christmas-y fabrics, bits and pieces from my stash.  I like the blocks but don't know what I am going to do with them and have kind of lost the love for this project.  Mostly, I've realized that I really don't enjoy the process of foundation paper piecing.  When I made Rainbow Connection, I was excited enough about my vision for the finished quilt that I could tolerate the process.  Not so much now that I don't have an endpoint in mind.  I much prefer the process of making the regular pieced blocks from the Moda project, and I plan to go back to it as soon as I have a plan for the blocks.  I may even add more from the Little Blocks project.  

But until then, I need a project I can love, and I have something in mind.  But first, I'm going to make some items of a "practical" nature.  Look for an update soon. 

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Thursday, July 14, 2022

Pirouette, A Finished Flimsy

And the top is finished!  It is not quilted yet but I put it on my bed to see how it looks (also to be sure it is big enough).  I enlarged Pirouette, from the book A Scrapbook of Quilts, from 16 blocks to 25 blocks so it would fit a queen size bed.  And I made the outer border 4" wide to add a bit more.  I think it will be about 93" square after quilting.

The color in this close-up photo is closer to "real life" than the photo above.  The 30's reproduction prints are bright and cheerful.  

I had to buy some fabric for the back as I did not have anything big enough in my stash so I went for a wideback fabric (108 inches wide) because my least favorite part of quilt making is piecing the back.  I am going to take this to a longarmer to quilt and am contemplating designs while I wait for the back to arrive.  I want a design that will make the seams in the white areas less apparent.  I do have some fabric for the binding.  It is a blue print, the same blue as the solid I used for the tiny cornerstones in the center of each block.  

This quilt was a good stash buster though I still have enough 30's reproduction prints to make another quilt.  I'm thinking maybe a log cabin.  But that won't be my next project as I have a few things in the pipeline to get to first. 

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Monday, July 11, 2022

Pirouette Update

It's been a while!  I took a bit of a sewing hiatus; I was just not in the mood.  Then suddenly, and fortunately, my mojo returned and I got back into my sewing room.  I have all the blocks finished for Pirouette.  

Pirouette is in A Scrapbook of Quilts by Joanna Figueroa and Carrie Nelson.  It is a great quilt book, well worth having in your library.  The directions call for 16 blocks, set 4 by 4, but I am enlarging the quilt to fit a queen size bed so need 25 blocks.  

I wanted a retro look so I am making this quilt using 30's reproduction fabrics from my stash.  I've had this fabric a long time and it feels good to be finally using it.

The first step is to make a zillion "building blocks" out of triangles.  I used Triangles On A Roll to make mine.

Next step is to sew the blocks together into the quilt top.  More soon.

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Friday, April 29, 2022

Blockheads 4 Update - Some Finished Blocks

I'm working on Little Blocks 4.5 and the 4.5 inch blocks in Blockheads 4 simultaneously but progress slowed when first, I injured my right index finger (not a rotary cutter accident but the finger hurt making using a rotary cutter difficult) and then I got Covid-19 (a very mild case, like a cold).  I've recovered, and so has my finger, and I'm caught up on Blockheads 4 blocks.

So here are five of the first six blocks.  I chose not to make one (Block 3?) because it had too many pieces for me to manage in the small size.  However, I may go back and make it later.  These blocks are good practice for piecing accuracy and as mine improves, I am more confident in my ability to manage the tiny pieces.  The biggest challenge is the build-up of seam allowances on the back.  

I'm using fabric from my stash for this project, a mix of red and green Christmas prints and assorted backgrounds.  I'm not sure yet what setting I'll use; I had a couple of ideas at the start but I've seen some interesting settings from other participants so am undecided now.

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Monday, March 28, 2022

I'm Going On A Quilt Retreat

I'm going to a quilt retreat called Sew Brimfield.  It is being run by the ladies from Brimfield Awakening.  This will be my first quilt retreat and I am so excited.  Have you been to a quilt retreat and do you have any tips (please leave in the comments)?  The retreat is in northern Virginia so I can drive and takes lots of stuff, plus it is in early November so I have plenty of time to plan projects.

The Brimfield Awakening team is all about English paper piecing, but you can work on any type of quilting at the retreat, with room for a sewing machine, etc.  I have a hand sewing project called Dot Dot Dot (pattern by Laundry Basket Quilts); this is very long term project for me so I'm sure I'll still be working on it in Nov.  If I have a quilt finished and quilted by then, I'll likely take it along to bind it.  And I'd like to take a piecing project as well.  Lots of time to plan!

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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Progress On My Weekday Quilt Project

I'm working on two quilt projects simultaneously.  It isn't my favorite way to work on quilts but one project is a block of the week, with new blocks dropping on Fridays so I work on them on the weekends usually.  I fill in during the week with the other project, Pirouette, from A Scrapbook of Quilts, by Joanna Figueroa and Carrie Nelson.

In the past month, I've gone from the fabric pull... lots of HSTs... the basic blocks.

I have about fifty of these blocks made; I need 100.  I'm enlarging the quilt from the original design with extra blocks so it will fit a queen size bed.  It was pretty slow going at first because I am a fabric placement obsessive.  Each block uses 10 smaller blocks (the HSTs) and I would hem and haw over which to place where, what colors and prints look best next to each other, and so on.  I finally landed on a system.  Because I used fat quarters and triangles on a roll, I have 28 HSTs in the same print combinations.  I put them in separate piles on my table, lined up in rows so the colors were fairly dispersed.  Then I made a block using HSTs 1 through 10, the next block used HSTs 2 through 11, and the next used HSTs 3 through 12, and so on.  I adjust only to avoid having two triangles of the same color next to each other, but it rarely happens.  It is working well and I spend less time obsessing, more time sewing.

I made this project bag a few years ago; I have a few.  They are handy for keeping all the items for a project together - the pattern, fabric, precuts, etc. - until I get to the project.  This one is holding the finished blocks.  

I'll be back soon with an update on the weekend project.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Starting To Pirouette

I'm working on my Little Blocks 4.5 sampler; with three blocks released every Friday, it makes a great weekend project.  Deciding I need a concurrent project for weekdays, I started Pirouette.  

Pirouette is one of the excellent designs in A Scrapbook of Quilts, by Joanna Figueroa and Carrie Nelson.  When I got the book last year, I knew immediately that I wanted to make this one, it was just a matter of identifying the best fabric to use.  

It occurred to me that I had a lot of 30's reproduction prints stored in a bin and they could work nicely in this design.  Moreover, I have a gift recipient in mind (but better not mention it here).  The fabric is left from making two quilts for Miss Main Street's "big bed" when she moved from the crib.  Miss Main Street is 26 so this fabric practically qualifies as vintage.  It was all in good shape though, especially after a good starch 'n press.

The first step is to make eleventy gazillion HSTs.  I'm using Triangles on a Roll paper, which helps with both accuracy and speed as most of the fabric is partial fat quarters and fat eighths.  When I get down to smaller pieces, I'll use the traditional method.  

I've made a good start.  Tearing off  the backing paper is the most boring task, made better by doing it while watching a Winter Olympics broadcast.  Here is a block laid out on one of my design boards, not yet sewn together.  

Here's a glimpse of some quilts I made long ago using 30's repros.  The windmill block quilt on the upper left was one of the first bed size quilts I ever made; I probably made it in 1998.  It alternated on Miss Main Street's bed along with the one next to it.  The two underneath quilts on the lower rod are also in 30's repros.  

And for this one, Shasta Daisy, I used 30's repros for the foundation of each block.  

I'm enjoying working with these fabrics again.  There is something cheerful about them, and
cheerful is what I need now. 

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Friday, January 28, 2022

Bachelor Button Quilt Pillow

I just finished a UFO and am so happy with the way it turned out!

On impulse, I bought a kit from Sweet Treasures Quilts in December 2020, to make a block called Bachelor Button designed by White Barn Quilts that could be turned into a pillow.  The fabrics in the kit are from the Holliberry line for Moda by Cory Yoder.  I knew I wouldn't get it done for Christmas 2020 and I ended up piecing the block in February 2021, then put it aside to finish later.  

I didn't finish it for Christmas 2021, so officially an UFO!  But it is ready for Christmas 2022 now.

I had the finished block but it needed to be quilted and then turned into a pillow.  I quilted the block in a grid pattern using the walking foot for my Bernina machine.  Someone with more free motion skill could do some quilting that would better enhance the design, but I managed to keep the lines straight and am happy with how it came out.

The kit included fabric for the pillow back and the binding.  Binding provides an effect similar to piping the edge of a pillow.  I like the look in this case and that's how I wanted to finish it  but it meant I could not do my usual thing of inserting an invisible zipper in the bottom seam.  

The directions were for an envelope back but I bought a zipper and did a lapped zipper closure on the pillow back.  It is fairly unobtrusive with this patterned fabric.  

If you would like to try a zipper like this, there is a good tutorial here and Sherri from A Quilting Life has a YouTube video how-to here.  

I filled the pillow with a Fjadrar pillow insert from Ikea; they are filled with feathers and I find them more firm and comfortable than the poly inserts.  But they do come in only two sizes:  20" square and 26" square.  I actually prefer to buy my pillow inserts a little bigger than the pillow case so they fill more firmly but I think the 26" would be too big; this pillow is 20" square.

So, a UFO taken care of and a finish ready for Christmas.  

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