inspired by art: lisa congdon.

Inspired by Art

This week my local guild had a secret santa swap. Here’s how it worked: at last month’s meeting we anonymously chose a paper bag containing a fat quarter and the name of the person who provided the fabric. We then had to use that fat quarter to create a small gift for that member. I went into the meeting knowing that I wanted to make something inspired by the amazingly talented artist Lisa Congdon, in particular, her Sami Girl. I am a huge fan of her work, and have been ever since I was first introduced to her through The Jealous Curator’s blog. So once I knew who I was making my Secret Santa gift for, I snapped her photo at the end of the meeting under the pretense that I needed it for the guild’s blog.

Here’s what I did: I used an app to turn her photo into a sketch and printed the image on fabric. I improv pieced around the photo to get the pillow to 16×16 using assorted neutrals and pieces of the fat quarter from the brown bag. I glue-basted scraps of Liberty fabric mixed again with snippets of the fat quarter to build the “dress”. Finally, I straight line quilted the entire top to hold the whole thing together.

Inspired by Art

The pillow-back was made using this tutorial and then the entire pillow was bound using the rest of the fat quarter from the brown bag.

The entire project took me way out of my normal comfort zone — and I loved it! I wish we hadn’t been in the middle of a Nor’easter when I finished it, because the photos do not do it justice. But it really was a fun and unique present for our gift exchange.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about art, sources of inspiration, and how I want to expand my skills in other areas — in particular drawing and painting — because I think in the end it will make me a better quilter. I feel that line-drawing skills would easily translate into FMQ, and an understanding of basic painting skills would translate into a better appreciation for color value, help me with fabric pulls for new projects, and give me a new way to think about form and negative space.

To bring this whole post full circle, I recently found out that my Long Island Modern Sampler was accepted to Quilt Con 2015.

Modern Sampler Quilt

But my Diamonds in the Deep quilt was not.

Diamonds in the Deep

Facing both acceptance and rejection, it has been bittersweet. I am thrilled and terrified that I have a quilt that will be on exhibit at Quilt Con. I don’t think I have even processed it yet. And part of the reason for that, is, I am bummed about the rejection; but in no way am I letting it take away from all of the pride that I have in my quilt’s completion. The quilt didn’t match the needs of this particular competition. But it is still a damn good quilt!

In a serendipitous occurrence, Lisa Congdon published this post about rejection — today. I think it’s an excellent reminder to us all that art (including quilts) is subjective. Rejection is part of the process of being an artist. And if we love what we do, and continue to challenge ourselves, then our own opinion is the only one that matters.

Hope you are all having a beautiful holiday season! Congratulations to all of us who entered the competition — #winners, #rejects alike – we are #risktakers. And that’s what it’s all about!

Linking up with Needle and Thread Thursday and Finish it up Friday.

diamonds in the deep: a finish.

Diamonds in the Deep

I am so excited and proud to share with you my finished orange-version of the Bonjour Quilts pattern Diamonds in the Deep. This quilt has taken up the better part of 2014, and it has been a huge learning experience for me. It was my first time working on a queen-sized quilt, my first time testing a pattern, my first time experimenting with value, and my first time collaborating with a long-arm quilter. And I can say, I am a better quilter for having been through the experience!

Diamonds in the Deep

I plan to elaborate on my experience working with a long-arm quilter in the future, but for now, I just want to emphasize how amazing Shelly Pagliai of Prairie Moon Quilts is to work with, and, as the pictures clearly show, how amazingly talented she is! I feel so lucky to have *met* her and to have had the stars align so that we could work together on this quilt. Shelly custom quilted the entire quilt using hand-guided free-motion. Each block is quilted with a total of five separate patterns, to complement and highlight the piecing.

Diamonds in the Deep

The binding on the quilt is Denyse Schmidt’s Voltage Dot in black, and the design of the fabric is echoed in the outermost layer of each block.

Diamonds in the Deep

I could not be happier with the end result. As hard as it was to make a quilt of this size, I also feel a queen-sized sense of accomplishment and pride for having tackled this challenge. So many hours and so much love went into the making of this quilt (both mine and Shelly’s!) — I think it’s the perfect embodiment of our efforts!

Diamonds in the DeepDiamonds in the DeepDiamonds in the DeepThanks for hanging out with me while I bask in the glory of this finish! I hope that everyone in the states had a wonderful holiday weekend!

Linking up (later this week) with Needle and Thread Thursday, Finish it Up Friday, and, as this is one of my Q4 Finish Along goals, The Littlest Thistle.

last-minute coasters.

Tutorial: last-minute coasters

Picture this: you’re invited to a friend’s house for dinner, but you have no time to get to the store for a hostess gift and get yourself ready for the party. You’d like something quick, thoughtful, and handmade — without a hassle. Well, here it is. The fastest and cutest handmade gift you could ever hope for! With only a few easy steps, this set of 6 half-square triangle (HST) coasters will take you less than an hour to make, but the oohs and aaahs from your recipient will go on all evening!

Let’s get started!

Tutorial: last-minute coasters


  • (6) 5.5″ squares of coordinating fabrics for the coaster tops (I chose two of each color)
  • (6) 5″ squares of flannel or thin batting
  • (6) 5″ squares of coordinating fabric for the coaster bottoms (Tip: I’d suggest a durable quality fabric such as denim, home dec fabric, canvas, or wool felt)
  • coordinating thread

The How-To:

Step 1: Make your half-square triangles.

Place two coordinating squares of your 5.5″ fabric directly on top of one another, right sides together. Draw a diagonal line from one corner to the opposite corner on the wrong side of your fabric. Sew a 1/4″ seam on both sides of this drawn line.

Tutorial: last-minute coasters

Using a scissor or rotary cutter, cut the sewn square in half on the drawn diagonal line. Press the seams open. Trim the block to 5″ square. Repeat until all of the squares have been paired up and sewn into HST blocks. (Tip: You can chain piece this part to speed things up even more!)

Tutorial: last-minute coasters

Step 2: Assemble and stitch the coaster.

Place your batting/flannel down. Place your fabric for the coaster-bottom directly on top of the batting, right-side up.

Tutorial: last-minute coasters

Place your HST coaster-top right-side down directly on top of the other two layers. Beginning with your presser foot in the middle of one of the sides, sew a 1/4 inch seam around the entire perimeter, ending approximately 2″ from where you began to sew. This gap will be used for turning the coaster right-side out. Be sure to reinforce the seam  at the opening by backstitching where you begin and end sewing.

Tutorial: last-minute coasters

Clip corners, and turn right-side out. Use a chopstick or bone folder to gently push the corners out. Press flat. Make sure to press the opening to the inside.

Tutorial: last-minute coasters

Step 3: Topstitch.

Topstitch around the entire perimeter using a 1/8″ seam.

Tutorial: last-minute coasters

This will close the gap in the open side and provide the professional-looking finishing touch to your thoughtful gift!

Tutorial: last-minute coasters

These coasters are so easy to make, you will be gift-ready in no time! Stack ‘em up, wrap with a pretty ribbon, and you are all set to go!

And now, could somebody please pass the prosecco? Cheers!

Tutorial: last-minute coasters

Modern Sampler Quilt

Modern Sampler Quilt

It’s finished! And I have to admit to you . . . I love it! This quilt has been a work-in-progress for as long as this blog has been in progress, and I am so excited to finally be able to share it as a finished quilt! What started with blocks chosen by my local guild, slowly morphed into something bigger and more personal as I added my own touches in between. There are so many blocks from the blog world included in this quilt, it almost feels like a quilted love-note to all of the great people that make up the online quilting community. I get so much inspiration from these bloggers (and so many others), that it’s fun to see many of their tutorials included in this sampler! I’ve compiled a list of links to all of the blocks I used below:

Modern Sampler Quilt

1. Flock of HSTs  2. Figgy Pudding Block  3. Rainbow Starflower  4. Bow Tie Block  5. Double Z Block  6. Cross Roads  7. Wonky Star  8. Arrow Block   9. Sliced Scrappy Block  10. Cross Block  11. Stacked Block  12. Radiant Ring Block  13. Vice Versa BOM June  14. In Color Order HST BOM

If you follow me on Pinterest, you’ll see I’ve created a board with links to all of these blocks, too.  And if something doesn’t have a number, it means I either used the book 1000 Great Quilt Blocks (I love that book) to find something I’d like to make, or I just made something up myself to fill an awkward-sized space.

The entire quilt was made using Carolyn Friedlander’s Botanics line mixed with coordinating Kona solids. I bound it with Essex yarn-dyed linen in black, and I think it’s the perfect complement to the Botanics prints. The finished size is 48″ wide by 60″ long. I am just so pleased with how it all came together! And I’m so happy I stuck with one line of fabric throughout, because it gave all of the different blocks a sense of cohesion in spite of all of the color used. The quilting is 1/2″ lines horizontally across the entire quilt.

Modern Sampler Quilt

So, in addition to this being my first Q4 finish in my 2014 Finish Along Goals, I am going to take a chance and enter this quilt into the Blogger’s Quilt Festival in the Small Category! (my first entry ever — squeal!!) I have already checked out (drooled over) the competition, so I know I’ll be in amazingly talented company. I’m just so proud of this quilt, and the fact that it really is a quilt that wouldn’t be possible without the online blogging community. . . I feel compelled to give it a shot!
Be sure to check out all of the entries at Amy’s Creative Side, and remember to vote for Viewer’s Choice! There are seriously so many amazing entries!
Modern Sampler Quilt
Thanks so much for taking the time to visit me. Have an awesome rest of the week!
(linking to NTT and finish it up friday)

the pick-me-up tote

pick-me-up tote

So, let me start this off by saying, sewing friends are the best!

I was having “one of those days” — for a lot of days in a row.  Nothing big. Just the stuff that makes the days longer and harder than expected. It happened gradually, and then there I was.  A Grumpy Grumperson.

So, I’m in this funk, and I go to the mailbox (picture me mumbling, grumbling, puttering down the driveway mid-afternoon in socks and a bathrobe — I wasn’t — but just picture it that way). Inside, there’s a package for me. And I get excited because I could tell it was the fabrics from the Tone It Down low-volume fabric swap. Michelle at From Bolt to Beauty (I’ve mentioned her blog here before) had already let us know that our packages were on the way. Instant lifting of the funktitude.

gif courtesy of justsammich

I get inside and I pull out the swap fabrics, which, in and of themselves are awesome (I should have a picture to share, but sadly, I forgot).  Probably because I was so surprised when I saw there was another package inside the envelope! I open up a pretty handmade card to see that Michelle had sent along a special little something just for me!


Totally unexpected. So thoughtful. And so, so pretty! Don’t you agree? How cute is the lining fabric?

pick-me-up tote

And with that, the fog rolled out, and my funk was lifted! That thoughtful gesture completely made my day! So, again, Michelle, I want to say a huge thank you for the gigantic spirit-boost on a day I totally needed it. And I hope anyone who sees this will check out her blog and send her some love! Tell her you dig her topstitching — it’s pretty fantastic, right?

pick-me-up tote

Seriously. The sewing/quilting community is the best!!

Linking up with Sew Cute Tuesday.

WIP Wednesday:

gypsy wife HST blocks

Baby steps around here this week. Made some progress on the sewing room/guest room, a few gypsy wife blocks, and my October do. Good Stitches blocks.

October do. Good Stitches.

(If they look familiar, it’s cuz they are — we made these same blocks in a different color-way back in May).

In between the rain this weekend, we headed down to PA for some apple and pumpkin picking with friends at Frecon Farms.


It’s beginning to feel like fall around here, in spite of the 75 degree days.

Fall Leaves

The leaves are changing, there is apple sauce in the oven, and the air conditioners are out of the windows. Last night the boys were jokingly singing Christmas carols and I didn’t mind a bit. I’m ready for you, fall!

Getting back to things sewing-related, I finally started to put my Gypsy Wife blocks up on the design board together and I am a bit perplexed. gypsy wife progress

There’s more white/cream than I remember, and I’m afraid it’s too stark a contrast against the earlier blocks that I made that are darker and more saturated. What do you think? Would you remake any of them? I’m on the fence, hoping I can pull it together and make it feel cohesive but not too matchy-match in the end. I’m all ears for any tips you might have for me going forward!

Hope you are having a fantastic week!

I’m linking up with Freshly Pieced and Sew Fresh Quilts.

Finish Along Q4 Goals

How did you do? Did you participate in the third quarter of The Littlest Thistle’s Finish Along? Did you complete all of your goals? I was right on track for finishing all of mine, when the quilting on my LIMOD sampler got the best of me. I spent this past weekend picking out rows of stitches, unbasting and re-basting the quilt sandwich together. Initially, there was some slight puckering on the back. And at first I thought I could live with it. So I kept going. And then my inner critic got the best of me. Is this the kind of work you want to have represent you? No. It was not. So, LIMOD is getting pushed into the Q4 finish goals, for sure. And without further ado, here’s my list:

1) LIMOD Sampler: it needs to be quilted and bound. I hope to have it finished by next weekend!

LIMOD Sampler

2) Diamonds in the Deep: this one is in a UPS box on it’s way to get quilted up by a long-arm quilter! I’m so excited I can’t WAIT! I have my fabric picked for the binding so that it is ready to go when it comes back to me! I hope to have it finished by the end of November!Diamonds in the Deep

3) The Oversized Fashionista Bag: this bag is an amalgamation of patterns in the Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam. I’ve added interior pockets, hardware, and a lining. It’s almost to the point where it’s ready to be sewn together. Except, there are some tabs and a handle that I’m not sure the needle on my machine can get through. And, I’m a big chicken. After all the work, I’m afraid my execution of the end result will not live up to the idea in my head. It’s the first time I’ve ever sewn with wool and a silky rayon lining, so, it’s definitely got imperfections already. Which is why it sat in my closet for close to a year. . . it’s time to face the fabric.

Oversized Fashionista Bag

Oversized Fashionista Bag

4) Birds of a Feather: I have a whole new idea for how I want to approach this quilt. It involves some curves, which I’ve never tackled before. It may be a bit too ambitious given the holidays are coming. . . but we’ll see!

Getting an idea in my head

And, then of course there’s the other stuff that I’ll be working on that doesn’t qualify for the Q4 Finish Along. There’s the Gypsy Wife BOM, do. Good Stitches bee blocks, LIMOD blocks and LOTS of handmade gifts for the holidays!

Are you ready? Let’s finish strong, 2014!

I’m linking up with The Littlest Thistle! You should, too! Let’s do this together!

quilted tissue holder w/ vintage button closure.

Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closureIt’s that time of the year again. . . where my mind skips ahead to the holidays and all of the fun gifts I can make for the special people in my life. I know you may have seen tutorials for tissue holders in the past — but this one is kinda kicked up a notch — to make it a slightly more elegant and (in my humble opinion) gift-worthy option! I love to make these to have on hand for teachers, friends, and any other last-minute gifting that might come up. So let’s get started!

Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closureSupplies:

  • 2 pieces of coordinating fabric measuring 6.5 x 7 inches (one for the exterior, and one for the lining)
  • 1 piece of thin batting measuring 7 x 7.5 inches (you can even use a piece flannel in place of the batting)
  • 1 piece of 2mm elastic cording cut to 3.5 inches (Tip: I have bought elastic by the yard, OR cut hair ties in coordinating colors to match my fabric — just use the thin ones!)
  • vintage or any pretty button
  • coordinating thread

The How-To:

Step 1: Quilt your exterior fabric.

Place your exterior fabric right-side up directly on top of your batting. Pin the layers together with a few pins to prevent slipping.

Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closureUsing your walking-foot, quilt away! You can quilt straight lines, make a checker board pattern, free-motion quilt, use decorative stitches — there are so many possibilities, and it’s completely up to you! Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closure

Trim the excess batting.Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closure

Step 2: Pin the elastic in place.

Place your lining fabric and quilted exterior fabric right sides together. Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closure

Mark the center of one of the SHORT sides (3.25″ from the top or bottom). Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closure

Fold your elastic in half forming a loop and insert the LOOP side between your two layers of fabric. Pin in place with approximately 1/4″ – 1/2″ of the elastic’s raw edge hanging out from the edge of the fabric. (Note: the size of your loop can depend on the size of your button — if you have a very large or very small button, you may want to adjust your loop accordingly.)Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closure

Step 3: Sew the quilted exterior and lining together. 

Sew a 1/4 inch seam around the entire perimeter, leaving a 2″ gap at the center of one of the LONG (7″) sides (approximately 2.5″ in from either end). This will be used for turning right side out. When stitching over the elastic, be sure to reinforce the seam by backstitching a few times.Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closure

Step 4: Clip the corners, turn and press.

Clip corners (as shown above), and turn right side out. Use a chopstick or bone folder to gently push the corners out. Press flat. Make sure to press the opening to the inside.Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closure

Step 5: Bring short edges to the center and sew.

Fold each of the short edges to the center, making sure that the exterior fabric is on the INSIDE. Sew 1/4″ from the edge on each end. Backstitch at the center point (where the two ends meet), to ensure that it is securely held in place. You can overlap the two ends slightly if it’s not too thick under your presser foot). Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closure

Turn right side out.Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closure

Step 6: Sew on your button.

Sew your button onto the side opposite the elastic. Tip: To get the fit “just right” I put a packet of tissues inside before marking where to place the button. Pull the elastic toward the button side and place a mark in the spot that the center of the loop reaches. Center your button on this mark when attaching. This will ensure a perfect fit!Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closure

Now, thanks to you, your loved ones can look adorable and chic — even when blowing their noses!Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closure

And don’t forget about the fellas in your life! Whip these up in some masculine fabrics and you have a tissue or handkerchief holder for a special guy! And if you’re pressed for time, you can skip the step of quilting the exterior fabric (check the flannel houndstooth version below!).Tutorial: Quilted tissue holder with vintage button closure

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you have lots of fun making these easy and fun little gifts!

WIP Wednesday: out of the vault.

Hi, there!

new design wall

Let’s catch up! This week I’ve been working on the randomest assortment of projects. Let me start by saying it’s been raining. A lot.

The biggest work-in-progress, by far, is the creation of a dedicated sewing space for meeeeee! We decided that carving out a spot in the guest room would be the best place for me to set up permanent shop.

We decided this back in July.

Well, this past weekend we made some great headway. I made a simple design wall using this tutorial. My new desk is set up. And my stash is now in the guest room instead of the dining room.

painting on canvasAs I cleaned out the closet to switch my stash’s location, it was like pulling works-in-progress out of the vault! And it gave me a whole new set of angst after this week’s finishes. One was this canvas purse I decided to make (ages ago) with visions of Anthropologie in my head. I bought paints. And then put them all together on the shelf, where they sat for almost a year. So, at this point, I was like, what is there to lose? Either it sits in the closet waiting forever for me to suddenly learn how to paint like an artiste (read that with a French accent), or I whip out the paint brush and see what happens! So I just sort of followed the shapes and forms of a Lullie Wallace print we have and suddenly, it was done! It’s not the best, but it’s not nearly as bad as I expected! I think it can be kind of quirky and fun if I finish the bag the right way, no? I also happened across this timely post by Radiant Home Studio about waxing canvas fabric. So, I ordered some of that. Serendipity, no doubt!

quilting the LIMOD samplerAnd finally, I started quilting the LIMOD sampler. More on that another day. I may need your advice. But for now, I am off to practice some yoga — to work on myself — the biggest WIP of all.

Hope you are having a great week so far! Linking up with Freshly Pieced and Sew Fresh Quilts.

ps – sorry for all of the dark photos, but as I said before, the rain and gloom just hasn’t stopped!

A simple, masculine quilt.

Simple, neutral quilt.Another finish to report, all this one required was a binding. Like my scrappy picnic quilt, I started this masculine-looking lap quilt ages ago. I was so inspired by a picture I saw on Design*Sponge (which I pinned to Pinterest) years ago, that I just had to recreate it.

Simple, neutral quilt.However, I gave up on it, due to its imperfections. But it weighed on me. It wasn’t that bad. Certainly someone could use it, even if I donated it.

Simple, neutral quilt.So I ordered some of the quilter’s linen in charcoal and finished it up. Now that it’s done, I’m not nearly as hard on it. It has a warm houndstooth flannel back and could really keep someone warm when the temperatures drop.

Simple, neutral quilt.

Linking up happily to The Littlest Thistle, as I am just squeezing this one in before the deadline!