Blog Advent Calendar

Advent starts this Sunday and I’ve decided it would be fun to put up a post a day for all of Advent, like a blog Advent calendar – a nice surprise each day until Christmas.  Growing up, we had Advent calendars that had chocolate inside, which were the best.   This will be the calorie-free version of that!

I’ll start posting on Sunday.  The posts might be a little bit shorter than usual, but they’ll be bright and colorful and fun.

Here’s a sneak peak:



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Doll quilts – Part IV

Surprise!  Doll quilts are back!

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, my quilt guild is collecting doll quilts for Childhelp, a charity that gives dolls and teddy bears to children who’ve been abused.  Here’s the link:

I didn’t post this last time around because these leftover pieces are from a quilt that was a present and hadn’t been gifted yet.  It has since been gifted (and will appear in upcoming posts), so now I’m ready to post it.

I used green, purple, and yellow fabrics.  They’re leftover from a lone star quilt.   The pieces I had leftover are each a yellow triangle sewn to a triangle made of purple and green stripes.  I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to make a kind of hourglass with the yellow or if I wanted to make a diamond out of the purple and green stripes.  See the hourglass layout below:


I finally decided on the diamond layout.

It’s very different, isn’t it?  I like it.


Quilt for Z – Part II

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m making a quilt for my boyfriend Z for our anniversary.  I’ve begun quilting the borders of the quilt, and this post will cover the two outer borders.  I still have to do the inner borders and quilt the center of the quilt (the Storms at Sea patches); hopefully this coming weekend I’ll make some progress on that.

I started with the middle border, comprised of the red print at the corners with the blue and white nautical squares in the center on each side.  I considered all of my thread options:


For this border, my ultimate debate was whether to go with blue or red and I chose red.  The other thread options may appear later in the quilt.

The pattern I picked looked like two waves reflecting each other, although when I quilted it, the ultimate result reminded me more of a (slightly sloppy) double helix.  I used a design from  “501 Quilting Motifs: Designs for Hand or Machine Quilting,” by Quiltmaker Magazine.  I got it for my birthday and I’ve been using it a lot.  

First I traced the pattern in silver pencil.  I traced it to overlap at the corners, as the quilting design book suggested.  Then I machine quilted.


The finished design is, as I said, more uneven than I’d like.  I think I didn’t trace very well, to be honest.  The red shows up nicely against the blue and white squares, but it blends into the red print.  Maybe I should have used blue, although that would have blended into the blue squares.

I started from each corner and sewed to the left first.  When I got to the end of a side, I finished the stitching by back-stitching and then went back to the corner and sewed to the right.  Then I did the next side of the quilt, and the next, and finally the last side of the quilt.

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The biggest issue I had, which isn’t visible in these pictures, was that the sides of my quilt were’t completely even.  I worked from the corners inward, and on a couple of the sides of the quilt the pattern didn’t meet properly in the middle, so it ends up looking extra messy.

For the outer border I picked a far more complicated pattern, but I like how it turned out much better.  Certainly I think I traced more carefully; I probably also sewed more carefully because it was so complex.  Here are several pictures of the pattern after I had traced it onto the outer border and pinned accordingly.  (I cut out the pink thread that I’d used to baste the quilt together before I machine quilted, for both borders, because sometimes when you machine quilt over the basting thread it’s difficult to extricate the basting thread, and I didn’t want to have that problem.)  The design is also from the 501 motifs book.

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I used a pale blue thread for the quilting.  In this case, I purposely traced the pattern so that it went around the corner but it didn’t meet in the middle of each side.  On each edge of the quilt there’s approximately a six-inch gap in the quilting right at the center.  As before, I started with one end of the traced pattern and sewed to the left first.  This pattern required two continues lines sewn to the left and two continuous lines sewn to the right.  I’m not sure if that makes sense, but if you tried it you would see what I mean.  There are four lines of stitching that intertwine, but they meet at the beginning and the end of each traced pattern.  I don’t have a picture of that right now; I only took a picture of a corner.


As you can see, it looks much nicer than the middle border.  I doubt Z will mind, though.  I’m really pleased with how this quilting pattern came out, so I’ll probably use it again.

Next time: more quilting!

Quilt for Z – Part I

I’m making a quilt for my boyfriend Z for our two-year anniversary (hopefully – I think I can finish it in time).  I wanted to make him something really special.  I decided on a nautical and patriotic theme for him, to appeal to his interests. I also wanted something that would be masculine, not childish.  I think I’ve succeeded on the latter point, even though I’ve used all prints, as it my wont.  Everything is blue, red, and grey, so I think I’ve chosen my palate well.

I’ve always loved the Storms at Sea pattern, and it matched my theme.  I used the pattern from the “Quilt-Lovers’ Favorites” book published by Better Homes and Gardens (Volume 1). I had some nautical prints and lots of star prints, so that was my starting point.  As I mentioned, I chose dark blues, light blues, greys, and reds. Storms at Sea requires soooo many pieces.  569 pieces, to be exact.  I thought it would take me forever to cut them all, but I managed it in a couple of weeks.  I was really pleased with myself. Here are some of the pieces:




Each Storm at Sea block involves a ton of pieces.  There are small squares (in this case, composed of a small red square surrounded by four light blue triangles and then four larger dark blue triangles), larger squares (same color combinations), and diamonds in dark blue with grey triangles on all four sides to create a rectangle.

The instructions for the Storms at Sea pattern from “Quilt-Lovers Favorites” (Volume 1) had pieces lettered A-H.  I started with A, B, and C, which is the large square surrounded by triangles and then surrounded by a second set of triangles.  The book recommended sewing triangles on opposite sides, then ironing, then sewing the other triangles, and repeat.   I followed that.  It worked pretty well.

I had several different prints (duh, because it’s me) so I laid everything out to get the right distribution of prints.


Here I’ve sewn the triangles to opposite sides, per instructions from the book:


Squares with the first set of triangles sewn on:


Completed squares:


There were sixteen larger squares.  Then I made the 25 smaller squares, using the same method.


I hid all the pieces from Z.  Normally I tell him everything about all of my projects (and, I suspect, he listens politely like I do when he starts talking about Fantasy Football) but in this case I’m trying to keep it a secret.  So far I’ve managed to keep the secret for two months.

The last part of the blocks was the rectangles, composed of diamonds and triangles.  I followed the same steps as before.



I thought I had a picture of what one block looks like, all laid out, but I do not, so a picture of all the blocks assembled together will have to suffice.


I do have these pictures.  I don’t know why I took a picture of the backs, but I did, so  you get to see them:

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I made a mistake with the diamonds.  The rectangles composed of the diamonds plus triangles came out longer than the length of the large squares.  I’m not sure why.  I doubt I measured them wrong because I traced off of the pattern in the book, so probably it’s a matter of seam allowance.  I didn’t realize the problem at the time.  The way the blocks are assembled is piecemeal, so I would end up with a rectangle and a small square and then a rectangle and a large square and sew them together, but then the one rectangle would hang off the edge.  (I don’t know if that’s clear – it’s hard to explain.  If you look at the directions in the quilting book, you’ll see what I mean.)  If I’d known, I could have made more of an effort to center them or – better yet – used the large squares as a template and lopped off both ends of the rectangle so that it matched the length of the squares.  However, hindsight is 20/20, and I didn’t realize it until it was too late.  As you can see, my diamonds are not centered.  The point is cut off at one end.


Now that the whole quilt is assembled it’s not hugely noticeable, and I doubt Z will hold it against me.

Here’s another picture of all the Storms at Sea blocks pieced together.  I think you can really see the pattern from this angle.  It looks great, doesn’t it?  I’m so enamored of the pattern, even though it takes so much work to cut all of those pieces.


I wanted the quilt to be bigger, so I added borders.  First, a solid border:

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I chose solid blues to match with my color scheme and also to maintain my nautical feel.

I added a blocked border – you can’t see that well in the picture, but the prints are all nautical: anchors on a white background, whales on a blue background (see below), and anchor/ship stuff on a red background – ship stuff being the technical term, obviously.  I’d used the red fabric for some of my center red squares in the Storms at Sea patches.  Finally I added a big blue border that matches the backing fabric.



I assembled the quilt at my parents’ house, because they have the magical ping pong table and I have nothing but a floor.  (Quilting at my parents’ house makes quilting in my tiny city apartment feel pathetic and cramped.)  I laid my backing fabric on the ping pong table, then adding the batting, smoothing both layers as best I could:

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I added my top layer and then trimmed the excess.

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Lastly, I basted everything and pinned the edges.  (The picture above shows some of the basting but I’m not sure how clear it is.)


Normally, I like to sew the edges down while at my parents’ house, but I was a little pressed for time, so I took it back to my apartment and sewed the edges there, mourning the lack of my mother’s dining room table as I sewed at my desk and the quilt bunched up against the wall.  One day I’ll have a house and I can sew at my own dining room table!  (I hope.)  In the meantime, I have to make do.

I’ve already started on the quilting, but I think that’ll be a post for another day.  This post ended up being pretty long.