Quilt Magnets for J

Sew Mama Sew hosts Handmade Holidays every November, where they have guest bloggers curate lists of handmade gifts to make.  I checked it for ideas every day and I got a couple of good ones for Christmas presents, including this one: https://feelincrafty.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/to-do-list-swap-quilted-magnets-with-a-tutorial-done/

Quilted magnets!  My roommate J loves magnets!  I knew this was perfect for her.

I pulled together my scraps of purple fabric – J likes purple – and started piecing.  My initial plan was courthouse steps blocks, and that became wonky courthouse steps, and then I ran out of scraps in the fabrics I’d picked so now they’re kind of wonky improv-pieced semi courthouse steps blocks.  Two of them are completed courthouse steps blocks and two are not.

They’re cute, right?

I improve pieced the backs, too:

I didn’t follow the tutorial.  I wish I had.  I didn’t realize that you only quilt the top and the batting, not all three layers.  (That’s smart, right?  It keeps the magnet away from your machine!)   I was afraid my magnets wouldn’t be strong enough for batting, so I just quilted the top and back layers.  I tried to do most of my quilting before I put the magnets in, but even so I had to put the magnet in at some point.  That was annoying.  My machine still seems fine but next time I do this I will follow the tutorial properly.  Also, I needn’t have worried about the strength of my magnets; they were quite strong.

They’re larger than in the tutorial – more like 4″.

Finished magnets:

J was super excited about them.  She put them up on our fridge right away.   They look great, if I do say so myself.

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Nativity Wall Quilt for my Goddaughter N

Merry Christmas, habibis!  I hope you’re having a very happy holiday if you celebrate (and if not, happy Thursday)!

For my goddaughter N’s Christmas present I thought I’d give her something religious.  I was thinking I’d stop at the Catholic store in my parents’ town and then I remembered that I had bought a Nativity wall quilt kit years ago.  I think I’d originally planned to make it for my parents but I never got around to it, and it’s been sitting in my stash for some time.  I decided it would be perfect.

The kit consists of a panel featuring the Holy Family and the three Wise Men, in shades of blue and gold.  It’s beautiful!

The back is a starry print.

I added this silver-edged ribbon to make loops for hanging.

I did all my quilting in gold thread.  I tried to do some FMQ on it, more free-form than free motion I guess.  I quilted around the halos on the Holy Family, but I didn’t trace in advance, so they aren’t perfect curves.

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I quilted inside the Star of Bethlehem, from point to point, although you can’t really tell.  I quilted around the blocks at the top and bottom of the panel.  I quilted along the edges of the center panel piece.  I had some bunching issues at the corners – the little finial kind of shapes – and I wanted to flatten them out as best I could, so I then went along the edges of the quilt in navy.

Can you see that in the above picture?  It did help.

Here are full shots of the front and back:

It’s really cute, right?  I wish it were less bunchy but that’s a chronic problem of mine, and it still looks great!

Wedding Knot: Love is the Tie that Binds – Part III

Hi habibis!  It’s Christmas Eve – Advent has flown!

Today, for our final Advent post, I’ll share the quilting for R and M’s wedding quilt, “Wedding Knot: Love is the Tie that Binds.”  See parts I and II here and here.

The quilting was by far the hardest part, on my little Kenmore.  As I mentioned before, I’d decided to downsize to a queen sized quilt instead of a king.   It’s still the largest quilt I’ve ever made. (Previously the largest quilt I’d ever made was their engagement quilt.) Here’s the thing: it’s still too large. I don’t have the space for a queen sized quilt. I’m sewing on a Kenmore on my childhood desk. That was a headache.

This is the quilt I’ve been practicing my FMQ for. I knew I wanted to do wavy lines on it. I tried different things on different doll quilts to see what I liked, and I settled on vertical wavy lines going down the “columns” formed within the pattern.

I started with the center and quilted wavy lines in gold thread. I quilted three lines going all the way from the top to the bottom.

Next I should have gone to the right and done the same, but I thought about it and changed my mind about the design. I decided I wanted to quilt the rectangles in matching colors. I started with the gold and quilted each section of the two gold rectangles with three wavy lines. I love how it looks where I turned the corners.

Next I did the same for the green rectangles. I did wavy lines on the remaining background cream fabric, in cream. (Now I wish I’d done the center in cream thread instead of gold, but the gold adds extra interest.)  I did the same around the borders.

I’ve seen quilters talk about how the quilting adds movement to their quilts, and that’s how I feel about this.

I love the look of it, but the quilting was problematic.  My skin is drier in the cooler weather so my hands got all scratched up from the pins.  Also, I had a lot of issues with bunching. My pinning wasn’t great. (My pinning is never perfect, especially on larger quilts.) The way I quilted it – sections of different rectangles at a time, which overlap – exacerbated that. Some of the cream sections bunched up against gold sections that I’d already quilted.  Just imagine how quickly I could have finished his quilt if I’d just done wavy lines across the stripes! But then it would be less meaningful.

Had I just quilted vertical wavy lines from the center outward I wouldn’t have these bunching problems, and maybe I wouldn’t have scratched my hands up so much, but I like this quilting better even with the bunching. I tried to compensate for the bunching by pushing the folds flat and sewing over them. I prefer that to the fabric being raised. Other people probably wouldn’t. Either way I get that it looks messy. (Actually I think sewing over the folds looks pretty cool and I’d like to experiment with that in a quilt sometimes.) None of my quilts will ever be perfect and I don’t mind that.  I obviously need to work on my FMQ, but as frustrating as working with such a large quilt was, I was pretty happy with the FMQ experience given my limitations.

The quilting took me approximately 10 hours.  I don’t know if that’s normal for such a big quilt, but I did simple FMQ.

I finished the quilt with binding made from the top green fabric.  I made R and M a tag with their names, the name of the quilt, and the date of their wedding.  Putting the binding on and sewing it down took approximately 6 hours.  Making the tag and sewing it on took 30 minutes, so the quilt took a grand total of 32 and a half hours.

Here are some pictures of the quilting.  I don’t have a picture of the finished quilt because it’s too big for my apartment.  Maybe my brother can take one for me.  I think he and M really loved the quilt, especially M, and her mom even said the same thing.  I gave it to them at their wedding brunch so I could see them open it.

Quilting in progress:

Close ups of the quilting:

Don’t the corners look cool?

The quilting from the back:

Thank you for joining me all Advent for these posts!  Thanks to Nikki and T-Rex, my guest posters!  I’ll go back to a more limited posting schedule soon – I’ll have a couple of extra posts in the next week, and then beginning January 6th (the Epiphany! the last day of Christmas in the church calendar) I’ll resume my regular Tuesday posting schedule.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the Advent calendar posts.  Enjoy any holidays that you celebrate – Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa – and have a safe and happy New Year!

Travel Tuesday: Mediterranean Part II

Hi habibis!  Welcome to our final installment of Travel Tuesday – fitting, since many people will be traveling today for Christmas.  Today, let me share with you the rest of my Mediterranean travels.   The post is going up a few hours late because it took me so long to choose from all my pictures.  (See Mediterranean Part I here and my Northern European travels here and here.) These all came after my study abroad year, and I’ll cover them chronologically rather than by country, because that’s the easiest way for me to keep it straight.  (Some are repeats.)

The summer after my study abroad year we took a Trafalgar bus tour through Italy, which I accidentally blogged about in one of my Northern European travels posts.  So here it is again:

We saw Rome, Florence, Capri, Venice, Pompei, Pisa, Ravenna, Assisi, Naples, Siena, and probably others that I’ve forgotten.  It was an awesome trip.  We did everything.  I LOVED seeing the churches (of course) and the medieval cities and villages (my other favorite places to visit), and of course the countryside and the coastline were gorgeous and we ate amazing food.  In Rome we saw the catecombs and St. Peter’s Basilica, including the Sistine Chapel (but not the pope).  In Florence the Duomo was under construction but we saw the Ponte Vecchio.  (I forgot the name of it and then remembered and then had the line from “Kiss Me Kate” playing in my head – you know the song, “Where is the Life that Late I Led,” where Petrucchio details all the ladies he’s romanced all over Italy? You know what rhymes with Vecchio?  Becky-weckio.  Hehehe.)   I didn’t like Pompei – it was hot and frankly it creeps me out a little.  Capri was gorgeous.  (We saw little of Naples except for the boat ride to Capri, I’m afraid.)  The bus drive drove down the winding roads and hair pin turns of the Amalfi coast like it was nothing.  Venice, with St. Mark’s Square, was also really cool.  It was an amazing trip.

My senior year one of the Jesuits at my university organized a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  As I mentioned last week, my experience of Israel while studying abroad was a half hour cab ride through Eilat and it reminded me of Florida.  My parents sent me on the pilgrimage as my graduation present because they are amazingly generous people.

We went all over Israel and the West Bank. We saw beautiful churches. I had expected Israel to be desert-y, like Egypt, but it’s quite green. (In part because they take a lot of water from the River Jordan – I remember assignments in Arabic class where we had to listen to news reports about their treaties with Jordan over water usage.) We started our trip on the Mediterranean near Haifa. Then we drove up into the Golan Heights (there were a lot of helicopters – it made me nervous) to see where Jesus drove the demons into the herd of pigs.  There are ruins of a monastery there.

In the Galilee we saw the church at Peter’s house. It’s amazing. It’s a modern glass church over the rock foundations of what they say is the apostle Peter’s house, right near the Sea of Galilee. Galilee was beautiful, my favorite region of Israel.

We saw Cana, where the church is (I think) 18th century. It looked kind of baroque to me. We went to Bethlehem and saw the Church of the Nativity, which is huge and amazing.  You could see the poverty when we crossed into the West Bank.  Even in Bethlehem, which gets a lot of religious tourism, it’s not the same.

 

The priest organizing the trip wanted to go to Jericho but our tour guide refused to take us.  We went to the Dead Sea and swam.

In Jerusalem we went up on the Mount of Olives where Jesus spent his last night. We saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was another amazing church. We also saw the Garden Tomb, where some Protestants believe Jesus was buried, which is much simpler. It’s a big contrast!

The churches were amazing. I’m so glad I went. I may be the only person in my family to ever visit the Holy Land – you never know how the political situation will be there.  I don’t want to get into the politics too much but I never felt particularly safe while there. I prayed the rosary every day. Part of it was the history – suicide attacks, the intifada, and the Israelis’ invasion of Lebanon only the year before. Part of it was that, with my past travel, I had a little trouble getting into the country and I was concerned that I might get stopped at a check point. That never happened but it added some anxiety to the trip.

Anyway, more travels!  We’re getting near the end, I promise.  A few years ago we went on a western Mediterranean cruise with my cousins. It went from Barcelona to Rome and back. None of us had ever been to Spain. We flew in a day early to explore Barcelona, and we did despite being quite jet lagged.

I’d really like to make a quilt one day about my travels – or maybe multiple quilts – and the first place that always comes to mind is Barcelona. It’s Gaudi’s art and architecture that struck me so much. I took dozens if not hundreds of pictures. I didn’t love all of it but it’s all striking.

From there we sailed to France. We landed first in Toulon, the port for Provence. We couldn’t go on an excursion because we had to go to mass. (Note: if you are planning to take a cruise and religious services are important to you, do your research before you book. Some cruise lines offer mass, a non-denominational Christian service, and sabbath services. Some cruise lines won’t have anything unless it’s a big holiday, and your itinerary may not allow you to attend services in port. In this case we were lucky and we landed in Toulon early enough to attend mass at a church near the port, but I went on a cruise recently where that wasn’t the case.) So we didn’t really get to see Provence but we got to explore Toulon. It’s not the most beautiful city in France but Sunday was market day. We sampled fresh olives and window shopped among the locals. That’s a slice of life in France that we never would have experienced otherwise.  We also went to Nice, which I’d forgotten about until I saw my pictures.

Our other stop in France was the medieval city Eze and a trip over the border to Monte Carlo. I love old medieval cities, where every corner brings a new surprise, beautiful flowers in a stone wall or sudden Mediterranean vistas.

Monte Carlo has the casino, so luxe. My cousin M is a car aficionado and I think his favorite part of Monaco was the luxury cars parked outside, cars so expensive I couldn’t even contemplate having that much money, much less spending it all on a car.

Our last stops were Florence and Rome. We’d been to both before, on our bus tour. We explored Florence on our own. We were able to see the Duomo, which was no longer under construction, and revisit the sites we wanted to see again. It was lovely.

We picked an excursion to go wine tasting in the Lake District outside of Rome. It was rainy – not the best weather to enjoy the scenery.  Some of us, myself included, had a touch of food poisoning and my brother developed an allergy to something at te end of the cruise, so we didn’t enjoy it as much as we would have otherwise.

For our vacation the next year we took an eastern Mediterranean cruise. (We take a lot of cruises. My parents like them. You can see a lot without worrying about foreign languages, transportation, border crossings, etc. you don’t need to keep packing and unpacking and if you have picky eaters – I’m vegetarian and my cousin C, who is now vegan, was the pickiest eater I’d ever seen before she was vegan – you know you’ll have stuff you can eat in the ship. I know cruises aren’t for everyone – some people like a more flexible itinerary and the ability to travel on their own schedule – but they work well for us.) This cruise was Venice to Istanbul!! It was an amazing itinerary. My dad knew he wanted to go back to Venice since we’d been on the bus tour. Again we went a day early to explore. We walked from the port to St. Mark’s Square, using a map to traverse the piazzas. Again, this was a different experience, parts of Venice that fewer tourists get to see. It was so worth it. In the evening we sat in St. Mark’s Square and ate gelato under the stars while we listened to live music. Amazing.  The next day, the cruise ship sailed out of the port through the Grand Canal, so we sailed by St. Mark’s Square and passed palazzo after palazzo.

The rest of our itinerary included Kotor (Montenegro), Split (Croatia), Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini (Greece), and Istanbul and Ephesus (Turkey). Of these, my sister and I had been to Istanbul before and loved it, so we were excited to go back.

It would be hard to choose a favorite. Athens was very cool – we saw the Parthenon!

Mykonos and Santorini were beautiful; of the two we preferred Santorini.  It was prettier and had more to do. The island is a crescent formed from a volcanic explosion – the crater in the center was filled by the Mediterranean. We had such good food (and wine!) everywhere we went.

My cousins in Hungary have gone on vacation on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, but I didn’t realize how wonderful it was until we went there ourselves. It’s really beautiful and it has all sorts of outdoor activities! Beaches, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing – you name it, you can do it. The Roman emperor Diocletian was from the area and retired to Split, where he built his palace. (He was one of the few emperors to die a natural death, in part because he did actually retire.) The palace was used for practical purposes – homes and apartments in the upper area and garbage in the basements – in later centuries, and it hasn’t been fully restored, but the excavated basements were actually pretty well preserved (by the garbage). That was pretty cool.

In Kotor we saw the old town, the famous church, and the local museum. It was cute but the least exciting of everywhere we visited.  Here’s a picture of the view as we sailed toward Kotor.

Turkey was amazing.    In Istanbul we hit all the big sites, and I will tell you, to me the Blue Mosque is just as stunning every time I see it.  It’s lit with lovely hanging light fixtures, shaped like big round wagon wheels suspended from the ceiling.  You can see the beautiful mosaic designs on the ceilings.  Turkish decor is so appealing, isn’t it?

The history of the Hagia Sophia is that it was a church under the Byzantine Empire, and when the Ottomans took over it became a mosque.  Now they’ve turned it into a museum.  They’ve stripped some of the mosque decor and uncovered some of the old church mosaics.  You can’t quite get a feel of what it looked like as a mosque or a church, but it’s still pretty cool looking.

We also took a cruise on the Bosphorus (amazing!) and went shopping in the bazaar and we went to one of the palaces, which I’d seen before, but not that part – we went to the treasury and saw the sultan’s jewels and clothes and swords.  Very cool.

The second day in Turkey was Ephesus.  Ephesus was a Greek and then Roman town near the coast along the Mediterranean.  If you’re interested in ancient ruins, they have them!

Ephesus is religiously significant for Christians, who believe that Mary moved to Ephesus after Jesus died and spent her last days there.  (Muslims may believe this, too – I’m not sure.)  There’s a cute little stone house that serves as a chapel there.  We were there early in the morning and it was peaceful despite the crowds.

These are all my Mediterranean travels!  I hope you enjoyed these posts.  I’m happy to delve into them further if you have any questions – and one day I think I’d like to do an “inspirations” post – all the beautiful tiles, architecture, paintings, mosaics, etc. that make me want to create.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll show you part III of R and M’s Wedding Knot quilt.

Wedding Knot: Love is the Tie that Binds – Part II

Welcome to part II of the quilt I made for my brother R and his new wife M for their wedding.  See part I here.

Yesterday I posted about the cutting and piecing, which were pretty straightforward.  Today I’ll address the process of sandwiching the quilt.

The quilt assembly was a rather more difficult process than the cutting and piecing just because the quilt is so big. I used my parents’ dining room table instead of the ping pong table, but even with the larger table it wasn’t ideal. I realized that I hadn’t done a great job when I started quilting and the fabric bunched a lot. It was just difficult with so large a quilt.

So here’s the top of the quilt on my couch:

Here’s the backing fabric, laid out on my brother’s bed at my parents’ house.  Look how much fabric there is!

In the sandwiching process:

Here’s a picture of it hanging from my parents’ balcony.

One of my guild friends recommended that I keep track of how much time it takes me to make my quilts, which I did for both my magnum opus and this. These first three stages – cutting, piecing, and quilt assembly – took me 16 hours.

Come back tomorrow for Travel Tuesday and on Wednesday to see the quilting for the Wedding Knot quilt.

R and M’s Wedding Quilt: “Wedding Knot – Love is the Tie that Binds” – Part I

Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent! Christmas is literally around the corner, a mere four days away. Last week was Gaudete Sunday, which is Latin for Rejoice! We had a pink candle, to represent joy, and my family was certainly in joyful mode in celebration of R and M’s wedding. This week we’re back to purple, for waiting. We’re waiting for Jesus’s birth. I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to wait, though! I have about a dozen presents to finish (I know!) and one more day of work before Z and I travel. But Advent is also about preparation. I’ll be doing a lot of that! I’m afraid I haven’t had a very contemplative or reflective Advent. This year it felt more like barreling towards Christmas. I’ve enjoyed it, though. Does that count?

Anyway, I’ve finally come to R and M’s wedding present. I could have shared it earlier in the week but I like to make my Sunday Advent posts extra special to reflect the specialness of the day. So I saved it. 🙂

R and M got engaged a little over two years ago. For their engagement/Christmas 2012 I made them this quilt.  I used Path to the Altar blocks in their school colors, green and white, and their favorite colors, pink and red. I love it and I know they do, too. However, as happens with scrappy quilts (my favorite to make), it’s a little busy. Okay, a lot busy. I’ve since gotten a much better sense of M’s decorating style, which is very classic.  She’s got great taste; their apartment is far better decorated than most people in their mid-20s manage, I can assure you.

I was on the look out for patterns. I saw this one in Keepsake Quilting last year. It’s called Josephine’s Knot. I didn’t love the kit they’d put together (I liked the color combination – reds and blacks – but not the actual fabrics) so I only bought the pattern.

I then started thinking about fabric choices and I finally settled on emerald green, cream, and gold. Classic, pretty, goes with pretty much any decor. (I may have been inspired by the marble floor of my neighborhood church. I can’t remember if that’s where I got the idea or if I only noticed the similarity afterward.)  I waited until the post-Christmas sales and bought all my fabrics.

I love my golds. The green with the peacock feathers looks vaguely polka dot-ish from a distance. It was more bottle green than forest green so I wasn’t thrilled with the shade but I wasn’t about to order new fabric either. Also it really worked with the other fabrics. I was happy once it came together. I think you only notice it in comparison with the backing fabric.

I decided to make them a king sized quilt because they have a king sized bed. Then I decided that was crazy and downgraded to a queen – which is still the largest quilt I’ve ever made. (It took up half my suitcase when we flew down for the wedding!!) I have been using the leftovers for other things – you may recognize the golds in J’s wedding napkins. I still have soooo much green, though. The backing is 108″ wide and I bought so many yards. I’ll use it! Or it’ll go to my guild for charity day in March.

The pattern was pretty easy to follow.  I used safety pins to keep all my pieces of the same size together and I labeled them with little pieces of paper. This was a huge help and I highly recommend it, especially since I cut the pieces at a different time from when I sewed them.

The piecing was also relatively simple. I followed the guide in the pattern. The pattern, by the way, has options for four or five different size quilts and you can go scrappy. It recommends more fabric variation than what I had – I couldn’t find enough variation in the right shades of gold or green that I wanted online so I reduced the number of fabrics I used. Shopping in a store probably would have helped with that. Anyway I recommend this pattern if you find the design appealing. As long as you keep your pieces organized it’ll be a breeze.  (You can buy it here.)

I used my method of pins and paper to keep track of the rows, too, so I wouldn’t mix them up.

I decided to call the quilt “Wedding Knot – Love is the Tie that Binds.”  Come back tomorrow and I’ll talk about the assembly process.  On Tuesday we’ll have our final Travel Tuesday post, and on Wednesday I’ll have my third post about the Wedding Knot quilt and the actual quilting on it.

Wedding Saturday

Hello habibis! I guess this is Wedding Saturday. 🙂 Today I’m posting about my brother R’s wedding (plus a little sewing! I had to adjust my dress for the rehearsal dinner) and tomorrow I’ll start posting the quilt I made for R and M as a wedding gift.

Last week our entire family traveled down to warmer climes to join R and M for their wedding. The only person who couldn’t attend was my grandmother – she has Parkinson’s and doesn’t travel well. They had a bit of a cold spell (in the 40s at night) but the days were still pleasant and we didn’t mind. It was still lovely for us.

M is a sweetheart. We’ve loved her since we met her and we’ve been excited for this day since R started talking about proposing. Her family is great, too. They love R and we all get along. The family  blending has been pretty seamless.

The rehearsal dinner and the wedding were both right on the water. So beautiful. We had dancing at the rehearsal dinner  – we love dancing!

Here’s my dress:

It’s Boden, like many of my dresses, and I tend to buy this style a lot.  (It’s the Imogen dress if you’d like to buy it yourself.  It’s more purple in person.)  This is the first time I’ve had a fit issue – namely, the neckline was gaping – so the design must be slightly different. It looked fine when I put it on but I wore it out with Z a couple of months ago and I had to keep my coat on because the neckline gaped so much.  Easily fixed – I found matching thread and sewed it up.

In the interest of propriety I think I went a little higher than I needed, but better safe than sorry! I honestly think it’s not the most flattering of my Biden dresses , but I bought it for the color, which I love. The color is what pops in all the photos, too, so I consider that a success.

The wedding day started early with hair and makeup. (We’d done our nails the day before.)  Our dresses were royal blue, with a gathered sweetheart neckline; they fell straight to the floor. So beautiful. Everyone looked great in them. We wore silver shoes and earrings and necklaces from M. M herself was gorgeous, the most beautiful bride.  Her shoes were royal blue to match our dresses and they were fabulous! She has such great taste.   She and R made a snazzy couple!

They wrote their own vows, which were sweet and funny.  I teared up but I didn’t cry!  (I didn’t cry at all until the mother-son dance, when I saw my mom crying, and then I couldn’t help it!)  Our cousin M was the best man and our cousin C was a groomsman.  C and I were paired up for the walk in and out, and when R and M told us they wanted everyone to dance out down the aisle we weren’t sure what to do. (Our family loves dancing but I’ve never felt particularly skilled at it.) We finally picked the Swim, since it’s pretty easy and I could do it in my heels. We actually got a big laugh!

The reception was beautiful and we danced all night again.  After the reception ended we hung out longer in the hotel bar.  It was a late night!

On Sunday we went to mass and had a wedding brunch.  I gave R and M their quilt at the brunch so I could see them open it.  (That’s what I miss most with wedding presents – I don’t usually get to see people open the quilts I made them.)  They loved it!  Stop in tomorrow for my first post about it!