Friday, October 29, 2010

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Jewels

Amy Ellis of Amy's Creative Side has been great about hosting a virtual quilt show on her blog. If you have a quilt that you would like to share with the rest of blog land, go ahead and sign up for the fall 2010 festival. It runs from October 29 - November 5.

The quilt that I'm sharing about is one that I made for my mom and took me approximately 1.5 years to finish and was my first (and probably last) king-sized quilt.  Not necessarily because the piecing was difficult, but more because I couldn't make up my mind about the layout design and then later, the actual quilting.

my first king-sized quilt

Roughly into my second year of quilting, my mom kind of jokingly asked when I was going to make her a quilt for her bed.  So I eventually came up with an initial design and bought a boatload of fabric in early 2009. However, during the course of the year I kept changing my mind about the quilt design because the fabric and the designs didn't work. I couldn't find the right fit between the fabric, what I thought was my mom's design and color sensibility and my skill level.  However, I finally settled on the Jacob's Ladder Jewel Box classic block. [Thanks, Barb, for reminding me of the correct block name.] I think finally settling on a design took 4 months.

A closer look at the blocks

Then I thought that I would just start piecing the blocks together, but I realized that I couldn't be as improvisational in the piecing as I initially thought I could because of how the colors wanted to play with each other. So that meant covering the floor of my small living room with lots of quilt blocks for a looong time and more indecision. That took about another 3 months.

Well, finally, I pieced it together  and I flirted for a brief moment about quilting the behemoth on my domestic sewing machine, but sanity prevailed. The quilt top then sat, and sat, in the trunk of my car waiting for me to take it to a long-armed quilter, which I finally did.  Because by that time I had missed my self-imposed Christmas 2009 deadline and then my parents' anniversary in March. I had to finish it by June 2010, my mom's birthday, because otherwise I knew that I would never ever finish it and would become the work in progress that would haunt me for the rest of my quilting days.

The quilter did a fantastic job and I learned a lot about accurate cutting, accurate piecing, sewing on the bias, the importance of 1/4 inch seams, and the challenges inherent in working with large pieces of fabric. Since making that quilt, I have felt more confident about working on larger quilts and think that the quilt was an important milestone in my quilting journey.

A closer look at the roses quilted all over the quilt


Amy's Creative Side - Blogger's Quilt Festival

Monday, October 25, 2010

Quilt: Hidden Pinwheels

Naming things is not my forte, so for lack of a better name, here is a quilt, "Hidden Pinwheels", that I made for a co-worker's 1-year-old child as an upcoming Christmas gift. It's a belated "congratulations on your new baby" and "Merry Christmas gift" all in one.

The quilt measures 48" x 48" and uses Freebird by Momo.

The back of the quilt

A close up of the label
The best part of the quilt is the label that is pieced into the back. Following a tutorial from Hazelruthe on how to print onto fabric using freezer paper and an inkjet printer, I used Adobe Illustrator to design a label and then had no problems making a custom fabric label.

Because I put so much effort into the front of the quilt, I usually get really lazy in making the back, but this one turned out just fine I think.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Barcelona's Visual Feast

Barcelona is a gorgeous city. I was so busy just looking that I did not take many pictures, but here are some highlights.

In the Barri Gòtic. Beautifully atmospheric alleys and side streets.

Rather than a boring metal façade, every store grate either had graffitti or some great drawing.

An ornamental ceiling design in the Park Güell

Main entrance to the Park Güell. Look at all the inspired tile work!

A close up of one of the tiles.
As far as I could tell, not one was the same throughout the multi-acre park.

The famous La Pedrera. Why can't Los Angeles have undulating façades?

Design inspiration was everywhere in Barcelona.
Just outside the Museu Picasso, as part of an installation, the public was encouraged
to play with Legos and make shapes to fill in cracks in the wall.
A serendipitous encounter.

One of the chimneys in La Pedrera. The chimneys are all different.
I like how this one is smiling.

A stained glass window in La Sagrada Familia. When the afternoon light is just right,
the entire interior of the church seems to glow.  A magical sight.

The stairwell leading down one of the towers in La Sagrada Familia.
The stairwell is as vertiginous as it looks.
I held onto the railing for dear life.

One of the many exterior statues gracing La Sagrada Familia. Look at the view!

I'm thinking that this is a great idea for a quilt. But instead of "Salve", Barcelona.

My own private balcony in my hotel room. I highly recommend the Aparthotel Silver.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bienvenidos a Barcelona; Adios a Barcelona

Barcelona is all that people said it was - friendly people, warm hospitality, amazing architecture, great design everywhere - but no kidding about the pickpockets.

My first day in Barcelona, which was also my birthday, by the way, my wallet was stolen from my purse by a pair of some super wily pickpockets.  For the most part I made sure that my bag was zipped closed and slung across my body, but I had to take my wallet out to pay for my lunch and the place I chose was ridiculously crowded right next to the Boqueria, a major tourist attraction and, therefore, a prime breeding ground for industrious thieves.  So I put my wallet back in my bag, but didn't zip it and proceeded to put all the helpings on my falafel from the fixings bar, which is when the wallet was taken. At least the falafel was delicious.

Thankfully, I noticed my wallet was missing almost immediately and high-tailed it back to the shop thinking I had dropped it. Nope. So I made my way to the local police station and stood in line with all the other unfortunate victims. 

(One poor guy was on the tail end of a two month adventure all over Spain and had over 1500 pictures and, of course, had not had a chance to download any of the pictures and videos. He lost his camera. He said that he was sitting in a park and just watching the people. His camera was by his side, but he didn't have his hand on it. Someone came up to speak to him and the next thing he knew, his camera was gone. He wasn't so keen on Barcelona after that. )

Everyone was most sympathetic when they realized what an interesting birthday present I had received, but not optimistic about recovering my wallet. I then made my way back on foot to my hotel. Good thing that the distance was only 2 miles and full of interesting scenery. Bad thing was that I had absolutely no money - all my credit cards and cash was in the wallet. Stupid, I know, but I had never had any problems before in all my travels. So being penniless was a bit of a bummer. And so was dealing with canceling all the cards and thinking about how I was going to have to replace my driver's license, work ID, etc.

Miraculously, and I do not use that word lightly, I received an email later that night from a hotel in the Ramblas area notifying me that someone had found my wallet on the street and that I should claim it at the police station. Well, I was too pooped to walk back that same day, but returned the following day.

Everything was in the wallet. All my credit cards, miscellaneous cards, etc. Even my receipts. The only things missing were my cash and transit card. Pretty cool and extremely satisfying. I like to think that the thieves realized what a rotten trick they had played me on my birthday and had pity.  However, I still had no money. Fortunately I had done some minimal grocery shopping prior to being penniless and so had some food to tide me over until a replacement credit card could arrive on my last day in Barcelona. Consequently, my plans for fabulous shopping and eating were derailed, but in the large scheme of things that is all right. The thieves forced me to be mindful about keeping a tight budget and I feel as if I still had a full experience.

What a way to spend a birthday though.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tutorial: Travel Wallet

Version 1

In preparation and anticipation for an upcoming trip, I decided to make a travel wallet to hold my boarding pass, hotel reservation confirmation, and other miscellaneous papers (letter size and A4); a moleskine notebook; pen; passport; and frequent flier card so that everything is in one place and I don't have to fumble around in my purse or backpack.

Version 1 of the travel wallet ended up being too wide for my tastes, so I altered it. What follows below is the tutorial for the original version (Version 1) and the edited version (Version 2).

Feel free to email me at serendipitijoy at gmail dot com if you have any questions or if some of the directions are unclear.

The travel wallet is not limited for just travel, but can be made for every day use as well.

Tutorial: Travel Wallet
Version 1 Finished Size: 10" x 10" (when closed)
Version 2 Finished Size: 7" x 10" (when closed)
Version 2


To start:
Cut out all your pieces. To provide some additional stability, I fused Pellon Shir Tailor interfacing to each cut fabric piece. You will also need a small piece of elastic (I used a hair tie) and a decorative button.


Left Side of the Travel Wallet: Moleskine Pocket and Passport Pocket

Passport Pocket:
Take your piece and fold it in half right sides together on the long side so that you end up with a square.  Starting on one side perependicular to the folded edge, stitch a 1/4" along three sides of the pocket, but be sure to leave an opening wide enough to allow you to turn your square inside out. Clip the corners for clean, crisp corners.

Turn your square inside out. Press. Topstich 1/4" from the top of the square. Set aside and make your moleskine pocket.

Moleskine Pocket:

Take your piece that is 13" x 14" and fold it wrong sides together so that you end up with a piece that is 13" x 7". Topstitch 1/4" from the folded edge.

Take your passport pocket and place it .75" from the topstitched edge and 3" from the bottom. In the picture above, the topstitched edge of the moleskine pocket is facing downward.

Edgestitch as close as you can to the edge of the passport pocket's sides and bottom and sew the pocket into place on top of the moleskine pocket.

Line up the short edges of the moleskine lining to the interior lining and baste in place.  The finished edge of the moleskine pocket should face inward to the lining.

The width of the moleskine pocket is longer than the width of the lining piece so that there is an allowance to create a pocket large enough to handle the extra width of the moleskine notebook.

What your moleskine pocket should like once basted into place.
Note that the pleats face away from the short edges of the pocket.
When you have basted the short edges, you will have a large bubble.


Manipulate the pocket to create a pleat on each of the short end.

Baste the bottom edge into place, but be sure that the pleats will not get caught in the 1/2" seam allowance when you sew the lining with the exterior cover.

Right Side of the Travel Wallet: Pockets for Papers

Frequent Flier Card Pocket:

Following the same steps as for the passport pocket, make the pocket for the frequent flier card. Leave an opening on the long side of the piece to give you enough room to turn the pocket inside out. Press flat. Topstitch 1/4" from the top edge. Set aside.

Paper Pockets:

Following the same steps as for the moleskine pocket, fold each piece wrong sides together and topstitch 1/4" from the folded edge. For fun, I used twill tape to label each pocket: flight, transport and lodging.
Take your frequent flier card pocket and position it on top of the bottom pocket. I placed mine .75" from the folded edge and 2" from the left side of the pocket. Edgestitch the frequent flier card pocket into place on top of just the bottom pocket.

Baste the three pockets together on their short sides to create a single unit. The paper pockets are slightly longer than the width of the interior lining to create some give to accommodate multiple sheets of paper.

Just as you did with the moleskine pocket, baste the pockets onto the interior lining.
Close up of one of the short sides.
Note the slight bubble created after basting the sides and bottom into place.

Pen Pocket:

Get your fabric and fold it in half to create a middle crease. Fold each side of the fabric to meet at the middle crease. You should have a piece that is now 1.75" x 5". Fold it in half the long way so that you end up with a piece that is 1.75" x 2.5". Topstitch 1/4" from the folded top edge.

Fold your interior lining in half to create a middle crease. With the moleskine pocket to the left and the paper pockets to the right, place your pen pocket directly in the middle. Be sure that the unfinished edge of the pen pocket is aligned with the bottom of your lining.
Edgestitch your pen pocket into place along the sides and bottom.



Exterior Cover: Button and Elastic
On the left side of the cover, baste your elastic into place.

On the right side of the cover, sew your button into place. I sewed mine approximately 3" from the edge.
In hindsight, I wouldn't choose such a pointy button. Ouch.

Place your cover onto the lining, right sides together. Stitch a 1/2" seam allowance all the way around your fabric sandwich, but leave an opening large enough to allow you to turn your travel wallet inside out.

After you've sewn your seam allowance and before you turn the wallet inside out, if you can, use pinking shears to reduce some of the bulk and cut the corners on the diagonals to create crisper corners.

Note that the pockets add significant bulk.

Turn your wallet inside out and press the edges as flat as you can.

Measure the dimensions of your wallet and cut out a piece of heavyweight interfacing to lend some heft to the wallet. If you don't have Peltex or something similar, you can also cut out a piece of cardboard. For example, my finished wallet dimensions were 22" x 10" so I cut out a piece of interfacing 21.5" x 9.5". Through the opening in the wallet, stuff and smooth out the interfacing as best you can. Press the wallet again.

Slipstitch the opening closed. Your wallet is now ready to use.
Bon voyage!


Version 2
The problem with Version 1 was that the finished wallet was significantly larger than I wanted.

Rather than make a new one, I simply cut out the middle of the wallet and restitched the now narrower pieces together using a zig zag stitch.

To cover up the unsightly seam, I stitched 1" webbing in place onto the cover and the interior.
The cover
And then I sewed the pen pocket on top of the webbing.
The interior
An unintended benefit is that the webbing creates a natural spine for the wallet.

An additional alteration: The moleskine pocket was also much floppier than I liked, so I tacked the edges of the pocket opening create a smaller pocket mouth and also stitched some velcro to prevent the notebook from accidentally falling out when I open up the wallet.

I can't wait to put my travel wallet into action.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I should be sleeping...

Choosing a design layout for a quilt should be a relatively simple task, but the possibilities are endless. I meant to go to bed hours ago, but couldn't help playing around with some simple half-square triangle blocks as I try to figure out what design layout would best showcase the chosen fabric (in this case, Freebird by Momo) and would be most appropriate for the selected recipient (my one-year-old niece). To wit:

I could do a simple concentric square layout


or a classic pattern: broken dishes. I like how pinwheels seem to appear and disappear.


Or how about stars?



If I cut the half-square triangles in half, I can make rings


or pinwheels if I emphasize the other half of the cut block.

Too many choices = lots of fun = voluntary sleep deprivation

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kidlets and New Waves

When I was a young kid, I always looked for my name in the racks of personalized keychains, mugs and other trinkets available wherever young children were the targeted consumer. Fortunately for my parents, I could never find my name. So they did not have to deal with me loudly proclaiming that I absolutely had to have whatever it was that I thought I had to have at the time. What does this have to do with kidlets?

Jennifer Casa of JCasa Handmade has a free tutorial on her blog for kidlets. Essentially small totes that have only one handle to facilitate hanging bags on random hooks and doorknobs to allow kids convenient places to stow stuff. Ingenious, actually. After seeing the tutorial online several years ago, I finally took the time last night to make a few for some kiddies I know and personalized them with the letters of their first names. Better than a keychain, right? I hope the kids like their kidlets.


The tutorial recommends using some stiff interfacing to give the kidlets their shape. Because I used canvas for the exterior of the bag I thought the interfacing would be too much.  The bags hold their shapes decently, but if I were to make them again, I might make them with interfacing just to see the difference. The exterior pockets give a hint as to the bag's lining. A fat quarter was enough to make the lining and pocket and still have some fabric left over to make a small matching pouch if desired.  The letters are cut out from the canvas and fused onto the pockets.

In other news, I finished one Christmas present over the weekend. The purple one. Here's a sneak peek at the front. The previous day's post has a sneak peek at the back and the quilting lines. Many thanks to Elizabeth Fransson at Oh, Fransson! for her free pattern for the New Wave Quilt.
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