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King Sized Dilemma

I am never, ever quilting a king size ever again! Here’s what I’ve been working on while I’ve been in the blogging black hole:

It’s what I’ve been calling “The Practice Quilt.” Here’s the story:

A few weeks back I thought I was ready to start quilting the infamous purple quilt, and I started about 5 straight lines going the length of the quilt. I hated it. It showcased how un-straight everything was. So I ripped it out and knew I wanted to do something besides straight lines. Which meant- gasp!- FREE MOTION! I’ve never done any free motion quilting before so I practiced some stippling on a few big scraps. Well, even after I got the hang of it, I wasn’t convinced I was ready- I mean, I spent a lot of money on that purple quilt- I didn’t want to ruin it! So I decided I needed to practice on something more to scale so I could get the real feel of stippling with the weight of a full sized quilt behind it. Except by full-size I mean king-sized.

We had his huge green fleece blanket that we’ve been using for a few years as our in-between winter and summer blanket. Only, it was fraying at the edges, it collected lots of dog hair, and it wasn’t very pretty. So I decided I needed to cover it, and now I had the perfect idea- not only would I cover it, I’d quilt it and practice stippling on it! So I got to work sewing 16 yards of fabric into a front and back.

I had to spread this thing out in our empty dining room- and it filled the room!!! I basted it and got quilting.

This thing was a beast to quilt! Not only did I have to battle the sheer size of it, the blanket was a very dense fleece– not the fluffy light kind– so it was extremely heavy, too. It made my back hurt and my arms sore pushing and pulling this thing around. Quilting the middle was the worst. After about a week I finished. And vowed to never ever free motion quilt a king size quilt ever again. Ever. Never. Never ever. No way.

BUT- I did kill two birds with one stone. I finally covered this monster blanket after putting it off for a long time (16 yards of fabric sitting on two bolts isn’t the biggest motivator in the world), and I got a ton of practice stippling. So now I think I’m ready to move on to the purple quilt. Soon.

Of course after I finished binding the practice quilt (I feel a little funny calling it a quilt, since it’s not pieced), I washed it and put it on the bed to take some pictures. It didn’t take long for these two bears to join me:

I have to admit, they make it look even snuggly-er.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Dogs, Quilting

 

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Back It Up!

Quick post! I put together the backing for the infamous purple quilt.

Now the tricky part: deciding how I’m going to quilt it! If anyone has any suggestions, I’m open to them.  My mom thinks I should dive off the deep end and stipple it- but, since I’m such a newbie, I don’t know.

Here’s what the front looks like, in case you’ve forgotten.

Happy Good Friday! I’m going to spend it cooking and baking with my family. Polish Easter here I come!

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Quilting

 

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The Eagle Has Landed!

That’s how I feel today, because I can finally reveal a secret project I’ve been working on. Remember when I shared this teaser pic a few months back?

Well, that stack of fat quarters has come a long way…

I made this baby quilt for my friend Anna who is due any day now, and I am so happy I can finally tell you all about it because it got delivered to her house in the mail today and is sitting pretty on baby Lila’s crib. *UPDATE*: I came up with a name for the quilt! It’s “See Jane Stack”= (Nicey Jane fabric + Stacked Coin pattern + “See Jane Run” reference).

I’m pretty proud of this one because it’s the first quilt I’ve made 100% on my own. My mom has had a hand in all the other quilts I’ve made, but this one was all Mindy, start to finish.

I was super excited when I decided to make this quilt for Anna’s baby because baby quilts are just the right size: not too big that they get boring, and not too small to whip through too quickly. My first dilemma was picking out fabrics. Oh the hours I spent on Etsy browsing through fabrics! At first I had a completely different color scheme picked out- buttery yellow, bold red, aqua and gray. I still might use that scheme for another quilt, but after Anna revealed some pics of her nursery on her blog- specifically using the word “pastels” and “vintage-y” I ditched the original plan and made a beeline for Heather Bailey’s Nicey Jane line. At first I only bought the blue/green colors, but after laying some of the fabrics out I decided I needed more contrast in colors, so I purchased a fat quarter of the whole line. Blue, green, pink, orange and yellow florals with a really vintage-inspired look.

Then I had to choose my pattern. I’d been eying some stacked coin quilts and patterns on Etsy and decided there couldn’t possibly be an easier quilt to make- no points/corners to line up! Plus, I liked how modern the pattern looked. So I quickly cut out some 9″ wide coins in varying lengths.

Next came the really fun part- laying the fabrics out and arranging them! I have to admit- one of my favorite things to do is order things by color, so I spent some time just having fun grouping these cute little coins.

I had to decided if there was going to be any pattern to my stacks, so at first I tried out alternating columns of warm/cool fabrics.

That looked okay, but when I just laid out the coins in a random order, I liked that better. So I whipped up four columns.

They came together really quickly. I just guesstimated the length of the columns since I was using coins of all different lengths. So I also liked that this way of doing it eliminated some quilt math.

Then I added in some strips of Kona Ash and presto! I had a quilt top! I like that I chose not to add any gray on the top or bottom- that way the columns stand out more without the block-ish look capping them would have created.

The top ended up just a little bit wider than a standard WOF, so I decided to piece the back. Again, I went with simple straight lines, this time using the strips like bricks. Simple and sweet.

After I sandwiched the quilt top, batting and backing I quilted the whole thing with more straight lines. It was my first time quilting on my own so I wanted to do something easy. Well, this was about as easy as you could get, but I also really liked the look. Each line is about 1/2″ apart. I didn’t mark them, but used my presser foot and needle position as guides, so it came out with a charmingly home-done look.

Finally I took some leftover coins and sewed them together to make a pieced binding. As soon as I was done I ran outside to take a bunch of pictures because I was 100% in love with how it had turned out!

Well, I jumped the gun because the quilt got EVEN BETTER after I washed it and it got that crinkly look.

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Here are the things I love about this quilt:

1) 100% made by me! I mathed-out the pattern myself, pieced it, and quilted the thang like one giddy little girl.

2) The modern-yet-homemade look. The fabric is soft and floral, the lines are clean without being store-bought straight. The crinkles are perfect.

3) Using gray instead of white solid. Anna’s nursery walls are gray, so that was the inspiration.

4) How insanely easy and fun it was to put together.

5) How “Mindy” it turned out while at the same time being something I think Anna would really like. I really like her taste in nearly everything, so I was hoping this time it would work backwards.

6) That even though I LOVE this quilt I had no regrets letting it go because I knew it was going to a great home. Anna and her husband Ryan are great people, I know they’ll be great parents and it’s inevitable their baby Lila will be exceedingly and subsequently great as well. Congratulations to these two- Lila’s already got a crowd of adoring fans awaiting her (fashionably late) arrival.

I’ve been on pins and needles waiting for the quilt to arrive at Anna’s house. Isn’t giving a great gift one of the best feelings? Especially after you’ve kept it secret from someone you are bursting to share it with!

So that’s one thing that’s been keeping me busy lately. I’ve also made some progress on the purple quilt, which I hope to post on soon, along with a brag-post about the new-to-me sewing machine my mom generously handed down to me. And, I promise to post on the new job, too. I’m just waiting for it to be official before publishing a big public post. Until then, I’m off to spend Easter weekend with my family in IL. We’re Polish, so it’s going to be epic. Bigger than Christmas. We’re talking homemade horseradish, lamb cakes, fresh polish sausage and leg of lamb. When I get back home I’m going to need to get serious about this mini-marathon training again, and not just so I can finish it- I’m gonna have some Easter weight to shed!

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Quilting

 

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Spring Buffet

Eat your heart out!

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Garden

 

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Pinterest Challenge!

Last week, Sherry from Young House Love announced her Winter Pinterest Challenge. It’s meant to inspire us to actually take one of those thousand pins from Pinterest and do something about it. And I couldn’t have asked for more perfect timing, because I was coming up on Spring Break. So, I’m happy to say I finally completed the my Pinterest project. Let me tell you ALL about it.

I’ll start with my choice of projects. One of my least favorite things in the world is sitting down to plan our meals for the week and a corresponding shopping list. This usually takes me 1-2 hours because 1) I insist on not repeating meals we had last week 2) I have to flip through all my cookbooks for inspiration and 3) I am horrible at making decisions. So, my project was inspired by these menu boards I’d pinned on Pinterest: (please follow my Pinterest links to find the tutorials to make these boards- all due credit to their bloggers!)

The idea was that a menu board would save me time by putting all my favorite recipes in one place, and even giving Brian an easy way to voice his opinion without having to pick up a single cookbook (oh the horror!). I liked something different about each of these menu boards. I liked the fabric pockets on the first, the laminated double-sided cards on the second and the cute clothespins on the third. So, I decided to do what I do best- go off pattern and hope my mishmash of ideas worked out. Here’s the result:

I’m happy to say that I love it! It’s not perfect- and I already know what I’d change if I did it all over again, but I kinda can’t wait to make my next grocery list. I’ll take that as a pretty good sign.

Want to know how I did it? Well, ok. I hate to call this a tutorial, because I’m horrible at taking pictures and keeping track of measurements, so let’s just call this a guide. First, my materials.

I went to Joann’s with a sketch of the plan I had, which was terribly minimal- I’d hardly call it a plan- and started wandering the aisles looking for materials. Here’s what I ended up with:

1 12x”16″ canvas
1 bag of clothespins
1 package of Command hooks
1/2 yard of fusible interfacing
1/4 yard of 2 print fabrics (blue and green)
1/2 yard of 2 more print fabrics (orange and floral)
1/4 yard of basic muslin
1 tub of Fabric Modge Podge (not shown)

Here’s a close-up of the interfacing I chose:

I also ended up using these, which I had on-hand:

Rub-on letters from scrapbooking supply
thread
scrapbooking cardstock (blue)
thick matte photopaper (for cards)
double-sided scrapbooking “tabs”/small square stickers

And I needed these “tools”:
computer, Photoshop, & printer
sewing machine
staple gun
hot glue gun & sticks
rotary cutter, self-healing mat and quilting rulers (for cutting)
Silhouette dye-cut machine (you could easily do without this!)

So the first thing I did was cut out my fabric. The problem is I don’t remember exactly how big I cut these or how I made my decision. I basically knew I wanted the pockets to be 1/2 the width of the canvas. And I had decided on 5 pockets (cut extra, just in case of a mistake), so I calculated/figured the height of the pockets and doubled it. I cut the interfacing to be exact height and width I wanted the pockets to be.

Again, I apologize because I don’t have many pictures of what I did next. I fused the interfacing to each pocket material, using a hot iron. Then I folded the fabric over the interfacing and sewed a 1/4 seam at the TOP (to create a “lip” of sorts). Then I marked out on my background fabric (orange) where I wanted each pocket to line up and sewed them down ON THE BOTTOM ONLY.

I left a good margin at the bottom to wrap around the bottom of my canvas. I left the sides un-stiched because I knew they’d get locked down in the seams I’d make in a step or so, so at this point they were just pretty flaps.

For the bottom pocket, I decided to use a very tight zig-zag stitch (almost a satin stitch) because this edge would be exposed, unlike the others that would get covered up by the overlapping pockets. I liked this because it also made a nice edge to line up against the edge of the canvas, which helped keep everything really straight.

Next, I simply cut out the other half of my fabric (the floral portion behind the clothespins) and sewed it to my pocket-half. I cut out and sewed another strip of the same material to the other side of my pocket strip as well, so I’d have something on the right-hand side to wrap around the canvas. The seams of these two additions are what created the sides of my pockets. Sorry there is no picture of this.

Then, to secure the fabric to the canvas, all I did was wrap and staple it to the back, like you would if you were upholstering something. I used a staple gun so this was very easy. Another idea- which I wish I would have thought of earlier- would be to use double-sided fusing to fuse the fabric directly to the surface of the canvas, instead of just stretching and stapling to the frame. This could prevent any future sagging that I am paranoid might happen on mine.

I simply trimmed away any excess material.

Here’s where some better planning may have come in handy… I then went about making the labels for my pockets. I used some rub-on letters from my scrapbooking supply and rubbed them on to the muslin. I wasn’t sure if this would work or not, but after testing it out on an extra “z” and holding my breath, I saw that it did. Then I cut the words I’d chosen for my titles out (chicken, beef, veg, side and other). I wasn’t sure how I wanted to adhere them. At this point some double-sided fusing would have been nice. I tried stitching the “Other” title down with embroidery floss, but it looked kinda sloppy. Then I remembered the Modge Podge I bought was for fabric- score! So I just glued them in place with that.

Next I made the fabric-covered clothespins, which was as easy as cutting the fabric to size and modge-podging it on (that’s a technical, crafting word). I added a coat of the Modge Podge on top, to protectively seal it since these would be touched by possibly grimy fingers pretty often. Then I cut out the cute doily-like circles on my Silhouette (another scrapbooking stand-by). But, this was just me getting “fancy”- you could easily just cut out circles. I rubbed on some more of those black scrapbooking letters to abbreviate each day of the week. Then I hot-glued my new day-lables onto the dried clothespins, and then hot-glued those clothes-pins to the fabric-covered canvas.

The last step was the most time consuming, and that was to make all the menu cards. I decided on an appropriate size (good for the clothespins, so a bunch would fit in the pockets, and so they wouldn’t be too tall to cover up my pocket-labels) and made a template on Photoshop. You could probably do something similar on MS Word. All I did was create two columns- left for the menu item title and the place where the recipe could be found, and right for my shopping and pantry list. Then I typed them up and printed them out, which took FOREVER. I think I may have chosen a few too many recipes, but Brian and I really like variety.

To “assemble” the cards all I did was cut them into strips and folded them in half so one column became the front and one became the back. This was also very tedious.

I secured them closed with a sticky scrapbooking tab. I plan on laminating these today so they stay clean and don’t get all bent up. Let me explain one thing about the “Pantry” part- I don’t keep milk or mayo in my pantry, but I used this as a way to indicate the ingredients I should probably have on-hand already, but should check just in case.

And finally –finally!– after something like 3 days, the menu board was finished!

All I had left to do was (get those cards laminated) hang it up. I did this using three Command hooks, because I didn’t want to nail into my pantry door where I was hanging it. I used three hooks so the board wouldn’t wobble and get un-level every time I pinched the clothespins.

I simply eyeballed the center hook then used the flat-top edge of the hook and my level to align the other two. Easy peesy! Why I have a picture of this ridiculously unimportant step and not so many of the others, I have no idea. I guess that’s just how my brain works. I guess I was kinda winging-it in the craft/sewing/assembly stage, so pictures didn’t happen. Sorry!

And now, here it is, hanging in all it’s colorful and organizational glory.

Overall, I’m really pleased. But, if I were to change anything here’s what I’d recommend:

1) Use a bigger canvas. I was worried about how it’d fit on my door, but I think I could’ve gone a little bigger and had more room to play with. Things are pretty tight on this one.
2) Get double-sided fusing to adhere the fabric to the canvas surface.
3) Make more pockets. I’ve got like 30 cards in the “other” pocket and a measly 7 or so in “chicken”. For me adding “seafood” and “pork” pockets would have made a lot of sense.
4) Be better and more realistic than me about editing down the number of menu cards you choose.

But to end on a positive note, here’s what I absolutely LOVE about how MY menu board turned out:
1) Pretty, pretty fabrics and fun colors. I love fabric. It took me forever to decide on these fabrics in Joann’s (I literally had a whole cart full of bolts before I narrowed it down, which was funny considering how small this project is, scale-wise.), but I love them. Remember to keep the prints on the smaller-side, though.
2) The shopping and pantry list on the back side of each card! I am betting this will come in very, very handy when making my weekly grocery lists… it’s probably the part I feel most brilliant about.
3) How I got to use so many of my different crafting and overall creative skills to make this project. I really like figuring things out as I go, and this is really only possible because of:
4) How I got to use so many of my different crafting and creative TOOLS. I silently think “Score!” to myself every time I use my Silhouette for something other than scrapbooking. And I wonder how quilters and sewers survived before rotary cutting systems. Plus, there’s something so satisfying about using a staple gun, isn’t there? Just me?
and 5) I actually MADE something I pinned! Woo-Woo! All those hours on Pinterest haven’t been a total waste, right?!!? So I can go back and pin to my heart’s content, right?!?!?

Well, that’s it. Whew. I hope all that work pays off in the long run. Here’s to conquering menu planning and grocery lists with crafting know-how and creativity!

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Crafts, Recipe

 

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A Glimpse of Spring

I’m on spring break this week, so it’s the perfect time to pick up my old habit of taking too many pictures of greenery in my yard.

Front Flower Bed

Pussy Willow in Backyard

Tress about to flower!

Waiting on a mad rush of tulips!

I should be blogging more this week. Don’t know what’s been keeping me lately!

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in Garden

 

Spring is on it’s way!

Finnegan has been giving us a bit of trouble lately. Last year we nicknamed him “Houdini”- he’s our little escape artist and loves to put on a show. This dog is really really smart- I’ve seen him testing the fence line to find weak spots and he’s developed a pretty effective strategy for getting out. He digs a shallow hole and then uses his teeth to PRY the chain link fence up. He’s even UNlinked the fence before.

The worst two parts about it are: 1) He prefers to get out after dark, which makes it 1,000 times more scary for me 2) He usually comes back full of mud and in need of a bath.

He doesn’t go far when he escapes- he just sprints and sniffs around a territory of about 5 neighbor’s yards. And he always comes back, but it’s still pretty scary. We’ve tried to reinforce the chain-link by staking it down and putting big rocks down, but nothing works to keep Finn in and our backyard is starting to look like a junk yard.  So Brian and I decided that we’re going to use our tax return money to get an electric fence. Hopefully that will do the trick- I’ll keep you updated.

In other news, this is the first official GARDENING post of 2012!!! Woo Hoo! Spring is just around the corner! The trees and bushes put out buds weeks ago- they are just as confused by all the mild weather as we’ve been. I have some bulbs sprouting in the front yard that I’ve started to check every few days. All this means that it’s about time to get started on my vegetable garden!

I ordered seeds from the same company as last year. You can read last year’s seed post to hear why I chose this company in particular. I didn’t have the best luck with the garden last year: squash bugs and the curly top virus were particularly damaging. I’m going to give heirloom seeds another shot before I give up and go back to Burpee. This year I decided to shop a bit smarter, so I went through the seed catalog and only selected seed that included the phrase “disease resistant” in the description. Hopefully that will make things easier for me this year. I was really disappointed by the ineffective organic pesticides I tried last year, so my goal is to not need them.

Here’s what I purchased: 4 new tomato varieties

2 beans, 1 eggplant and a yellow squash:

I also got this packet of peppers, but plan to use them mostly for decoration rather than eating. These will go on the side of the house, outside of our fence line, so the dogs have 0% chance of eating them.

I also got some flower seeds this year! I’m going to try to make my landscape beds feel fuller by adding some annuals grown from seed. I’m especially excited about those sunflower seeds!

Lastly, I got some different basil seed that promised a bushier plant, with more leaves per stalk.

Now I just have to get a move on starting some of these seeds! Some will eventually get direct-sowed into the ground, but some need to be started indoors to get a head start and produce fruit in time for harvest. Yay for the growing season starting!

Of course I’ve also been doing some quilting. I’ve mostly been working on that secret surprise project that I mentioned, so there’s not a whole lot I can share with you on that. Good news is that it’s a pretty simple project, so I should be able to reveal the secret sooner rather than later.

Since I finished the front of the purple quilt, I moved on to planning the back. One trend I love in modern quilting is the pieced backs, so I decided to give it a try on this quilt. Here’s what I planned out:

As you can see, it’s going to require a good amount of fabric, so I went ahead and ordered some more. I also needed to get some for the border I’m adding to the front. (This is going to be one expensive quilt! Don’t tell Brian.) I got started on the back by piecing together those two strips of blocks you can see in my plan.

I’m pretty excited about this back coming together. My mom told me it’s always a good idea to try something new in each quilt you make. So this time it’s going to be the pieced back and I am going to make my own binding. I am itching for my fabric to arrive in the mail so I have more to work on!

The 1,000 mile challenge is still going, slowly but surely. It was a low mileage week because I had a race yesterday! I ran in the Indianapolis Polar Bear race. It had two races, a 3 mile and a 5 mile, and it had the option to double up and do both. I decided to be a little crazy and do both. So, I “raced” the 3 mile, and ran about 8:20 pace. My friend Sarah ran too and finished about 30 seconds ahead of me. It’s one of my goals to be able to finish a race with her rather than behind her!!! Then, I ran the 5 mile. My 1st mile was ridiculously slow- about 10:10 or so. I hadn’t felt well (nauseous) running the 3 mile, so I started out REALLY conservative. I’d also had about 20 minutes between races, so I was starting out cold again. Since I’d felt so bad during the 3 mile I decided my only goal for the 5 mile was to run at a pace that felt good. Eventually that meant picking up the pace, so each mile I ran got a little faster, and I finished in 47:17. Not my best time for 5 miles, by far, but not bad following up a fast (for me) 3 miles. So here’s where I’m at:


Last, but not least, I might have a new job! It’s not in place of teaching, but in addition. I don’t have all the details yet, so I can’t say too much about it. All I can really say is that I’m excited about it and I’ll know more after Tuesday. To be continued…

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Dogs, Garden, Quilting, Running

 

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