Baby EJ quilt

Our old roomie Chris is having a baby girl and I hosted the shower with the help of another gal. We aimed for a Disney Aladdin theme based on a Pinterest photo we discovered. Of course, ours didn’t look as dramatic but considering we barely spent any money at all, I think we did a stellar job! This is the gift table (pre-party) with some activities for guest: a genie lamp to leave wishes for the baby when she is older; a onesie to sign; and on the wall is a “guess the guests” game with some baby photos. Under that is a calendar to guess the due date, also, so we have yet to see who’s won that.

We also had a Bouncing Babies (from 1984!) tournament complete with a ducky trophy (other winners received gift cards). Carly made it with a candle stick, rubber ducky, and spray paint – I got the idea from Make It and Love It’s Halloween awards. That game had some intense competition, I tell you! At one point, there was a four-way tie with the highest score at 53, until Boy stomped them all at 85! It was a great choice because the adults enjoyed it as well as my 9 year old niece. It is so basic that anyone can play – no video game experience required! Yet it gets really difficult so it is even fun for those elite gamer types. We simply downloaded an emulator for it onto our media box, and Boy tweaked the FPS rate so it was like I remembered it growing up.

Anyway, I wanted to make a baby blanket and hand-sew it but I made a couple of critical errors that prevented me from doing hand quilting. [I did my best at the photos, forgive me and my dark cave house!]

The first misstep was probably because I decided I’d rather make a lap quilt than a baby quilt (I wanted its use to last, you see). I found an easy pattern though, so I misjudged the time required for the final size. The pattern I used is the Easy Charm Square Quilt by Coral + Co. A big thanks for the freebie, Shelly! I ordered my fabric from Missouri Company and then had the pitfall of super delayed shipping you may recall. I pretty much knew by then that hand quilting was out. I had waited too long to bite the bullet and get started, ugh.

My next pitfall came when I learned the hard cold lesson about different companies using different rulers for their 5″ charm packs. This is a thing, I guess? Five inches sometimes doesn’t mean five inches? I recognized that when I laid out the design, but had totally forgotten about it when I started sewing. Zomg, are you kidding me?? Rather than being able to follow the pattern, I opted to stagger my rows so that it wasn’t super obvious that the blocks didn’t line up. I’m ok with that! It only means it’s a bit skinnier than planned (it is now between crib and throw size), and not all the blocks have white between them and the binding. This frustrated me quite a bit because I had gone through the effort of adding some length to my sashing only to find out I didn’t need to add any length after the adjustment. This realization was had only after I had already added some sashing to the quilt top, so rather than taking it out, I decided it added handmade character and included some seamed sashing elsewhere anyway! Ner!

At any rate, I just can’t get behind making traditional things sometimes, you get me? I mean, I’m not the type to make a de facto baby quilt that screams little girlie girl. Yuck. This is interested, because I do sometimes swoon over things like that! Alas, I am but a conundrum. Therefore, I used the Snowfall Charm pack because I wanted something whimsy, but not cutesy or obviously baby (remember, my plan is she gets to use this as she grows up!). To offset it, I wanted something more mature and elegant, too, so I also used the Twilight Garden charm pack. I fell madly in love with the soft yellows and rich purples, I tell you what! The two packs work well together, in my opinion. It’s like the designers almost used the same color palettes!

When Missouri Star didn’t send me the needed yardage of the white dot fabric, I decided I would do the whole thing in a very, very pale yellow because I loved that with the purples so very much. Only, my fabric options in a hustle and bustle came from Joanns, and I didn’t find what I wanted. Instead, I went with their version of the white dot fabric, knowing I wouldn’t be happy with it. (I’m not; it is plainly see-through in comparison to the whites in the other fabric. Eye roll, please.)

Toph enjoys a good dragon, so as a nod to him, the binding is Magic – Baby Dragon. I won’t mention that even though I am not new to sewing in general, and even though I watched Missouri Star’s very clear video on how to bind a quilt, I pieced my strips together wrong three times, and when it came to piecing the two ends together after being machine stitched to the quilt, I did that wrong three times also. But wow, that method is so much better than an earlier method I was using! To sum it up – when you come around the quilt, you overlap the binding by how wide you made it (mine is 2.5″ so I overlapped them 2.5″). Then you sew the ends together just like you did when you were piecing strips, and it lays exactly as you need it to!

The backing is pretty snazzy and untraditional, too. It is Magic – Castle Plans. I was going to have so much fun hand quilting the castle design (and maybe even embroidering bits here and there!), but whatevs! Father Time, you are such a rudely consistent marcher:P I also ran into a problem here, which clearly speaks to my being a newb at quilting. The original pattern gave measurements for the particular fabrics Shelly used. I went off-key without even thinking about how some fabrics come in different size bolts, so my backing ended up not being wide enough for use in my neighbor/step-mother-in-law’s quilting machine. To correct this, I had some charm squares left over and so I inserted two columns of them, a wee offset as part of the backing (the graph paper design of the castle fabric made this super easy!). Yea, it’s pretty snazzy – one of those serendipitous mistakes!

For the quilting design, I did want to avoid anything specifically girly, but this little flower motif actually looked really cool, so I went with it. As a side note, the neighbor also gave me a bottle of Mary Ellen’s Best Press in Lavender. WOW. Ironing will never be the same:)

Surprisingly, I can celebrate all the things that didn’t happen to the quilt which I fully expected (you don’t realize even half of the failures learning corrections I made with this one!): A. all of the patterns that required an orientation are correctly oriented, B. I did not spill food or drink on it, C. I did not drop it in the muddy puddles between my house and my neighbor’s, D. I did not burn it with an iron, E. my sick cat didn’t barf on it or snot all over it, F. the quilting machine didn’t have any major hangups, E. no blood was spilt in the making of this quilt.

Now, we wait for baby EJ’s arrival!


WIP-TAST-ic Wednesday 10

It is best I have been super busy working with Boy, else I might get too use to my early + temporary retirement. Sigh. All I have to show you is this week’s TAST which is the couching stitch. I have it all planned. The trick is that I intend to only use the basic couching stitch – straight stitches only. I know there are many other combinations (knots, herringbone, buttonhole, etc, etc) but I couldn’t possibly fit all of them on a little triangle pennant so I narrowed it down to the basics.

My hours have changed back to normal at the candy shop (they get truncated a bit through winter as much of the foot traffic is quite dependent on weather conditions) so with a longer shift, perhaps I will be able to squeeze in more even if I keep working at the office a lot (the flip side is that with changing weather, the store gets busier, so this is actually unlikely but one can dream;). Boy has slated me to go on-site for a couple of companies now, so I am beginning to question if I should say I am still in “early + temporary retirement”; I’m starting to feel like I just officially work at the office! That sneaky kid…

TAST: cretan stitch

You’ve read about my idea for this here, right? Ok! See all completed TAST posts here.

This is the cretan stitch – brand new for me! First up is the front and back. I realized with this one that my backs have improved so much, almost beyond measure since I started embroidering however many moons ago. They would be tidier still if I didn’t use knots, but I use to have so many enormous overlooked knots, overlooked loops, and carrying thread across long distances, and did I mention overlooked loops? Big ones, small ones, all stuck around and causing aggravation later? In short, they were a mess. I’ve finally gained some sort of sixth sense and though my threads still tangle occasionally, they don’t nearly as often, and when they do, I notice 99.9% of the time before continuing on. Phew.

This is a series of four bands. The left-most has two different leg lengths, and are interspaced. The next have equal legs and are set to create a honeycomb look. The third is called a vertical closed cretan stitch, and the last on the right is called a raised cretan stitch.

I don’t particularly enjoy how the spacing worked out over here but what I do enjoy is a new favorite of mine! The Scottish cretan stitch at the top is courtesy of Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials. If I haven’t mentioned her before, it is because I only found her while researching TAST ideas; she is now in my top hits when looking up stitch ideas. I am intrigued at spacing three stitches together and lacing them – what other stitches could this be applied to? I must think on this:) The brown one below the Scottish cretan stitch is a cretan stitch with the needle angled rather than parallel when taking the short stitch. The light coral one is a looped cretan stitch making small triangles; it’s above a coral one showing more of an organic look. Sharon has an example of this on her stitch dictionary page for the Cretan stitch, but either I executed mine incorrectly, or I just don’t understand the difference between this and a feather stitch. I mean, I guess technically based on hand movements, cretan is a type of feather stitch on its own, but it is distinct from the feather stitch in my opinion everywhere else on this sampler except for this particular row.

Here, in brown again, is a knotted band in three different variations: short, tall and spaced, tall and smooshed together. I struggle with this variation a lot, and I need to practice it a heck of a lot more before using it on another project. My knots tend to tighten up before the diagonal thread gets tightened, so it is loose and messy looking. (You’ll see that again on the tree.) Then, in coral are two rows spaced the same and stacked, and then one row interlaced by another color right on top.

For the motif, I chose some mountains (with variable leg lengths to create a triangle), a knotted evergreen tree in two shades of green (though not terribly noticeable), and a circular sun with interwoven raised cretan stitch as filling. The sun looks messier than I would like (as does the tree, even though I admit to cheating and tacking some threads down a bit!), but I was impressed how well it took to a circle. I got the idea from Mary’s shisha embroidery with cretan stitch tutorial. I used a backstitch base though, as I have never done shisha work, and I suspect it may be on our TAST list sometime this year.

And of course, the title, example, and week number.

This stitch was a real zinger. I don’t use the sewing method since I prefer to use a tight hoop and I know that is part of it, but I just always had trouble starting each row. I ripped out more stitches on this pennant than all of TAST so far combined. My brain just couldn’t make it work for whatever reason. For example, I always do the black thread part first, so the example stitch went on before the rest of it. Something wasn’t right about it but I figured it was just because it was a new stitch for me. Turns out, after finally getting the stitch right elsewhere, that I had completely done it wrong. If you want to know what I am talking about, Carol has a nice post about it (with a photo of exactly what mine was like which you can see here!) over at Needlework Tips and Techniques.

Next up is couching, and then we get a break to make sure we catch up and stay motivated! I’m still loving it, Sharon. Thanks again! :D