2016 Illiana Shop Hop Loot

For the first time ever, I participated in a shop hop. I had no idea what to expect, but it was fun. My step-mother-in-law invited me, and both our husbands came. Over 1,000 miles later, we managed to make it to all twelve participating shops. Most of them are amazing, though I will be honest and say that one or two was disappointing considering the drive time it took to find them. (As a local shop, they are splendid, I am sure!)

The photos include a mix of freebies and purchases. It is amazing how much I collected during the process!

First, every shop made a block for the theme – this year was Town and Country. As a participant, I got each pattern free. I also got 15% off any fabric purchase of a ½ yard or more, though I mostly buy fat quarters when I am not shopping for a specific project (to someday make my own quilt). Towards the end of the duration of the shop hop, a new event began: Row by Row. I collected two patterns for that, also for free.

illiana_quilt_shop_hop_loot_12The bulk of my (free and purchased) loot was in fabric. Some shops were overwhelming with the assortment of gorgeous fabrics (I am looking at you Countryside Village Gifts and Quilt Fabric Shop and Rossville Quilts). I could lose a pretty penny if they were closer to me!

Charms packs and a mini block:

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Oppossums, mice, and kittens so cute it hurts.

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A nice mix of colors and patterns:

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A heart print should I decide to sew something for my nurse friend who just proposed to his girlfriend:

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And these guys, some of which have already been turned into a project from the only pattern I purchased (more on that below and later):

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Linen, for my window seat cushions I intend to make someday:

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Lots of shops also gave out old patterns (some are quite dated as you can see), but perhaps they will teach me something:

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illiana_quilt_shop_hop_loot_14The rest of my loot includes notions and such. I bought a small pack of wonder clips since they seem to be all the rage online. Turns out the praise is worthy so when I spotted another small pack, I picked them up. Then Boy saw a box of them and got them for me. How sweet!

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Some buttons, measuring tape ribbon, a thimble, labels, fancy zipper, and a seam ripper with a little rubber end to easily pull cut threads out:

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Zippers, three of which have since been dismantled for the above (and below) mentioned project, measuring tapes, a little flashlight that slips on your finger, pens and pencils, and small hairties that was advertised to keep bobbin threads in place. Although I use handi-bobs, it is a cheap and clever idea!

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One of my favorite parts was talking to the guy who sells Bernina machines, since I proudly own a 930 Electric. I was wondering how the modern versions compare – are they still all metal? Yes! Which I am on the fence about – I wanted him to say yes, of course, but my machine is so heavy! It does not make it easy moving it about. The other cool thing is that the model that basically replaced mine is still basically the same, and still basically costs what I can sell mine for on Ebay, which means it really keeps its value! Good work, Bernina!

The last thing I want to show you is the pattern I bought. I made three little pouches to practice and Boy has those photos on his camera so I will post them at a later time. I thought this might be a little difficult – and it was the first ever time I’ve used a zipper – but really it was pretty simple! I’ll share more details when I post next.

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I learned which shops have the best prices, which shops have specialty items I can’t find elsewhere, and which shops have fabric styles that I totally dig. Even if I don’t win anything (a sewing machine, 120 fat quarters, 25$ gift certificates for all twelve shops, or independent raffles at each shop), the experience was truly worth the time. I’d do it again, no question!

Cam’s quilt

I completed my first non-rag quilt for my nephew’s high school graduation. The kind of quilt where cutting straight and sewing straight matters. I asked Cam to pick four coordinating colors (without knowing why) and he said black, white, dark blue, and bright green. Not my color pallet, but they do look pretty man-ish together – though for a while there I was concerned that I was making a giant modern baby boy blanket with the white in there:/

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The big chunks were cut to 8×30″, the mediums were 6×20″, and the smallest were 4×10″. I just kind of laid them out until no color touched itself and no seams were connected between rows and sewed them into rows of at least 80″. After I had all the rows sewn together, I trimmed the sides. Using actual math to calculate each row would have been helpful in lining them up and not wasting fabric, but I tend to just jump in with excitement and go with it. In the end, it worked, eh?

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My neighbor/step-mom-in-law Joyce has a quilting machine so she helped me with that part of the process. We picked a geometric design to favor a young man’s preference. She is still kind of new at it, but we got through the kinks well enough for me!

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I binded it by hand, and that was by far my favorite part (though black is not easy on the eyes, even at my age!). I really like hand sewing – in fact, had there been time, I would have possibly tried to quilt the whole thing by hand as well! I used this tutorial to figure out what I was doing there.

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I learned many things. For instance, a walking foot is handy to own and I should probably seek one out (I simply reset the foot and fabric every couple of inches when it was time to sew the binding on – you can’t even tell). Oh, and I’ve joined my quilting aunt in the “fabric snob” club. The black and green fabrics were Kona, but the white and blue were off-brands. There is such a difference in feel, cutting, ironing, stitching, and washing – I washed the whole thing before giving it to him (out of fear that some of my work would unravel immediately) and already the two off-brand fabrics pilled up. Terrible.

I also didn’t take any photos really, so this is all I got. Whoops! Thankfully my sister-in-law sent one of the finished product.

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Skull pillow

I am back from Mexico and will post about that trip some day, but first I wanted to share with you something I whipped up yesterday. I’ve been invited to go analyze some skeletons discovered by a road construction project and it reminded me that I wanted to make some skull pillows. These are useful for nestling a human skull so that it can be analyzed – while you may not understand the importance of doing such a thing, the remains have already been disturbed by modern construction, and it is crucially important to certain groups (such as many Native American populations) to know whether or not the individuals are their ancestors. If so, they will be repatriated to the appropriate tribe for the proper ceremonies to take place; if not, they will be reinterred elsewhere in a place hopefully to not be disturbed again. This is why I do skeletal analysis.

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The first order of business is to cut out some circles. I use a stack of pre-cut white circles that my gramma bought and gifted me, and a tupperware container as a guide for the larger circles. This pattern went through a couple of prototypes about a year ago, but I seem to have not taken any photos of that mess. This process seems to work ok though, for those of you who may do bioarchaeology or know someone who handles human skulls… Let’s be real: probably no one who reads this post will find it useful, but at least I have a record here for the next time I might need to make one.

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Next, I fold one of the large circles into a quarter and use a glass to trace around. The glass happens to fit over the white circles with a quarter-inch allowance, so it is the perfect tool for this step. I just line of the center of the glass to the corner of the folded fabric and give it a whirl with my marking pencil.

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Unfold, line up the glass to the line, and complete the circle. I did this on both sides of the same fabric, which will come in handy later.

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Then, place the two large circles right-sides together. Sew around, leaving a fairly wide opening so that you can complete the stuffing later. To sew a fairly perfect circle, I held a pin poked into the center of the circle to hold the fabric as the machine sewed (at the white dot in the image below the next). Clip the allowance, being careful to not clip through the seam.

Before turning out, align the two inner circles and pin them to the center of one side of the fabric. A single pin is better than the photo below (taken before I realized this) because you need to be mindful of how the pin is facing in order to remove it once you turn everything out – place the head of the pin pointing at the seam opening of the big circles. Make sense? Don’t do what I did here! (Marking the inner circles is also unnecessary.)

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This is where that marked line on both sides of the fabric comes in handy. First – re-pin the inner circle from the outside (now right-side). Using the same trick mentioned above, with a pin holding the fabric in place against the machine (just hold it with your fingers vertically), sew a circle in the center of the big circles, but leave a small opening in the same direction as the big opening in the big circles.

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Now, it gets a little tricky but not difficult. Using a tiny funnel, fill the inner circle with weighted fill – I use spoonfuls of rice but I heard this might not be the best choice if you are worried about vermin of any kind. This part probably doesn’t even need to be weighted, but it gives a bit of a heft to the pillow, which makes it feel like it will protect the skull more. Emotions trump knowledge, right? Otherwise, you could fill it with stuffing – the important part is that you want the center of the pillow to be sunken so that a skull doesn’t roll off it. Kapish?

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Only fill the rice bag about ⅔-¾ full, and pin all the rice to one side. Stick it back under the machine and complete the inner circle stitch. Using small wads of stuffing, stuff the donut-part of the pillow somewhere between medium and fully stuffed. Hand stitch the closure and voila!

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I just used some left-over fabric laying around that kind of sort of went together. You can have fun with the fabric choices, but it should be a fabric that is not too rough (some bone is quite delicate) and not too weak (which will become yucky with bone bits and frays).

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And obviously, my circle-stuffing skills could use a little work!