The first time I saw Carolyn’s Alturas pattern I think I actually squealed out loud. You know that embarrassing, “Oh! I looooove it!” exclamation that never fails to leave me looking around, hoping against hope that I’m totally alone. But it was worth it. Alturas is beautiful and simple in this vintage way that I absolutely do love. [Check out her blog post to see the varied iterations of Alturas for more inspiration.]

I made one a while back; quilted it up as a mug rug and gave it away in some swap or another. I don’t even remember what fabric I used, but I knew I really, really liked the pattern.

So a couple nights ago, when I should have been packing for the upcoming move but would rather do anything else, I decided to break open the London Calling charm pack and make one up.

London Calling is a lovely cotton lawn collection, a tight weave but kinda floppy. I starched the bejeezus out of the charm square before cutting it (and yes! the pattern is perfect for charm squares!) and started out by basting it onto the Essex Yarn-Dyed Linen, all the way around, then clipping the curves and doing some relaxing needle turn appliqué.


I watched a couple of episodes of Dexter and it was done. Just like that.


My original plan had been to make a pincushion out of it, but once I got the box made and stuffed I realized it was just too big for a pincushion. So instead I have a tiny pillow.


And the impetus to make an entire Alturas quilt, one block at a time.

Sometimes you just want pretty colors

A few weeks ago I saw this great tutorial from My Poppet on making fabric twine and got busy right away with some scraps from work.  I was happy twisting away, but before I could finish, it was stolen in the Great Mother’s Day Car Break-In of 2014. It and the Super Tote that carried it are gone forever.

So I got some new scraps and started over, making nearly 15 yards of fabric twine while reminiscing over the Hercules movie with my daughter.

Let’s just say that 15 yards is a lot and in the Summer ’13 palette of Kona colors, it’s absolutely beautiful.


I tried stitching it together by hand, working on it a little at a time, but it was cumbersome and slow-going. Too much work for too little enjoyment and I was taking time away from paid work to do this…forget it; I’m taking this baby to the machine. IMG_8135

And so I did, twisting it around and around and around, zigzagging along the way until suddenly, I had a bowl of fabric. IMG_8138

It’s not perfect. There are places where the zig zag missed and little gaps are visible. The bottom doesn’t sit flat. And I don’t quite know what to do with that tail yet.

But it’s pretty and bright and already sitting on the table, waiting to be filled with something, anything. Sitting there, just adding a little color to my day.

White on white on white

Recently I had the opportunity to work on yet another quilt for Luke using the Winding Ways traditional quilt pattern. The 72″ x 96″ quilt is made with 10 different variants of white fabric, including sheers, twill, quilting cotton, silk/cotton blend, and more. It made it a challenge to sew, mixing fabric weights, but using spray starch on the lighter-weight fabrics made it much easier to combine them without too much swearing.

So it started with a big stack of cut pieces: 20140421-174128.jpg

And then I sewed and sewed:20140421-174205.jpg

Clipped and sewed: 20140421-174217.jpg

Pressed and stacked: 20140421-174229.jpg

And sewed more: 20140421-174253.jpg

Until it arrived at this: 20140421-174302.jpg

Which looks even better with a little sunshine behind it: 20140421-174314.jpg


You might even be able to see it at Luke’s show this Friday at the BluDot in Los Angeles. After that, I think the only place to see it will be in his room–this one he’s keeping. (And I’m a little jealous! I might just have to make another for myself, but with another color, perhaps?)

12 Days of Color

It’s not perfect, but I like it anyway. 20131218-134420.jpg

My friend, Scott, of Blue Nickel Studios is counting down the 12 Days of Color and showcasing a different block each day as he counts down. He’s using a bunch of the Konas for the blocks, but I decided to try out Day Four’s design (by the awesome and amazing Katy Jones) in some batiks I had on-hand. Turns out, I kinda like it.

You might notice, it’s not exactly a square like it’s supposed to be. I decided I wanted it to just butt up to all the edges and I’m gonna make it into something else…a pillow? the side of a bag? Any other fabulous ideas out there?

Birthday quilt–finished!

20131203-155349.jpgShe didn’t want me to show off a picture of her, so this is as close at it gets: my daughter holding up her birthday quilt. She did let me take a photo of her with it, though, which is a minor miracle in itself. I just can’t show it off publicly and that’s okay.

I made this using Aria Lane’s Concerto pattern and I have to say it was so quick and easy that it almost seemed like cheating. The pattern itself calls for four solids, but I decided to mix this up with a little fabric for the Sierra collection by Bren Talavera and some Kona Snow, Pomegranate, Chartreuse and Caribbean.


I was able to put it together by using strips for the Snow rather than peicing blocks. It worked out fine, required less sewing and when it was all quilted, it didn’t make any difference (imho) in how it looked.

I sent this to Nancy Stovall of Just Quilting PDX, one of my favorite peopl and an amazing longarm quilter. She’s been an integral part of the Portland Modern Quilt Guild and I was thrilled when she said she’d quilt it up for me. The only thing I asked for was a bit of girly, but not overboard and to hide some hearts in there somewhere to remind me daughter how much I love her. And that she did. 20131203-155712.jpg

It took me a week to stitch the binding on, but at last I tied off those last stitches, washed it and it got all crinkled and lovely. Isn’t it beautiful?! I really love how washing gives it a really texture, showing off all of Nancy‘s awesome quilting.


Pattern Name: Concerto from Aria Lane
Time Required: 10 hours to piece the front + quilting
Rating: Beginner (start with the smaller size if you’re a newbie)
Would I Make It Again?: Yes!
What I Changed: I cut strips instead of squares for the Kona and used a mix of solids and prints, rather than only solids.

Cooling Down

I have lived most of my life in the Pacific Northwest where autumn rolls in dramatically with heavy rains and a sudden drop in temperatures. I’ve wrapped my annual body clock around that change, but here we are in October in SoCal and still wearing tank tops and getting sunburnt on the weekends. My body can’t seem to figure out that it actually is fall. But where’s the cold? the rain?

For example, this was last Sunday, October 6. High of 90°F at Disneyland. Seriously? This is fall?


Of course, if you ask my fellow Californians, the ones who lived most of their lives here, they’ll tell you it is definitely fall. The temperatures are cooling down (into the 70s? oh brr!), the morning marine layer is more common, the leaves are beginning to drop. So I guess this is how fall rolls in down here, gently and with sunshine. I like it.

Quilt Market is just around the corner, though, along with both of my children’s birthdays, and into the holiday madness of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I needed something to convince me of these changing seasons, so I decided to make myself a scarf. Robert Kaufman Fabrics has these lovely new Mammoth Flannels which are soft and warm and, if you ask me, they are the perfect colors to get me in the mood for fall.


I was able to get my hands on a small swatch of Carolyn Friedlander‘s new Botanics collection, a fabric  that just was calling out to be tagged up with the flannel. The color is Curry and it makes me want Indian food every time I look at it.  But I digress, back to making scarves…. I simply cut a couple of width of fabric strips (about 8″ wide), sewed them together, flipped it and topstitched. Bam! A scarf!


Now I don’t really have an excuse to complain about the A/C being on high everywhere I go.  I don’t have to be cold in the grocery store anymore because I have a lovely new cotton flannel scarf.

It’s like having autumn wrapped snugly around my neck.

Let’s Sew!

sewcialIf you live in the Portland/Vancouver area, I hope you can join me tomorrow night, June 7th, to sew-sew-sew for the orphans in Vietnam. I will be bringing along patterns for bucket hats for adults and toddlers, the lovely Popover Sundress (that’s the dresses they’re sporting so sweetly in the pic above), and some generic shorts.

Thomas Knauer kindly donated twenty (!) pounds of fabric and we’ll be cutting into that. Modern Domestic has offered the space, machine and tools. All I need from you is a little time and a spool of neutral (grey, cream) thread.

Sew Em Be Charity Sew-cial 
Modern Domestic – 1408 NE Alberta St. 
June 7    5-8 p.m.

Pattern Review: Simplicity 1652

I’m a sucker for dresses and on most days you’ll find me in one. They hide a multitude of sins (I’m blaming you, M&Ms) and are just way comfier than a pair of jeans. So I’m always on the look-out for new patterns to try out. I stumbled onto this recently and held onto it until… well, until I needed a dress for a friend’s birthday party the next day. Yes, I’m still a glutton for punishment.

fleamarketfancyI had bought a few yards of Denyse Schmidt‘s Flea Market Fancy fabric earlier in the spring, thinking I’d use it for the Sew Serendipity Betty June dress, but plans changed.


Frankly, I didn’t want to deal with the buttonholes and I wanted to try something new. So I did.

The Simplicity 1652 is part of a new series of patterns they are calling Amazing Fit Patterns. Basically, they give some wiggle room in fitting that isn’t normally there:

  • Bodice pattern pieces in different cup sizes
  • One-inch side seam allowances for easy altering

To be completely honest, they made no difference to me. I’m pretty standard in the sizing and very rarely have to make bust alterations, plus I know what my measurements are and always cut it out at those sizes. But for folks who are building their apparel skills, it’s sure to be helpful; I know that bust adjustment can be a real PITA.

Overall the pattern is good, easy to put together. I’ve made it twice now: with and without the tabs, plus the sleeve variations. Here’s how mine worked and what I changed:

I moved the zipper from the back to the side. I prefer my zippers on the right side, so that is what I did. I simply folded the pattern at the seam line on the back bodice and skirt pieces, then cut them on the fold. I used a 9-inch zipper (invisible in the pumpkin dress, a metal zipper in the grey floral dress).

20130529-061749.jpgI did my little interfacing trick with it (RST, flip it), but I was out of interfacing at the house so I had to get creative. There are plenty of times when I get frustrated that my sewing stuff is in storage and this was one of them. Who wants to drive 10 minutes to go hunt for interfacing in a storage unit. Not me.

Instead I pieced two used dryer sheets together with a zig zag stitch and used it as interfacing. I can report back that after three washings, it’s still perfectly fine. Win!20130529-173055.jpg

I like the tabs, but they do want to wad up slightly in the wash. I left them off the second dress so I could easily do the invisible zip and like it just as much.

I love the pockets, hidden in the front skirt seams. The primer explains how to make them well and I only had a little tweaking to do to get them right.


Pattern Name: Simplicity 1652
Time Required: 6 hours
Rating: Advanced Beginner
Would I Make It Again?: Yes, I’ve already made it twice, will make another
What I Changed: Moved the zipper to side, widened the neckline by one inch, used bias for the neck and sleeve openings, lengthened the skirt two inches, removed tabs on second try.


WIP: Grandma’s Quilt

When I said that this would be my project for 2013, I thought I was overestimating, giving myself a little wiggle room. But I think that first guesstimate on the time it will take was right: all year.

The stitches are a little wonky–both great-grandma’s piecing and my quilting–but with this project I don’t really mind. Usually I tend to be a little on the perfectionist side when it comes to sewing and I just want it to be as perfect as possible. So much so that just the thought of improv quilting gives me hives. That’s probably why I’m in love with Ebony’s post about publishing and selling crappy work.

This is a different sort of project. I’m not offering it up as some landmark piece and I’m fully aware that my great-grandma couldn’t be bothered to square up a damn thing, mixed all sorts of fabrics and didn’t make particularly small, neat or strong stitches.

I don’t mind though. I just keep on stitching up. down. up. down. up. down. until my neck tells me it’s time to quit. It’s usually about an hour at a time, enough to finish one block before tucking it back into the IKEA bag that keeps it tidy for me.

With every stitch I’m closer to finishing and closer to the great-grandma I knew only through letters and quilts she left behind.

The Tank Team

Have I told you how much I enjoy teaching people how to sew? It’s a surprise even to me! I mean, I knew I liked teaching after leading the EFL classes in Vietnam and it’s blatantly obvious that I love sewing, but putting the two together has been a slow merger. Silly, I know.

20130428-180228.jpgThis was most of my class from last Sunday when we made the Wiksten tank. It’s an easy top with some interesting construction. I added a few things to make the finished product a bit better, in my opinion, including stay-stitching, basting the hemline and doing the bias neckline totally different. And I must say, it all worked pretty well. We ran short of time and with another class behind us, we had to clean up before anyone had gotten to the point of top-stitching. A bit of a disappointment, for sure.

But Modern Domestic has added the class back to the schedule, tacking on another half-hour so we can make sure it gets done this time. Join me June 8th, will you?

P.S. Less than three weeks until Quilt Market!!!!!!!