Friday, July 29, 2011

ACCUQUILT GO! BABY GIVEAWAY

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED


If you've been following my blog, you've seen some of the fun projects you can create with an AccuQuilt Go! Baby fabric cutter. If you didn't catch them, you can see them here and here. I'll be sharing more creative ideas in future posts. Now for some super exciting news! I'm thrilled to be able to offer you the chance to experience this terrific little tool yourself! Thanks to the generous team at AccuQuilt, I have one Go! Baby to give away to one of my followers. And for the lucky winner, they are even throwing in your choice of three dies! 


Here's how to enter:
1. You must be an official follower of my blog. So if you aren't already and would like to become one, feel free to sign up. My international followers are also welcome! Go to the AccuQuilt site by clicking this link and check out their fun selection of dies, then come back here and leave me a comment telling me your favorite three dies. BE SURE TO SELECT DIES THAT ARE COMPATIBLE WITH THE GO! BABY. NOT ALL OF THEM ARE. To be eligible for this giveaway, you must list your three die choices.

2. For an additional entry, blog or tweet about this giveaway and leave another separate comment on this post with the link to it. If you wish, feel free to use the photo above.

3. And for another entry, sign up for the latest AccuQuilt news by clicking here and as a bonus, you'll get 22 free quilt patterns. 

This giveaway will close at midnight (Central Time) on Saturday, August 6th, and a winner will be selected by random draw. The winner will be announced on my blog on Sunday, August 7th, and will have until noon (Central Time) on Tuesday, August 9th, to claim their prize by emailing me privately. I've noticed many of those who leave comments are non-reply bloggers and may not even realize it. If you are a non-reply blogger, I have no way of reaching you. So if you happen to win and I can't contact you, I'll have to draw another name. If I don't hear from the winner by August 9th, I will draw another name. 
Best of luck to everyone!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Twist on Tradition with AccuQuilt

One of my favorite quilting motifs is the oak leaf. I spotted this lovely block in the traditional colors of red and green at a quilt show a few years ago.


So it's not surprising that I immediately fell for the Fall Medley die set from AccuQuilt (below) when they so kindly let me select some of their dies to try. It not only has an oak leaf but an acorn, pumpkin, and maple leaf! 


To step outside my comfort zone, I decided to put a twist on tradition by making an oak leaf and acorn block in velvet instead of traditional quilting cottons. Yes, the AccuQuilt Go! Baby cuts velvet beautifully! I happened to have a bolt of a light sage green velvet, so thought I'd make use of it. If you don't have velvet, you might try velveteen. To prepare my velvet, I first ironed it from the backside and on a towel to avoid crushing the pile.


When cutting velvet on your AccuQuilt Go! Baby, do keep in mind that you won't be able to cut as many layers simultaneously as you can with quilting cottons. In my earlier Go! Baby post, I mentioned you could cut up to 6 layers of cotton fabric at once. I've cut up to two layers with the velvet and been very pleased with the results. The AccuQuilt team recommends you start with one layer and gradually experiment with more layers until you see what works best for you. For a tutorial on how to use the AccuQuilt Go! Baby and other projects I've made with it, see my earlier post by clicking here


With my pieces cut, I was ready to play! I made a simple block with the oak leaves and acorn shapes. Instead of using the traditional colors, I opted for soft sage green and a dusty pink in velvet. After all, acorns don't have to be brown in the creative world of quilting, do they? Don't have velvet in all the colors you want? No problem! Just mix it up with your regular quilting cottons. I used regular quilting cotton for the background print and the acorn top. 


To make quick work of the appliqué, I sewed the shapes down with a blanket-stitch on my Bernina. And to add a little panache, I feather-stitched the leaves by hand and embellished them with pink beads. 


I guess the creative lesson of this story is to feel free to experiment with a non-traditional color and fabric palette. I hope this post will inspire you to give it a try. And to help inspire you even more, be sure to check back here tomorrow for your chance to win your very own Go! Baby cutter AND your choice of three dies! One of my lucky followers will soon get to experiment with her own Go! Baby! 

For more information on AccuQuilt fabric cutters and dies, check out accuquilt.com or sign up to receive all the latest AccuQuilt news here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

TOTE OF TREASURES

This morning dawned hot as ever (it's been in the high 90s all this week) but I wasn't going to let this heat wave stop me from enjoying the day. I went thrifting with a friend this morning and turned up some interesting finds. This time we hit some of the local garage sales. To minimize the number of plastic bags I bring home, I've started taking along tote bags to stash my finds while on the go. Last year, I found the cutest one that is made of 95 percent recyclable materials. If you click on this photo, you'll see a delightful menagerie of creatures such as owls, foxes, and peacocks!


My favorite find of the day was this vintage grocery list board, which my mom and mom-in-law tell me is from the 1950s. My husband's mom even remembers one hanging in her childhood kitchen. It's so fun to learn the history behind these treasures of yesterday.


I especially got a kick out of the last item on the list! Who knew it was such a regular must-have item back then?! While today's grocery lists aren't as simple as those of the 50s, I still thought it would be a fun addition to my yellow farmhouse kitchen. The board was missing its pegs but my husband is going to make me new ones.


I also found this vintage crocheted potholder and trivet and a wonderful little pottery crock measuring just 2 inches tall—perfect for a mini African violet! Does anyone know anything about it? It was only $1, so I don't think I could go too wrong buying it.


I also spotted this vintage English candy tin to add to my collection. The vintage sewing basket also came home with me. I often see the sewing baskets in the $25-$35 range so I didn't think $8 was a bad buy for this one, which was in really good condition.


This is what the sewing basket's interior looks like. There is a little ledge for spools and plenty of space for sewing notions. 


And last but not least is this 22-inch-tall gilded antique picture frame complete with an instant relative for $15! I hope he will find his new accommodations at Ashton House most comfortable. My husband has already named him "Jeremiah". Welcome home, Jeremiah!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stars in the Making with My AccuQuilt Go! Baby Cutter

Ever since I discovered the world of quilting, I have loved the LeMoyne Star block but I could do without the template cutting and set-in seams that accompany it! This LeMoyne Star block from one of my antique quilts features one of my favorite color palettes.


So when the AccuQuilt team so kindly sent me a Go! Baby Cutter and my choice of three dies to try out, I knew which one I wanted to experiment with first.


I selected the Sparkle-Diamonds die by Sarah Vedeler (pictured above). I was impressed by its versatility and its many creative possibilities beyond just diamonds. It might look like just a block of foam but this single die (below) cuts three different sizes of diamonds—small, medium, and large! What a perfect solution for cutting those pesky LeMoyne Star templates.


Cutting diamonds is quick and easy with this time-saving tool. Just open up the fabric cutter...


Then place the die on the cutter with the foam side up. Cut a piece of fabric (or multiple pieces—you can cut up to 6 layers at once on the Go! Baby) to fit the size of your die. Then place the fabric on top of the die.


Place the cutting mat over the fabric...


Then push the die, fabric, and mat firmly against the roller, turning the handle as you go.


And voila! You have perfectly-cut diamonds. This die cuts 6 small diamonds, 4 medium diamonds, and 1 large diamond per fabric layer. If you only wanted to cut one size of the diamonds, you can just position the fabric over that portion of the die, but I wanted to cut all of them—you'll see why later in this post!


I cut 6 layers of fabric at once, giving me a total of 66 pieces in a matter of minutes (see photo below)! That's enough to make three LeMoyne Star blocks using the medium diamonds. Can you imagine how much longer it would take if you cut these all by hand? Plus, the cuts are so effortlessly precise with the Go! Baby.


With this new die and fabric cutter in hand, I thought it would be fun to make a smaller variation on my Northern Glory quilt (inspired by Civil War history) that I designed as few years ago. While I hand pieced the original, I decided to instead appliqué my blocks for this project to save time. First I sewed together 8 diamond shapes to create one LeMoyne Star and made a total of 6 stars—all in my favorite color scheme of pink and brown (one of them is MIA in this photo).


Then I simply appliquéd them to a background fabric using a small blanket-stitch on my sewing machine. If you didn't want your stitches to show, you could use invisible thread (as suggested by heirloom machine quilting expert Harriet Hargrave in her Mastering Machine Appliqué book) but I like the subtle stitching detail.


Here's the finished block in a fraction of the time it would normally take to make.


And here's my downsized version of Northern Glory—the quilt top was made in less than a day. All of the blocks are made with the medium diamonds, and the four small border cornerstones are made with the small diamonds (which create a tiny 3-inch LeMoyne Star).  UPDATE: MY LITTLE QUILT WILL BE FEATURED IN A FUTURE QUILT CALENDAR!

I even found a use for the large diamonds! As a pincushion designer, I love to experiment with new designs. So I couldn't resist making a fun star pincushion with some of the new Summer House by Lily Ashbury fabrics from Moda. I just loved its fresh palette of florals, paisleys, and stripes.


I embellished the star points with some pom-poms and my pincushion was complete! This one is already on its way to a new home but finished ones and a pattern will be available very soon. I will keep you updated! UPDATE: MY PINCUSHION WILL BE FEATURED IN A FUTURE EDITION OF THE MODA BAKE SHOP!

As you can see, this die is incredibly versatile. I feel like I've only scratched the surface of its creative possiblilities. For more information on this die and many more, go to www.accuquilt.com. And stay tuned for more creative ideas with this fun tool in the coming weeks, plus a special giveaway starting next week on my blog made possible by the AccuQuilt team.

One of my lucky followers will win her (or his) very own Go! Baby fabric cutter and choice of three dies! The giveaway will be open to my international friends as well.

Friday, July 15, 2011

AFRICAN VIOLET LOVE

My grandma and I share a love of violets. If you look around my house, you'll quickly see I'm somewhat addicted to these lovely blooming houseplants, which populate tiered stands in one of my parlors—not to mention my kitchen, my dining room, my bedrooms, even my bathrooms. Many of my violets are more than 10 years old. They're a gift that just keeps giving.


We recently visited Grandma and I wanted to bring her a little something special. I knew just the thing that would light up her eyes! Grandma loves both indoor and outdoor plants. In fact, she often jests that she's never met a plant she didn't like (although I don't think she was joking!). My African violets were in need of some grooming, yielding extra leaves that I don't need. So I decided to assemble a little African violet surprise package—leaf starters and a teeny plantlet for her to add to her collection.


It's the simplest thing to put together. You just need a few small plastic cups (I clip off the tops since violets don't need a deep pot. In fact, they like to be potbound). Be sure to carefully poke a hole in the bottom of each of the cups for drainage! I find these little plastic food trays work great for holding multiple violet starters. The indentations perfectly fit the bottoms of the small cups! If you know the name of the violet, label the cup with it as well as the date you planted the leaf. I also like to print out photographs of what the plant will look like when it's full grown to give to the recipient. Depending on the variety, those leaves will sprout adorable babies (below) in just a few weeks to a month.


If you have violet leaves to spare, I hope you'll give this little gift idea a try, for we all know it is better to give than to receive. I can guarantee it will make a violet lover's day!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A LITTLE QUILT AND A QUILT SHOP

Many moons ago, I made this little quilt called "Egg Coffee"—named after the Danish tradition of putting an egg in your coffee (The shop where I purchased the pattern is located in a town that is Danish in heritage). It was one of the first quilts that I made. I was lucky to learn quilting with the help of all the modern conveniences such as rotary cutters and Omnigrid rulers. Ever since I started quilting, I have been drawn to doll-size and wallhanging-size quilts and those are the ones I prefer to make even though I have made full-size quilts.


One of the quilt shops that has really inspired me since I was a beginning quilter was Prairie Star Quilts. The owner designed the charming little quilt (above), and while this pattern has come and gone, she still designs patterns under the Prairie Star Quilts label. She and her staff make you feel welcome from the moment you enter the door. As you can see from the photo below, the shop emanates warmth with its quilt-adorned brick walls and inviting displays.


The picturesque displays incorporate antique pieces that meld perfectly with the shop's traditional and 1800s reproduction projects and fabrics—for which they are well known. The shop is a previous Quilt Sampler Top Ten shop, so it's well worth a stop!


Last year, the owner designed her first line of fabric called "Prairie Homefront" inspired by some of her antique quilts. I was able to see it for the first time at last spring's Quilt Market in Minneapolis. This display features the fabrics as well as quilt projects made with them. I hope she will design another line soon!


While I was there taking these photos with the owner's permission, my quilting friend Mary walked in. She made these wonderful blocks and was looking for a complementary setting fabric for them. I think I might have to buy the book that these blocks are featured in!


We all have those special quilt shops that constantly inspire us and become a home away from home, so to speak. That's how I feel when I visit Prairie Star Quilts! 

On another note, I have received a few emails from readers asking where they can find the i-top button making tool that I highlighted in my previous post here. At the end of that post is a link to a store locator on the Imaginisce website. If you can't find a shop near you there, I believe you can also purchase this tool on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

FABRIC-COVERED BUTTONS MADE EASY

Nothing adds personality to projects like buttons, and fabric-covered ones are especially versatile. I love customizing buttons with my favorite fabrics to complement a particular project. Here's a cheerful collage of buttons set atop one of my vintage crocheted potholders.


For years, I've used the usual button-cover kits but I'm always looking for ways to simplify ordinary creative tasks. So when Imaginisce sent me their new i-top Tool (a button and brad maker), I couldn't wait to try it out. Being a lover of all things pink, I was already a fan when I saw its color!


For those of you who haven't yet tried this fun tool, I thought it might be helpful to give you a basic tutorial that shows how easy it is to use. So yesterday I made fabric-covered buttons for my pincushions using Moda's new Ruby fabrics, coming to shops this October.


I love Ruby's bright and cheerful palette of reds, greens, aquas, and grays. I chose these three fabrics for my project.


You'll need a button cover, button back, and a circular piece of fabric.


Imaginisce sells small, medium, and large button daddies, and a set of circular templates (not pictured) for tracing your fabric.


The tool features two rubber heads—the larger one accommodates the medium-size buttons and the smaller one the small-size buttons. There are also two metal heads that correspond with each of the two rubber heads (you'll see how in a minute). You can purchase a button-making set that includes the rubber head and metal head for the large-size buttons separately.


To get started, position the metal button cover on top of the metal head.


Center your fabric circle over the top of the metal button cover. Then rotate the pink rubber head 180 degrees so it's facing the metal head. Squeeze the handle, pushing the button cover and fabric into the pink rubber head.


Rotate the pink rubber head face up 180 degrees by pulling up on the spring-loaded metal piece just below it and then twisting. This is what the button cover will look like.


Press the fabric ends down so they will fit neatly inside the button back.


Place a metal button back over the fabric.


Then rotate the rubber head 180 degrees while securing the button back in place temporarily with your fingers. I like to then flip the tool so the pink rubber head is below the coordinating metal head (shown here) because I find the button cover stays in place better. Squeeze the handles. You'll hear a slight clicking noise when it's been properly inserted.


Rotate the rubber head face up. To release the button, just peel back the rubber head slightly.


And you have a perfect fabric-covered button in no time! Button-making is truly a breeze with this tool.


I made two of these buttons for my pincushion design, then dressed up the sides with a little pink trim. The fabric pictured below my pincushion is also from the Ruby line. Gray seems to be a big trend in quilting fabric these days and I love how this line mixes those subtler tones with the more vibrant reds. 


These buttons would also work great as closures for totes or fabric-covered notebooks, or as embellishments for your quilts and pillows. I've also seen them used to adorn yo-yos, or fabric flowers. The creative possibilities are endless! My only warning about this tool is that it can be addictive! I found myself making more and more buttons and now have a rapidly-growing stash of them. All the buttons featured in this post were made with the i-top Tool and Moda's Ruby fabric. For some of the buttons, I fussy-cut the fabric to showcase a particular design motif. 


To find out where you can purchase an i-top tool, click here. I'd love to hear how you like to use fabric-covered buttons! Feel free to leave me a comment.