[completed] owl always love you

finished quilt!
For my younger sister's 24th birthday (can you believe it?), I made her a quilt. I was a little late getting it to her, but better late than never, right?

The idea for this quilt came about when I showed her the two snail baby quilts I made over the summer. She loved them and requested a birthday quilt from Boo Davis' awesome book. I showed her the options over Skype (which is basically the best invention ever!), and she chose the owl pattern shown on the cover. Through conversation, we decided that a snowy owl on a dark background would be neat.

This is the result!
closeup of the front
I took some artistic liberties and incorporated a range of white-on-white prints as well as one gray print for the owl's body and eyes. My sister did not like Boo Davis' mixing of prints, but I think a variety of prints helps give the quilt some depth and interest, so I chose to go with the more subtle white-on-white prints as a compromise. I added the gray print just to give the quilt a little more of a scrappy feel. I chose a rich dark purple solid as the background.

The quilt top came together surprisingly quickly, given all the many pieces. I had a lot of fun piecing it and watching the blocky owl shape emerge from the piles of carefully labeled strips of fabric.

quilt detail in the owl's head
I am really happy with how I chose to quilt this project. I stitched in the ditch around all the edges of the owl to begin with, and then filled in the owl's face and body with straight lines. Then in the owl's head, I quilted a herringbone pattern to suggest feathers. It took approximately forever, and my quilting got less precise as I went along. For the body, I just quilted the straight lines - I decided the herringbone "feathers" were more important in the owl's head, and continuing the pattern in the body would be too busy and too time-consuming.

So after I finished all my straight lines and herringbone quilting, I got to the fun part: the purple background. I decided to free-motion quilt stars, so that it would look like the owl was sitting against a starry night sky. I practiced the stars (inspired by this tutorial) in both white and purple thread, and decided I vastly preferred the stars in purple thread. The white would have made more literal sense, but would have dominated the quilt and I really wanted the owl to be the focus. So I quilted hundreds of stars in purple thread on the purple background. For the "whites" of the owl's eyes, I used stippling. I wanted the eyes to be different than the background, but also soft and not densely quilted.

The technique I used was pretty easy - I just created a star shape and then echo-quilted around it a few times before branching off and creating a new star shape. There were a few instances when I sort of forgot how to draw a star, especially when I was doing it at a weird angle, and so there are a few wonky stars. But since there are so many stars and no one star stands out, it doesn't much matter if a few are odd.
super wonky star
I backed the quilt in a super soft navy blue flannel. The white stitching of the owl's head and body stands out really clearly on the back of the quilt - so no matter which side is showing, the owl is present. There were about a million little threads to clip on the back, due to all the stopping and starting I had to do when straight-line quilting. Hopefully I got them all!
owl ghost on back of the quilt
The stars show up on the back of the quilt as well, but are not obvious. The purple blends nicely with the navy blue, and the texture created by the star shapes feels great with the flannel.

quilting on the back
The only thing I don't love about the quilting is how dense it all turned out. The quilt is still soft, but it isn't as pliable as some others I have quilted. I don't mind a slightly stiffer quilt, but I hope this one softens up a bit as it is washed and used.

I bound the quilt in a homemade navy and white striped binding. I chose the striped fabric because it coordinated nicely with the back of the quilt and the white owl, and it added a little visual interest. Once again, the binding was my nemesis on this quilt. Due to the inconsistencies of cutting, piecing, pressing and binding, the stripes got a little warped (as you can probably see above). I still love the striped binding - and overall I had an easier time attaching the binding to this quilt than I usually do - but it isn't perfect.

look at that tail twitch possessively!
sassy is going to miss this quilt!
I am happy to report that the quilt was well received!


[wip] super secret present

sassycat sitting on my WIP
I can't give you more than this little hint of my current (and quite old) WIP. Let's just say that if the recipient loves it as much as my kitten does, it will be well-received indeed.

[failed] cooking adventures

There has been a lot of family stress going on right now, so to distract myself, I decided to have our weekly "cooking adventure" this past Wednesday instead of waiting until Sunday. 

We made chicken tikka masala and naan bread. Doesn't it all look delicious?

Well, it wasn't. And the whole meal took hours.

The naan turned out pretty tasty (although it was a lot of work!), but the chicken tikka masala (one of my favorite Indian dishes) didn't taste authentic and was way too salty. Maybe we'll try again with a different recipe.

Any suggestions for some delicious Indian recipes?


[completed] scrap quilt top!

completed quilt top!
Forgive the poor photo - it's dark outside. But this is the completed scrap quilt top! After some consultation with my mother, I decided to add more blocks and add a border. The added blocks and the 4 inch border bring the quilt to a nice 44 x 56 size. Perfect for a kiddo.

I had to cut into my stash for some more white fabric (all the white sections are white-on-white prints, by the way), and for the black and white border. But the majority of the quilt came from my scrap box, which is awesome!

Now I just need to figure out a backing...

[wip] scrap arkansas crossroads quilt

I've been working on a few projects here and there lately, trying to reduce my WIP pile, but nothing has been really grabbing my interest. I've been seeing a lot of scrap quilts around the blogosphere, so I started researching scrap quilt patterns. I found a few favorites, but ultimately gravitated towards the Arkansas Crossroads pattern because it was fun, looked complex but is actually easy to complete, and would use up a lot of my smaller scraps.

scrap quilt top so far

I spent the last few days sorting scraps, cutting colored scraps into 3.5 inch squares and my white scraps into 6.5 inch squares, and stitching it all together. I have way more colored scraps than I used in this quilt top - I decided to go for a calm, blue-black-brown-gray palette. These blocks go together pretty quickly, and I think I will make another one of these quilts with my more vibrant scrap fabrics.

The picture above is nine 12.5 inch square blocks carefully arranged to compose the Xs and star shapes. I have run out of white scraps, but I have quite a few little colored squares leftover, so I might cut into my stash of white fabric to make the quilt top bigger. I want to keep it a child-friendly size, since I plan on donating this quilt, but it's currently only about 36 x 36 inches. I am also considering adding a border (or two) to make the quilt bigger, but can't settle on what fabric to use for that. So for now, the quilt top is going to stay like this, I guess!

Any suggestions for how to finish this quilt are welcome!


[completed] two more two-zip hipster bags

For two of my closest friends, I decided to make two more of the two-zip hipster bag that I had made for my cousin. Like my cousin's bag, these two cross-body bags feature adjustable straps, an outside slip pocket, a zippered outside pocket, and interior slip pockets.

For my old friend Erin, I chose a purple and white striped fabric with dark purple zippers. I chose a solid lavender for the lining.
front of Erin's bag

inside of Erin' bag
back of Erin' bag
 For Jess, I chose to use three fabrics - a solid Kona green, a green white and black print fabric for the outside pocket, and a fun green owl print for the lining. I chose black zippers to contrast with the fabrics.
front of Jess' bag
inside of Jess' bag
outside pocket on Jess' bag

finished bag!
I had a lot of fun making these bags (especially utilizing all fabrics from my stash), and both bags were very well received!

[completed] brother-in-law sneaker quilt

front of the quilt

This quilt for my brother-in-law is one of my favorite Christmas presents this year. I finished it months before Christmas (which is always nice). I bought the fabric for this quilt at the same time that I got the fabric for Adam's anniversary quilt

look at those awesome prints!
My brother-in-law loves sneakers, so I had to get this bundle of fabrics that featured fabulous sneaker prints, music notes, cassette tapes and bright solid colors. I matched the bundle of fat quarters with some cut-up black cotton Ikea sheets, and used this tutorial from Oh Fransson! for the pattern. The pattern makes a queen-sized quilt (like this one), but I adjusted the pattern to make a large twin/lap size since I intended the quilt to be used in his man-cave rather than his bedroom. Doesn't it make for a fun man-cave quilt for a 13-year-old?

quilted ps3 controller and sneakers
To make the quilt even more special and fun, I quilted sneakers, video game controllers, headphones, music notes, and various other designs using this technique. Basically, I took cardboard or paper templates, pinned or just laid them on the quilt, and then free-motion quilted around the design. This was initially a pretty slow process, but I got faster and more creative with practice.

quilted initials and sneakers
All the quilting was done in grey thread (the same as in Adam's anniversary quilt), so that the painstakingly quilted designs would show up nicely on the front and back of the quilt.
back of the quilt
 This was my first time using Ikea sheets, and while the sheets were a pain to cut, the fabric worked well for both the front and back and the quilt (and was pretty cost-effective). I have another set (also black) just waiting for inspiration to strike. I got the idea of using sheets from the Oh Fransson! tutorial, and I'm loving the whole idea. (You might have noticed that I also used a sheet for the backing of Adam's anniversary quilt).

closeup of the backing
The grey thread pops against the black backing, while not being too obtrusive.
I bound the quilt with a scraps from the prints on the front and a light lime-y green solid. It turned out pretty well.

I had fun making this quilt and learning a new way to quilt in the process. And my brother-in-law loved the quilt - which is ultimately the most important thing!
smiley face and wonky star


[completed] adam's anniversary quilt

 Second anniversary gifts are typically cotton, so for my own second anniversary, I made a cotton quilt for Adam. I followed the flagged quilt tutorial from In Color Order, and used a bundle of fabrics called "Dapper Dan" from Fabricworm (no longer available). The bundle of fabrics included a mustache print, and a keyboard print that I just absolutely had to have for Adam. There were also some random prints, polka dots, and stripes. The bundle actually came with a fat quarter of the same Kona gray solid that I used for the background of the quilt, so I swapped out that fat quarter with a black, gray and white graffiti-style print that I already had in my stash.

I initially started quilting free-motion squiggles all over the quilt, but after doing about 1/4 of the quilt, I decided that style didn't suit the quilt and I spent four hours ripping out the stitches. I decided to do straight lines of quilting around each of the flags, and then more lines inside the triangles. I left the quilting lines as far apart as possible so that the quilt is still soft.

I backed the quilt with a twin flat sheet from Target (100% cotton and less than $11!). The quilting was all done with light grey thread, so it blends into the grey backing fairly well. I like that you can still see the quilting lines, though - it gives the back some interest.

I bound the quilt in this awesome sketchy crosshatch print from Jo-Ann's. The print is black and white, which captures the color scheme of the quilt without matching too closely to any of the flags.

The quilt ended up smaller than the tutorial indicated, but it's still a generous lap size. Adam was appreciative - and I gave one of the best cotton gifts imaginable!