Posted in Quilts

Little Pink Houses final reveal

I took some photos of the final Neighborhood quilt made from Les Petites fabric before it gets sent off to its tiny recipient. 

I quilted doors on the homes, plants and fences and rows in the “vacant lot” spaces, and a little moon holding a star in the corner. 

As always, I am disappointed by my quilt photography skills. I just can’t capture them. But I am not disappointed by this quilt in person. Not a bit. 

Posted in Quilts

Little Pink Houses

I finally had an excuse to get my grubby paws on a stack of the entire Les Petites collection from Amy Sinibaldi for Art Gallery fabrics. A family member custom ordered a quilt for her niece’s new baby. She had the dimensions and a photo of the crib and that’s it. But the crib had these little decorative pillows: a little house, a little moon, and a little star. And the colors were so spot on, pink, coral, gray gingham. I knew. I just knew…Plus, I had been waiting for some excuse, ANY excuse, to buy this collection.

So I used this pattern, Neighborhood Charm, from the Moda Bakeshop to make some more little houses, and threw on some extra prints, mostly all Art Gallery, a little Kate Spain and some Cotton + Steel, too. I would definitely use this pattern again. Came together so quickly and is charming indeed. Plus, it called for a charm pack when I had a full fat quarter bundle, so I’ve got loads of fabric left over.


So cute. I love. I backed it with a Cotton and Steel double gauze and used wool batting so this thing is basically an adorable, quaint, vaguely European CLOUD.

I have used wool batting once before, but realized I have never had to baste it before. I spray baste, which requires a little heat setting to make it really stick. The directions on the batting say to not use any high heat so I was a little worried.

mmmmm…like a steaming hot barnyard


It smelled a little bit like a sunburnt sheep in the studio, but it basically worked fine. I’ll have to wait til it’s bound and there’s daylight to show the finished product, but it is just adorable.

Posted in Quilts

My Dedicated Quilt Photographer

 This woman is the best. She rearranged her whole house, stuck her head in the ceiling fan, and took photos of my quilts in every room at every angle for me. 

I am starting a new spinoff business wherein I upcycle clothing into keepsake or memory quilts, and these photos will help my new web store stand out, for sure. 

My samples were all twin sized, so Madame Photographer had to be really creative with angles since all the beds we had to use were doubles. 

I am just so pleased she was willing to do this product photography for me. She does not usually do product photographer per se, but she does take my family’s photos every year and she is just the very best at it. I myself have never once taken a satisfactory photo of my quilts, and I have photographed about 40 of them so far. 

So exciting things are on the horizon for La Bizarra, and I can’t wait to show them to everyone. 

Posted in Quilts, Tutorials

Machine Binding Tutorial: Step One (optional)

Yesterday was a huge binding day for me. This year has been an incredibly productive one for me, as far as quilt making goes, and I think a key to this has been the systematic approach I’ve ironically just stumbled into. I spend a few days just cutting the fabrics for several quilts that I have planned. I spend a few more days just piecing those together. This week, I spent all of Saturday just cutting and adding borders to 3 different quilts. Then I get my machine all set up and foot swapped out for my free motion foot, and spend an entire day (or 2…or 7) just quilting all those quilts.

This has worked out so well because I’m just changing out my thread and bobbin color on quilting days and for each particular quilt. I get so much more piecing done when I can keep the white cotton thread and bobbins going, no changes.

So today was a binding day. And since I don’t know anyone who does their binding the same way I do, I figured this was a good opportunity to post a tutorial. First tutorial!

I exclusively machine bind (I don’t hand bind. I know a lot of quilters have attitude about that, but I simply feel no shame in my game), and I use a combination of the no-tails binding method (see this excellent tutorial by Flourishing Palms for a detailed look) and the more typical folded corners method. The traditional (with tails method) has always bothered me because it requires you to leave an additional 10-15 inches of binding loose before you start stitching, and then you lose most of that when you attach the tails together at the end of your binding. The no-tails method only uses an extra inch or two at each corner, which is better, and easier, IMO. But the way I do it, I only need an extra 2-3 inches of binding. So much less waste. And you get one stitched up mitered corner, and three folded over mitered corners. It’s hard to explain. Like I said, I’ve never met anyone who does their binding the same way that I do. This does NOT mean my way is superior. But I dig it. So I’ll show you.

Today, I’ll show you step one, which is a completely optional step, really. But I’ve started doing it, and I highly recommend it. I serge all the way around the perimeter of my quilt sandwich using my Brother Serger. Not everyone has a serger, and for quilters, they are completely unnecessary. But I happen to have one because it’s fun and easy to make and mend baby hats and tshirts and blankets. It’s also nice to be able to quickly mend all the clothing in my home with no loose edges to get frayed in the laundry. You know I’m not hand washing ANYTHING, right?

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Although completely unnecessary, if you have one, this is yet another fun use for it. Serging the quilt sandwich tightly connects all three layers so that when you stitch your binding on, your backing can’t fold over and get caught up, and your batting can’t wiggle its way out and make you miss your backing in the stitches. Also, if it takes you awhile to bind your quilts, they are protected from fraying while they sit around in the queue, and if there is some sort of emergency (an incident involving cat vomit comes to my mind, but i’m trying to forget) you can wash that quilt before it’s bound, and it will survive.

You will need to trim the edges of your quilt sandwich at some point anyway, so this just does that for me. The serger winds thread around the perimeter of the quilt, sealing in its quilty juices, and cuts off anything to the right of this thread web with its helpful blade. So I simply run each quilt through, one edge at a time, with the metal line of my serger foot (shown at the bottom of the lightning bolt in photo) directly aligned with the edge of my fabric. Where fabric meets batting. If you’re a little off, it doesn’t matter too much, as you’ll see in the next steps. I’m very imperfect at all of my steps.

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I cut off the thread tails at each corner and that’s it!

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Look at that delicious stack of serged quilts! They are ready and waiting for step 2.

Posted in Quilts

The Meadow Quilt: a year-long journey

I didn’t actually realize it until I typed this post title JUST NOW, but this meadow quilt was a journey of almost exactly one year. (Yes, i do realize ‘almost exactly’ is an oxymoron. I am super clever.)

But looking through my phone, I found these photos that I took at the Meadow Quilt workshop taught by Lizzy House herself with the San Diego Modern Quilt Guild on March 6, 2016.

Aren’t we all so cute? And it was a year ago, so we are all aglow with youth, too.

Then I scrolled forward to the photos of the nearly finished Meadow Quilt, with its adorable intended recipients. The photo says it was taken March 4, 2017, and I’m inclined to believe it. You’ll notice it wasn’t yet bound (I simply surged up the edges on my serger, a practice I have come to love), and I bound it a day or two later, so it was very probably on March 6!


I ended up binding it with Elizabeth Hartman Starlight in gray, from the Paintbox Basics collection (or maybe Pacific?) to complement the Cotton & Steel sprinkle stardust that I used as a background fabric on the top, and the extra wide backing that I used on the back, which is Elizabeth Hartman wide back, like a swollen and darkened version of that binding fabric. I love this wideback fabric so much, I had to stock up on it, in both the gray and the hot pink color. So you’ll be seeing more soon. I just love how quirky and cartoonish it is. It makes every quilt look more modern and fun.

And in between that first photo and that last photo, what happened during the 364 days in between? Well, sewing, obviously. But also, some meditative time on a long-arm quilting machine. I used the giant Bernina Q24 at Cozy Creative Center to stitch the twinkle lights pattern in the background and used my Juki to stitch a variegated pink thread onto the pink sections. The main contributor to all that delicious texture is for sure the wool batting. I used this Quilters Dream Wool Batting (93” x 72”) Twin, and I just can’t recommend it enough. Especially for a kid’s quilt that will be used year-round. It makes for a very functional comforter in addition to being a beautifully draped word of quilted art.

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This quilt journey was my first exposure to curved piecing, which has created great confidence in my piecing abilities, and was a joy from start to finish. That’s 365 days of joy. And counting.

Posted in My Small World QAL

My Small World sky

Your goal is to actually complete your My Small World quilt from the pattern by Jen Kingwell. You made your blueprint and maybe some key fabric choices. What’s next? SKY!


Not the whole sky, mind you. Just a nice sizable panel of sky that will sit at the far right, at the top of section 1. Why start here? Because the sky is easy, it’s just squares, and for me (and you, if you’re like me) I need to immediately see some progress. I love reading books on kindle because it quantifies my reading automatically, and seeing that I’ve completed 10% of the book helps motivate me to get 100% of the way done. 

If you’re doing the prescribed low volume neutral sky, well then this part is even easier. 

At the beginning of the booklet, Kingwell notes that before you start you’ll want to cut 527 1.5″ squares from neutral fabrics for the sky and incorporated into some of the blocks. And, of course, if you opt to use some larger squares (like 2.5″) you’ll need fewer. 

In my guild, we did a swap where each of 27 people brought a yard of fabric cut into 5″ charm squares. So we only had to purchase one yard, but we got 54 different charms to add variety to our quilt. I am not using these for my sky, like I said, but my skyline will be neutral instead, so I still needed these.

You definitely want charm squares, rather than mini charms since you will only get a single 1.5″ square from a mini charm, but you’ll be able to cut 9 from a charm square. 

If you can’t organize a swap, fear not, as so many fabric designers have anticipated your needs and released low volume, super neutral collections recently, available in various precut bundles. 

  1. Anna Maria Horner- Skipping Stones
  2. Lizzy House- Whisper Palette
  3. Jen Kingwell- Behind the Scenes
  4. Zen Chic- Modern Background paper/ink
  5. Alison Glass- Abacus
  6. Marsha McCloskey- Essential Lights

Or check out Etsy. Online fabric sellers have put together some great low volume bundles. 

So the next item to handily check off the My Small World QAL is one or two of those panels of sky. The panel 1 sky block is 8 squares high by 12 wide, and the panel 2 block which will fall just left of that is 6 squares high by 8 wide (if you’re using only 1.5″ blocks, obvi). 

I just laid my squares out, incorporating some of those 2.5″ squares as well, snapped a photo on my phone so I could keep the placement right (because my colors needed to be arranged just so) and stitched away while listening to the Dear Sugar podcast. Piece of cake and it feels so good to make progress. 

Posted in My Small World QAL, Quilts

My Small World pre-game

So I’ll begin by saying that it’s not you: the pattern booklet for My Small World is confusing and hard to follow. But to be fair to Jen Kingwell (who is a creative genius for sure), the best things about this quilt are its intricacy and personalization, which are the very things that make it hard to translate into a clear, easy to follow pattern.

So rather than following the book’s list of blocks (which our guild’s schedule loosely followed), I thought of this as being broken down into discrete tasks (many of which could be split further into sub tasks). For me and my particular frustration and impatience thresholds (both very low) this worked much better than, say, making 23 pinwheels, then making 16 flying geese, three of which will be used for arrows and 6 of which will be paired as diamonds and then 4 churn dashes and then hourglasses and on and on and you get the idea. I needed to see progress regularly. This thing needed to take shape from the beginning or I was going to lose focus. And I needed to have the larger project in my mind. Which makes Task #1 so invaluable to successful completion.

Task 1: make a blueprint.

One complaint about the pattern is that only finished block measurements are given, all templates are sans seam allowance, and multiple sizes of similar blocks are used. Use graph paper to map out the entire quilt, using the Assembly pages 28-31 in the booklet, and a one square = one inch ratio. I buy these Five Star Spiral Notebook, Graph Ruled, 1 Subject, 8.5 x 11 Inches, 100 Sheets, Assorted Colors (06190) three or four at a time. They are hard to find in stores. I don’t know why, but I have preferred the gridded paper since jr. high school. They make me feel more organized, even when i’m just freestyle doodling. And they make a ton of sense for quilt planning, of course. (They make great bullet journals, too, if that’s your deal.)

 I would make a printable copy for others to use, but I already colored mine, and besides it is easy and kind of fun and worth making your own so that you can see which bits you might want to customize as you go.

For instance, I have this amazing fabric that I wanted to cut large fussy cuts from and the 4×4″ spaces meant for orange peel blocks would be the perfect spots for them. This works well for me in a couple ways because I am also not so good at appliqué. “But wait,” you might be thinking, “this quilt is a great way to practice so many skills, and you should use it as an opportunity to improve your Appliqué!”

And I say to you: hush. My goal here is to actually finish the project within a year. I know myself. See above re my frustration threshold. There is still some appliqué with the little rounded door blocks and that’s quite enough practice for me.

So I’ve already mapped out which blocks I’m replacing with fussy cuts or special prints. I can see exactly which flying geese are being used in arrow blocks and which panel each pinwheel will be used in, which makes color planning more feasible. And I’m needing to do a lot of color planning because I’m doing a sunset sky and a low volume and neutral toned skyline. This would be very difficult without a blueprint to work from.

A subtask of this first important task is fabric choice. Once you’ve drawn a blueprint, you can color it in like an adult coloring book and make your fabric choices so you can keep all the bits of this long-term project together. I chose to work from mostly scraps, plus Carolyn friedlander’s Doe collection for the skyline and Moda’s Enchanted by Alisse Courter for the sunset sky.

I found it very helpful to:

1) have these specified collections to choose from in order to limit my options to some extent (I get overwhelmed by indecision and with so many tiny pieces, there are a lot of decisions to make here), and

2) use precuts. I had a charm pack of Doe and with so many 1.5″ and 2.5″ pieces required, a 5″ square of each print was convenient and plenty.

Task one done? Hooray! Congrats on your blueprint. Let’s do this thing.

And I’ll just toot my own horn and mention that my blueprint is drawn in my quilting notebook which I totally copied from fabricmutt’s tutorial (here) with strips of Anna Maria Horner’s Folk Song.

Posted in My Small World QAL

How to actually complete the My Small World quilt along

Full disclosure, I haven’t completed the My Small World QAL. Yet. SDMQG chose this quilt (pattern now available as printed booklet from Jen Kingwell) as their yearlong quilt along project for 2016. I only joined the guild in June 2015, and so wasn’t able to join their QAL from last year and I was so psyched to join everything guild had to offer this year, I’m doing this, I’m doing the Bee, I’m doing every swap they can come up with. 

So Sue B. took charge of leading our group in this QAL, even giving us a schedule for what blocks we should complete each month, and making templates for us all to use. I was worried because I missed January’s meeting and so already was a month late on the schedule, which can really mess with my mind on a thing like this. January was the month I was supposed to be completing like 25 pinwheels and a bunch of tiny churn dashes, etc. I figured I’d never catch up and so I didn’t try. 

Fast forward to April and I had an idea in mind for how I very generally wanted my MSW to turn out. So I made some fabric choices for the pinwheels and figured I’d at least get those done. I got about half completed. It took me a solid day. I figured there was no way I’d keep going, but I still had 8 months to think about it. 

At the beginning of June, I attended a weekend long quilt retreat with the Guild and say across from the one member who had already finished (completely by hand) her My Small World. I had brought along my materials and pattern, and although I still didn’t get any further, I renewed my commitment. If Suzanne could complete hers in 6 months, I could too. The second half of the year. 

I am much farther along toward my goal after the last 3 days and it is seeming very possible. So I’ll tell you how I did it over a series of posts because I’m excited for more people to create their own versions of this intricate and personal project. Stay tuned.

Posted in Quilts

Adventures with the Longarm

I finally took a longarm class in order to rent time on a longarm machine at The Quilted Rose, here in San Diego. I would now like to offer up my right kidney to the highest bidder so that I can purchase a longarm machine and use it everyday. The machines at TQR are pretty old and huge, and when I rented time, they actually gave me the clunkiest one. I was not super pleased about that, but it did not deter me from longarm quilting in the slightest. It just made me google my other San Diego county options. 

So my pieced quilt began with the central fairies fabric which is an out of print Alexander Henry print that I had no idea what to do with, but loved intensely and purchased from an etsy seller that specializes in out of print goodies. Then after our guild (SDMQG) did a Lizzy House challenge during Lizzy house’s visit, I was inspired by my fellow runner up (yes! I was totally a runner up!) and her Unicornio quilt. It was a large scale log cabin with a variety of colors and featuring a Lizzy house unicorn right smack dab in the center.

So I have been adding rich log cabin walls around these mysterious fairies slowly slowly slowly. 

   
   Then I spent some time with it at TQR, choosing a very intense teal thread for the quilting, and bound it in deep green Constellations by Lizzy House. 

If you look closely at the quilting, you’ll see that I basically tried everything I had practiced on paper from An Angela Walters book that I have, Shape by Shape. And it’s very beginner, but again, that machine was a rickety pile, so I am not totally to blame. And the prints are so busy, it doesn’t matter at all. I see it as a longarm sampler for me, and my daughter loves it on her bottom bunk (for when friends come to sleep over, she tells me). It couldn’t possibly go on the top bunk because, speaking of Lizzy House, that spot is reserved for the forthcoming Meadow Quilt (top is already complete!)