Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Purple and Green Herringbone Toddler Quilt

Word of mouth is really the best advertising, especially when it comes to handmade quilts. A sweet client who is a friend of a friend of a friend approached me recently to ask about a quilt for her toddler. She had seen a quilt that I'd made for a friend of hers (this one, actually), and loved it; she'd always wanted a quilt for her daughter but hadn't known who to ask until she found out that I do custom quilts.

She had a really good idea of what she was looking for. In fact, she already had this picture of an adorable baby quilt made by Jess of Craftiness Is Not Optional, which she loved. We brainstormed a bit about different patterns that I could do that were similar, but in the end we decided to stick pretty true to her original inspiration*.

*I did however use a different method for piecing than used for the inspiration quilt. I strip-pieced in sections and cut strips diagonally, then flipped and rearranged in sections until I found a layout that worked. Sort of like this tutorial. I took a few photos along the way, so I'll post more about how I did it once I get around to it.

My client requested the colour scheme based on the colours in her daughter's bedroom, and I searched high and low for purple and green fabrics that fit the bill and looked good together. The fabric hunt was harder than I anticipated. Purples are funny - even though I'm really drawn to shades of purple (especially lavender), I don't actually sew with them a lot, because I find that they can be really tricky to mix and match (well) with other colours. Which is especially ironic given that, as Fancy Nancy tells us, lavender goes well with almost anything (Anybody? No? ...Maybe I'm the only one whose reading material consists mainly of toddler lit...).

I ended up going with fabrics from Joel Dewberry's classic and lovely Aviary 2 collection, as well as Feeling Groovy by Michael Miller, two older fabric collections which I managed to track down at Hawthorne Threads in the U.S. I added in some Kona Lilac and a lavender/lilac blender from Moda that I had on hand in my stash. All mixed together on a crisp background of Kona White, I think the colours are fresh and cool and girly without being too girly - I absolutely love it.

I backed it with some herringbone pieces left over from piecing the front, and a big piece of Joel Dewberry print, along with more Kona White. 

I even managed to sneak the name of the quilt's recipient into the quilting. I hope she gets years and years of cuddles under her very own quilt.

We (me, my husband, kids, dog, and quilt) took advantage of the hot, sunny weather to take a walk down to some old mill ruins near our house here in Guelph and photograph the quilt in the wild. Lots of #quiltswithfeet (look up that hashtag on Instagram, it's hilarious) but no #husbandsholdingquilts this time (another one that I get a huge kick out of)... I did the honours myself while two kids screamed in the Chariot jogging stroller that they wanted to "Seeeeeeee the quillllllllt!" and "She's eating my cheeeeeeeesestrinnnnnngggg!" Don't these photos look idyllic? Good thing there's no audio on blog photos. Ha.

This one's a keeper, and even though it's a colour scheme that I don't think I would have chosen on my own, I love it. I actually have a few more herringbone scraps left over here that I'm planning to use to make a scrappy sampler quilt with similar colours... so I don't think I'm done with purple and green yet.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Organic baby carrier drool pads = Etsy madness!

You may recall that I posted a couple of months ago about my very first Etsy sale. My friend Lindsay had ordered a custom essential oil zip pouch, which finally gave me the motivation to get off my butt and cross off one of my 2015 goals: to open my Etsy shop. I've been sewing and selling things here and there for years, but never through any formal channels. It's always been friends or friends-of-friends who know that I quilt and sew, and ask if I can make x, y, or z for them. I've been commissioned to sew baby quilts, t-shirt quilts, memory quilts, Easter baskets, custom crib bumper pads, crib chew guards... the list goes on. If it's made from fabric, chances are I've been asked to sew it. But I've always meant to set up an Etsy shop, at least so that when people ask if I have any quilts in stock I'll have somewhere to direct them with photos, ordering info, etc.

So - since Lindsay lives in Toronto and I'd have to ship her bag anyway, I figured she might as well pay me through Etsy and be my first official customer. That was on May 1. Once I had my shop set up, a friend of hers ordered a similar bag: two sales! Then, I added something I'd sewn for myself and found useful, that I thought maybe a handful of other people might like, too: organic cotton drool pads for baby carriers (such as Ergobaby, Lillebaby, Tula, Beco...). And... BOOM! - commence Etsy shop madness. I listed my first set of drool pads on May 30, and just over a month later I'd averaged a sale a day. Everything I've made for my shop has sold out, and I've also had a ton of custom orders, including for organic cotton drool pads, drool bibs for Lillebaby and Beco carriers, organic cotton and wood teething rings... and I've even sold one quilt with a custom order for a second. With life getting busy this summer, I've had to put my shop on "Vacation Mode" to catch up on orders and have a bit of a break!

Organic baby carrier drool pads and matching organic cotton and wood teething ring

Honestly, I had zero expectations that anybody would find my shop or listings on Etsy and buy them out of the blue. As I said, I'd imagined that my Etsy shop could serve as an online storefront for people that I knew or local customers who heard about me through word-of-mouth. And I've heard that it can be really tough to break into the Etsy marketplace without doing some serious hustling, which just isn't my style. So I've been pleasantly shocked and totally humbled that anybody wants to buy things from my little shop!

I think my favourite part of Etsy Madness 2015 has been connecting with customers from all over North America - most often mamas like myself - and helping them choose exactly what they're looking for, and then hearing that they're happy with what I've made for them. Every one of my customers has been incredibly lovely!

Organic cotton drool pads lined with super soft unbleached organic cotton flannel

In just over a month of Etsy selling I've already learned a few things (with much more still to learn). When I open up my shop again (in early August) I'm going to adjust the ratio of custom listings to ready-to-ship items. While I love offering custom listings, it also stresses me out just a bit when a custom order comes in and I have to make it right away. Even though I state a production time of 1-2 weeks, it's just my personality that if I have an order, it'll bug me until I get it done. With lots of custom orders coming in, that means a bit of stress and frantic sewing to get them all fulfilled. If I stick with more ready-to-ship items than custom, I'll get to sew when I have time and feel excited instead of stressed when I get an order.

Organic drool pads in action on my Ergobaby carrier (with a sweet little curly-haired model along for the ride!)

So... what are drool pads, you ask? I use mine on my Ergobaby carrier every day - they are an essential babywearing accessory, in my experience. They keep the straps of my carrier clean and protect them from the inevitable drool that comes when baby chews and sucks on them (why does every baby chew on their carrier straps?). When they're wet or drooly, I just snap them off and toss them in the wash, and voila - clean carrier, no need to wash it, and something fresh and clean for baby to chew on. I have two sets on the go at all times: one on my carrier and one in the wash! They give her something safe, clean, and organic to chew on, and give me peace of mind. Plus, don't they look cute? I just love the organic cotton fabrics that I've been able to buy to sew these.

Organic cotton drool pads for sale in my Etsy shop

I've always said that I'll only make and sell things that I would make and use myself, and these organic drool pads are a perfect example. I love mine, and so I'm thrilled to be able to make these fun little accessories to make babywearing easier and more fun for mamas (and dads) everywhere. As Etsy Madness continues, I'll be sure to update on lessons learned and new items on offer!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Custom Interlock Baby Quilt

Interlock Baby Quilt by Twelve Bees

Another day, another custom quilt to share!

My client was looking for a show-stopping custom quilt for a very close friend's baby shower. I was relieved when she told me she was able to sneak a few clues about baby boy's nursery, which always helps me decide on colours and design, especially when I'm creating for someone I've never met. Quilts can be so personal!

Assignment: sew a baby quilt to go with this pillow.

Then, she sent me this picture. And told me that baby's nursery colours are turquoise, grey, and white. Okay, at least I got some colours! But not much to go on, really. So I had to make some extrapolations from this picture of the cushion. Hmm... from this I get geometric, classic, clean lines, with a sophisticated feel. Even the conservative tan wall colour and Burberry-esque plaid on the stool points me in a similar direction, so as long as this picture was taken in my client's friend's house, I think I have a decent starting point. (Or it was snapped in a store as she was shopping and I'm reading wayyy too much into a picture of a pillow.)

To fit with this elaborate backstory that I projected onto a single cushion, I decided on a simple geometric design with a bit of mixing up of prints and textures (my favourite). The Interlock pattern by Amy Friend of During Quiet Time was the perfect design. It can be found in the Winter 2015 issue of Modern Patchwork and Quilting, but Amy was kind enough to let me know that as of November 2015 she will be offering the pattern for sale herself as well, through her pattern shop. (This is the time for a quick side note on how kind and generous even the busiest and most well-known quilters are - within an hour of my posting this quilt on Instagram, Amy herself commented that it was lovely, and let me know that she'll have the pattern for sale in a few months. I love quilters!)

Interlock Baby Quilt by Twelve Bees

The pattern is for a throw-sized quilt, so for a large baby quilt I reduced it to a 2 x 4 block layout. It ended up measuring about 45" x 48", which is an awkward width for a quilt... juuuuust too wide to fit a single piece of backing fabric. So I used the scraps leftover from the front to piece a 2.5" wide scrappy strip down the backing, which added just the right amount of width. If I were to make this as a baby quilt again, I'd scale down the width of the blocks a bit so that the quilt top would fit a single width of backing piece. I don't mind piecing backings, but with baby quilts it's nice to just get it done simply sometimes, you know? (Although I do think the pieced backing looks great on this quilt.)

Interlock Baby Quilt by Twelve Bees

I initially had a hard time finding the right shade of muted turquoise to coordinate with the cushion. And the fact that it was for a boy added another layer of challenge - there are always so many more options that involve florals or more "girly" prints. I spent the better part of an hour at my local quilt shop (the fantastic Greenwood Quiltery) before I settled on this combination of blues and greys from Doe by Carolyn Friedlander, with some grey Widescreen (which I also used for binding), a blue kite tails print from Lotta Jansdotter, and grey Pearl Bracelets from Lizzy House. I initially wanted to mix in some pops of yellow, but decided to be conservative based on my (fairly baseless) assumptions about the quilt's recipient. Hilary from Greenwood agreed (and we had a little too much fun inventing a backstory for these people and what they would like based on their cushion choices...), so we played it safe and stuck with blues and greys.

Interlock Baby Quilt by Twelve Bees

I quilted it with a mix of free motion stippling and straight lines, to soften the strong geometric lines and emphasize the pattern. I waffled a bit on how to quilt it (I always do), but I think it turned out nicely.

The Interlock pattern was well-written, and the quilt was simple to cut and piece and fun to put together. I don't often make the same quilt twice, but I can see myself using this pattern again. With a few changes of colour and fabric, it could look like a totally different quilt... scrappy colourful background with white/grey/low volume lines, anyone? I'm pretty confident that once Amy releases it herself, this one's going to be a huge hit.

Interlock Baby Quilt by Twelve Bees

Once it was all finished, I got to tie it up in a pretty package with one of my new tags and give it to a thrilled client (who assured me that her friend would love it - and that if she didn't, she'd gladly keep it for herself!). All in a day's work. :)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Cool Modern Lines Improv Baby Quilt

This quilt was a spur-of-the-moment improv creation. I started digging through my scrap drawers a few months ago, and came across a pile of solids that I'd passed over time and time again. Honestly, the colours just didn't feel... current. Deep, mossy greens, grey-blue-green, and something that looked a little like hospital scrubs... not the most inspiring palette at first glance. For some reason I picked them up again, and the colours seemed to take on a new life when paired with cool moody blues and greys, on a background of winter white.

I'm kind of in love with these colours now - the feeling of this quilt reminds me of a lake in the boreal forest, blanketed in fog. The deep green near the top is so spruce tree, and one of my favourite prints seals the deal: the birch trees from Backyard Baby by Michael Miller. I bought this fabric three and a half years ago when I was starting to sew for my daughter's nursery before she was born; I used it in her baby quilt and even had some of it in a frame on her bedroom wall. It will always have a special place in my heart, which makes it hard to part with, but it just felt right in this quilt.

I didn't really have a solid plan when I started cutting, and I've been wanting to incorporate more improv into my work, so I ditched the ruler (a very scary thing for a quilter!) and started slicing and dicing the fabric and putting it back together. I could not be happier with the result... it pays to be brave! It's a good reminder to tiptoe outside my comfort zone more often.

I backed it in a teal print from Joel Dewberry's Botanics collection, and quilted it with organic straight lines to complement the horizontal lines in the piecing. It's bound in Widescreen by Carolyn Friedlander, one of my very favourite neutrals right now. I'm binding another quilt in it at the moment, too, which will be ready for sharing in a few days.

A random encounter with long-forgotten fabrics has turned into a quilt that I am really digging, the process of which has inspired me to flex my improv muscles more often. Don't you think this quilt would be perfect for a modern, gender neutral nursery? I'll be listing it in my Etsy shop tomorrow.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Another teepee!

I had to share a few pictures of this custom teepee that I finished recently. On a side note, I can't believe how much spring has sprung since taking these pictures. It feels as though winter turned to summer here in an instant - the lilacs and tulips have finished blooming, and the leaves are full. It is so easy to forget that we were excited by the first green buds only a short time ago. Spring is kind of my favourite season, with each day being a bit warmer, greener, and more hopeful than the last.

A few weeks ago, a friend of a good friend saw my first DIY teepee on Instagram (link to my first teepee post here), and asked if I could make one for her daughter's second birthday. What a huge compliment! A pretty custom teepee for a sweet little girl's birthday? How could I say no?!

As soon as we'd decided on fabric, I excitedly set out to improve upon my first version. Having already done the thinking and measuring and troubleshooting for the first one, it was easier for me to focus on making Teepee 2.0 neat and beautiful. My client picked out a stunning combination of Cotton + Steel prints for the colourful door - not too girly, but fun and pretty enough to make a statement. I used canvas drop cloth for the panels, which I machine washed, dried and ironed before sewing with (that prep took almost as long as sewing the teepee!).

One of my favourite parts of the teepee!
I also used a nice cotton rope to secure the top, adding an adorable pair of arrowheads to the ends of the rope to finish it off.

Doesn't that look cozy? This one turned out to be even nicer than the one I made for us. Isn't that always the way? I'm thrilled that she is happy with it, and can't wait to see pictures of her two-year old snuggled up inside.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

DIY Camera Strap and Cover

A couple of quick finishes this week: a camera strap (including my first foray into sewing leather) and a camera strap cover.

DIY Camera Strap Cover Cotton and Steel Arrows

For the new strap, I used the camera strap tutorial at Ikat Bag. I used my favourite Cotton + Steel arrows print, which is perfect for something long and thin like a camera strap, and I thought was also just asking for some genuine leather end pieces (is there a real term for those?). So, commence my first time sewing with leather. I bought leather needles and heavyweight denim thread, armed myself with some tutorials, and dove in.

Right off the bat I had some major tension issues. The top looked great, but the bottom was loose and loopy. After lots of unpicking, I played with my top/needle tension (I don't remember which way) and finally got it worked out. Not perfectly, but passable. It was still hard enough that I don't think I'll be sewing with leather again any time soon, unless I get a more badass sewing machine. Despite the issues with the leather, though, I am really happy with how the final strap turned out. This one was made for a friend, and the more I look at it, the more I kind of want one for myself. So, I might be sewing with leather again sooner than I planned...

DIY Camera Strap Leather Cotton and Steel
My first time sewing leather!

DIY Camera Strap Cover made with April Rhodes' Arizona Tomahawk Stripe
DIY Camera Strap Cover made using Cluck Cluck Sew's Tutorial

The cover was a relatively quick sew. I followed Cluck Cluck Sew's camera strap cover tutorial, and just adjusted the measurements a bit so that the strap was a better fit. I used April Rhodes' Arizona fabric in Tomahawk Stripe from Art Gallery Fabrics. I just noticed that both of the tutorials I used are totally old school - apparently sewing camera straps and camera strap covers is so two thousand and late (2009, actually). Oh, well - good ideas never go out of style, right?

Friday, May 1, 2015

How to Make Any Size Boxy Zipper Pouch

(Warning: it's about to get mathy up in here!)

But, before we go there, have I mentioned how much I enjoy sewing custom orders? I love the challenge of figuring out a new type of project that I haven't tackled before. I get to add some new skills to my sewing toolbox, and I get to (hopefully) make someone happy at the same time... win-win, in my books.

This time, a friend asked me to sew a zipper pouch to hold her essential oil droppers and roller bottles. She gave me the dimensions of her bottles, asked only that the pouch be pretty and close with either a zipper or a fold, and include some sort of insert to keep the glass bottles separated and protected when she throws them in her purse.

I found excellent tutorials for fully-lined boxy zipper pouches at Pretty Modern and Pink Stitches. I flipped back and forth between them while sewing this one, just because I found it useful to have different photos and descriptions of the steps as I went along. The only trouble I had was with figuring out how to construct the bag so that it ended up the size I wanted it to be (the tutorials were for slightly bigger pouches than I needed). After doing lots of math and sketching and reading, I came across the Magic Formula for Boxy Zip Pouches posted deep in the comments of Pretty Modern's tutorial. So, without further ado, the "magic" formula for making a boxy zipper pouch any size is:

Is that confusing enough? Ha. The graphic is a bit of a mess, but I wanted to share it since it took me the better part of an hour to track down the formula and then figure out how to use it to get the size of pouch I was after. Now, hopefully, you won't have to (as long as it doesn't take you an hour to figure out what I'm talking about!). Here's how I did my calculations:

I wanted my finished pouch to measure 7"(L) x 3"(W) x 4"(H), and I'd use a seam allowance of 1/2".

So, I cut my two outer and two lining pieces 12" x 8", which I calculated as follows:

= L + H + 2 x seam allowance
= 7" + 4" + (2 x 1/2")
= 12"

= H + W + 2 x seam allowance
= 4" + 3" + (2 x 1/2")
= 8"

Box Corners
= 1/2 H
= 1/2 (4")
= 2" up from corner point

Once you have your pieces cut out, you just have to follow one of many great tutorials out there for sewing a lined boxy zipper pouch, remembering to box the corners using the measurement you worked out for your size of pouch.

The "magic formula" worked like a charm for me. My finished pouch measures approximately 7" long x 3" wide x 4" high, just what I was aiming for. I used a little piece of leather as a zipper pull accent, which I love alongside the Cotton + Steel fabric I used for the outside and lining of the bag. I also made three little inserts to hold the essential oil bottles, which should work well (and look cute, too). 

I listed it in my Etsy shop for her to buy - my first Etsy listing, and my first sale! I'm aiming to get a few more things listed in the coming weeks, so hopefully it's just the first of many. Next on the learning list - product photography...
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