The One You Need: Quilting Books

I have two main weaknesses when it comes to impulse purchases: cookbooks and crafting books. I enjoy both types of books for the same reasons: lovely photos, clear instructions combined with personable narratives, and the chance to daydream of a world in which I create beautiful dinners every night and make heirloom quality crafts for all family and friends. And once in a while I even get off my butt and actually use them to cook or make something 🙂

Some craft books are definitely better than others. I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you so if you’re interested in a certain craft you wouldn’t have to waste your precious time scrolling through reviews on Amazon and waffling over your options. Benefit from my wasted time and money!

First up, quilting. I started quilting about two years ago and while I love looking at quilting books for inspiration the book I keep going back to for its clear instructions and photos is The Practical Guide to Patchwork* by Elizabeth Hartman.

The how-tos in this book are great; I still pull it out every time I bind a quilt to double-check that I’m doing it right 🙂 You can find tutorials that cover the steps of quilt-making online, but I like having a book that I can refer to again and again.   

Besides the basics of making a quilt, Hartman includes instructions for 12 quilt projects.  I haven’t made any of the quilts yet, but they’re modern and stylish and a great source for inspiration.  I particularly like how Hartman includes alternate color schemes for each project.

If you’re looking for a book to help you start quilting, The Practical Guide to Patchwork is a great choice.

*This post isn’t sponsored in any way, but those are Amazon affiliate links.  

My First Quilt: Update 3

During these last few weeks we had a lot going on and so I took a break from working on my quilt but after a while I felt the itch to work on it again. So out came my sewing machine and supplies to take over the kitchen table again.

I sewed all of my squares into strips and then pressed the seams open. This step took a lot more time than I thought it would would. (All those little seams!)

Then I took the strips and started sewing them to each other, trying (and often failing) to match up all the short seams.

And then I had a finished quilt top! I’m being a bit of a tease and saving the picture of the completed top for my next post. But I really like this picture of the back because of the texture and because it’s satisfying to look at All Those Seams after I spent so much time on them.

Now I just need to pick out a fabric for the back. I am really stumped on what color to use. I love the look of gray mixed with bright colors in this quilt and was thinking about using a gray back but now I don’t know.

What do you think? Would gray look good or would a brighter print be better?

My First Quilt: Update 2

Things are looking up! Thank you for being patient with my little pity-party yesterday. You guys are really lovely. My toe has turned a lovely shade of purple but the pain has leveled off and things are getting back to a good normal.

In more cheerful news, I’m still chugging along on my quilt.

After I sewed my blocks together I cut them down the middle and was left with lots of half-square triangles blocks.

Then I took the blocks and pressed their seams open (all 130 of them). It took a while but I worked on it while N and I watched Hello, Dolly! (Seeing the bits of Dolly in countless viewings of WALL-E with E had made me want to watch the whole thing.)

Next I laid the blocks out on the carpet.

And then I clapped my hands together in excitement and squealed like a little girl. Squeee!

My First Quilt: Update 1

This last weekend I was finally able to get started on my rainbow zigzag quilt. I’m using this tutorial from the very fun blog, A Quilt Is Nice.

Thanks to everyone who chimed in on the pattern question. After WAY too much deliberation I finally decided to go with the reflected rainbow pattern, with the purples in the middle. This is the final order of the fabrics:

I had never used a rotary cutter before so it took me a bit of practice to get the hang of it (I only wasted a small piece of one fabric) but after working through the kids’ Saturday afternoon nap I got all my squares cut out.

Then I paired up the squares, pinned them together, and used a fabric marker to draw a line across the diagonal.

Then I used the 1/4″ quilting setting on my sewing machine to sew two stitched lines each 1/4″ away from the line I drew earlier. I still have a few more squares to sew together and then it’s on to the next step.

I’m kind of surprised by how much I’m enjoying this project. I love these fabrics so much that just looking at them while I work is fun and while the work is repetitious enough to be relaxing each stage is over pretty quickly so I don’t get too bored. I’m sure that I’m making PLENTY of mistakes, but so far I’m having fun.

Grand Plans: Rainbow Zigzag Quilt

I’ve given in–I’m going to try quilting! I’ve been collecting pictures of quilts I like over on Pinterest and I’ve decided to make a zigzag quilt using this tutorial from A Quilt Is Nice (which is a great blog by the way).

Photo from A Quilt Is Nice

Nettie has made a couple rainbow quilts lately that I’ve really liked and I think this zigzag pattern would look great in a rainbow palette. So I went shopping with my friend Stephanie and picked out a rainbow of fabrics which was really fun.

I’m still not sure about the orange on the right but we’ll see. The bottom fabric is for the binding around the edge of the quilt.

Now the question is which pattern should I use? I have two fabrics in each color–should I repeat through the rainbow twice or should I arrange the colors in a mirror image?

Hmm…my first instinct was to go with A, but B is growing on me and N says he prefers that one. It’s too bad Mimi is too young to tell us which one she prefers since this is going to be her blanket. 🙂

How about you–which do you prefer? Weigh in on the debate of the century!

***Update: See my finished quilt here!***

Wheatgrass for spring

I’ve always wanted to grow some wheatgrass in little planters for indoor decoration. It looks so fresh and spring-y. Well friends, this is the year!

Photo from Freshly Picked

After seeing Susan’s post yesterday I made up my mind to put a couple of planters together this weekend. This morning I picked up some hard red wheat from the bulk section of the health food store and a couple of serving dishes to plant it in from a thrift store. Now I just need to go get some potting soil and some rocks for the bottom of the dishes and we’ll be good to go.

E has been fascinated with gardening lately and so he was excited this morning when I told him that we’d be planting some grass together. I’ll let you know how it goes. Apparently wheatgrass takes about a week to grow so if you get some started this weekend you can have a cute centerpiece ready for Easter.

Reupholstered Couch

I’ve always wanted to take an upholstery class but have never gotten around to it. But it seems like a very useful skill to have. When Susan of the excellent blog Freshly Picked told me about the couch her and her husband recently reupholstered I couldn’t wait to see the results.

The Before (photos by Susan)

The After

Isn’t it amazing? I’d love to do something like this but will probably stick with woodworking for now (one furniture-related hobby is probably enough). But some day…

For more details and to see a fun time lapse video of the whole project check out Susan’s blog.

Family Trees

Back in the day Martha Stewart used to sell a family tree kit that included a die-cut tree and leaves to write your ancestors’ names on. I was interested in it but at the time I was a poor college student so I shamelessly recreated it on my own by tracing it in Illustrator.

I had ambitions of making several for Christmas presents but ran out of steam after just one (no big surprise there). After we had E I wanted to put one together for us but by then I had lost the original files (I think they’re on a Mac zip disk somewhere in my basement) and I wanted to make mine bigger than 8 1/2″ by 11″ so I basically dropped it.

Until I saw these family tree kits for sale at the Beehive Bazaar. They closely resemble the tree kit I saw before and knocked off myself but they are a bigger size (18″ by 20″). They’re nice and come with instructions, the tree, leaves, etc… I bought one for $20 at the bazaar but you can order then for $15 online (d’oh!). If you want to get a bunch of them for gifts the price drops to $10.

The main thing you’re paying for is the 18″ by 20″ piece of paper with the tree itself printed on it. If you’re crafty you could put together the other parts on your own (i.e. draw your own paper leaves and cut them out, buy a glue stick, etc…) but it’s a hassle to draw a tree in Illustrator and find a way to get it printed at such a large size. Besides, the kits are well made and having everything together already together in a kit makes it much more likely that I’ll actually get it put together.