Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sewing Machine Tool Organizer

A few years ago I turned some old patchwork into a sewing machine mat.

It was large enough to have some added space on the sides of the machine for some extra stuff and included a full row of pockets across the front. It was the perfect size for my BERNINA 440 QE, but when I upgraded to a bigger BERNINA 770 QE the mat suddenly seemed too small. I missed having extra space on the sides of the machine both on the table top to hold scissors and pin cushion, and with pockets to hold tools.

Time to make a new sewing machine mat, right? Yes! I took the best parts of that first mat and made some improvements; extra room on the top of the mat for other tools (pincushion, large shears, cup of tea, etc.), the front pockets are deep enough to hold tools but short enough to clear my legs, the backing includes stiff interfacing to keep the mat from sagging or bunching up, and I created angled pockets to hold tall tools (like a sewing gauge and tweezers) so they don't poke up above the table and get in the way of sewing.

I also got enough comments on that first mat to know that some people really wanted to have instructions to make one of their own! You can find out how to make one yourself with my Sewing Machine Mat Tutorial at BERNINA's WeAllSew blog. I hope you enjoy it!

Are you really surprised that I added a patchwork rainbow to my mat? ;)

It also works fantastic for other stuff, like using my fabric die cutter. I have thread snips, tweezers, and a small dental pic in the pockets to keep the die blocks clean while cutting. And the mat helps hold the die cutter in place. If you think the mat would slip around while using a die cutter, you need to follow the link above to learn my secret for keeping the mat securely on the table and free from slipping around!

Loving it so far, especially how it brightens up the space. I'd love to see photos if you create a sewing machine mat - please link in the comments or tag @erika.mulvenna at Instagram.

Happy stitching!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Union Square Big Block Project

Good news everyone, I've just finished a new quilt! This quilt was a BERNINA Ambassador assignment to take a traditional block and turn it into a jumbo sized quilt, and the finished project can be found as a free Quilt-Along at BERNINA's WeAllSew blog.

I'm not really a traditional block quilter, so this was a difficult assignment. To choose a block as inspiration, I looked at another quilt-along in process at the WeAllSew blog, the BERNINA block-of-the-month quilt by Nina McVeigh. These are traditional blocks put together with bright, modern fabrics, and I fell in love with the Union Square quilt block. It's great, right? I love the symmetry, the movement from the center out to the edges, and the simplicity.

Plus itt was an easy block to take from the small size and increase it to a 60" x 60" finished quilt (and I was all about making this an easy project). The colors were easy to work with, too. I kept the yellow, light blue, and pinkish red colors from the original block because these are close to the three base colors of the CMY system (cyan blue, magenta red and yellow)—one of my favorite color systems. These three colors just look great together.

I did add an additional square in the center placed on-point. Or does that make it a diamond and not an on-point square? Ah, at any rate, the red center represents the red in the BERNINA logo, and the three shades of golden yellow radiating out from the BERNINA red center represent the 125 year celebration of BERNINA's golden anniversary this year.

There are some funny color theory things happening in this quilt. First of all, if you're looking at the center block, the dark shade of golden yellow can start to appear to have a greenish tint. This phenomenon of human color vision is called simultaneous contrast. When your eyes focus on the red for a long period of time, the opposite visual color of green starts to appear next to it in that gold, and all of a sudden you think that you're looking at a dark mossy green color.

The other trick of the eyes may make the center square start to look more like an orange-red than a true red as the strong magenta red squares affect your perception of the reddish colors compared to each other.

Here's what I learned from this quilt. The simpler the geometric design is, the harder it is to get it right. I really struggled with my color choices, and the center block design. I ended up drawing several different design choices and colored them in different ways, and then spent about two weeks just looking at the different designs until I settled on this one. And I still wasn't sure it would work until I got it all together, although I like it better now that it is finished.

For sure, I have a brand new respect for quilters who have the ability to work with large-scale, graphic, simple geometric designs and make it look so easy. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to accomplish a design like this again, this was a difficult assignment to tackle!

How about you, have you ever tried to create a large-scale graphic design in a quilt? How did it work for you? I'd love to see photos, please share in the comments or give me a link!

Until next time, happy stitching!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Eye of the Storm Quilt

I just realized last night that I never shared the details of this quilt with y'all! And it's front and center every time I have shared photos of my new office. So, here is the story of the Eye of the Storm quilt.

I don't have many photos of the early stages of this quilt because my old phone suffered a catastrophic failure earlier this year. It died a horrible death, and we could not retrieve any photos from the phone (moral of the story, back 'em up if you can).

All the fabrics for the quilt top are from recycled t-shirts in the 12 colors of the red/yellow/blue color system plus white. I used my die cutter to make hexagons from the colors and the corresponding triangles from white. I began piecing this together at our Chicago Modern Quilt Guild retreat - that's my late (beloved, and sorely missed) BERNINA 1080 in the photo above. First steps were piecing the triangles on each side of the hexies.

Once I finished attaching the triangles I was ready for layout! Layout happened at yet another CMQG retreat (I think I worked on this through an entire year's worth of retreats).

I had absolutely NO plans, ideas, or preconceived notions of how this project was going to come together. I didn't even know what size it would end up! My only plan was to use as many of the pieces as I could to create a quilt. The layout was kind of spontaneous. Instead of mixing all the colors together or laying them out randomly, I chose to put red in the center (of course, because it is my favorite color!) and loosely follow color-order out from there.

I started to piece the rows together at that retreat, and finished the rows at home.

Yet another CMQG retreat and the rows are finally coming together.

And I finished the top! Once it was sewn together, it became pretty clear that the quilt looked a lot like Doppler radar of a large storm. One friend even though this was exactly how Predator sees the world. 

I decided to go with the Doppler radar theme, it fit really well. I chose to quilt outward from one of the red hexies to represent the eye of the storm. I quilted a simple snowflake looking shape in the center of the eye. 

After finishing with a facing, the quilt measures 50" wide by 56" long. 

I have to admit, I didn't care too much for this quilt after I finished it. I entered it into the QuiltCon show at the end of 2016, and was a bit disappointed that it was not accepted. I think it had a lot to do with having worked for so long on this quilt! At any rate, I put it away right after the holidays and didn't look at it for many months.

Recently this quilt has moved into my newly remodeled sewing studio and lives right over my desk. It's really grown on me, and I have enjoyed it as a daily companion - I do really love this quilt!

Isn't it funny how something you work so hard on making can seem like a big disappointment at first, but then end up being something you absolutely love?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sewing Some Holiday Hearts

Are these not the cutest? Yes, these are exactly like the woven heart baskets you made from construction paper as a kid.

Except these are made from colorful cotton fabrics!

I couldn't stop at just one, it was fun to see how different color combinations looked.

If you'd like to sew up a heart pocket, I shared my method along with a link to the original tutorial (just look for the link towards the very top of the post) at BERNINA's WeAllSew blog - click over if you'd like to learn how to make your own Holiday Heart. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Apron Book is back!

I have been in love with vintage aprons since I first picked one up at a thrift store while in college (which yes, was like a million years ago). My collection now includes about 100 aprons from the 1930's through the 1960's. The one below is one of my favorites, I love the colors and pattern.

I've even made an apron or two, like this one using recycled vintage patchwork (and this guy was featured in Quilty magazine).

I also love to collect books about vintage aprons.

One of my top favorites is The Apron Book by EllynAnne Geisel published in 2006, a book that includes history with personal stories and instructions to make some of the most iconic styles of aprons to wear or to gift. It's the kind of book that you can pick up and read cover-to-cover, or read a bit here and there with a cup o' tea (and a cat).

I'm super excited that the book has just been reprinted! If you don't own The Apron Book and are interested in aprons, mid-century lifestyles, or vintage sewing, you are going to love this book.

In celebration of the new printing of the book, a series of podcasts is now available at The Apron Book Podcast page - each one focusing on how aprons continue to speak with stories of their own through the ages. Head on over and give each of the episodes a listen - especially good podcasting for sewing, or while waiting for your copy of the book to arrive.

Oh, and THIS! You could win your very own copy of The Apron Book along with an apron hand-crafted by the apron maven EllynAnne Geisel herself, plus a basket of sewing goodies from BERNINA by visiting the Tie One On Day post at the WeAllSew blog, and scroll down to the bottom of the post to read how to enter. The contest is open through November 22, so there's plenty of time to enter, good luck!