Monday, November 25, 2013

{Tutorial} An Improv Block

Today, I'm sharing a quick tutorial for "An Improv Block" similar to the block that I used in my Autumn table runner.  A sweet reader emailed me and asked me about how to put a block like this together, so I thought a tutorial might be helpful.  This might be a particularly valuable tutorial for someone who's sewn a quilt from my Arrow Tail tutorial, since it uses scraps from this quilt. 

I made this cute pillow with the block I made from this tutorial.  It uses mainly scraps leftover from this Arrow Tail Quilt and is backed in some gorgeous velveteen fabric.  Just something simple to spruce up my bed for Fall (because it IS still Fall). 


Disclaimer: I'm not an expert on improvisational piecing.  I suppose the intent of this tutorial is to teach you how to make a scrappy improv pieced block similar to mine.  But, perhaps you might also glean a method for piecing anything in an improvisational manner.  First things first, take off your "sewing perfect points and matching all my seams" hat and put on your "let loose and just sew two pieces together" hat.  Take a deep breath. 

Now, a word of advice...I find improv piecing to be much easier if I'm dealing with scraps that are roughly the same size or share a common width.  My improv block includes a mix of triangles, rectangles, and strips - all scraps leftover from a quilt.  Therefore, they happen to be about the same size and share common angles.  It is also important that the pieces that are sewn together have straight edges.

My block consists of three rows of scraps pieced together.  Each row measures approx 3-4" tall by 12-13" wide.  On my table runner, I added borders to make each block 14" square (more on this below).  For the pillow above, I added borders to achieve a block that is about 13.5 x 15.  Ok, let's get started! 

Below I've divided the scraps I used into triangles, strips or rectangles, and strips with angles.  The first step is to pick up two random pieces of fabric and sew them together.     

Let's start by sewing two triangle pieces together.  Pick two that are similar in size, place them right sides together and sew along the angled edge.  Next press the seam open.  Depending on the shape of the triangles you've chosen, you may have a very wonky block or an almost square block - either is fine!

Now, simply trim the block so that all edges are straight and meet at right angles to one another.  I do this by aligning one straight edge with a horizontal line on my rotary mat, trimming the edge on the left and then turning the block (aligning edges with rotary mat lines) and trimming until it is finished.  Note that my trimmed block is about 3.5" square.


Next, let's add a scrap to this block.  The scrap I selected is clearly bigger (taller) than the block I just finished.  That's ok!  Simply sew this scrap to the block and trim.


Continue in this manner, adding scraps to your strip until it is about 12-13" long (or whatever length you like).  Below, I chose to add another pair of triangles sewn into a block.  Always stitch, press seams open, and trim so all edges are straight! 


I added one additional scrap to my row so that it ended at about 13" long by 3.5" tall.  


Now, sew two additional rows in the same manner.  Choose different sizes and arrangements of scraps if you'd like a true improv style block.  Below, I encountered a situation where the piece I wanted to add to my row (shown on the right) was not big enough.  So, I decided to sew an additional scrap to that piece (shown below) first and then sewed the pieced block to my row.  Details like this add interest to your block! 


Once you've finished all 3 rows, lay them out and choose an arrangement.  Again, don't worry if the rows are different lengths.  You will trim your block once the rows are sewn together.  


Sew two rows together, press your seam open, and trim the overhang so that you have straight edges. 


Repeat for the last row.  Below is my finished improv block.  

If you would like to square off your block for use in a quilt or table runner like mine, I suggest adding borders to the block to achieve the size desired.  For my table runner, I made three square blocks at 14" each.  I then sewed these 3 blocks together, basted, quilted and stitched the binding down (using this tutorial).  

Below is the block with borders I made for this tutorial.  It measures around 13.5 x 15.  


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! It's a method I really enjoy when I need some no-rules, liberating sewing.  If you make a block or anything using my tutorial, feel free to share it in my Sing All You Want flickr group.  Happy {improv} Sewing!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Maggie's Hanimi Dress

I love most everything I sew, but only every once in awhile do I fall madly in love with the end product.  This dress is one that I've fallen hard for.  There is just something about it that I adore.  Maybe it's the gorgeous fabric that is so fitting for my girl, or the drop waist, or the sleek and modern yet simple style.  It's definitely my favorite dress sewn to date. 

The pattern is the Hanimi Dress pattern by An of StraightGrain.  Just like the Serena Dress I shared recently, I first learned of this pattern on Rachel's blog.  She has sewn a handful of these beautiful dresses and I love them all.  Yes, I'm a blog stalker!  I just love Rachel's style and especially the patterns she chooses and clothes she makes for her older daughter (who looks about the same age as Maggie).  And, she's super nice and always chats with me on email about these things - thanks, Rachel.  : )

Anyway, this pattern is fantastic!  I believe I went with the simplest style, but An gives you loads of options...flutter sleeves, peter pan collars, shirt, dress, etc.  The fabric is, of course, this gorgeous cotton/linen blend by Anna Maria Horner.  I snatched some for Maggie the minute I saw it and have been saving it for the perfect dress. 

Maggie's Hanimi Dress

One thing I did differently from the pattern is pleating the skirt instead of gathering.  I was a little short on fabric widthwise for the skirt panels.  I also knew I really wanted to align the pattern between the bodice and skirt (at least on the front of the dress).  If there ever was a fabric to fuss with alignment over, this is it!  So, to do the pleats, I referred to a Geranium top I'd sewn for Maggie.  I measured the distance between the first pleats to set those and then just played with the other pleats until the front width of the skirt matched the width of the bodice.  Same for the back.  And, it worked quite well, if I do say so myself!  That said, one of the things that is so fantastic about this pattern is the method An provides for gathering a skirt.  It is super thorough and I will definitely be referring back to that.  I also added some purple piping at the waist.  All of these details make for a more sleek and somewhat "grown up" look that both Maggie and I love.      

Purple Piping

The back of the dress includes an invisible zipper.  Another first for me sewing wise.  It took a few tries, but only because I kept making silly mistakes and twisting the zipper.  Again, An's instructions are fantastic.  I'm happy to feel like I jumped that sewing hurdle.

Hanimi Dress Invisible Zipper Back

See, here's the zipper in action and a peek at the lovely lining (which is this print by Anna Maria Horner). 

So, enough of the dress about of some amazing photos of the girl in it.  These beautiful photos were taken by my friend Mary of Where's the Zoom.  She did our family photos a couple of weeks ago and to say I'm overwhelmingly in love with them would be an understatement.  These are just a few that I picked out featuring Maggie in her dress, but oh my goodness, the whole shebang is just too, too good.  I will be sharing more here for sure, but for now I'll leave you with these beauties.

Maggie Hanimi Dress

Maggie Hanimi Dress


Three in Leaves

On the fence

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shop Talk & A GIVEAWAY!

I'm excited to be here today sharing some shop updates and a great GIVEAWAY!  I've been busy sewing up some new items that I think will make great gifts for the holidays.  I happened upon a table of upholstery leather remnants at Hancock's recently, and knew I needed to make some clutches and list-takers.  I love how the addition of the faux leather makes these items so sturdy and authentic.  As soon as I finish these up, I'll be listing them on my Facebook page with prices and more details.
The list-taker is based on an all-time favorite pattern of mine by Jennifer Casa (available here).  And, for the clutches I used this great pattern by LBG Studio.  


So, in the meantime, I thought a giveaway would be fun!  Bear with me people, it's my first giveaway!  I tried to keep this one simple, but to enter, you will be required to like my Sing All You Want page on Facebook.  I would love to get some more fans there, because I think Facebook is a great open forum for chatting and getting to know people.  So, what's up for grabs?!?!  Just this beautiful leather accented foldover clutch.  It's a really lovely clutch and even the perfect size for an ipad.  You can enter below!  I will announce a winner on Sun, Nov 24th and send it off right away! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Last but not least, I've got a few new-ish goodies in my Etsy shop.  There are a few fun versions of my typewriter list-takers available.  These latest list-takers are very nicely padded so they can safely hold a Kindle or Kindle Fire in the left side pocket.

And, I've listed my Autumn Arrowtail quilt for sale.  It's a beauty but I love the quilts I have and have plenty.  I'd love to send it off to a new home!

Arrow Tail Quilt Front

Wishing you all a Happy Week!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Serena Dress

I bought this Serena Baby Dress pattern when Lyla was a baby and I wanted to sew some simple tunics.  But, then I kind of forgot about it...until I saw several adorable versions over on Rachel's blog (these were the first to catch my eye).  At an age where children outgrow things faster than they can really enjoy them, this little dress is an anomaly.  I have a feeling it will last a while.  She can wear it as a dress and then a tunic, alone in the summer, or over a shirt and with leggings in the winter.  And, it's reversible!  

Reverse Serena Dress

Serena Dress

I sewed the size 6-12 months (which is the largest size), and it's a little wide on her in the shoulders, but fits well with a shirt.  If I make more, I might consider taking out a little of the width between the shoulders.  The pattern itself is very straightforward and simple - it really took me just over an hour even after I botched the binding and had to take it off and redo it.  I takes just two 1/2 yard cuts of fabric so I'll definitely be making more!

Top Serena Dress

Chambray Bound

Now, let's talk about the fabric!  I've had my eye on this fabulous Fort Firefly collection by Birch Fabrics since it came out.  I just love the little woodland scenes, the earthy tones and the fact that it's organic.  Admittedly, a bit pricey for me, though.  So, my friend Raedene found it for a great price and we decided to make an order together and split it (it's so nice to have a friend that loves fabric as much as me!).  She made the adorable dresses at the end of this post for her girls - aren't they cute?!?!  Anyway, this fabric just seems perfect for little girls' clothes.  For the binding I used a light chambray by Robert Kauffman.   I love how it makes the dress just a bit more casual and comfy.
Cute Legs

Fort Firefly Dress

Oh, my sweet toddling-toddler.  Just look at those sweet legs.  It sure doesn't look like it in the pictures, but she is 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday Reflections: Memories

Blue Ridge Parkway, NC, Photo by My Dad
A while back (years, maybe) I would occasionally write a post titled Sunday Reflections here, where I talked about the events of my week.  These days, I guess I get a little less personal here, as I feel more sensitive about respecting the privacy of my growing kiddos (one of whom now reads my blog!) and my family.  But, it is always so special to me when I can write about life because that's why I started this blog.

So, I had this really great moment this week and it was all because of my Dad and that picture up there.  A few weeks ago, my Dad and my brother went on an awesome adventure together biking (my brother) and driving (my Dad, in his 1954 Jaguar XK120, here, if you're interested) some 300 mile stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway here in NC.  My Dad took that picture up there and shared it with us along with a bunch of other pictures of his car and the two of them.   

That picture really caught my eye though.  I love the Blue Ridge Parkway...I think I could ride on it for hours and hours and hours and it would never get old.  I just looked at this picture for so long and dreamed about riding on that road and stopping at the overlooks and just staring at those beautiful mountains.  So, I emailed my Dad about how much I loved it.  When he emailed me back he shared how he did a bit of walking and exploring on the trip.  He wrote that he walked around the Pisgah Campground, where our family camped so much growing up, and even was able to pick out our favorite spot.

Now, I know I was pretty young when my family (of 7 kids) camped up there, so it must've been some 35ish years ago, or more?  I only have little flashes of memories of camping trips and some of it gets jumbled up with other trips we took to the mountains.  But, when I read that he found our favorite spot, I got pretty emotional, not because I remembered it too, but because it made me remember so many other things.  And, I just couldn't stop thinking about how cool it is that we can remember little things like a patch of land, or a tree, or a certain beach walkway and that those sights can be so moving and memorable. 

In my sewing room, on my table, I have a picture of a tree on a hill in the mountains (I talked about that tree here), that is one of my favorite spots in the world and I love to just pause and look at it when I need a break.  It's just so important to remember the real stuff, however you do it.  Thanks, Dad, for reminding me that!