Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Series, New Pattern: DIY Embroidery

DIY Embroidery: The Word Series


For a while now, I've been wanting to find a way to combine some of my favorite collected quotes and typefaces with my embroidery work. A few months ago, a brainstorm hit and I set to sketching out my ideas for a new series of embroidery patterns that feature text in a whole new way. This is the first pattern in that series and I'm thrilled to finally be able to share it with you all!

DIY Embroidery (detail 1): The Word Series: The Story of Kat


Advice, without personal context, can be overrated. It's important to me that this series not be about preachy advice but rather inspiring and powerful words.  When I come across a phrase, thought, or quote in a book that stands out from all the noise, it can help spur me on to take then next steps forward. I relish in the power of the written word—the strength, humor, warmth, or empathy it can impart.

DIY Embroidery (detail 2): The Word Series: The Story of Kat


I hope you will enjoy contemplating the words and designs in this series as you stitch them up. They range from motivational to sarcastic and hilarious—each one drawn by me and digitized to be stitched up in an 8" embroidery hoop and ready to hang (or framed or worked into another sewing project however you like).

Check out my shop here to purchase this pattern as an instant download and keep your eyes on this space for the next two patterns in this series over the coming weeks (as well as some tutorials on stitching up text)! Each PDF includes the pattern in forward and reverse (depending on your preferred method of transfer), and comes with a guide for colors and stitches if you wish to replicate the pattern as I have stitched it up (though I love seeing the different creative directions you go in with them!) Feel free to tag your work with these patterns on Instagram with #thestoryofkat or add them to The Story of Kat flickr group here.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Couple Costumes are for Blockheads

Couple Costumes are for Blockheads

So we don't normally dress up for Halloween, but decided to go all out for it last year. The party itself wasn't until the weekend after Halloween due to how it fell on the calendar in 2013, so now seems like a good time to share the results!

Peanuts
Peanuts costume inspiration

I love old school holiday cartoons—from claymation anything to classic animation,—it is just not a holiday without them. At some point, I got it into my head that we could dress up as Lucy and Schroeder from Peanuts. I know people normally do Lucy and Charlie Brown but it's Schroeder that Lucy is so hung up on.

Lucy Costume WIP
This is my "I just made an Anne of Green Gables-esque puffed sleeve SUCKAS!" face

I made my dress using the Kwik Sew K4002 tunic pattern as a base with some cheap blue fabric that I found on sale. I then added some length, raised the neck line to a crew neck, and  drafted a ruffled collar finished with bias binding as well as some puffed sleeves. To get the neckline just right, I traced the curve of a crew neck garment I already had and felt comfortable with. I completed the look with oversized black buttons (actually from a snowman kit on clearance at Joann's) and embroidery, hair dye, saddle shoes, and some bright blue socks from Target. Luckily, my naturally not contemporary 60's-esque haircut was just right. My husbands outfit was really easy as it was just a matter of finding a purple and black stripe t-shirt to pair with black pants and hair dye.

Couple Costumes are for Blockheads
Here we are, looking like dorky 12 year olds. It was awesome.

I'd never done alterations like this before and just went for it after reading as much as I could find. I haven't done a lot of garment sewing so this was definitely a confidence booster for me. I would definitely recommend experimenting with simple silhouettes for Halloween costumes as a way to get comfortable with sewing clothes—it's very creatively freeing and doesn't come with all the pressure of having to get things just right since it's not the kind of thing you'll be wearing on a regular basis.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

Melody Miller Quilt Top
Melody Miller quilt top I'm going to start hand quilting next with sashiko stitches

Belated though I may be, I wanted to respond to my friend's gracious invitation to participate in the "Around the World" blog hop. To echo her sentiments, it's not normally my kind of thing, but I thought the nature of the questions posed were interesting and worth thinking about and sharing. Since I am so late to the party, I'm going to forgo tagging anyone but am sending a thank you to Natalie from Green Leaf Goods for thinking of me!

Sewing Table Reality Check
Reality Check: the sewing table in my workroom...want to play How Many Projects Can you Spot?!

1. What quilting/sewing thing am I working on?

The short answer is that I have one last Quilts for Boston top to finish and two quilts to sandwich and baste, my DS Quilts picnic top and my Melody Miller top. I also have a laptop case I'm trying to design for myself and two baby gift projects I want to finish, an Amish Puzzle Ball and a matching game.

In trying to better answer this question though, I had a look around my sewing room and took full stock of what was going on. I currently have eight quilts in some state of progress and five other sewing projects including several items for my shop, and some home decor sewing. For a long time, I felt almost guilty for admitting to people that had so many WIPs, as if it were some kind of reflection on my ability to finish things (or not). A recent series of articles from Sew Mama Sew on Slow Sewing helped me to reframe the issue and I've gotten comfortable recognizing that I choose and enjoy working in this way. Like so many, I have a busy and chaotic work schedule so when I get home, I like to have a bevy of projects at the ready depending on how much time and focus I have. One night, it might make more sense to be downstairs with other family members working on hand stitching. Another night, I have to be working in my office and it's easier to take a break every now and then to run a few seams on the machine as a treat to myself. At other times, I'm on the go and need something portable. Either which way, my prep work has been completed and I can jump right in on whatever I'm in the mood for! 

Kim's french press
I love adding hand stitched and embroidered details to my sewing and quilting projects


2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think I fall pretty well into the modern quilting movement in terms of my fabric choices, love of asymmetric designs that put a twist on traditional blocks, and embrace of whitespace. This speaks to my background in graphic design and I love conceiving of a quilt with those ideas in mind.

I differ most in my work techniques, having been taught by my Granny who is a very traditional quilter. I tend not to use patterns and though I love and use my machine for a lot of things (and do not want to knock those that use it solely at all!), I personally find a lot more meaning and peace of mind in hand quilting so try to incorporate that whenever I can. I am terrible at free-motion quilting so I avoid it as well as the QAYG method and heavy laundering because my work in textile conservation has helped me to realize that these are not stable, long-term methods.

I also try to limit my stash buying habits to make my work process more green-friendly, using up all the scraps  I can (I love frankenbatting and stuffing plush items with too-small-to use fabric scraps) and avoiding some of the commercialism of quilting where I can. My sewing is slow, each project taking long enough to flow in and out of periods of my life so as to reflect different stories in its making and never keeps up with fabric line releases, try though I might at times.


Little Folks Quilt Top
This is a quilt top I have in progress using Anna Maria Horner's Little Folks voile.
I've been hand piecing it for a while now and have no intention of hurrying up! My idea with this was that it was so enjoyable and meditative to stitch into the buttery voile, that I would hand piece and quilt the whole thing as it pleased me. The top is almost 2/3rds done and completely inspired by my love of this fabric.


3. How does my writing/creating process work?

Inspriation comes in various forms for me. Most often, the roots of a quilt design lie in the nature of the specific purpose, person, or season I am making it for. Occassionally they are formed by my vision of a fabric line that really speaks to me (Denyse Schmidt's Chicopea and Anna Maria Horner's Little Folks are examples). Frequently, I am inspired by the work of fellow quilters and love collecting and comparing stellar quilts in my Flickr favorites and on Pinterest. These examples really help me to condense what I aspects I love most and inform my own altered or mish-mashed designs.

I tend to draw these ideas out on scrap paper so that I can calculate just how much fabric I'll need. As a grad student, I don't have a lot of extra cash for fabric so, though the improv approach is very appealing to me, I tend to plot things out in advance to make the most economic use of my stash. Alternatively, I might start by pulling certain fabrics whose colors or patterns work well together. This part of the process reminds me a lot of blending oil paints as an art student in college. It's really a gut call when it comes to color for me and is the part of my creative process that I love and prolong the most.



I hope you've enjoyed this insight into my work and hope that it's got you thinking about your own habits and style. I'll be back soon with some more progress and finished pieces soon!


Monday, October 13, 2014

Fall Finish: My Modern Maples Quilt

Modern Maples
Fabric from all my favorite designers in this including Anna Maria Horner (and one print from her daughter's first line), Denyse Schmidt, Heather Ross, and that one glorious Lizzy House fox print for good measure.

The first sketch I have for the layout of this quilt is from last August. I've always got several projects going at once, and this quilt was no exception to that rule. Though I did all the piecing in just a week or so during October 2013, I picked it up just here and there over the last year to finish it with some special hand-quilting. There was definitely a point or two where I questioned my sanity, but now that I can see all those little stitches lying next to each other, I'm thrilled with the decision and glad I stuck with it.

Modern Maples, Back

I kind of regret not being able to use the AMH flannel for the entire back. I had just a yard of it on hand so instead of splurging on more, I ended up combining it with some cheaper solid cream flannel. Though it's not topping my favorites chart, I can attest to the fact that backing a quilt for the colder months in flannel is an awesome way to go. I seem to always be cold but also cheap (we are holding out and not turning our heat on until November...) but with this quilt, I've been very toasty the past couple nights!
Modern Maples, Detail
Variegated Valdani pearle cotton and AMH voile pastry line binding details

All of the maple leaf blocks are quilted with a cream perle cotton which has given this quilt a surface texture that I am head over heels for. I've never been a big fan of variegated threads, but thought the white spaces in between would be an appropriate way to use them so as to echo the idea of changing colors. I had a really difficult time finding the colors I wanted from DMC perle cotton but found these fabulous tones from Valdani online in size 8 which worked really well for the hand quilting. Plus, I kind of just like seeing the lovely little paper lables noting they are from Romania

It's nice to look back on the progress of this quilt so I've gathered up all my instagram pics of it below from the past year...nothing quite like the satisfaction of seeing something come together that you made with your own two hands!!

Modern Maples, WIP Detail

From my original sketches and fabric selections to finished blocks and in-progress quilting


Monday, September 8, 2014

The DS Picnic Quilt

DS Picnic Quilt

Most of my summer sewing time has been devoted to repairing worn items of clothing in our closets, creating class and shop samples, and making gifts for friend's adorable babies and babies-to-be. I did manage to get in some time for my own projects though—one of which I finished a part of today!

DS Picnic Quilt, detail

I've been collecting bits of Denyse Schmidt's line of fabrics for JoAnn since they started appearing in stores back in 2011 and know I'm not alone in deciding these would make a perfect picnic quilt. I didn't get around to it right away but that has allowed me to shake up the color palette and bit by adding in a few yellows and oranges from later releases into the mix. Between all the primary colors, the reminder of old feedsack fabrics in Schmidt's designs, and the "small plates" quilt block, I think this is definitely one of the most traditional style quilts I've made so far. It's all very simple right angles, but  for all the wear this quilt will see, I'm just fine with that.

I finally tracked down a few yards of the fabric below for the back and am thinking of making a scrappy binding of all the other prints to echo the patchwork border. What do you think—scrappy binding or settle on one print and, if so, which one? Also, I have no clue as to how to quilt this...I'm not a free-motion quilter but would appreciate any suggestions you might have as I'm don't have anything in mind for it!

DS Picnic Quilt, WIP
Initial sketch and backing fabric

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