Monday, March 30, 2015

My First Year of Swaps

As many of you know, last year was my first year of swaps, and I participated in many.  It was a good way to get to know a bunch of other crafters, and I made or solidified friendships with many wonderful woman.  I also got a lot of wonderful swap items from (most of) them!

But it wasn't all good though, and I honestly wasn't prepared for the amount of anxiety, frustration, annoyance and disappointment I experienced through the year.  You don't hear much about the slackers, or poor workmanship, or horrible communication that can occur in swaps.  I love that this community is so positive and encouraging, but I think we're doing ourselves and each other a big disservice by not also discussing the negative experiences we have.  I think if I had been better prepared that things wouldn't be as awesome as everyone implied, then I would have tempered my expectations.  But to be fair my expectations are almost always too high.

My 2014 quilts--13 of the 21 quilts shown here were Pay It Forward or swap quilts!

It all started with some Pay It Forwards I signed up for in 2013--I signed up for them expecting I'd get some type of gift from those people, and also had signups for people to get some type of gift from me.  First mistake: committing to pay it forward before receiving anything from the people I'd signed up with.  Second mistake: taking on too many people to pay it forward to.  Third mistake: making each of those gifts I sent out much more complicated and time consuming than I should have (Case in point: a super tote and 5 mini quilts--Hexie Sewing MachineAMH FeatherHakuna MatataFlight of the Bumblebees, and Raven Feathers).   I did send out two smaller, simpler gifts to two others that signed up: gathered clutches and Starbucks giftcards.  It's been over two years since I signed up for those pay it forwards and I've accepted that I will never recieve anything from those people.

Mini Quilt from Jessica from Quilty Habit, side A

My next swap was a private one with Jess at Quilty Habit.  It was awesome--we both made double-sided quilts for each other (without knowing what the other was making) and really put a lot of effort into making something special for the other person.

Mini Quilt from Jessica from Quilty Habit, side B.

I was then invited to join a traveling quilt group--you can read more about that good and bad experience here.  The short version is that my first quilt I sent out went MIA with the group leader and neither have been heard from since.  But the rest of the group pulled together and created some amazing quilts despite the setbacks!  So although that started out as a bad experience, it transformed into an amazing group--and we decided to do a second round this year.

Birthday gifts from Julie at 627 Handworks--sew together bag, pin cushion and goodies.  (The firetruck wasn't apart of the gift, my son insisted it be in the photo.)

Otherside of the Sew Together bag--love the flying geese and butterfly print!

I love the little snap fabric inside the Sew Together zip pockets!

Then in a small zip pouch swap I received one that didn't even open all the way, and despite listing yellow and orange as colors I don't like, they were very predominately used (with teals and feathers fabrics, ha).  I ended up having to take most of the bag apart to fix the zipper.

Birthday gifts from Stephanie at Quarter Incher.

Inside of the Necessary Clutch from Stephanie at Quarter Incher.  Even enough room to hold my cell phone if I don't want to carry a big bag!

The next swap I joined was the Birthday Bash through flickr.  I signed up for it because my birthdays always end up feeling like a big let down.  There's so much hype for birthdays and parties and gifts...and I'm a low key person mostly, and my birthdays don't live up to the hype.  So when I was invited to join the swap I thought it would be a great way to add something special to my birthday--a bunch of handmade gifts all for me!  For my birthday!  I was excited, especially after seeing what several of the other women got for the birthdays that came before mine.

Birthday gifts from Amanda at What The Bobbin--a sew together bag, roadtrip case and pin cushion.

But when it was my turn to receive birthday gifts...I didn't get any.  My birthday came and went and I didn't receive any gifts.  It was like my annual day of disappointment times 10.  Additionally only one person had bothered to communicate with me about my gift and let me know it would be late (good communication is really important to me, and I really appreciated knowing they at least remembered!).  I waited...and waited...and waited....two weeks and still no gifts.  At that point I was pretty angry, and decided to leave the swap group.

My first birthday gift arrived over 2 weeks after my birthday.  One person said they thought they had the whole birthday month to send an item, while I had been under the impression to send things so they arrived by the birthday.  An unfortunate misunderstanding.

The cutest little hexie pin cushion and decorative pins!

Inside of the Sew Together bag.

Inside of the Road Trip case--lots of extra goodies!

I get that life happens, babies born, family emergencies, sewing machines break, other opportunities come up and take precedence over making and sending a birthday gift.  I feel that a gift being late is forgivable for any of those reasons, but what I found so upsetting was the lack of communication.  It would have taken less than 5 minutes to send a simple message saying that life had gotten crazy for whatever reason and my gift would be late.

Road Trip case made by Mara at Simon Says Sew.  This fabric is probably one of my favorites ever.  I wish I had yards of it.

Inside of the Road Trip case.

I did end up getting gifts from all but one person (even though I did send her a birthday gift, I'm sure I will never, ever get anything from her--I've heard she is a repeat flake in swaps despite her popularity), and I did rejoin the group and sent out gifts for the last two birthday girls.  In the end I got a lot of wonderful handmade items from the birthday swap and made some new friends, despite my grumpiness and the delays. 

Birthday gifts from Nicole at Snips Snippets.  Nicole and I share a love of teal and grey!  There were a lot more of those Coffee Crisps...I ate most of them before taking this photo. :-D

Also included in my birthday gift from Nicole--this gorgeous feather dresden mini quilt!

Despite the birthday swap issues I decided I would try one more group swap--the #igminiswap on Instagram.  I ended up getting a really nice mini quilt, and then a couple of months later I got to meet Jo at QuiltCon!  It was so fun getting to know her in person.

#IGminiswap quilt received from Jo @mybearpaw.

I've intentionally tried not to call out the people I've had issues with.  The ones I've become friends with I'd had a lot of good communication with and any problems I perceived have been forgiven.  And those that went MIA and in no way reciprocated the swap- I feel it is not my place to discredit them publically, though I think they obviously deserve it.  If you think that sounds mean, then understand that they entered into an agreement to swap items, and they did not follow through, and therefore their word means nothing.  It is not fair to me or future swap partners to believe otherwise until they have proven themselves to be capable of following through with their commitments.  If you are dying to know who they are, I will tell you in a private email, as I think you deserve the fair warning that they may do the same to others in the future.  On that note--I found out at the end of the #igminiswap that one of these women was in my group, and honestly if I had found out at the beginning I would have dropped out or asked to change groups because the possibility of having her as my partner is not worth it!  Luckily I had a wonderful partner.

The quilt I received from Afton at Quilting Mod in a private swap last fall.  It was this swap that I realized how much better private swaps are than group swaps!

Now here's my problem with all the big swaps I see on instagram--there are a lot of them, and all of them sounds like such fun it is hard to have the self control not to sign up for all of them.  This is especially true when they say something like, "You don't have to send out the item for 3 months!  That's plenty of time to stalk your partner, make something and send it out in time!"  Well, it's also plenty of time to sign up for 5 more swaps, forget half your obligations, and then barely make something at the last minute and still mail it out late.  I've seen this repeatedly on Instagram.  People have good intentions and get swept up in the excitement, but it is really hard to keep up with all of the swaps!  And the detachment of doing it all online, anonymously, makes it so much easier to make excuses for items being late, or forgetting them all together.

But you don't hear much about those problems--you mostly see or hear about the fancy items and/or high profile people involved.  But it's a lottery!  I've heard just as many stories about poorly made items, forgotten or lost items, and people that don't communicate at all.

This is why I've decided not to do group swaps anymore, or at least not with people I don't know.  It's just not worth all the anxiety, and potential frustration and disappointment!  But I still want to swap items, which is why I've started initiating private swaps with various blogging friends.  These swaps are fun through the whole process, and I know the other person's abilities, and to some extent their workmanship and work ethic.

So now I'd like to hear about YOUR swap experiences--have they all been good?  Or bad?  Or some of both?

Linking up with:
Fabric Tuesday @ Quilt Story
Needle and Thread Thursday @ My Quilt Infatuation

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ladybug Birthday Dress

Birthday halter dress!

My daughter turned 3 a couple of weeks ago, so I made her another birthday dress!  You can see the first one here.

The only photo I have showing the side slit at the hem.

I used the Tallulah Halter pattern from Jennifer Paganelli's Girl's World book.  I let my daughter pick the fabric out of several from my stash.  She loves ladybugs!

The cross over bodice is so cute!

I made the size 2-3T (XS), and it is a bit gaping on my skinny girl.   The pattern had a few confusing spots, but generally came together smoothly.

I did comb her hair beforehand, she is a scruffy headed child!

 I would have shared this sooner, but this photoshoot (which required some bribing) is the only time she's worn it--and she took it off immediately afterwards.  I'm hoping she wears it more over the summer!

She knocked out that tooth in September, now we're just waiting for the adult one to come in (it'll be a few years...).

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

WIP: dress and hexies

Amazingly I finished my March To-Do list with a week to spare.  This hasn't happened in longer than I can remember!  I debated between getting a jump start on my April list or making a dress--the dress won:

Pattern cutting.  My pattern weights are a little expensive (50m prime lens).

I bought this Anna Maria Horner Fine Feather voile last summer to make a light weight Washi dress, but after my first two Washis (see the dress here and the tunic here), I decided the pattern really wasn't that flattering on my body and went looking for a new dress to try.  I finally decided on The Date Night Dress.  I'm between a size medium and large, but decided to make the large.

Reasons every step takes 4 times longer than it should: emergency medical lego evacuation on my cutting table.

I don't have fabric for the slip yet--any suggestion on what will slide nicely with voile?  I saw someone else had used Robert Kaufman Radiance (silk and cotton blend), so I was thinking of trying that, but wish I knew how it would feel with the voile.

Large washers are on my list for my next hardware store trip.

My other WIP is this ongoing obsession with making hexies when I am idle.  It used to be just during road trips, so I didn't have a lot to worry about, but now I've started making them while watching shows in the evening and they are adding up fast:

Scrappy hexies.

I've been using scraps just big enough for a hexie to plan for them, just enjoying the process.  So my question to you is this--what do you make with hexies?  I'm running out of papers and want to either start using them or sewing them together so I can make more hexies.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

WIP: Blue Edition

I'm in the middle of a lot of projects right now, and can share a few with you today, the rest will have to wait until April (when I'll have time and/or permission to share them)!  

A dear friend of mine is expecting her second baby in the next few weeks, and I felt compelled to make her a baby quilt.  The quilt top is done, but top secret for a few more weeks.  I can share the very cute back with you though:

Quilt backing (Sea Breeze panel by Amy Shaw, surrounded by Kona Cornflower).  Mini quilts from top middle: Life: Ups and Downs by Yvonne, Flying North by me, Feather Dresden by Nicole, Moda tea towel.

The other quilts up on the design wall are two minis basted (on the left) to be quilted next month, and three mini quilts on the right are gifts (two were for me, and one is from me, but I'm fostering it until it's next show).  I've been planning to move my design wall so I can access the outlet behind it (covering it wasn't intentional!), and then I will hang my mini quilts properly.

Also today I worked on some blocks to send to Yvonne for the quilts she is making for some deserving youngster:

Block measures 10"x7" for the sea themed quilt.

The letter M for the second quilt, measures 13.5"x10".

These blocks were super fast and fun to make.  I love that Sarah Jane mermaid, I would happily make a whole quilt from improv blocks with fussy cut mermaid centers!  Yvonne just posted a request for more blocks to add to these quilts, go check it out!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts

Just over a year ago I was invited to join the Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts, which included 4 other woman.  We made a "starter" quilt (a block, row, series, etc) and then mailed it to the next person to have something added, and they sent it to the next person...etc...until it finally came back to the original person as a finished quilt top.  Here's my first starter quilt:

Sisterhood of the Traveling quilts starter (I).

But a month later one of our members went completely MIA--no more blog posts, IG photos, or emails.  She was gone, and she had two quilts (from the first and second round).  We carried on without her, and eventually (after many attempts to contact her) decided to start the two missing quilts over.  That first starter has never been seen or heard of since.  Here's my second starter:

Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts starter (II), center is the Golden Wedding Ring from

I sent my starter with a bunch of Kona Pepper (a very dark navy), and instructions to follow the theme "Quilts of a Feather" and lots of negative space for quilting.  Here it is today:

Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts finished quilt--titled "Quilts of a Feather"

The women that worked on it have become some of my best quilty friends!  I love what they added and how well I see each of their quilting personalities in it!

Quilt detail.  The pieced feathers were made by Laura and the x-blocks by Jessica.  The x-block quilting inspired by my recent Dot to Dot quilting with Angela Walters, which I had the best time taking with Ashley.

Quilt detail--I used the dark grey thread in the center block so it wouldn't distract from the center medallion.

I added the top and bottom borders once I got it back--which was Ashley's idea and used Laura's instructions.  It made the quilt a nice lap size: quilt top was about 76" x 65", after quilting it shrank to about 74" x 63" and after the first wash it measures 70" x 59".

All the goldish fabric is C+S Netorious in Cloud, and was quilted with Aurifil 2600 (Dove). 

The diamonds on the left were added by Ashley, and I love how much space she left for feather quilting! 

I had SO much fun quilting it, especially knowing that I'd get to keep this quilt and enjoy every part of it forever and ever!  I mostly used Aurifil #1148 (light jade), which looks so pretty on the Kona Pepper.  I used Aurifil #2605 (grey) in the bobbin, which blended nicely on the back (I know, so not my style, ha):

The only full photo I got of the quilt back--my son distracted me by insisting I take his picture with the quilt.  Husband looking grumpy after holding up the quilt to the point of arm muscle failure.  #waysquiltersannoytheirsignificantothers

The backing is Charley Harper flannel Twigs in teal and Charley Harper flannel Feathers in mineral.  I didn't intend to have a pieced back, but a miscalculation of how much fabric I needed meant I had to make a second order (and decided on those feathers, because, duh), then I thought it'd be nice to have a Kona Pepper divider with the group's signature blocks pieced in.  I love how it turned out!

Signature blocks and quilting detail on the back.

Quilt back detail.  I love how that small feather outline ended up in the Kona Pepper and shows up nicely!

I'm not sure why, but the flannels quilted differently--the feather piece was a lot more difficult to move smoothly (even with my supreme slider and gloves), so I was glad it was only a small portion of the quilt!

Back detail.  Aren't those diamonds neat on the back??  Love how the eye notices them first on the back.

You know how some quilts you finish and you are like, "Thank goodness! I never want to go through that again!"?   Not this quilt, nope, I'd do it all over again.  This quilt, this group--they're the ones that kept my faith in swaps alive last year!  I put a lot into the group, and I got so much out of it.  They also set the standard for what I expect in all swaps now--good communication and quality work.

Quilting detail, I will never get tired of this quilt.

I can't wait to see the rest of the quilts finished up!  You can see Ashley's nearly finished quilt, a teaser of Laura's in the works and the quilt top Jessica got back.  I feel like the quilts made us a family, and they are our offspring.  I put my best into them while I had them, and then sent them out into the world to grow and change in their own ways.  Every time I see a photo of them, and what they've become I'm just so happy and proud!  Does that make sense?  No?   

Half feather quilting using Aurifil #2605 (grey).

Quilting detail.  I love the different types of quilting together!

I am so glad I joined the group, and very excited to be doing it again this year with the addition of Michelle and Liz!  You can see my starter for this year here.

Back detail--the back of Ashley's diamonds.  Binding is Sunnyside Celestial in Opal.

I am so happy to finally have it finished and be able to snuggle under it!

Monday, March 2, 2015

QuiltCon in Review

It's been a week since QuiltCon and I'm sure most of you are sick of seeing the photos and reading the posts (or at least that is how I end up feeling after Market!).  But for those of you interested in my experience, read on!

I arrived in Austin on Thursday, and waited in the airport to meet Jess from Quilt Habit for the first time!  We shared a shuttle to the hotel and a hotel room for the weekend.  It was so fun having a buddy from the very beginning!

Photo from Jess--taken in the Mod Corsage class, see Anna Maria Horner in the background??

After the hotel my first stop was the Massdrop booth to drop off my quilts.  It was so nice to finally put some faces to the people at Massdrop!  They gave me a swag bag and other goodies, and were generally really friendly and enthusiastic!

Standing with my quilts Flying North and Crystal City in the Massdrop booth at Quiltcon!

I only had one lecture on Thursday--Becoming a Better Quilter by Angela Walters. She is so charismatic and her stories were so relatable!   I thought it was a very good lecture, and followed the description from the catalog pretty well.

After the lecture I had dinner with the Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts group (minus Liz, who was unable to attend)!  It was so fun meeting the group and getting to know them in person.  Everyone's online personalities are so different than in person, and it was really interesting to get to know them on a different level.

After dinner we went to the Moda Party--which was at a private bar/club a mile from the hotel.  I like walking, but I have never been interested in clubs, so the dark and loud environment was completely out of my comfort zone.  And it was fairly unexpected, as the description for the Moda party was extremely brief.  But I did get to hang out and chat with Yvonne from Quilting Jet Girl, wear our silly costumes with Sarah from Smiles Too Loudly and Kitty from Night Quilter, and finally meet Gemma from Pretty Bobbins and Jess from Elven Garden:

Posing with Gemma and Jess in the convention center!  What lovely ladies, with such charming accents :-)

On Friday I had an all day class with Ashley from Wasn't Quilt in a Day--we took Angela Walters' class on Dot to Dot quilting.  I was so excited to spend the day quilting on a long arm machine and learning new quilting techniques!  Also in the class was Janet from Simply Pieced--so glad to get to spend some time with her!

With Ashley in the Dot to Dot Quilting class, and I'm wearing my newest washi dress!

I kind of expected to be bored in this class because straight line quilting isn't my thing, but Angela's class format was really engaging and kept everyone active and interested--even during the afternoon slump!  We sat while she described and demonstrated a technique for a while, then got up to practice it on a long arm we shared with someone (Ashley and I shared, we didn't even have to elbow each other for our turn to quilt!).  

Quilting action shot of Ashley on the longarm!

Practicing making straight lines with a ruler.
Angela was also very encouraging of quilting what you like, so once I felt happy with the pattern or technique she'd shown us I'd add in some FMQ to make them feel a little more "me":

Dot to Dot quilting, with some of my regular patterns thrown in.

Dot to Dot quilting, with some of my regular patterns thrown in.

The class ended up being really interesting, fun and engaging, and I learned a lot about long arm quilting and the new techniques (which I'm already using!).  But within 20 minutes of the class starting I wanted to know if there was an accelerated class--maybe a 4 hour class for people already well versed in quilting, that need short instructions followed by lots of quilting time.  I would have loved to spend more time just playing with the designs on the long arm!  

Another photo with Ashley, this time with an Angela photobomb!  She was such a fun teacher!

I got to have dinner, dessert and drinks with Amanda from What the Bobbin, Yvonne, Sandi from Crafty Planner, Katy from TeamKaty and Laura from Little and Lots.  I didn't get any photos from the evening, but it was so fun to have a casual dinner with lots of interesting conversations!

With Laura!

On Saturday I took the Mod Corsage class by Anna Maria Horner--with Jess (quiltyhabit) and Ashley.  They are huge AMH fans, and were so stoked to be in that class!  Admittedly I took the class just to be with them and create with them, making something and taking the class were a bonus, haha.  The class was visually stimulating from the very beginning though, and there was a lot of inspiration and creativity going on.

Anna Maria Horner (left) holding up the quilt she bought from Denyse Schmidt (right, who also took the class).  This quilt was gorgeous in person!

Unfortunately my lack of sleep from traveling, stay up too late, and getting up too early (to go to the daily yoga class which I very much enjoyed) caught up to me during this class and by lunch I felt awful and had some pretty bad back pain.  Here's as far as I got in class (several elements were "borrowed" from Jess and Ashley--they have beautiful collections of AMH fabrics!):

Mod Corsage progress.

During the lunch break I went to the Nancy Zieman lecture on Creating a Business--it was nothing like I had hoped and focused almost entirely on the history of her business.  I was pretty disappointed as I had gone to it expecting information or tips for my own creative business.  Back in the Mod Corsage class I continued to feel worse and worse and my brain felt like mush and I felt so bad I left class early to wonder the vendors and quilt show alone--I should have just laid down with my feet up!

Since being home I've worked on my block from the class some more and have really been enjoying the layering process and free-piecing to create it at my own speed (though I do miss the company and enthusiasm from Jess and Ashley!):

Current state of my Mod Corsage block--thinking it needs more LV background and then more flowers!

Saturday evening was the keynote, which I found interesting, but again off topic from the description.  Also it was during dinner time and I was starving through the whole thing!  Afterwards I had a fun dinner with Jess, Karin from Leigh Laurel Studios and Jo from My Bear Paw (she was my IG mini swap partner last year--it was so fun to visit with her!).

Sunday was another crazy day of meeting friends, quilts, and travel--the highlight being lunch with Jess from Elven Garden and giving her the swap quilt I'd made for her.  It all went by too fast and there were so many times things felt rushed!  Next time I hope I can go out a day early and stay a day longer--more time for recuperating from travel, meeting and visiting with old and new friends, and more time for classes, lectures, quilt viewing, vendor shopping, etc!

The best part of QuiltCon was meeting SO many quilty friends that I had only previously known through their blogs and/or instagram!  But there were so many that I missed, or saw across a room, or didn't work up the courage to introduce myself to--hopefully the next QuiltCon I attend will be a chance to meet those people though!  :-)