At the beginning of 2016, I decided to participate in a modern traveling quilt bee around Canada with a few friends. Fifteen months later, and my starter block made it home, as part of a full quilt made by ten other quilters!
I started off with this unicorn foundation paper-pieced block, designed by Julia Eigenbrodt.
I asked the other quilters to contribute pieces that were inspired by myth or folk tales. My friend and fellow quilter, Julie of Longarm Workroom, was the last to work on the quilt so she quilted and bound it, then presented it to me at a meeting of the Ottawa Modern Quilt Guild. I love love love it.
The little details are delightful and my daughter already loves to pick out the little characters and designs. There are so many fabrics in here that I’m just in love with, but came to the quilting scene too late to collect them for myself before they sold out.
Although I saw a few sneak peeks over the past year, I had no idea what the final product would look like. I love the “Welcome to Sherwood Forest” text because I actually grew up Sherwood Forest. That is, all the street names in my neighbourhood were names and places from the tale of Robin Hood. The person who added that wouldn’t have known; it’s just a serendipitous addition!
A few things have happened since my last update from last year. I quit my full-time office job in order to pursue my own crafty, handmade business. I left work at the beginning of March and haven’t looked back. I made my decision after realizing that every weekday was becoming harder and harder. My commute was too long and it was about to get longer with a change in my transit options. I would leave for work in the mornings in a grumpy mood, and I would return in a grumpy mood without much energy left for making a healthy family dinner, hanging out with my daughter and husband, exercising, housecleaning, or doing anything creative. With the encouragement of my husband, I knew it was time to go.
I’m so lucky that I get to do this, as I know so many people would probably love to leave their office jobs but don’t have the financial stability to do so. I’m trying to think of this decision as “switching jobs” and that I’m “creatively employed.” I do actually want to grow my own little business, starting with opening a small Etsy shop and learning some new skills like pattern drafting by PDF and surface design. I’m giving this two years and then we’ll see what happens. So far I’m happy to be doing daycare drop-off and pick-up, giving my husband more flexibility with his hours too. Our dog is happy to have better exercise, and with the arrival of warm weather, I will start running again. I just started the Whole30 with my sister-in-law and it’s easy (so far) since I have time to cook and look for recipes. My friend Cara over at Carabara Designs and I have a weekly standing business date where we get together, eat good food, and work on our respective businesses.
So my website is open again, my shop is forthcoming, and my blog will be updated. Stay tuned! You can also follow me on Instagram @gemsystudio.
My friend Laura approached me toward the end of last year and asked me if I wanted to be part of a modern traveling quilt bee for 2016. Yes I did! She warned me it would be a big time commitment, but the finished product is worth it. As a beginner quilter who already knows how to sew, I also thought it’d be a great way to expand my skills while the pressure’s on. That is to say, when it’s someone else’s quilt, I’ll be putting in extra care and effort.
So for 2016, I’m participating in a modern traveling quilt bee with ten other talented quilters around Alberta, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. We each created a starting block and then they will travel in a circle around the group, each of us adding our own bits and interpretations on a theme. Our starting blocks will return to us as part of a finished quilt at the end.
We worked on our starting blocks in January and it’s been so fun to see everyone else post about them on Instagram. There’s such a wide variety of patterns and ideas. I can’t wait to work on each quilt as it makes it’s way through my neck of the woods.
Here’s my starting block:
The pattern is from Julia Eigenbrodt’s (aka Stars & Sunshine) pattern store. I loved her fabric choices so much that I actually used the same ones from Lizzy House’s collection, The Lovely Hunt, except for the hair, horn, and hooves which are Tula Pink: True Colours. I’m just in love with the blue background (“Flower Carpet”) – I actually ordered a few yards of it to hoard away in my stash.
I won’t give anything else away about the theme I chose. It might not be what you think it is. You’ll just have to check back early next year to see the finished quilt once it makes its way back home.
This Fancy Fox Quilt is the second quilt I’ve made. After finishing my first quilt, I was hooked and spent longer than you can imagine looking at quilt patterns and trying to decide what I wanted to make next. I thought the Fancy Fox pattern was a bit intimidating, but my friend Laura of Waffle Kisses Studio decided to teach an intermediate class using the Fancy Fox pattern and that was that. Elizabeth Hartman is the creator of the Fancy Fox pattern.
I don’t even remember anymore which came first: the pattern or the fabric. All I know is that Tula Pink True Colours + Fancy Foxes = a match made in quilting heaven. I picked up the Tula Pink rainbow bundle and it was just perfect for the little foxes with lots of playful prints and bright colours.
Laura showed us the construction of a block. The first quilt I made was basically just stacked rectangles, so this was my first time with triangles and piecing in a specific order. It was so mesmerizing to see it all come together.
I pieced about 12-16 foxes at a time, depending on how I was feeling. It felt like a lot! Eventually I just got tired of all the little seams and keeping track of some of the directional bits. I also didn’t like having to draw the lines for the diagonal seams. Although it was good to get them all out of the way in one go, it also felt like I was forcing myself to do it at times.
Then came the arrangement. I didn’t make enough for a full twin-size quilt, because it just became too much and I didn’t think I could get all of them finished in time for the final class. I ended up with 68 foxes: enough for an 8×8 arrangement on the front and four left over for the back of the quilt. I learned a bit about trying to make a rainbow gradient on a diagonal, because I had a lot of reds and pinks but not enough yellows and greens to really form a ‘bar’ from corner to corner. It worked out well enough, but I now realize for the future that I might need more of a certain colour when doing shifting colours on the diagonal.
This was my first time doing the binding by hand. It took a little while, but it was soothing and satisfying to see all the little tiny stitches hold the binding in place. I mostly sewed the binding while watching movies or TV and the quilt kept me warm while sewing.
And here’s the finished product. I love it. My daughter loves it too. She likes to point at the different fox faces. It’ll be so fun to see her pick out the different patterns and images on the quilt as she gets older.
I think I’ll be making more Fancy Fox quilts to gift to friends, but next time I’ll be doing the version with larger blocks!
I recently finished a test knit for one of my favourite knitting designers, Ambah (find her on Ravelry). Right now, Ambah is releasing a series of patterns as part of her Chroma Collection in 2016; all of the patterns can be knit with gradient or solid colours, but the gradients are beautifully showcased in all of the patterns that have been released so far.
Ambah put out a call for test knitters for one of the patterns in the Chroma Collection, and I was lucky enough to be one of the test knitters. The pattern, called the Torquata Wrap, calls for a gradient set which I actually had in my stash, the Miss Babs Yummy 2-ply Toes Gradient Set. I picked this up at Rhinebeck last year and have been waiting for the perfect pattern. Of course, you could use any colour combination you like and it doesn’t have to be a gradient set at all.
The pattern is for advanced beginners – you need to know how to increase, decrease, yarn over, and of course knit and purl. The coloured panels are a simple lace pattern, which I memorized fairly quickly. The neutral gray panels are simple garter stitch. The patterns in the Chroma Collection so far are similar in the sense that the shapes and lines are very simplistic, and this allows the gradient yarn to shine and for your colour choices to be the focal point of the finished product.
You can see more details on my project page. You can also see Ambah’s beautiful version of the Torquata Wrap on Ravelry.