Crafting in the midst of chaos

We’re moving! I took an exciting new job in Denver, working with the wonderful craft & online learning site It feels like we just moved into this house, and now it’s time to pack it all up and move it on out!

Curb appeal

We’ve been working on a little bit of curb appeal, adding some color to the front of the house. Which is a challenge in Southern NM, where everything is pretty tan. Nathan just turned in his two weeks, and though we’re completely thrilled and excited to be moving on…let’s face it, it’s chaos around here.

As part of my job as manager of marketing and community, I blog, write a newsletter, and am online a LOT. This meant that I had to get a new computer. And that computer will be commuting with me back and forth to Denver over the next few weeks as I get started at work and before we’re able to fully move house.

So today, I want to make a laptop sleeve. I’ve got tons of work to do, freelance projects (knits to finish and articles to write.) TNNA is right around the corner, which as you all know means lots of prep-work. BUT…Today I feel in my bones that I *MUST* cover my computer! I feel like if I can just accomplish this one thing…the rest will all fall into place. Isn’t it funny how the mind works?

SO, I dug around in my quilting stash and came across this little tidbit of patchwork that I’d never done anything with:

Olive and what will be my new laptop sleeve

It’s made of the leftover bits from this large quilt:
first real quilt

When I made the big quilt (my first real quilt!) I had two big squares leftover so I sandwiched and quilted them to practice. I think I thought I’d create a wall hanging or something but just never got around to it. Which is PERFECT for this laptop sleeve project. The innards are two layers of a soft flannel. So it’s cushy but not bulky.

I did a couple of quick checks to make sure it’ll work. My computer fits on top of the fabric with just enough ease to seam it!

Potential laptop sleeve

Potential laptop sleeve

Now I need to decide on my next steps. Do I bind all the edges? I could use Yahaira’s bias binding tutorial. Or do I just T&T? (Turn and Topstitch.) And then, how to keep my laptop from sliding out? Snaps? Touchtape?

Well, I’ll go seam it and then I’ll decide…

New Pollen8 squares (for Yahaira!)

So, it’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned it, but you know that I’m in an online quilting bee? The way that it works is that there are 8 of us (thus the name Pollen8) in the bee and each month one of use sends fabric and a theme to the other 7. Each of the 7 makes 3 blocks using the fabric and following the theme.

My most recent batch was for Yahaira. She sent several shot cottons and asked us to do something modern, and to add in one additional solid color.

Here are a couple of my blocks:

I added in the yellow. I actually made six of these, because one of our members is considering dropping out of the bee…if you click on one pic, you’ll see the whole group.

For Yahaira

For Yahaira

I think that this is one of my favorite blocks to make…I like to organize the strips and I really like piecing them so that the log cabins get wonkier and wonkier and less and less orderly the larger they grow.

I just turned in the Master Document for my next book with Chronicle, so I hope to have a little more time to sew, blog, take photos, and generally climb out of my own head! A month is too long not to blog!!

FO alert! Bargello quilt is FINISHED

Bargello block quilt


I am the queen of unfinished quilt tops, so this feels GOOD. A new technique, a new hanging for our bedroom wall, and (woo hoo!) a finished project!

I even added a hanging sleeve, which I’ve never done before.

Bargello block quilt

I just quilted around and around inside each block and ended with a little zigzag in the center.

Quick and dirty bargello tutorial

finished simple bargello square

So. You remember that I’m in a quilting bee called Pollen8? And that we each get to choose a theme for everyone else to do for our month? My month is a LOOOOoooOOooong way away (November) but I can’t stop wondering if it’s possible to have 8 different people do bargello-style blocks and have them come together in a cohesive quilt top.

If I gave really specific instructions, it’d be no problem, but I want everyone to imbibe their blocks with their own style. Some of us are very traditional, some are very exacting, some are very playful…and each of us should be free to do our own thing in these blocks.

That being said, I decided to put together a very quick and dirty tutorial for this style of block construction. Most people in our bee haven’t tried it, and neither have I! I also want to do the tutorial so that I can just make sure it’s even doable within the framework of our bee. Each person need to do 3 blocks. Is that going to work out given the method of construction??

To start off with, I made a little flickr mosaic of other peoples’ bargello quilts:

Bargello Mosaic

1. My Bargello Winner, 2. Meu Bargello, 3. Meu bargello de outro ângulo, 4. bargello baby quilt, 5. Rainbow Bargello Placemat (front), 6. Mini Bargello, 7. Christmas bargello, 8. Cate A.’s bargello in greens, 9. 11 Gail and John’s Bargello 006 smaller, 10. Holly Beth’s Bargello, 11. cheating bargello, 12. teensy bargello

Created with fd’s Flickr Toys

This is a good thing to do because it gives both myself and the other pollen8ers ideas as to how to construct the squares. You don’t have to line them up perfectly, or in rainbow order, or even tonally…just do what you like. (Though being perfect is obviously acceptable, and even seems to be the norm!)

My fabric choices

My next step is just to practice the technique. I decided to look through my fabric and see what I had that was already cut in regular strips. I wanted something pre-cut because this is, after all, a quick and dirty tutorial…I didn’t want to spend all day on this! The only thing I had was this jellyroll of batiks in autumnal colors. I’m not really feeling autumn right now as it’s in the 90s today, but let’s just go with it.

strips  sewn together in my chosen order

Next, I laid out my fabrics next to each other and decided on an order. I didn’t go tonal or anything, but just placed one batik strip next to one non-batik strip over and over. I’m starting with just a few strips because I’m just doing something small here for an example. If this was a real quilt, I might just sew up the whole jellyroll into one big long piece.

This created one solid piece of fabric. I joined the fabric long side to long side, and stitched it into a cylinder.
strips connected into cylinder

I cut the cylinder into strips around its circumference. These can be either regular or irregular widths, as you can see from the mosaic above.

cutting loops

stack of loops cut from long cylinder

The next thing to do is to open up the resultant loops into strips. This is the key step in the whole thing. You have to open each strip up at a slightly different place, typically one square farther up the strip than the last one.  I just used a seam ripper to separate them.

opening a loop with seam-ripper
But, as you can see from the examples in my mosaic, you can also cut partially through the squares, too. And, by changing the series of your opening (going up or down the order of the squares) you can change the look of the bargello and create waves, diagonals, and curves.

two opened loops

I was sure to lay these out carefully in the order that I wanted them to be sewn, so I didn’t lose my place or mix up the order.

strips laid out in order

I stitched them together …

finished simple bargello square
And I have my (very simplified) bargello!

It’s really not that difficult, and I think that even though it’s based on a grid-type layout, there’s still room for creativity both in piecing and cutting.

I also think that as long as the fabrics coordinate, having 8 people making 8 different styles of blocks would only add to the uniqueness and cool factor of the finished quilt top.

Before it’s my month, I’d like to experiment a little more in both cutting and piecing.  I want to try out some of the different styles in the mosaic, and see what happens.

ETA: As is typical for me, I couldn’t stop making these blocks until I had enough to actually stitch them together and see how they’d look as one quilt top.  As of now, I have 12 blocks and have convinced myself to STOP.  I’m going to sash and stitch them and will give you an update when the little wall quilt is finished.  For now, here’s a mosaic of a few of them:
Bargello Blocks

Some are more successful than others. I prefer the ones where I can pick out the zigzag in the ordering, but I like the others just fine, too.

They’re all different, but I that together, they’ll make a cohesive piece.