East Dakota Quilter


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Pixelation Paradise (a.k.a. the Pixelated Panda)

I used an amazing program to plan this quilt, but let’s start with the background story.

Some friends of ours are about to have a baby girl. The mom-to-be loves pandas and watched baby Bao Bao on the National Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam almost every day when it first came out. The dad loves computers. To marry the two interests, I thought a pixelated panda quilt would be perfect!

Pixelated Panda by East Dakota Quilter

I didn’t want to make the quilt too girlie, so pink on the front side of the quilt is relegated to binding.

On the back? More pink… and a lot more pandas!

Back Side of Pixelated Panda by East Dakota Quilter

For once, I even remembered to include care instructions and a gift tag (back side, not pictured). I kind of hate making labels and I’m not really sure why.

Gift Tag by East Dakota Quilter

I pretty well destroyed our apartment while I was working on this one. There were various-sized pieces that covered our kitchen table. Each time I finished a block, I washi taped it to the wall. I had little sections ALL OVER the apartment.

Messy Workspace by East Dakota Quilter

I think the finished quilt was worth the mess!

While I still hate chain piecing, the program I used made it as painless as possible. Does anyone here remember the tutorial I wrote about how to turn a photo into a pixelated quilt? I really enjoyed the manual process and it’s FREE… but you guys, I don’t think I’d ever do it again. The year after I published my tutorial, a husband and wife team developed a website called YouPatch that does the pixelation for you. Maybe you’ve heard of it. I’ve seen other bloggers write about it, but after trying it for myself, I wanted to tell the whole world how amazing it is! They’re not paying me to write this. Their website is just AWESOME.

For a reasonable price (less than $10 for the quilt I made), here’s the process:

1. Upload the photo you want to turn into a quilt. I used a photo of a panda, removing the background. Eliminating the background makes the main subject of the photo really stand out. I was also pleased that YouPatch did a great job with my poor quality photo!

Pixelated Comparison by East Dakota Quilter

Once the photo is uploaded into YouPatch, you decide whether you want the orientation of your quilt to be portrait, landscape, or square. I picked portrait.

2. Pick how many fabric colors you want to use. I chose 8 for my quilt. The current maximum number is 15. The higher the number, the more detail in your quilt… and also the more work you have to do. You get to preview the difference for each option, which is insanely cool. I would have been happy with fewer options, but I really liked the control this gave me.

YouPatch Step 2 - Size and Detail

3. Pick a finished quilt size. Why? you might ask. Can’t I just use the grid of pieces the software generates to do my own sizing? Well, yes. But a few things: (a) you’re crazy if you want to do quilty maths that the program would do for you; and (b) based on the size you select, the program will tell you how much fabric to buy!

4. Change out colors if you want. My quilt was grayscale. You could do crazy-different colors (a pop of lime on plum), or you could do a quilt using the same concept as grayscale (light to dark) using a specific color like blue. (I bought my Kona solids on fabric.com. They were out of Kona Silver, so I substituted Kona Shadow.)

YouPatch Step 3 - Selecting Fabrics & Colors

You also have the option to manually change a pixel, which is cool. If I hadn’t deleted the background on my photo before uploading it, I would have used this feature to manually remove any distracting details.

YouPatch Step 3b - Option to make manual changes

Then you just pay for the pattern (less than $10 for me), and they email it in pdf format. Mine was very detailed, with 17 pages of instructions, illustrations, and ideas. I didn’t need all the provided info, but it was nice to gauge whether I was on the right track at times.

I wondered was whether each pixel would be an individual, standard-sized square or whether YouPatch would group side-by-side pixels of the same color. Probably I could have researched this in advance, but I didn’t. They do #2 (grouping). I love this. The pattern tells you what size blocks to cut. Due to grouping, not all pieces are the same size. I received another email when I was about halfway through sewing this quilt that said the grouping has been even further improved. There’s definitely a balance between grouping as many pieces as possible so there is less sewing and trying to ensure the pieces can be assembled into standard-sized blocks that don’t require you to read a complicated “map.” I did some minor adjusting on my own but would be interested to see the changes.

The pattern also gives you layout ideas for each fabric color to ensure all your blocks can be cut from the amount of fabric recommended.

YouPatch - Fabric Cutting Guide

Once your pieces are cut, the pattern the shows you how to assemble the pieces into equal-sized blocks. Put the squares together and voila! Finished quilt!

There are plenty of instructions if you’re new to quilting. I got by using only the grid (pieces to blocks assembly) because it was clear on its own. Yay for feeling like a pro!

The customer service was great, too. I actually received a follow-up email about an hour after I received my pdf pattern that contained some suggestions and even a second pattern choice. If I hadn’t already decided to review YouPatch, this would have been the clincher.

Yes, I elected to sew way too many pieces on a deadline, but I loved using YouPatch and I really like the finished quilt. If you’re thinking of trying it, I can definitely say I recommend the YouPatch program.

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Owls, Owls, Owls!

My sister loves owls. I wrote two years ago about these owl ornaments I made her. My tradition is to gift my parents and sister each with an ornament on Thanksgiving so they can think of me when they decorate their Christmas trees. I wrote last year about how my sister’s small, apartment-sized tree was looking a little full, so I made her this scandalous pillowcase instead.

This year, I combined the two ideas and made her an owl pillowcase. She got one of the throw pillows from my wedding (the pig pillow), and I thought she might appreciate a Christmas-themed cover to swap out over the holidays.

Owl Pillow by East Dakota Quilter

Here’s a closer view of the background fabric:

Owl Fabric by East Dakota Quilter

I included three buttons on the back side to secure the cover. Even they are owl-shaped!

Owl Button by East Dakota Quilter


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Frozen Pillows = VERY Happy Mail

My husband and I will be sending our thank you cards shortly. It’s a great time to send those last few gifts that I meant to hand deliver to people at the wedding (because I am crazy) but didn’t manage to finish in time (because… wedding). One of these finally-finished WIPs was a set of paper pieced pillows for my two youngest cousins.

Frozen Pillows by East Dakota Quilter

Frozen Pillowcases by East Dakota Quilter

Anna Block by East Dakota Quilter

I can just imagine the two girls curled up together with their pillows, watching the movie “one more time” and singing along. Hope these are a fun surprise before the holidays!

Both quilt blocks are available for FREE on Craftsy. Visit Sew Much Mischief’s shop.


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Embroidered Engagement Portrait

Some sweet friends of mine were married this summer. I was sad I couldn’t attend their wedding, so I knew I wanted to do something extra special for them in addition to a normal gift. I decided to finally try my hand at an embroidered portrait.

Lucky Jackson did 365 days of awesome portraits awhile back. Personalized family portraits are also big right now on Etsy and Instagram (see examples here and here and here and here). I decided to combine the concepts for this hoop art:

Portrait by EastDakotaQuilter

I actually gifted the couple with the portrait at my own wedding because it was the only time I expected to see them this year. It felt tacky to me, but I was too excited not to share! The down side is I didn’t manage to take detailed photos of the finished project because I was too busy doing other wedding-related things.

A few details:

  • Her dress and his tie are painted with watered-down watercolor paints. I didn’t paint right to the edge because I worried the paint would bleed. It was fun to watch as the paint moved outward from the area I’d painted.
  • The buttons on his vest and jacket sleeve are real, miniature buttons! They were left over “eyes” from Christmas ornaments shown here and here.
  • I chose a rose fabric for the background to imitate the actual background of their engagement photo.
  • I used an iron-on stabilizer behind all but the background fabric to reduce fraying. I actually used two layers behind the cream-colored fabric so the other fabrics wouldn’t show through as much.

It was a lot of fun to make, and I’m thrilled it went as well as it did. As always, I learned a few things I’d do differently next time… if there is a next time! I worried the portrait could be received poorly, especially if my poor art skills meant one of the two looked deformed when I was finished; the final few stitches can ruin hours of work. I’m happy with this portrait, but I’m not sure I’d put myself through the mental anguish again!