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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New Medium – Coche Crochet

Early in my newfound sewing inspiration, I spent a lot of time on the Purl Bee website. I fell in love with their receiving blankets project, bought some flannel and wool, and put the materials in my projects box to gather dust. Since I’ve spent the last few weekends traveling for work, I have really missed my creative outlet. I decided to resurrect the project because it is mobile, unlike my million ton 1970s sewing machine. This was also a good project because I have decided I have to finish most of my current projects before doing anything new… and I have lots of new ideas!

But this project didn’t quite go as planned.

First, the flannel was a pain to sew. You have to fold the edges under so they don’t ravel, and since it’s a baby blanket, I figured it was too small to bother with changing out my needle, etc. The result was that my thread broke at each of the four corners, sometimes more than once. Ugh.

Next, I thought winding my beautiful wool yarn into a ball would take about 10 minutes, so I started it as a relaxing exercise 10 minutes before I wanted to go to bed. The final ball, sans the last several yards that got tangled and were cut from the rest after some cursing, took an hour and a half.

Yarn

That was just the preparation to make my project mobile.

While I love the creativity of Purl Bee, I found these instructions a little confusing for someone who has only ever crocheted a few lines, and those several decades ago. I’m not saying Purl Bee did a bad job; I was just had trouble following instructions that took a few minor details for granted. I would have liked some comments of affirmation and a little further instruction, such as:

When starting the project, don’t worry about that tail of yarn. It’s supposed to be there. You’ll take care of it later. It won’t cause the rest of the crocheting to unravel, I promise.

and

Yes, you’re going to put your needle through the same hole. But don’t make the loop around your crochet hook bigger to reach from the edge of the blanket to the hole. Instead, you’ll be pulling thread from the back up to reach the loop. If you make the loop bigger, you’re going to have a mess that will cause you to re-read and re-do steps 1-50.

You know, those sorts of helpful hints. Also, I didn’t like working with such thin yarn, as it was tricky to get one loop through another with such a mischievous, tiny needle. It was easier to catch strings of the flannel than it was the yarn!

IMG_2049

 

I am finally finding my groove. It’s fun being able to work from my car over lunch breaks – makes me really look forward to them. And I learned some valuable tips about crocheting. (For example, my cup holder is the perfect size for a ball of yarn.) I expect my next project should go better as a result.

crocheted edge blanket by dakota patchwork

UPDATE: It’s finished!crocheted edge blanket by dakota patchwork

P.S. Translation: Coche means “car” in Spanish.


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Farmhouse Baby Quilt

I loved having lots of cousins growing up, but, like most families, not all my cousins lived nearby.  My grandma moved to South Dakota from Michigan in 1956, so much of her family is still there (or at least not in South Dakota). My Great Aunt Andrea and Tolerable Uncle Henry, as he calls himself, did an amazing job of road tripping to visit us every few years. It’s for that reason alone that I am at least familiar with my cousins from that side of the family.

It was probably 4-5 years after I moved to Chicago that it dawned on me how easy it would be to visit family in Michigan. Until that point, I was amazed every time I learned some other city was within road trip distance. I decided to make an effort to visit more often. I attended a few weddings, went to the Greenfield Village Halloween event, and recently celebrated the pending births of the new generation of cousins. I stayed with a cousin I didn’t know well but whom I found is living the life I’ve planned for myself in a few years: farmhouse, a few animals, small acreage very near civilization. (In other words, not at all the hardworking farms from back home, but the fun kind.)

The baby shower gifts I gave were a product of work-related travel: gift cards–versus the baby blankets I wanted to make but didn’t have time to begin, much less complete, when I was away from home almost every weekend for several months. Of course, since planning the colors and design is the most fun part of making a project, I had already started gathering supplies. My favorites were for the cousin I stayed with. I’d selected various shades of blue and gray. I didn’t know the gender of the baby and hoped she’d be okay with blue even if she had a girl. Not that it’s a problem when you don’t complete a project. I was disappointed I’d put so much thought into a project that seemed like it would probably never be finished.

Then I stayed in her guest room, which was converted into a nursery shortly after I left. It’s blue. And the hourglass pattern I selected seemed to fit the beautifully renovated farmhouse perfectly. So I decided to finish the baby blanket as a hostess gift. You can find the sites that inspired me here (Purl Bee) and here (Diary of a Quilter). My project:

A word on pressing: I found the layers started getting thick, which resulted in my thread breaking repeatedly. A friend told me it’s a good idea to press the edges to one side instead of pressing seams open because it strengthens the quilt and makes it last longer. I continued to press edges to one side, but I pressed the edges for each piece to a different side:

And a word on binding: I followed the Purl Bee’s tutorial for the most part. However, I find that corners can be a little difficult. I have a tough time sewing to ¼ inch, even if I use a marker to show where I should stop sewing. I’ve been marking the spot instead with a pin, sewing right up to it and then reversing the machine, and that works well for me.

And here is the finished product:

By the way, it’s a girl!


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Project 2: From “I Made A Quilt” to “Quilter”

My first sewing project was a quilt–an ambitious project considering I didn’t even know how to thread my sewing machine. I had intended it to be a baby blanket, much smaller in size. Then I started thinking how a small blanket would be outgrown quickly, so I expanded the idea, ensuring my [forced] position in the baby’s life forever!

With plenty of leftover fabric scraps at the end of Project 1, I found that for my second project, I could revisit the idea of a baby quilt. I found a more advanced block (than squares, so it’s not saying much) to challenge myself, made it big, then googled binding. (For my original quilt, I hired help. I don’t think my poor, tired sewing machine could have handled a big quilt.) Purl Bee had some great instructions!


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How I Started Sewing

When I found out a former roommate was going to have a baby, I was excited. I had known her since before she had met her husband, so I had the unique privilege of watching her family story unfold. I wanted to gift her with something special—something that would show I still considered her a good friend, even though we no longer live in the same city. Since she grew up overseas, I reasoned that people would be more likely to send cash or other items easily sent via mail. I thought it a tragedy that her baby wouldn’t have anything homemade. Having grown up on a farm with many homemaker moms as aunts and a seamstress grandmother, plus countless crafty distant relatives, I had crocheted AND knit baby blankets, lots of clothes, bibs, etc. So I made it my personal objective to make something for the baby.

Never mind that I hadn’t really sewn anything before. My grandma taught me how to use a sewing machine when I was little. She is probably also how I learned to knit and crochet, although I barely remember how and never learned to start the first row. The extent of my sewing skills was basically holding fabric scraps against Barbie dolls, hand stitching an outfit inside out, and learning through osmosis when my mom was going through one of her crafty phases. Still, how hard could it be?

I had a moment of brilliance when I started. I decided to make a “practice quilt” before starting on the baby’s project so I wouldn’t totally screw hers up. That practice quilt is now known affectionately as the Ugly Quilt and still isn’t finished. My first square—which I quickly learned from google is called a “block”—wouldn’t lay flat. I had to google a whole new set of block options that weren’t so involved. Only later did I find out that even professional quilters use tricks (like breaking parallelograms into triangles) to sew their blocks more easily. Tell me which version below looks easier:

quilting blog 1 by EastDakotaQuilter

 

(In case it’s not obvious, I tried version 2 with the Ugly Quilt.) This is the difference between the way version 2 bubbled versus the comparatively little bubbling after I adapted:

bubble comparison by EastDakotaQuilter

Once I settled on an easier pattern for the baby quilt, things went much more smoothly. I used simple squares:

easy block by EastDakotaQuilter

Since my old roommate and her husband use nicknames for each other (in Gujarati) that are birds, I selected a variety of bird-related prints. One of the birds I incorporated was an owl because she remembered I wore owl socks to the bar exam the year we lived together; it was a way for me to be part of the baby’s life! Considering how little experience I had (AND HOW LITTLE MEASURING I DID!), I was excited by the result.

full length bird quilt top by EastDakotaQuilter

2011 bird quilt by EastDakotaQuilter

binding on bird quilt top by EastDakotaQuilter

Here’s the back:

backing by EastDakotaQuilter

And finally, a progress shot:

progress by EastDakotaQuilter

I have been an avid Pinterest stalker and google searcher ever since, always looking for inspiration either to copy with my own fabrics or to incorporate into an otherwise original idea. I hope my skill improves with each project. I’m impatient, so improvement may prove a little slow!