East Dakota Quilter


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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!


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Sewing A Rag Doll

I have gotten some great gifts from my Great Aunt Carol over the years, but perhaps the most-loved of all were the dolls she sent my sister and me one year for Christmas. The dolls were the same style without being identical, which we loved. I named mine Elise; my sister named hers Gretchen. Here we are opening the presents. (I’m on the left with the new permanent teeth and awesome gold scrunchie.)

Christmas Dolls

Some of my earliest sewing (and hot gluing) projects were clothes for Elise. My sister and I created a doll suitcase out of a gutted casette tape holder. We loved the dolls and still have them–only a little worse for wear.

dolls from carol by EastDakotaQuilter

Remembering how much I loved my own doll, I wanted to make a doll for my friend’s daughter–the same girl who received the first quilt I ever made and the Sunday Brunch Jacket. I scoured the internet for a pattern. None of them seemed right. I concluded I didn’t just like having a doll, I liked having the specific style of doll I received from Carol–not too big, not too small, and cuddly. I had to make that doll.

Fortunately, my mom was able to help me create a similar pattern.

doll by EastDakotaQuilter

I bought the materials when my friend’s little girl was born… two years ago this Easter Sunday! But I was too scared to start. I was especially worried about sewing the hair. For one thing, my mom’s pattern didn’t have a seam in the back like Carol’s did, and Elise had yarn hair sewn into the back seam. For another, I wasn’t certain exactly how much hair (yarn) would be needed. And I was scared the yarn would be difficult to distribute evenly. What if it was thin on top and bunched at the nape of her neck as I worked my way down the seam?!

It wasn’t as bad as I expected, but I will say I have an even greater appreciation for the doll Carol made me after trying to make one of my own!!! I definitely learned a few tricks in the process. And she looked like Frankenstein in the process.

unfinished doll by EastDakotaQuilter

One of my favorite things about the doll I got from Great Aunt Carol was the number of outfits she had. She could be dressed for tea one moment and wearing pajamas the next. I knew I wanted to make several outfits for this doll, too. My favorite is the pair of pantaloons made out of a lacy material.outfits by EastDakotaQuilter

doll outfits by EastDakotaQuilter

I also made one of Jeni’s drawstring bags to hold the extra doll clothes. She was gifted wearing the outfit most like a salwar kameez.

clothes bag by EastDakotaQuilter

My friend’s little girl scooped the doll up to give her a big hug right away. She “changed the doll’s diaper” (pantaloons) and wiped the baby with a baby wipe. Then she put the doll on a chair, realized it was as big as she was, and got scared, haha.

Did you have a favorite doll, or do you have a favorite doll pattern? Little girls seem to remember their favorite childhood dolls, so I hope this will be a happy part of my friend’s sweet little girl’s childhood.


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1930s Reproductions, Pajamas & Memories: A Quilt Story

My grandma’s death last year was difficult. She’d had Alzheimer’s for many years, so in a way, our loss was more about the years we lost during her life than about her death. Alzheimer’s also meant there were no attics to search for treasures, no inspiring little finds; those things had been done long ago. All that was left with her really were the pajamas she wore in the nursing home and a favorite print she’d received as a gift from her brother. I decided to use the pajamas to make a memory quilt.

Grandmas_Pajamas by eastdakotaquilter

I decided to incorporate small pieces of the pajamas with larger 1930s reproduction prints. It wasn’t until I started researching 1930s repros that I realized where my grandma got her style. All those cartoon kittens and ducks? Straight from the 1930s!

1930s repro prints by eastdakotaquilter

I decided on a layout that would showcase both the repro prints and the pajama pieces.

grandma quilt layout by eastdakotaquilter

At first, I thought I would use a white background. Then I realized some of the pajamas were a little dingy from multiple washings. A quilt store employee in my home state suggested I use a darker color to make the smaller pieces pop. Although pinks and purples aren’t my style, they were my grandma’s. I decided to use a purple (Robert Kaufman’s Quilter’s Linen).

basting by eastdakotaquilter

With a color scheme my grandma would have liked, I decided to include a few details that would also make it more “me.” I wanted this to be a quilt that linked us through the generations.

In particular, I wanted a pop photograph of my grandma on the quilt. I think on one hand she would have hated it and thought it was too ostentatious. On the other hand, I think she would have been flattered and would have thought I was being goofy. It makes me smile to think that she would have teased me for my selection. I turned a photo of hers into a Spoonflower design and had it printed.

grandma portraits by eastdakotaquilter

My grandma was BIG on sending birthday cards, sympathy cards, letters, etc. She kept every card she ever received. Ever. I wanted to somehow incorporate that part of her into the quilt. I used her birthday calendar to get samples of her handwriting, then embroidered her name and dates onto one of the quilt squares. I was lucky she had several friends with the same first name, and obviously family with the same last name, so it was easy to cobble together her name!

grandma signature by by eastdakotaquilter

When it came time to bind the quilt, only one color would do. Fuscia was her favorite.

quilt strips by eastdakotaquilter

(Don’t you love my washi tape “design wall”?)

langdon house by eastdakotaquilter

fuscia binding on gma quilt by eastdakotaquilter

For the quilt back, I used up the remaining portrait fabric. (I bought a yard so I would be sure to have at least one full portrait, plus a few extras in case I messed up.) I also used smaller pieces of 1930s feed sacks that I bought on Etsy, along with 1930s repro prints.

quilt back by eastdakotaquilter

I kept the quilting simple, using straight lines along the outsides of the bigger/repro squares with painter’s tape to mark the lines. The finished quilt is lap size.

This is a quilt I think my family will appreciate for a long time. My mom (whose mother is memorialized in this quilt) has first dibs, and if she decides the colors are too bright, my sister has expressed interest. My sister said the sweetest thing, “There aren’t many things left from Grandma. If I have kids someday, I would love to show them this quilt and tell them what I remember about her. It would be my way of passing along her memory.” How could a quilt be more appreciated?! I am so glad to have created a piece of family history.

Another great thing about this quilt is it was finished in February, which means my current finish rate is one quilt per month! I don’t know that I can keep it up, but I feel such a sense of accomplishment in 2014 so far.


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First Finish of 2014!

I have noted in past blogs how slow I am to finish projects. I am therefore incredibly excited that I finished my first project of the year in the first month of the year. I made a baby quilt for a dear friend who is expecting:

waterfront park quilt by EastDakotaQuilter

The fabric is Violet Craft’s Waterfront Park line.

This is the first non-mini quilt that I quilted myself, so I’m kind of proud of that–especially with the high loft polyester batting I used to make this beast fluffy!

quilted by EastDakotaQuilter

My mitered corners have also vastly improved compared with past projects, and it’s the first time I’ve actually enjoyed sewing on the binding.

binding by EastDakotaQuilter

And the colors are so cheerful!

Finally, I embroidered a label in the form of an owl since my friend’s late mother collected owls. (The free embroidery pattern is available here.)

owl label by EastDakotaQuilter

My friend’s daughter was so funny when she said her prayers the day I gave them the quilt. She said, “Dear God, thank you for Tiffany so now we will have a blanket for the baby.” I’m sure the baby would have made do without me. 😉

Here’s hoping I am able to finish many more projects this year!


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Colonial Knots Tutorial

As my blog name implies, if there is a project I can’t figure out on my own, I run to Google or Pinterest for help. I found lots of helpful tutorials for embroidery stitches online, including this series by Rocksea (links on the right).

Most tutorials do a great job of showing where the needle should go into and come out of the fabric by using an A-B-C method. I found it was a little difficult to follow for knots since knots are created by winding the floss around your needle, not by the order in which you pull the needle through the fabric. Photo tutorials can be difficult to see. I also found there is a lot more content about French knots than colonial knots. Here’s my tutorial, which I hope clarifies some of the questions I had when I first tried to make a colonial knot:

colonial_knots_tutorial_by craftprowler

The descriptive version is:

From the embroidery piece, place the floss over your needle. Continue to pull it under the needle then back up toward the needle tip. Loop the floss around the tip of the needle. Put your needle back into your embroidery piece a few strands away from where the floss came out of the fabric. I like to pull the floss until the knot is up against the needle (instead of in the middle of the strand of floss), then press my thumb gently against the needle to prevent the knot from moving up the strand of floss. Otherwise, you can end up with a knot in your thread instead of where the knot is intended to be.

This is a photo of the floss placement:

colonial knot photo by craftprowler

This is what some finished knots look like:

colonial knots by craftprowler

Now that I am finished with my Gatsby embroidery (I’ve seen the movie, and thank goodness I still like the book!), I have been working again on my Barn Quilt. I used the full six strands for the Gatsby piece, but I am using only three strands for the Barn Quilt.

I was cutting an arm’s length of floss, separating it into two sets of three strands each, then using one set while trying not to tangle the other. I wished I had multiple, pre-separated strands ready to use. I saw this post on the PrettyByHand blog about some beautiful Lecien embroidery floss bobbins that hold 3+ skeins of floss and decided to recycle the idea for my Barn Quilt project. I cut a cardboard piece (it came with a fat quarter of fabric) into these simple cards/bobbins:

floss bobbin by craftprowler

Each slot is smaller than a typical embroidery floss bobbin, both because there are fewer strands and because the length is much shorter. The cards have been working great so far!


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Embroidering Hollywood: The Great Gatsby

Have you seen the movie remake of The Great Gatsby yet?

I remember seeing the preview. When I saw the bright colors and all the excess, I thought, Finally! A movie where CGI glitz actually makes sense! I want to see it! Then I looked over at my boyfriend, Johann, expecting to see his face disfigured with a nasty expression. It wasn’t! We even decided we would re-read the book together before going to the movie.

That was months ago, and I am still waiting to see the movie! Since then, Johann started teaching and has revitalized his family’s business. (Read: I don’t even get to complain about the delayed movie premier except on this blog since what he’s doing is productive. Grr.)

In the meantime, I think I looked up every photo from the movie that was available online. Eventually, I moved past movie-specific infatuation and found myself admiring the era’s clothing. I decided to work on some Gatsby-related project to alleviate my stifling anticipation. Here’s the embroidery design I came up with:

Gatsby Embroidery by Craft Prowler

I didn’t decide whether this is supposed to be Daisy and Gatsby, Nick and Jordan, or some other couple at one of Gatsby’s parties.

I’ve never been a great drawer, so I used some engagement photos to see what it looks like for couples to walk side-by-side, a Robert Redford movie shot to determine I should have his hand in his pocket, and countless other photos of clothes from the Roaring Twenties to help with the beads, feathers, and dropped waistline. I always thought original drawings needed to come straight out of someone’s head. I found my method is actually more like making a collage — and it worked!

gatsby embroidery by craft prowler

I wanted to photograph the piece outdoors. I drove to a forest preserve near my office over lunch, thinking how great it would be to prop it against a tree and include the textures of grass and bark. Know what? They don’t mow the grass around trees! And I should have known because I grew up in the country with an enormous yard; I mowed the lawn all the time. Here’s the best I could do:

gatsby embroidery by craftprowler

Process:

I typically use three strands of floss for embroidery, but since this is 8″ x 10″, I used all six to make the lines thicker and to fill the space. I used fewer strands for the facial features to keep them from getting bulky.

Most of the embroidery is done with backstitching. Exceptions are the eyes, buttons, and necklace (made with colonial knots, tutorial to follow), and…

gatsby embroidered necklace by craftprowler

…the skirt trim and headband (made with chain stitch).

gatsby embroidered skirt by craftprowler

The outline is nice, but I think it still looks a little blank. What do you think? Should I try using crayon to fill in the image? (I’ve had success with this before, even after the stitching was finished.) I am especially concerned about his hair.

gatsby embroidery by craftprowler


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the sampler quilt that was finished… and then wasn’t

I felt like a rockstar last week when I completed all 49 blocks of my original 7 x 7 sampler quilt design:

49 sampler blocks by craftprowler

It is decidedly more traditional than the quilts I’ve begun in the meantime.

In my original design, I included a border on either side to round out the queen-size requirements. I chose this over another row of blocks. But I’m not sure how well the quilt-as-you-go method would work for borders, and I also felt silly avoiding 7 blocks when I’ve already come so far. So… I have a new goal of 56 total blocks (design below).

56 sampler blocks by craftprowler

Since I started working on the quilt in September, I typically completed either 4 blocks per week or absolutely 0 blocks. This means I completed about 7 blocks each month for 7 months. Of course, this includes the time spent graphing my blocks, cutting fabric, and all the preparatory work, plus the holidays and a death in the family where progress halted. Could it really take a whole ‘nother month to finish a portion of a project that I had nearly written off as complete?! On the other hand, I made room for some fun new blocks that I only discovered after cutting all the pieces for my original 49, so I am excited in spite of myself.

My sister’s dog, a pit bull, wanted to be sure he wasn’t missing dinnertime when he heard me moving around.

dog helping by craftprowler

Top left:

sampler quilt top left by craftprowler

Top right:

sampler quilt top right by craftprowler

Bottom right:

sampler quilt bottom right by craftprowler

Bottom left:

sampler quilt bottom left by craftprowler

Earlier posts about this quilt (in chronological order): Starting a Dear Jane Quilt, Quilt Expo – Madison, Wisconsin (embroidering the Sarah Jane Studios design for one of the blocks), Sampler Quilt Progress, Sampler Quilt Update: First 12 Blocks, Sampler Quilt Progress Report, [Needle]working Through Grief (several blocks appear at the end of the post), and Quilt Planning & Practice


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Design: A New Frontier

I chose “craftprowler” as a blog name because I never, ever thought I would be able to design my own projects. I figured I would just make minor alterations to the projects I found on Pinterest. However, I’ve spent a lot of time designing projects since the last time I posted photos. The burst of creativity feels amazing, but there is blessed little to show for my efforts so far!

Design Book

I bought the notebook featured above at Target. It is responsible for maybe 30% of the projects I’ve designed so far. (Another 40% is Pinterest, and 30% is me.) The reason? It has gridlines, with heavier lines around every 8 boxes. It’s perfect for sketching out quilt ideas.

I haven’t gotten far with sewing the Marcelle Medallion quilt, but I selected all the fabrics and cut out the middle pieces already. This is the layout so far:

marcelle medallion center by craftprowler

(Confession: I actually did start sewing the middle, but the Y-seams stopped me short. I am going home tonight to rip out some of the seams and try again. Apparently, marking is important. Oops! I like the pattern enough that this is the first time I won’t just plow forward with the awkward, first-try version.)

I’ve also drawn several more templates for my Barn Quilt, including this 1982 Buick LeSabre:

1980 buick by craftprowler

I drew a fox to grace either a purse or a pillow – haven’t decided just how to use it yet. Embroidery? Appliqué? Both are possibilities. If you want to use the image and end up making something before I do, please email to let me know! I’d love to see your projects.

After seeing some neat images at the Etsy store of cheesebeforebedtime, I tried doing a self-portrait with the intent to post it as my thumbnail here on the blog. The first result was embarrassing. The second definitely looks like a person, but not like me. Let’s just say it might take a few more tries before it’s worth posting online.

I have also been scheming the past few weeks about how to take better photos for my blog. A major issue is my work schedule. My evening commute is around 2 hours, so even if I get out at a decent time, there’s not much daylight left by the time I get home. The windows of my apartment also face directions/buildings that are not conducive to natural light. My new goal is to work on projects a week ahead of time so I can photograph them on weekends. (Disclaimer: Procrastination may still mean low-resolution iPhone photos.)


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Quilt Planning & Practice

Quilting – Sampler Quilt

I paid to have both of the quilts I’ve pieced so far quilted for a variety of reasons: my domestic sewing machine is old , I didn’t want to bunch up the quilt under the arm, I was afraid I would ruin my patchwork by sewing crooked quilting lines, having someone else help was too inexpensive to pass up and a time-saver… But I wanted to take a new level of ownership with my sampler quilt. I wanted to do the piecing and the quilting. Plus, I wanted to highlight the shapes of some of the blocks with the quilting, and I thought it might seem lazy if I had someone else do it within such specific parameters. So I needed to learn about quilting.

Somewhere on Pinterest in the last year, I found an article that said rows of quilting should be 4-6″ apart. I am planning to use this quilt-as-you-go method with my sampler quilt, and I figured the 6″ guideline would be close to what I was planning. Some squares might be a little farther apart, some closer. Could it really be that big a deal? Having determined my quilting method, I promptly put the issue out of my head.

Now I have only a few of the 49 blocks left to piece. That means the time for quilting is almost upon me! Terrified, I revisited my previous research. I found this excellent article on Sew Mama, Sew! about the requirements for different types of batting. The article says most cotton battings (which I’d planned to use since I have leftovers from some baby quilts I made to practice) require quilting every 2-3″ because cotton shifts much more than polyester. That really doesn’t fit with the quilt blocks I made, which will be [about] 12″ finished.

My new plan is to use a blend: the Warm & Natural brand Amy suggests in her article. It was 50% off when I went to the store last week, and it says you can go 10 whole inches (!!) between quilting lines, so I bought 3 packages of queen-size batting. I plan to make my quilt 3 layers thick for extra warmth if I can manage it in my sewing machine. (For some reason, this makes me a nut job to other quilters.) The lady behind me in line at checkout couldn’t help telling me how amazing the brand is… and about the rag quilts she’s making for her granddaughters, one of whom is picky and a teenager. I love fabric outings where everyone wants to tell you about their current projects!

warm & natural batting

All that said, I wish I could use the batting I already own. My boyfriend (Johann) was funny the other day when he asked in a nonchalant way, “Oh, is this fabric new? It looks good…” He was quiet a minute, then added, “Didn’t patchwork quilts traditionally used to be made with leftover fabric from stuff like clothes?” Nuance is not normally his thing, so I found this endearing–not that it stopped me from buying 10 yards of fabric for the sashing and border. At this point, I figure I’m in so deep with fabrics and batting, I don’t want to ruin the whole thing by putting some ugly, low-thread-count sashing all over. I selected Moda’s Warm Memories in Chocolate Brown. I had an amazing afternoon looking at all of Moda’s fabric collections, past and present.

sashing

Embroidering – Barn Quilt

In the same way I have traditionally not quilted my own things because I was scared I’d ruin the patchwork, I was worried I would ruin a piece of embroidery I’m working on when it came time to add knots. I am making a tractor for my barn quilt, and I wanted to include rivets. Too many rivets. I’ll be a regular Rosie the Riveter by the time I finish!

French knots aren’t my thing. When I do them, they look floppy. Below are some French knots I did on the first quilt square I completed for the sampler quilt. They’re buttons on a coat. They’re ugly and really uneven.

french knots

Since the next-most-popular knot seems to be the colonial knot, I decided to try that for my tractor rivets. No practicing first, of course. (How often I have regretted this enthusiasm!) The finished product isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than the coat buttons!

colonial knot

I had read that colonial knots consist of figure eights around the needle (with the thread) and that you need both hands. That advice was useful on both counts. I used the graphic from this website to make the knots, and I pressed the knot against the fabric while pulling the thread through to keep the knots tight. Whew! Much more even than the embroidered coat buttons, which I have chosen to consider “charming” and homemade.

Another concern is the traced lines. Each block will be based on a photo from my childhood. Once I’ve finished drawing the template, I size it and trace it onto the fabric. (Wish I could freehand it, but let’s be serious.) I tried air-soluble ink, but that left me with NO LINES when I let the project sit for a few days. Not good. So I switched to water-soluble ink. I read that even water-soluble ink can dissipate in time due to humidity in the air. Since I don’t want to wash my quilt right away, even though the DMC floss I’m using is supposed to be color-safe, I am going to try to use the humidity concept to my advantage and take out the water-soluble lines with a steamer. Wish me luck!

tracing lines

Block Arranging – Sampler Quilt

While I don’t spend much time practicing the more critical techniques like knots or quilting, I spend all the time in the world drawing and computer imaging what the finished quilt will look like. I want to see the result well before the pieces are finished. Below is an image that shows where I started with my sampler quilt (a grid on two different-sized pieces of paper where I drew every quilt block I liked that didn’t have circles or applique or otherwise look too difficult) to where I was mid-stream (closer color approximations since I didn’t have the correct colored pencils when I did the drawing version) to how I expect the finished quilt to look with sashing, using a combination of finished block photos and computer images for blocks I’m still working on.

13 left progress


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[Needle]working Through Grief

I didn’t post last week because I was home for my grandma’s funeral. Although I am still grieving, it was nice to see family, and I was so glad I worked on putting photos into albums the week before. My grandma’s next-oldest sister was able to identify most of the people in the hundreds of photos, including some from the early 1900s! Having the photos on pages we could flip through made for quick work, and I’m sure it meant getting through photos we wouldn’t have had time for otherwise.

double wedding 1924

war era grandparents

This past weekend, I really craved quiet time, but I didn’t want to sit around my apartment and dwell on things. My boyfriend suggested we go to his former professor’s second home in South Haven, Michigan. It was perfect. I worked on embroidering the first block of my barn quilt while it snowed Saturday morning. We also visited the town’s lighthouse and kitschy/antique shops.

embroidering in South Haven

lighthouse

After I dropped Johann at his dad’s house Sunday evening, I went home and worked on two new blocks for my sampler quilt. I hurried home after work again yesterday to add four more. (Note the ironing board cover has been updated since the Sunday Brunch Jacket.)

6 new blocks

Looking back over the past two weeks of projects, the embroidery especially was therapeutic at a difficult time. As an added bonus, some of the photos I shared at my grandma’s funeral are ideal candidates for my barn quilt, now that I know what they depict.