Baby Quilt with a Super Soft Back

A sweet little girl has just been born into my husband’s family. The perfect occasion for a baby quilt, handmade with love, ready to keep this wee one all cuddled up.

tamara kate - heart baby quilt

I was told her room is fuchsia, lavender and pink with butterflies and hearts, so I designed this accordingly. The heart is made of a selection of my fabrics from Flight Patterns, Helen’s Garden and Quiet Time and the background is random lower volume fabrics with the odd bit of mine thrown in for little mini-bursts of colour. I like how the grey softens the very vibrant heart.

tamara kate - heart baby quilt detail

Once the top was complete I searched for a soft option for the back. I didn’t want the quilt to go unused because it wasn’t cuddly enough for a baby. And I also didn’t want to use anything with man-made fibres, so minky was out (not to mention the stories I’ve heard of it shedding all over one’s sewing machine while stitching it). The search for a natural and soft substrate was on. So I contacted Michael Miller Fabrics to see what options they had and I hit the jackpot. Organic cotton fleece or sherpa.

michael miller organic fleece & sherpa

They are both ultra soft and cuddly, so I played eenie-meenie-minie-mo & went with the fleece. The picture above shows a piece of each, sherpa on the left, fleece in the centre, with a piece of the fleece once washed (far right). It shrinks, so pre-wash is necessary, and it also fluffs it up, adding extra body, which is lovely.

tamara kate - heart baby quilt fleece back

I hand quilted diagonal lines throughout. I am determined… my next quilt will be my first machine quilted attempt, but for this one I opted for patient, caring stitches.

tamara kate - heart baby quilt fleece back2

A last finishing touch. All done, ready to fly across the ocean to France to welcome this little one into the family.

tamara kate - heart baby quilt embroidery

Rainbow Charm Quilt

At our January Quilt Guild meeting we did a charm (5″ square of fabric) swap. We each had to bring a print and a solid of our chosen colour for as many people as were participating. Among 15 of us, this little rainbow bundle of fabric was what we each left with.

rainbow charm swap

I knew right away that I wanted to create something for my colour-loving almost-8-year old, and I wanted to use all the exchanged fabrics, whether they were colours I would normally be inclined to sew with or not. Wanting to keep things simple and graphic I opted for a very pared-down log cabin pattern … which I realized, after I had finished the whole thing, was not a real log cabin. I now know (I should really stop assuming I know what I am doing when I have not done so much as a moment of research on such a simple thing) the log cabin is a very easy block to sew. My version, while I may prefer it aesthetically, was a tad frustrating to piece together. None-the-less, it all worked out.
log cabin construction

I cut each square into 4 and bordered these little squares with white, a tone-on-tone patterned white and an off-white from my stash, all in random order, to balance the intense colour. This is what I ended up with.

rainbow quilt

You can see I offset one column of blocks by half a block to subtly break the pattern.

I didn’t want to do a back of just one piece of fabric and when I asked the intended young recipient what she thought, she suggested a reversible quilt, so she could have more options. Full of smart ideas she is, this girl of mine. I pulled out my ruler, large sheet of paper and sharpened pencil and got to work. I definitely wanted to fly with the rainbow theme, but keep the overall look a bit sparser than the front. Ta-daa!

rainbow quilt back

I used a few fabrics that are so very Emma, like the Heather Ross mermaid and other pretty ones she had chosen during fabric store trips with her Mama, with a few of my own fabrics thrown in there too.

rainbow quilt back detail

For me, hand quilting just multiplies the love in the giving. I found six or seven colours of pearl cotton (I was only able to find No.5 weight which is a bit too heavy to easily hand stitch with in fine fabric. I will be ordering a finer gauge next time around) and outlined the squares on the front, co-ordinating thread colour to fabric colour.

rainbow quilt front detail

I did no want the quilting lines to interfere with the diamonds on the back, so I stopped at the edges of the diamond arc paths and switched to basic white quilting thread to continue the squares in these areas.

rainbow quilt back detai3

I opted for this happy print of mine, Confetti, to bind it.

confetti fabric

I needed something that gently defined the edge without overpowering the quilt or boxing it in (as a strong colour would have) and that played well with all the colours already dancing around the quilt.

rainbow quilt corner detail

Both the maker and the recipient are pleased with the outcome.

Should you wish to make a quilt top like this, here is the cutting guide for the “Real” Log Cabin block shown above, using a quartered charm square for the centre:

– Cut each charm (5″ square) into 4 (2.5″ square)
-a- 1 piece 2″ x 2.5″ white or off-white fabric
-b- 2 pieces 2″ x 4″ white or off-white fabric
-c- 1 piece 2″ x 5.5″ white or off-white fabric

Using the “Real” block diagram above as a guide, sew the bottom piece -a- to the centre square, press seam open. Sew the 2 sides -b- on. Press seams open. Sew on the top piece -c- & press seam open.

That will leave you with a block measuring 5.5″ square. Divide 5″ (that’s 5.5″, less your 1/4″ seam allowance on all sides) into whatever width & length of finished quilt you desire, multiply these 2 numbers together, and add 1 for the offset row, and you have the number of blocks you need to make. My finished quilt is on the small size, 45″ x 60″, so I made (9 x 12 + 1) 109 blocks. Divide this number by 4 to calculate the number of charm squares you need, in my case, 28. Sew together finished blocks into long strips the length of your quilt. Make your offset row 1 block longer, line up the centres of the end blocks on this row with your other row ends & cut off the excess at each end, pin & sew these strips together to finish your top. Simple as that.

And I won’t give you instructions for the diamond side at this time, as I figured it out as I went along, and I don’t want to lead you astray. Trust me, it’s better this way. I will refine my process and practice the diamonds a few times prior to writing instructions, then when you try it you will think fondly of me.

Keeping the Hands Busy

Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in { Happy Sewing }, Blog, Hand Stitching, Holidays | No Comments

Happy New Year! I hope you all have had a festive and relaxing holiday time.

A sampling of a few projects that have been keeping these hands busy:

patchwork long pillow
A looooong body pillow to put against the chilly exterior wall along my girlie’s loft bed.

decorated stockings2
Updated stockings that were “too plain, Mummy”.

fabric & sequins

felt & sequins

My kids love The Nutcracker. They have been to the production put on by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal and their little heads are full of dancing magical images. My talented Greg made them each a figurine for the Christmas tree this season out of modelling clay. I was up late painting them to have them wrapped under the tree Christmas morning.

greg costa clara nutcracker model
Clara

greg costa drosselmeyer nutcracker model
… and Uncle Drosselmeyer

And I have been doing more. More sewing that I will post on in the coming weeks, working on a new fabric collection that I am crossing my fingers and toes will be produced, baking, baking, baking & not cooking much (Christmas dinner was non-traditional and actually really fun and relaxed … sushi … and to my surprise, it was actually just as festive as turkey), sledding with the kids, and generally trying to keep warm.

I wish you all a year of creativity, trying new things, and not taking matters too seriously!

{ Happy Sewing } … Embroidered Tooth Pillow

My boy is so excited … his first tooth is wiggling. These little life’s big moments take precedent and should be marked with something special. Ever since his big sister lost her first tooth a few years ago and I had made her a little owl pillow so the tooth fairy would know where to find it, he has been anticipating his turn. This is Emma’s:

Max does the most delightful line drawings of “des bonhommes” (little guys … whether it be super heroes, aliens, monsters, family members … we refer to them all as “des bonhommes”, pronounced “bonom”). So after mulling over various ideas with him (a race car, a fire truck, an airplane with a giant propeller), we decided he would draw a monser and I would translate that to fabric & take care of the rest. In about a minute & a half, this mini masterpiece was whipped up.

I scanned it, enlarged it & printed it to the desired size (about 4″ tall). As I did not have any printable transfer paper, I decided to go the route of a light box to transfer the image to fabric. An iPad with a white screen works wonderfully for this (or any computer monitor, for that matter). Simply adjust the screen’s luminosity to its highest, lay the paper image on the screen and place the desired fabric over top. Trace the image with a pencil & you’re set. A skein of embroidery thread and lots and lots of lovingly done little backstitches later, a few other scraps of fabric and some stuffing, and the project was complete.

I wanted to stay true to his mark making, so I left in all those overlapping bits of lines.

I did the same thing with his signature to embellish the tooth pocket.

Now we wait patiently to have something to put in it.

Stitching Family Heirlooms

I’ve been thinking about my creative grandmothers lately. First, my maternal grandmother (that’s what we called her, Grandmother … she was quite a lady, born into a very “proper” New Brunswick family in 1905).

Thinking of the things she lovingly sewed for her three granddaughters when we were little girls. I have the baby quilt she made for me that my own daughter sleeps with now.

And she also made each of us a tote bag to carry our books. I think mine disintegrated from overuse at some point, but somehow I ended up with my older sister’s.

She obviously loved doing appliqué work, which is probably why I enjoy it too, though I admit I am nowhere as good at it as she was. And her embroidery and crewel work skills are to be envied, for sure. Just look at all those teeny-tiny buttonhole stitches framing every fanciful bird in my blanket.

This is a cushion cover she created for me long, long ago. It is now stained and threadbare in spots, so I don’t use it for fear of it reaching the end of its life, but you can see it has been well loved through the years.

And another I have inherited that was folded away in a drawer at my Mom’s, but now takes pride of place in our home.

While my Grandmother used beautiful quality linens, cottons and yarns in harmonious colours, my Dad’s mom, Grand Mummy, was more creative with her fabric choices. She wasn’t picky about the fibres she used, probably a result of living in Trinidad where one was limited by what was available on the comparatively tiny island. At times she made dolls to sell to tourists from lots of zany polyester prints. One of my only memories associated with her is of bags of scraps of fabrics in a gazillion hot colours.

She made us each a mad random patchwork quilt (in various crazy patterned fabrics of unknown origin) that we sadly no longer have. What I do still have, however, is a “Snow White & the 7 Dwarves” set. I don’t know what she stuffed them with … they are really hard. And I have no idea what to do with them, but this girl who was never ever interested in visiting Disney Land, loves them completely.

I am probably a bit more my Grandmother in my sewing style and choices, but I strive to make choices with a bit more of the abandon that my Grand Mummy used. Either way, I would like to leave my children, and hopefully some day grandchildren, with some heirlooms of my own to carry on this tradition.

Embroidered Butterflies

Posted by on Aug 26, 2013 in Blog, Embroidery, Hand Stitching | 6 Comments

At Quilt Market, Art Gallery Fabrics was giving out little packages of 3 die-cut butterflies from their solid-colored fabrics. I knew I wanted to embellish them in some way, and this is what happened:

First I did a version of a buttonhole stitch around each one to attach them to the ground fabric, and then started stitching on the coral one. I haven’t done much embroidery in a long time, so my first attempt was tentative and safe. I added little glass beads to jazz things up a bit.

The blue came next. By this point I felt slightly more adventurous and tried to make things a bit more free-flowing and creative. And then with the yellow I aimed for something simpler and more modern.

Happy with the evolution!

Next up … Making a cushion cover with it!

Embroidered Wings

Posted by on Aug 19, 2013 in Blog, Embroidery, Hand Stitching | 3 Comments


I spent some peaceful summer hours outside stitching this past weekend. This season & I … we were truly meant for each other!

A 6-year old’s Sewing Project

Posted by on Jan 31, 2013 in Blog, Family, Hand Stitching | 2 Comments

I was out and about last Friday and wanted to get a little something to spark a weekend craft project for my Em. I happened upon, for the very first time, some simple, sweet little kits from Lamali.

I love the fact that they are open-ended, they spark the imagination to go in whatever direction it chooses. There are no images of suggested finished projects, or instructions. Simply a little sac of felted shapes, some pretty ribbon, embroidery floss, a few little bobbly bits and a bag of bright sequins and glass beads.

And at an average price of $3.99, how could one go wrong?

She had a clear idea in mind almost immediately (a night scape) and spent all of Sunday morning and evening working away. I gave minor assistance with needle threading, knot tying & careful cutting as per her hand-drawn pattern pieces, but the rest is all her.

I love the immediacy with which children make their decisions. “This is what I want to do & I’m 100% ready!”, “That fabric, not the other ones!”, “This is where it has to go!” and, the one I love the most, “It doesn’t need any more on it. Sometimes adding more is just too much, Mummy!”

The moon was the last addition. She was finally fading, my girl, so 3 giant stitches & all was done.