Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 30~ Moment of Truth

It is the last day of November... can I do this? 

Usually at this point I would be rather weary of looking at the same fabrics over and over again... but not this time. When you make a scrap quilt out of fabrics that are jam-packed with memories, the project stays interesting all along. 

I really wanted to draw out the purples in the quilt, and was pleasantly surprised to see that I had enough of this polka-dotted fabric to create the binding. I like to cut the binding on the bias, in 2 3/4 inch strips.

This is the time when I appreciate my walking foot the most. There is no need to buy a very fancy or expensive sewing machine when you start quilting. I really love my basic "no-computer" Kenmore. My entire machine cost me less than a walking foot does for a fancypants model. (The walking foot for my Kenmore cost me a mere $20.) My walking foot keeps the quilt from shifting under the batting, so I don't even need to pin the binding to the quilt.

I always sew the binding down to the wrong side of the quilt by hand. I know I can do it on the machine, but it never looks as tidy as when I do it this way. It is a long series of simple stitches, the perfect "cool-down" after a very busy month of stitching. Angela Lansbury is keeping me company while I stitch. I have a few hours to finish up, midnight is still far off. 

I hope to have photos of a finished quilt for you tomorrow!


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 29~ One more block!

Here I sit, with just one more block to go! Could it be? I almost afraid to jinx myself, but I think I will be able to get it done!

At one point I was pretty sure I wasn't going to come close to getting this done by the end of the month, but now I think I can, just like the little blue engine. The day is done, the three children are tucked into bed, and Eric is out in his studio.

And I just have one more block to quilt. One.more.block.
Now, where is my thimble?


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 28~ Hoop Talk

I just realized that I have been stitching madly away, having talked about thread, batting, and thimbles, without ever mentioning frames, hoops, or racks. In keeping with my low-gadget style, I prefer doing my hand quilting with just a large hoop. Perhaps I would enjoy a frame, if I ever had the chance to try using one, but I have always worked with a simple hoop. This one measures about 24 inches in diameter, and is good and sturdy. It is large enough to hold a good amount of quilt to work on, without being too cumbersome. I have had it for 13 or 14 years, and it was worth every penny- they only cost about $20 or so. 

I am down to the home stretch now! Six and-a-half of 35 squares left to go. Then trimming, binding, washing, and drying. Cross your fingers for me!


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 27~ Guest Posting at Threadpanda!

Today I was invited to be a guest blogger over at Threadpanda.

To read my update on my NaBloPoMo QAL Stash-to-quilt challenge, visit her site here!

Where I stand, as of this afternoon, I have 24 of the 35 blocks quilted. This is cutting it a little closer than I was hoping to!


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 25- Perfect scissors.

I think these curvy snips came in a goody bag of some sort from a recent TNNA show. Now, I will say, I am not a "gadget girl" when it comes to sewing, clearly, as I am hand quilting with only the aid of  good thread, a thimble, and a hoop. But I have to say, these curvy little scissors are perfect for hand quilting, as they allow me to trim the thread very close to the quilt top without risking cutting into the fabric. 


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 24~ Taking a break

Today I am taking a break from quilting... we have had a fabulous holiday week, complete with restful days at home crafting, reading, and playing outside. A lovely family dinner on Thursday, followed by an outing with friends on Friday. Today was all about "Plaid Friday/Small Business Saturday" and we went to our local toy shop, which also has a wonderful book department, along with our favorite neighborhood yarn shop.

A quiet evening is in the works- homemade stew with freshly baked biscuits, starting a new family read-aloud (The Hobbit!) and perhaps some time at the spinning wheel once the children are asleep. 


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 23~ Handquilting Thread *is* Different

When I first starting quilting by hand, I had no idea what I was doing. I used embroidery needles instead of sharps, and had a hard time finding good quilting thread. I thought I needed to wax my thread, but soon discovered that this is unnecessary when using a good quality hand quilting thread.

I remember going into our local quilt shop (this was in 1999) and asking for turquoise hand quilting thread. The shopkeeper clearly stated that "turquoise is not *in* right now" and led me to a rack with navy, hunter green, ivory, tan, and burgundy thread for handwork. Needless to say I was disappointed!

Shortly thereafter I discovered the Mettler 100% cotton quilting thread, which is very easy to find nowadays. They even stock it at our local big box craft store. It comes in a great variety of colors, and is available in a few different spool sizes. It makes a world of difference. I never need to wax it, and can work with a length of up to 36" without any issues with knots or tangling. I am presently working through my cookie tin of thread, using different colors for each spool and end cap. This keeps me happily occupied while I stitch. 


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 21~ Thimble Love

I love thimbles. This is something I discovered *after* I stab-stitched my entire first quilt, queen size, no less. Oh, in our first little apartment, a 500 sf studio. Oh, where my husband was hand lettering banners right next to me. Those were cozy times!

It took me some time to get used to wearing a thimble, but I won't ever go back to shredding my fingers in the name of stitching. This little beauty was a gift from my grandmother's collection and it works for me like no other. 
Stitch. Stitch. Stitch.


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 19~ Sandwiching the Quilt

I layered the quilt. First, I taped the backing, wrong side up, to the dining room floor. Next, comes the batting, which needs to be carefully smoothed. Lastly, the quilt top, right side up, which also needs to be carefully arranged to avoid bumps, lumps, and wrinkles. 

I used one safety pin per block to keep things in place while I hand quilt this project. I really love this stage- all of the pieces are secured in place, I can put away my iron and cutting tools for a few weeks, and fit the entire project (including sewing hoop, thimble, needles, and thread) in a generous tote. 

(I think my family loves this stage, too- we have a table in our dining room again!)


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 18~ Breaking the rules

This quilt project (according to my made-up and self-imposed rules) was supposed to be a pure stash project- no shopping allowed. Sigh, I caved- I just didn't have enough cotton batting in my studio to finish the quilt. I considered using the polyester batting I had on hand, but knew I would regret every hand quilted stitch of it. So I went shopping. $11.82 later, I am grateful for 2 yards of lovely 100% cotton batting. I am terribly fond of hand quilting pre-washed fabrics with unwashed cotton batting. The texture of the finished quilt is simply scrumptious. More on this in days to come.


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 15~ Finishing the Quilt Top

Have you ever worked really hard at trying to make something look "random" and unplanned? Any scrap quilter can relate. My main goal here was to not have any spool caps of the same fabric right next to each other. I casually laid out the blocks on our dining room floor and stepped back. I liked it. I didn't change anything. I am just trusting the inspired process at this stage of the construction! 

I am not sure about the fabrics I chose for the strips and borders. I may revisit my choices there, and use some fabric I had hope to use for a skirt for the border instead. Still out of the stash... so I think I am okay there. I think I will buckle, though, on the batting. I can't seem to find any good cotton batting laying about my studio, and if I can't track some down, I will be breaking my (self-imposed) rule of "no shopping" for this quilt to get the right batting. I don't think I will be happy if I use polyester, which I seem to have an abundance of. 


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 14~ Spools are done!

It is all downhill from here... so they say. The quilt blocks are all done, wow! My goal for tomorrow is to put the entire quilt top together. My, that is ambitious. Our youngest is supposed to go to preschool tomorrow afternoon for a Thanksgiving party, so that *does* give me about two hours of uninterrupted sewing time... stay tuned.


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 12~ Finding Time to Stitch

Today was one of those busy days- between keeping house, laundry, mothering, working on Slate Falls Press projects (like updating our website and Amazon pages, arranging a book review, working on a new knitting pattern design, tending to details for an upcoming book signing...) and so forth, there just wasn't much time left to sew. I did manage to fit in a few minutes, which I really enjoyed, but only because I had all of my sewing things set up and ready to go.

I totally understand that it can be hard to carve out a dedicated sewing space. For years, when I was creating custom baby quilts, I had a great space to sew- a large wooden table that was only used for sewing. That space later became my office and studio, where I write, design, and run Slate Falls Press. Although I really love what I do, I really missed having my sewing machine set up and ready to stitch at a moment's notice. This fall, I moved a small wooden desk into an underutilized corner of my studio, and it has made a world of difference in my sewing time. That pair of curtains or dust ruffle that had been on my to-sew list (seemingly forever) suddenly seemed doable.

I love my little sewing corner. How about you?


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day 11~ Planning strips, borders, backing, and binding

It wasn't too hard to find pieces of fabric in my stash for the spool centers and caps, but when it comes to strips, borders, backing, and binding, my options were much more limited. I need 1 1/2 to 4 yards for each of these components, which narrows the field quite a bit!

I am thinking of using the white with purple polka dots for the backing, the pinwheels (another Anna Maria fabric) for the borders, the purple with white polka dots for the strips, and the bright yellow floral for the binding. The one I am not so sure about is the binding... the others I love. Another idea is to do a scrap stripped binding, but that is something new for me. Might be the time to try it!


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day Ten~ It's all coming together

It is so much fun to start playing with the combinations of fabrics. I hadn't realized that using stash scraps (rather than solid colors) for the end caps would add so much more interest to the project, but it does. As for the little white squares...

They are all done! Time to go put some miles on my sewing machine.


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day Nine~ Little white squares

The little white squares are coming along... I am planning to cut about half of them and then start sewing the spool end caps. The rotary cutter and electric sewing machine make quick work of this phase, right?


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day Eight~ Spool Centers Completed

This went quickly- the spool centers are done. Up next- spool caps. First, though, I need to get started cutting the muslin squares for the corners- 140, to be exact. I am starting to doubt my ability to get the top pieced by the weekend...


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day Six~ Emptying the Spools

I tend to be (a bit) of a fabric hoarder, so it is nice to be working on a project where all of the materials are coming out of my existing collection. Seeing my piles of stash fabric grow shorter makes me really happy. I had forgotten that I will have that same gratifying experience with my thread collection! Some of these spools have been with me since I started quilting in college, and have moved with me from one studio, to my parent's house, to our first studio apartment as newlyweds, to our first "real" apartment, rental house, and now, our family home. I think it is time to use some of these old threads up!

I was a little surprised at how many spools on my rack had just a few yards of thread left on them. Make do and mend, right? I am using up the spools with the least amount of thread on them first. For this part of the stitching, because of the way the blocks are ironed, no one will ever see what color thread I am using. I have already emptied four spools in just a few minutes of sewing!

Over the last few years I have switched over from Coats to Guterman thread, and am looking forward to replenishing my spool rack with a variety of new colors. For some odd reason I have five full spools of Kelly Green all-purpose sewing thread. Not sure why, but I think I will try to put a dent in one of those next!


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day Five~ Just Start Sewing

Sometimes it is best to just start sewing. I still have a bit of cutting to do for the blocks, but I have what I need to get started, and I like to do what I can to keep a project interesting and fun. I will plan on alternating between sewing and cutting for the next few days. Oh, and I am clueless on what to do for the shelf strips and border. Good thing I have a few days to decide!


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day Four~ Cutting the Spools

A few little handy tools, like a cutting mat, rotary cutter, and clear rectangle measure, made for a pleasant time of cutting pieces for the spool blocks. I needed 35 squares for the center of each spool and 70 spool end caps.

I really enjoy stumbling across a little idea that makes the process easier and more fun. Although I am sure others have been doing this for a while, it occurred to me while cutting the rectangles that I can use my Knit Kit to keep track of how many pieces I have cut. This is especially handy when doing scrap quilting as I was getting anywhere from one to twelve rectangles per piece of fabric, depending on how much I had on hand.

Ah ha! No need to count up the pieces over and over again, just a quick click for each cut piece and I had a running tally that kept me on task.

Spool centers and end caps are all cut. Up next- the backgrounds. My goal is to have the quilt pieced by the end of the week... that would mean I need to start sewing by Tuesday at the latest.


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day Three~ Ironing

Confession- I love ironing. Good thing- because there is a lot of it involved in quilting. If you are thinking about learning to sew or quilt and you loathe ironing, you might want to think twice. Now, this isn't fussy ironing like working on a pleated shirt with cuffs and plackets (even I only like that kind of ironing just a tiny little bit)... but taking wrinkled up scraps of colorful fabrics and smoothing everything out- that is ironing at its best.

I guess I wish it were that simple to take the wrinkles out of the bigger things in life, but alas, for now, I will be very content with my tidy collection of colorful prints. They look rather wild at this point, all at once and so close together, but I am hoping they will work well once I start building the blocks.


Phoebe's Spool Quilt Day Two~ Making a plan

I am a scribbler. I scribble sketches, stories, and pattern ideas the old-fashioned way- with a fat pencil and a scrap of paper. I roughly planned out the cutting requirements for a twin-sized Phoebe's Spool Quilt. Instead of 4 X 5 blocks, as I used for the book, this quilt will be 5 X 7. My goal was to find 35 different fabrics from my stash for the center section of each spool block, and a variety of browns for the spool end caps. I am pretty sure I have some off-white muslin or cotton on hand for the backgrounds, and will make do for the shelf strips with whatever I can find.

Here is my stack. There are a few pieces of new fabric in here- like the half dozen fat quarters from Anna Maria Horner's new collection that I bought at Fancy Tiger this summer, but most of it is scraps. I was pleased to find that I had scraps from about six dresses that I made for Laurel when she was a little girl, and I love that I will be able to include those, along with remnants from a few favorite tops I still wear along with a new handbag I made last summer. 

Next up, ironing and cutting!


Phoebe's Spool Quilt~ November Challenge~ NaBloPoMo

Phoebe's Spool Quilt, from Phoebe's Birthday

Inspired by a fellow knitter and quilter on Ravelry (thanks, Kristy!) I have decided to try something new here in this space. She was interested in a Phoebe's Spool Quilt Quilt-a-long (QAL), which I think is a great idea. So it got me thinking.... 

Then, I heard that a friend was looking for a guest poster on her blog (thanks, Amy!) for NaBloPoMo and I decided I would like to share something about this quilt on her blog. So I thought some more....

Finally, in the true spirit of quilting from scraps, taking a lead from Kristy, and in a spirit of Yankee ingenuity, I decided to take it one step further and make this a 100% pure stash-busting project. No shopping allowed.

So, here we go-Phoebe's Spool Quilt stash-to-quilt stash-busting Challenge QAL:
1. November Quilt challenge- create a Phoebe's Spool Quilt during the month of November, posting plans, photos, and progress here as I go. 
2. NaBloPoMo- blogging every day this month as I go through the process.
3. This is a pure stash-busting project. No trips to the store, not for thread, fabric, needles, or batting. I need to create the entire quilt from what I have socked away here in my studio.
4. My goal is to create a twin-sized quilt for our daughter, pieced, sandwiched, quilted, and bound, in one month.

Can I do it? I have no idea. We will see!

Here is a list that I will update daily with links: