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Quilts & Quilting

Solve Crime in the Ancient Pyramids in 2020!

Quilting club heads to Egypt

When I dreamed up the Murder Mystery Quilt, I never imagined even for an instant all the places it would take me.  Around the world, it turns out.

The short origin story of the Murder Mystery Quilt, when I tell it at cocktail parties to people who don’t sew and who think quilts are something they dig out of Gramma’s closet or see in a museum display, goes more or less like this: there’s a product in the world of quilting where portions of the quilt are sewn without ever seeing the finished design, like making a puzzle without the box top lid, but the word “mystery” always made me think, “If I’m going to make a quilt and not know how it’ll turn out, I should at least be solving a MURDER mystery!”  And thus I developed the idea of sewing a quilt to solve a crime.

Murder Mystery Quilt 2020

 

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Quilt and Solve Crime in 2019!

MMQ pistol wide 2019 blog post

Four years ago, I had a wild idea.  I didn’t really think anyone would go along with it, if I’m being honest: who on earth would think a MURDER mystery quilt was a fun idea?

Not just me, it turns out.

Mystery quilts have been around forever, of course.  The idea that you’re building a quilt block by block, but without knowing for sure what the end result will be, is exciting and challenging in equal measure.  It asks us to trust the designer, trust the process, and maybe surrender a little of the perfectionism and second-guessing that plague anyone who works to create something new and beautiful.

Screen Shot 2019-01-23 at 6.07.22 PM

For a long time, I would ask, sort of as a gag, “Why make a mystery quilt when you can make a MURDER mystery quilt??”  In my head, in ways I didn’t really confess to others (because I haven’t always gotten good results out of wearing my heart on my sleeve, and this seemed like one of those times when sewing was about MORE than sewing), I liked the idea that not only would we then be surrendering the gremlins in our heads that poke insecurity and uncertainty into our creative endeavors, but that also the pieces could go together to answer questions.  It’s all for fun, it’s all pretend, but y’all: there are days when I will hitch my wagon to ANY illusion of certainty and control in this unsteady world.  Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

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Registration Open: The Murder Mystery Quilt 2018

Murder Mystery Quilt a year long block of the month club

It’s back!  The Murder Mystery Quilt is now open for registration for next year.  I am so, so excited–will you come play with us?

For the past two years, I have had the honor and the pleasure of sewing alongside over 1500 quilters who love to read, and who have made new friends while sewing a mystery quilt.  These are smart, funny folks who enjoy a good story and a good puzzle, and who are having a ball putting the two together in a sewing project that lasts all year!  Registration is open NOW for an all-new quilt and an all-new story.  Come play with us next year and sew the quilt to solve the crime!

register now button pink

The Murder Mystery Quilt is a monthly subscription club that reads along together and stitches up a quilt to find clues and solve the murder mystery contained in the story.  

Members receive a chapter from a mystery story each month, and a pattern for a quilt block.  The quilt block relates directly to the chapter you’ve read, and contains an additional clue (or clues!) to help unravel the plot.  There are 12 blocks, one for each month of the year, and every quilter gets one guess as to who the killer is.  All the correct guesses are put in a bucket, and a winner is drawn for a giant prize basket of quilting goodies and fabric!  There’s also a second prize for those who complete the quilt top, regardless of whether they made a correct guess, so that everyone has a chance to win–even if you feel more like a Watson than a Holmes.  (After all, Holmes was a little bit of an egomaniac who didn’t like to share credit, but it was always Watson who supplied the necessary connections to get to the solution, right?)

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The Murder Mystery Quilt and The League of Adventurous Dressmakers: BACK FOR 2017!

This past year has been one of the happiest, most rewarding years I have ever spent sewing, and that is down to a single factor: the people I spent it with.  I made the decision almost exactly one year ago that I was going to focus on two groups in 2016: The Murder Mystery Quilt and The League of Adventurous Dressmakers.  The first has been a pet dream of mine for ages, because who doesn’t love a mystery??  The second was a passion project, born directly out of my desire to sew better clothing with people who love to learn.

quilted sewing machine cover

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The Murder Mystery Quilt and The League of Adventurous Dressmakers: Last Day to Join!

The League of Adventurous Dressmakers

It’s only February, and I’m deeply immersed in the League of Adventurous Dressmakers.  I feel so inspired and motivated and excited about the garments I have in my queue.  Part of what slows me down, looking back on past years and the to-sew lists that never get completed, is that I love the planning stages of a sewing project, but don’t always feel accountable–everyone who reads and comments on my blog is super encouraging (loving you guys!), but you’re so supportive and understanding that when a project stalls, there’s no real pressure to pick it back up.  With the League, knowing that there are folks who are excited and asking questions and posting photos and watching to see what comes next really gets me sitting down at my needle.

pressing bodice with steam

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Now OPEN for Registration: The Murder Mystery Quilt & the League of Adventurous Dressmakers!

Now open for registration!  Both the Murder Mystery Quilt AND the League of Adventurous Dressmakers are now ready for you to join!

league of dressmakers logo stripes

The League of Adventurous Dressmakers is a monthly subscription club that focuses on in-depth technique lessons for better garment sewing.  As more and more of us seek to sew our own clothes, we want to be sure that we make clothes that are beautiful and well-constructed.  With the League of Adventurous Dressmakers by your side, you’ll do it in superhero style!  In this warm, communal environment, explore key garment-making techniques to making your hand-sewn clothing the best it can be, and get inspired by other dressmakers while you do!  Learn more about the League here!

murder mystery quilt logo

The Murder Mystery Quilt is a monthly subscription club that reads along together and stitches up a quilt to find clues and solve the murder mystery contained in the story.   This is a mystery quilt in the traditional sense–you sew a block each month and the overall design of the quilt isn’t revealed until all the blocks are sewn–but it’s also a MYSTERY quilt: each month, along with the block pattern and design, you receive a chapter of a mystery story.  Each chapter reveals clues as the plot unfolds, and it’s your job to seek out whodunit!  Read background on this project here.

I can’t wait to share this year with all of you, and be part of two big projects I’ve been dreaming up for a very long time.  Use the links above to register, or visit my shop.  You’ll receive a welcome letter automatically when registration is complete, and your first month’s pattern within a week!

Let’s Get Sewing, everyone!!

The Murder Mystery Quilt: Sew It to Solve It

FOR THE 2020 PROJECT, VISIT The Murder Mystery Quilt SITE!

In the first grade, when I was six years old, my class did a unit on Ancient Egypt.  I was, as most children are, completely mesmerized.  The story of Howard Carter and his tenacious pursuit of discovery was–and remains, nearly 100 years later–absolutely captivating.  I adored hearing my teacher read, quietly and with appropriate pauses, of those moments when Carter at last, decades after beginning his search, approached the entrance to what he believed to be the greatest tomb in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings.  I held my breath as Carter and his workmen punched a small hole in the plaster to open up a tomb that had been sealed for millennia.  And I gasped when Carter’s financial sponsor for his quest asked if he could see anything by the light of the candle he thrust through that opening, and Carter replied, “Yes, wonderful things!”

quilted sewing machine cover

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New Clubs for 2016: The League of Adventurous Dressmakers and the Murder Mystery Quilt

Hooray, hooray!!  A whole bunch of you have already registered for the 2016 Sewing Buddy Project.  I am beyond delighted to welcome back some familiar faces and to greet some new ones–yippee for Sewing Buddies!!  The Sewing Buddy Project is a year-long pen pal program, and for just $10 you get a personalized pen pal match, monthly emails, sewing prompts and project ideas, plus access to a private Facebook group and lots of support from the community!  I think this year is going to be the best one yet, and at such a small price point and low level of commitment (nothing to send, no deadlines to meet, just a promise to communicate with one another), it’s an excellent way to connect with others and give your sewing a boost.  We can all use a new friend!

In addition to the Sewing Buddies, I am both elated and a little terrified to unveil the other TWO clubs I’ve been busily building for 2016.  These are my babies, and a lot of the courage I found to launch them came when you all confirmed through your survey responses that I’m not crazy for thinking these are really fun, needed ideas.  They combine all my most favorite parts about what I do at Whipstitch: designing curriculum, shooting video, writing, creating patterns, and building community.  These groups, along with the Sewing Buddies, are my primary focus for 2016–if I do nothing else this year than these clubs, I will rest easy and feel fulfilled.  I’ve invested hours and hours, and am nervous and giddy headed into the Big Reveal.  Do you want to hear more about them??

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Advent Calendar Sew-A-Long

Advent Calendar Quilt

Years ago, I re-created my mother’s Advent calendar and interpreted it as a quilt-as-you-go project, complete with template.  The year I finally buckled down to make this for our family, I worked on one house a day each day in December, and had a completed calendar by Christmas Eve!  Every year since, I have taken tremendous pleasure in bringing this piece out of storage and adding a ribbon here and a detail there, so that it becomes even more precious to our family as time rolls past.

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Antique Quilt Sections in Shadowboxes

vintage gramma made quilt

When my mother went away to college, her grandmother made her this quilt for her dorm room bed. When I went away to college, my mother gave it to me for the same purpose. After so many years and so much use, it isn’t holding together as well as it used to, but now (thanks to an Ikea shadowbox frame), my mom and sisters and I can all each have a little piece of family on our walls all the time.

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Yo-Yos Got My Temperature Rising

The weather is warming up nicely (at last), and I’m hand sewing like a madwoman these days.

pile of yoyos in RJR cotton supreme solids

These little beauties are all samples for my workshop as part of Camp Aloha Friends this summer.

multipcolored yoyos

Little rounds of fabric, all gathered up and pretty, waiting to be shown off.  They’re the perfect sewing project for car trips or sitting on the sofa under a quilt, having a nice long talk.  Easy to pick up and put down, and a lovely accompaniment to a cup of tea.

hot pink yoyo

The finished project will be showcased in a shadow box frame, but I’ve got some pretty fun variations that I can’t wait to share.  And plenty more swimming around my imagination: yo-yos on clothing, yo-yo quilts for the beds, yo-yo applique.  Sigh.

yoyos all in a row

Camp starts June 15, and there are still spots left if you want to come play!  If you choose the suitcase option, you’ll get a pack of lovely pre-cut fabrics sent to you just for this project, and then step-by-step video walking you through sewing these and constructing the project.

yoyos two tone

Meanwhile, I’ll be working on my yo-yo scrap project, and if all goes well, there’s even a chance the full-sized quilt will be completed to share with you when camp begins!  I’ve got yo-yo fever, yo.  Heh.  Heh.

All-Yellow Scrappy Trips Around the World: Counting Blocks

yellow scrappy trips around the world 3

My all-yellow Scrappy Trip Around the World quilt is coming along nicely!  This has been my back-seat project for a while, the one that’s cut and ready to go, but waiting in a basket while I’m sewing other things (like curtains, or curtains, or maybe no-sew curtains).  When I made the first #scrappytripalong quilt, I watched the Instagram feeds some other folks were sending out, and a few ladies had all-yellow blocks, which were so bright and sunny and citrusy and inviting.  I had already been (lazily) talking about an all-yellow quilt for a couple of years, and the two just came together.  BAM.

yellow scrappy trips around the world 2

I’m at 19 blocks at this point.  They just go together so quickly, which is awesome.  When I was making the first version, I considered stopping at a lap-sized quilt, but then I accidentally made a bunch more blocks and figured, “We’re going for a twin!”  Since then, I’ve been watching how we use our quilts a lot more closely.  A bunch of my earlier quilts were 60″ x 60″, which is an easy size to get to fairly quickly, and seems like it’s plenty big enough.  And it is–for the sofa.  But now that I have two children in twin beds (soon to be three), I find that I want to have actual BED quilts more, and the lap size just isn’t enough to really cover a twin mattress and look quite right.  I want some hanging-over-the-edge-ness to give the quilt a little presence in the room.  If I’m going to invest all this time and money and effort into making beautiful quilts, then I want them to be used, and a twin seems more likely to be put on a bed and given life by my children and, God willing, their children.

I put together some quick Scrappy Trip Around the World math to supplement the original tutorial, for your reference (and mine).  You can also download this chart as a PDF and print it at home to save for later!  I realize that the intent here is to use up your scraps, but I’ve included a conversion at the bottom of the chart for using fat quarters–a lot of us have (ahem) hoards of FQs to burn, and a quilt like this is such a great place to use them; plus, since so many quilters now think in FQs, it seemed like a good ballpark way to help estimate how much fabric this quilt will require.  Also: seeing the stark numbers made me understand the popularity of the baby quilt!  So quick, so tiny!

Scrappy Trips Around the World math

I am taking my time and not rushing this quilt, but I do admin that I am really hoping I can get it pieced and quilted before the summer is over–the yellows will be dreamy out on the back patio, across from the yellow chairs we have out there.  I love it when a plan comes together.

yellow scrappy trips around the world blocksJust 23 blocks left to go!  I did a batch of 11 last night, so here’s hoping I can crank out another 11 over the weekend and be well close to finished with this before we leave for the beach next week.  I can almost smell the lemony goodness!

 

 

Twin Postage Stamp Quilts for the Little Girls

twin postage stamp quilts header | Whipstitch

About a zillion years ago, I roped myself into a postage stamp quilt project.  It was when our littlest was really little; in about two months, she turns three, and there is the slimmest chance this project will be done by then, God willing.  It has been tremendously time-consuming, I won’t lie.  By the same token, though, it has been an escape in a way that I wouldn’t have predicted: because the sewing has been really monotonous and there has been so much of it, I was able to turn my brain off for extended periods, and not have to worry or suffer from anxiety or angst.  I could just SEW without having to stop and do too much math.  And because the project kept expanding, I didn’t have long stretches where I could start something new and hem and haw about what that would be–it’s surprisingly productive to have something you KNOW you should be working on, and not have to do a bunch of square dancing trying to figure out where to spend your time.  So as much work as these quilt tops have been, they’ve paid off in rewards I didn’t anticipate.  And isn’t that the hallmark of all worthy endeavors?

postage stamp quilt | Whipstitch

These quilt tops are twins in multiple senses: they’re twin-sized, for one thing, and for another they’re matching–or, at least, as matching as a planned-scrappy quilt can be.  I started making just a small quilt for our youngest, then realized that our girls would be sharing a room for the next four-plus years and decided to make TWO, and then wanted them to be larger quilts, which moved them up to twin-sized, but I wanted them to have a real drop and go all the way to the mattress lower edge at the sides of the bed, which means they’re actually 6 blocks by 7 blocks, or 72″ x 84″.  That’s 42 blocks per quilt, or 84 blocks total, each block at 12″ finished.  That’s a lot of 2.5″ squares to sew together–it’s 3024, as a matter of fact.  All cut and sewn one at a time.

postage stamp quilt from above | Whipstitch

The color palette is determined by the initial collection with which I began–Dream On, a Moda collection from about two-and-a-half years ago.  I call this “planned scrappy” in the sense that some fabrics are repeated and other aren’t, and that it doesn’t much matter WHAT fabrics are in the quilt so long as they adhere to the pretty strict color guidelines.  I love the pink and yellow of the Dream On vintage-bedsheet-look fabrics, and must have been sub-consciously thinking of these fabrics when we painted the girls’ walls pale, butter yellow and their ceiling ballet pink.  So there is a lot of yellow and pink here, in solids and in blenders.  There is also a goodly amount of orange, which warms up the quilts, but nothing else–all the greens and blues are from the Dream On fabrics, and the mixers are limited to those three shades of pink, orange, and yellow.

postage stamp quilt detail | Whipstitch

I ran out of my original blenders wayyyy sooner than I thought–I foolishly thought I had enough fabric at the beginning and realized when I came back to this project a few months ago that those were NEVER going to be enough.  I found some more that I really love from Pink Castle Fabrics, and added them to the bunch, working to mix the rows up and balance the newer prints with the original blenders.

two inch postage stamp quilt | Whipstitch

There are plenty of seams here that aren’t perfect.  No matter how much I chain stitched or how much I assembly-lined, they didn’t all match up.  And I really, sincerely have no problem with that.  Somehow–and this seems weird to me–even if my individual seams didn’t match when putting one row to another, the length of the overall row would meet up just fine.  So I guess I was more consistent than I thought?  In the end, every block came within 1/8″ of being exactly 12.5″ square, which is a little miracle in itself.  I guess there’s something to be said for really diving in and doing whole chunks all at one time!

large postage stamp quilt | Whipstitch

The colors are so springy and lovely, especially this time of year as we’re waiting for the warmth to come back.  I can already imagine (partly because I already took a sample photo on Instagram) how sweet and little-girly they’ll be in their shared room once they’re done.

postage stamp quilt wide shot | Whipstitch

Naturally, because it’s me and I seem to have some sort of genetic block against doing things the easy way, I am only about halfway to being done with these.  I have some really serious plans for the backs that I’m particularly attached to and working on as we speak.  I can say “applique” and “falling blocks,” but won’t share anything else until I have something to show you.  But let’s throw in that the quilt top won’t be the only star of this show, shall we?

spring postage stamp quilts | Whipstitch

In the next few weeks, as the sun makes its return, I’ll be working on the back in hopes that not too long past Easter I can get these quilts complete and put them in the girls room.  That will be the alarm moment, too, to make the Big Transition: our youngest will be potty training, our four-year-old boy will be moving out of the toddler bed and into a Big Boy bed so that the littlest can have the toddler bed, and we’ll be swapping a ton of furniture all at the same time between the rooms–including selling the crib, since we won’t have another baby to put in it.  Big stuff happening at our house this spring!

matching postage stamp quilts | Whipstitch

For their part, the two little girls–ages six and almost-three–are VERY excited to have matching bed quilts.  They currently love sharing a room, and my husband and I talked the other night about when we would shift them to NOT share a room.  We both think that because there is a four-year age difference, somewhere around when our six-year-old turns nine or ten, she’ll want a room of her own–but we’re not going to be the ones to suggest it.  I love that they love sharing a room, the way I loved sharing a room with my sister, and I don’t have any belief or expectation that children need to have rooms of their own.  And if they want to keep sharing until high school, well, I’m down with that.  Plus, these quilts were a LOT of work, y’all–here’s hoping we get more than a few years’ use out of them!

Postage Stamp Quilt Progress

I’m in Austin for QuiltCon the rest of this week, so it seems appropriate that I share the progress I’ve been making on the matching postage stamp quilts I’m putting together for my two younger girls–that is, with those of you who haven’t been following along reluctantly eagerly on Instagram.

postage stamp quilt cutting

I started these quilts–really just one of them, at the time–nearly two years ago, when our youngest was just a teeny thing.  I thought the fabrics from these Dream On fabrics suited her.  But then we moved and the girls started sharing a room, and I thought it made so much more sense for them to have MATCHING quilts.  Naturally.  Because I never, ever do anything the easy way.

postage stamp quilt progress

So the one became two, and I needed a lot more blocks than I initially had thought.  (Reading back over that first post, I cannot fathom what made me think I needed 63 blocks for a twin??  I mean, 63??)  Which meant a lot more cutting and stitching–my math now says I want to have these 6 blocks by 7, for an approximate finished size of 60″ x 72″, so I need to have 42 blocks per quilt, or 84 blocks total of 36 squares per block, which is a total of 3024 squares.  You heard me.  They’re going pretty quickly, considering.  I remember these all taking a lot longer back when I began, honestly–but I can’t really remember clearly if that’s why I set this project aside, or if I just spotted something else shiny and got distracted.  There was a lot going on in 2011 for me and my family, so it’s all a little fuzzy.

postage stamp blenders

I picked this project up again about a month ago, determined to complete it so that the girls’ room could finally approach that mythic land of “Done” that no house I have ever lived in quite achieved.  It’s nice to have goals.  But then I hit a wall: it became painfully obvious that I was never in a zillion years EVER going to have enough fabric to complete even one quilt, much less two.  Instagram to the rescue!  Both @mascanlon and @darcychildress happened to have big chunks of Dream On in their stashes that they were willing to allow me to buy off them in order to finish.  Then it was just a matter of finding new blenders, since the ones I’d originally used were long out of print–luckily, Brenda over at Pink Castle Fabrics came to the rescue and had not just three but SIX prints that were totally perfect in color and scale for what I’m trying to do.

postage stamp chain piecing

Since then, it has been long bouts of absurd amounts of chain piecing to get some progress made.  When I saw that I was low on my blenders, I realized I didn’t want to have half my blocks made with three fabrics and the other half have NONE of those fabrics, so I stopped stitching the strips of six squares into blocks and started leaving them just as strips–that way, I can take the pile of strips with the original fabrics and mix those up with the strips made using the new blenders, and all the prints will blend together and no one will be the wiser.  See how smart I am sometimes?  Woot.

postage stamp quilt pressing

So I stitch pairs, and then make fours out of the pairs, and then make more pairs, and use those to make sixes out of the fours, and then set them all aside.  When I have a really obscene pile going, I hot up the iron and press all my seam allowances.  Then I start all over again.  I thought I’d over-bought when I got those new Dream On fabrics through IG, but now I’m starting to believe I’ll need to break into the fat quarters I got when I was drunk on success.  I’m maybe 3/4 of the way through, maybe?  And still Livin’ On A Prayer, y’all.

postage stamp quilt strips

Stay tuned to see if I survive to see this project through.  I’ve also got some lovely Robert Kaufman linen set aside to make matching bed skirts, plus some pretty pink to lengthen the curtains in their room that were made for shorter windows in another house.  Throw in some paint to cover the spot on the wall where Baby got a little too excited with a crayon, and we might be closer to Done than I thought!