My First Rag Rug

Projects

Hi everyone and happy new year!  It’s been a while since I’ve posted but I’m going to try to start this new year off on the right foot by posting more regularly.  So I’ll start the year off with showing one of my latest finishes, my first rag rug!

Rag Rug Close-upI’ll have to admit I’m not really crazy about the look of rag rugs but I got inspired by the idea of using up some of my scrap fabrics and a bit of a need for a rug.  I knew I wasn’t really going to find a rug with the colors I wanted so I figured I’d go ahead and try my hand at it.  It isn’t anything really fancy and I didn’t really follow a pattern.  I spent some time searching the Internet to get an idea of how to start and then “wung it” from there.  My only investment was buying a “P” sized crochet hook for approx $1.50.

I used 1″ strips of fabrics and joined them together by cutting slits in each end of the strips to thread each strip together.  Then I used a chain stitch to make a ring of 6 chains.  From there I did rings of single crochet and increased stitches as needed on each ring to get the rug to lay flat.  I found it best to work on a flat surface to get a feel for how the rug was laying.  Because I wanted concentric rings of color I created the fabric strips for the various colors as I went along.  Here’s a view of the front of the rug.

RagRugClose-Front

It may be weird but I think I actually prefer the backside of the rug.  It lays a little different and the single crochet pattern isn’t quite as obvious.

RagRugRear

The rug itself is about 2 ft wide and it worked up pretty quickly.  I think I finished it in about 4 days.  The trickiest part of this rug was choosing the colors and making sure I had enough fabric to make each ring.  Sometimes I had to use several different fabrics for a ring, but I think it blended together nicely in the end.

Overall, I was pretty excited to get a chance to use some fabrics I had sitting around and create a cute little rug for my sewing room.  And the cats really love it too – every one of our cats has been sitting on this rug at one time or another.  Unfortunately no one wanted to get their pictures taken at picture time.  I’ll catch them one day for another project though!

Happy Swatching!

Swatch Missy 300 px-Missy
1 comment

Getting Ready for Vacation!

Quilting, Uncategorized

One of the most important things about getting ready for vacation is prepping projects for the road trip!  We’ll be driving on Saturday so I’ve been cutting fabrics for a new hand-sewing project this week.  Here are the fabrics from my stash scraps.  Aren’t they happy?

Pillow Fabrics

I ran across a blog that used “coffin” shaped templates for English Paper Piecing a pillow.  I fell in love with the shape and the pillow in the blog but unfortunately can’t find the blog anymore!!  I’m not sure if it was a recent post or something I stumbled across while I was surfing someone’s archives.  If anyone sees it, please let me know!

Anyway… I used Adobe Illustrator to draft and cut out my own coffin templates.  I made them 3″ across and 1.75″ high and I was surprised how easy they were to draft in Illustrator.  But I was a little nervous about cutting my own templates because I was concerned about how accurately I’d be able to cut out consistent shapes.  But it seems like it’s working out okay.  I had a few minor mishaps with the rotary cutter but just printed out a more sheets of paper to cut some new coffins - easy peasy!

And of course I couldn’t wait to try them out with my fabrics!  I always like to start a project at home first before taking it on the road for a road trip.  That way I can work out the kinks and make sure I have what I need on road.  In this case I found it handy to use a glue stick to help keep my fabrics stable on the templates (since they’re a bit on the larger side).  Now I’ve got my supplies packed and I’m ready to go!

Coffin Prototypes

Happy Swatching!

Swatch Missy 300 px-Missy
0 comments

Choosing a block and quilt layout

Quilting

In my last post I talked about finding inspiration for starting my new king-sized quilt project.  I basically wanted to do something scrappy that I’d be able to piece together pretty quickly.  There are lots of things that can add time to a project – fussy-cutting fabrics, piecing irregular shapes, sewing lots of pieces together, etc.  Those aren’t bad things, but it’s good to know going into a project that you’re willing to spend the time on things like that.

So although it typically takes me more time to do scrappy quilts (because I obsess over which colors will go next to each other!), that was something I was willing to allow for the time to do here.  Instead I figured I’d choose a fairly simple over-sized block that would allow me to play with my scrappy color combinations.  I wanted a block where I could use 3 different colors on a contrasting background.  I wound up choosing the Rolling Stone block.  Here’s a pic with a sample of the colorings I planned on using – basically a white background with a darker center and outer ring.  The inner ring would be a paler contrasting color.

Rolling Stone Block

Rolling Stone Block

I’ve been admiring this block in other projects for a while now so I was glad to finally use it one of my projects.  You can see that it’s a pretty straight-forward 9 patch block with very few seams.  I also thought it would be great to work with square in a square blocks (those are the blocks on each of the 4 corners).  I hadn’t made too many of them so this would definitely give me the chance to do get some practice here.

Just to give you an idea of some variations on this block, here are links to 2 other quilt patterns that I ran across over the past few years.  They’re both pretty similar but have a little extra piecing in the center of the block.  First up is Spin Cycle by Allison Harris of Cluck Cluck Sew.  I really like her scrappy combination of colors and the layout of the blocks.  If you click on the image it will link to her pattern.

Spin Cycle image courtesy of Cluck Cluck Sew

Spin Cycle image courtesy of Cluck Cluck Sew

And here’s another cute one called Rolling Diamonds by Knottygnome crafts.  Love the block on the right with the skiier in the center!  If you clink on the image it will link to her tutorial:

Rolling Diamonds image courtesy of Knottygnome crafts

Rolling Diamonds image courtesy of Knottygnome crafts

But back to my project!  My next step was sizing the block and designing the quilt layout.  This was where my EQ7 (electric quilt) software came in really handy.  After a quick google search I figured I’d want my quilt to be around 105″ x 105″.  That’s pretty huge so I was thinking I’d probably want my block sizes to be 18″.  With EQ7 it’s really easy to layout 18″ blocks with sashing to see how that would look.  To get 105″ square I needed 2.5″ sashing.  I was playing around with some coloring options, but didn’t color all of my blocks.

ScreenHunter_07 Jun. 30 20.35

Another option was going down to 15″ blocks.  Since I was using a 9 patch block I wanted to keep my math simple by sticking with multiples of 3″.    In EQ7 I just changed the block size to 15″ and then played with the size of the sashing to see that 5″ sashing would make 105″ square.  See the screenshot here (you can see the size of the quilt at the top of the screen).EQlayoutscreen_withmarkup

And here’s a screenshot of how the 15″ block layout looks:

ScreenHunter_09 Jun. 30 20.37

Both layouts were nice but I think I was a little hesitant about the 18″ blocks and narrow sashing.  For some reason I thought I might not be able to see a nice range of blocks when the quilt on the bed.  Right or wrong I chose the 15″ block layout.  From there I did some quick yardage calculations for my background fabric, headed to the store that evening and started cutting my fabrics the next day - woo-hoo!

I’m actually a month into this project but plan on showing you some quick tips on cutting and piecing that I’ve been figuring out along the way.  As a teaser for my next post, I’ll tell you that I got really lucky in choosing this block size!  I was so anxious to get started on my project that I didn’t take the time to figure out how I would cut my fat quarters for each of the pieces I needed.  Thankfully it worked out okay, but big lesson learned for next time!  Until then…

Happy Swatching!

Swatch Missy 300 px-Missy
0 comments

Getting Inspired

Quilting

We recently purchased a king-sized mattress set to replace our queen-sized bed so that left us without a quilt for our new bed.  During some random shopping trips I couldn’t find anything that I really liked so a few weeks ago I figured I’d just go ahead and make a king-sized quilt.

Every time I take on a project it feels like I learn new things about what does and doesn’t work for me.  So even though I’m already a few weeks into this quilt I thought I’d share my approach with you in case it helps you with your next quilt or project.

I tend to create my own patterns so my first step here was to find an inspiration for my design.  I had some rough ideas in the back of my mind but I needed a little more help to really bring this vision into focus.  So here are some sources of inspiration I have at my fingertips:

Quilt Block Books

Years ago I collected the following 2 books by Maggie Malone and Jinny Beyer for my quilt library. They both contain literally thousands of quilt blocks.  These books organize quilt blocks into categories such as 4 patch, 5 patch, hexagon, curved, etc.  This makes it really easy for me to browse through blocks in one of those categories.  So if I’m looking to tackle more complex designs I can look at blocks drafted on a 10 x 10 grid or if I want to try curved piecing I can see all of those blocks in one area.

Quilt Block Books

Out of the 2 books I have to admit that I’m more drawn to Maggie Malone’s 5,500 Quilt Block Designs because it has a wide variety of blocks with solid coloring schemes that really showcase the elements of the block.  Jinny Beyer’s book also has an assortment of blocks but she uses her fabrics to illustrate the elements of the block instead of solid colors.  This makes it more difficult for me to evaluate the block without being influenced by the fabric choices.  Despite that it’s still another good resource to get block ideas.

I recommend having some kind of quilt block book in your library. It’s a great starting point to open up your mind to all kinds of possibilities, learn the names of blocks you like or inspire you to draft your own block. (You can see I’ve even marked Maggie’s book with a bunch of blue post-its to tag the pages with blocks I like!)

 

Magazines

Over the years I’ve maintained subscriptions to several different quilting magazines.  When my stack of magazines piles up too high I leaf through them and tear out the pages that inspire me.  I can be inspired by a quilt block, color combination, layout, quilting, etc.  If there is a pattern for the whole project I make sure to tear out all of the pages and staple them together.  I then store all of these pages in a hanging file folder.  I also do this for sewing room ideas, tools, techniques, etc.  But here’s a sample of some pages I just pulled out of my folder for quilts:Magazine Clippings

I like to purge my magazines this way so that I’m only keeping the things that interest me. It makes it really easy to glance through a folder of ideas that’s only a fraction of the size of the various magazines. This really helps me manage clutter because I usually only tear out a few things from any magazine.

Pinterest

I have to say that I really love Pinterest!  Technically I get inspiration from various places on the Internet: blogs, social media sites, Pinterest and even emails I happen to receive from various quilty sources.  But I love using Pinterest boards to manage all the various things I find.  I’m a visual person so I love that Pinterest allows you to “pin” (or save) some content to a board you create and manage. Once I pin something to one of my boards I’m able to easily see an image and my own brief description or comments about the content. I try to organize my boards so that it almost serves as a virtual file system for me. It’s a great way for me to manage all of the many different ideas and tutorials that interest me.

I’ve actually been using the Swatch Buddies Pinterest boards to manage a lot of the personal content I care about.  (It was too much trouble to keep switching between my personal account and the Swatch Buddies account.)  So you can see that I’ve created various “inspirational” Swatch Buddies boards.  Here’s a sample of our Inspiring Quilts board.  You can click on the image to go to the board.  I love this board! It’s really easy for me to browse this board to get some quick ideas when I’m working on a quilt.

Pinterest Inspiring Board Screenshot

I also have an Inspiring Quilt Blocks board.  It doesn’t have as many pins yet, but you can check out that board here.

You’ve probably seen many pictures on the Internet with the “pin it” button, but did you know that you can also install a Pinterest button on your browser?  This makes it even easier to pin things to your boards when you don’t see a pin it button.  Here’s a sample of what the button looks like on your browser below.  Click here to install the Pinterest button on your browser. If that link doesn’t work for you, just google how to install the Pinterest button on your particular browser (e.g. Chrome, Internet Explorer, etc.)

pinterest button screenshot

Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list of finding inspiration, but just a few ways to show how to have inspiration at your fingertips.  Lastly, I’ll close with sharing the 2 big reasons I like having my own inspiration library.

  1. Saving my inspirations helps me tell if something stands the test of time with me.  I think it’s fairly easy to get excited about something new and fresh I haven’t seen before.  But when I look at it again after some time has passed it may not be quite as inspiring to me.  Sometimes it’s even difficult for me to understand why I saved something!  Or it could just simply be that my tastes have changed a bit.  Handy tip: I’ve started trying to be a little more diligent in writing some brief notes about what inspired me. It could be just a word or two (color, sashing, quilting, etc.)
  2. It can really jump-start the creativity process.  Within minutes of having an idea to create a king sized quilt project I was able to look at my Pinterest boards to get ideas.  Since I already had some rough ideas in mind, that was all I needed to take me to the next design step. I found it to be a great resource to help me start drafting out a pattern.

This post was a little longer than I thought it would be, but I guess I got a bit excited about starting my new project.  Stay tuned for more updates on my progress!

Happy Swatching!

Swatch Missy 300 px-Missy
0 comments

Fabric Shopping!

Quilting

I’ve been really busy lately so haven’t been able to post as much as I’d like.   One of the main reasons for that is that Swatch Buddies had a booth at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago this past weekend!  So obviously that meant a lot pre-show prep, travel and working the show.  It was a lot of work but I’m really glad we went.  We met lots of great customers and told lots of new people about our products.  It’s always fun to see how excited people get about our products so I wish we had more time to meet people like that!

Now that we’re back I thought I’d share a sneak peak of the scrappy king size quilt project I’m working on right now.  I’ll be posting more about this in the upcoming weeks.  First, here’s a glimpse of some of my color combinations.  There are three colors per block so that’s why I’ve got my fabrics laid out in bundles of three.

WIP ColorsI’ve been pleasantly surprised that I’ve been piecing my blocks pretty quickly.  As a result I’ve worked through quite a bit of my stash in these colors.  Although that was pretty cool it also meant I needed to do some more shopping!  So I made up some Swatch Buddies rings.  Here’s a “before” picture of my swatches in the darker/more saturated colors:

Swatches BeforeAnd here’s a picture of my “after” with some of my purchases.  I made a quick trip to one of my local quilt shops (Capital Quilts here in MD) before hitting the Festival in Chicago (had to squeeze in some shopping time there too!)  You can see the saturated colors on the left-hand side and the paler colors on the right.

Swatches AfterI haven’t gotten up the nerve yet to take live pics in the store to show actually shopping with my swatches.  I’d love to take pics of some of the fabrics I auditioned with my swatches that weren’t quite right for what I had in mind.  But I can tell you that I definitely made different fabric purchases with my swatches than I would have made otherwise.  You can see in this next picture that I have quite a few paler yellows, oranges and greens.  Those seem pretty easy to find.  What I really needed to fill out were my purples, pinks and blues.  I didn’t have luck with the purples but I did get some pinks and blues.  (Some of my other blues are shown in the pic above.)

Light SwatchesIn all, I probably spent about $65 in fabric purchases.  That’s not an enormous amount of money, but it definitely makes me feel better that I made smart fabric choices.  I’m thrilled I have enough fabric now so that I can complete the rest of my scrappy project and help fill in used parts of my stash again.  I’ll be posting more about my current quilt project next week.  Until then…

Happy Swatching!

Swatch Missy 300 px-Missy
0 comments

WIN & Share the Swatch Love!

Swatch Buddies Events

Spread the SWATCH Love

It’s time for another giveaway, and this time you can Share the SWATCH Love with 3 friends! Or if you’re swatch hungry keep them all for yourself! ;)

We’re giving away 4 of our Original Series 48 Swatch Card Kits. Check it out:

Original Series 48 Swatch Card Kit

Carry more swatch cards on the same classic cable ring. Simply unfasten the ring to add, remove and rearrange swatches by project or color as your collection grows. This reusable swatch kit contains everything you need to easily create and label your own fabric swatches or paper samples. This is a popular tool for sewing room organization to identify fabric in storage totes. Designers also find this swatch fan useful to display fabric samples to their clients. Finished swatch size: 1” x 1.5”

You can come back and tweet every day to earn extra entries. Make sure and Share the Swatch Love with your quilting, sewing & crafting friends… if they win they can share the prize with you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Swatching!

Swatch Missy 300 px-Missy
1 comment

Mattress buying tips fit for a king

Life at Missy's House

Dave and I finally started our married life together 2 years ago when we combined our belongings and moved into the same house.  Ever since then we’ve been sharing a queen size bed together and that has been a huge problem for several reasons.  Four of those reasons are right here:

CatCollage 060714We both came into the marriage with 2 cats.  Mine are Henry and Maggie and his are Midnight and Snowball.  They’re also the reason that we often woke up with sore backs in the morning.  2 Adults + 4 Cats + 1 Queen size Bed doesn’t add up to a comfortable night’s sleep.  Over Memorial Day we finally broke down and bought a king size bed.

Unlike most women, I really don’t like to shop.  But I thought I’d share a few tips we kept in mind when shopping for our bed:

  • Choose wisely and don’t cheap out – We spend approx 1/3 of our life in bed so it makes sense to really put some thought into this decision.  And we tend to be a bit on the thrifty side but buying a mattress is definitely not an area to cheap out.  You really can’t underestimate the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.  It really affects your day in a bad way if you don’t sleep well.  So obviously it pays to…
  • Do your research - Shopping for a bed can be overwhelming.  Doing some research online prior to your shopping trip can help focus your shopping efforts.  We don’t shop for beds very often so it helps to get familiar with the materials being used in beds today and their advantages/disadvantages.  Also pay attention to what type of sleeper you are and what bedding materials might be better suited for you.  Side or stomach sleepers have slightly different bedding needs than those who sleep mostly on their backs.  Then…
  • Choose which stores you want to shop - Some people go to department stores to purchase their beds but we prefer to go to a mattress store.  It’s a very big decision so we appreciate talking to subject matter experts who focus solely on selling mattresses.  Next…
  • Time your shopping trip - My husband tends not to agree with me on this, but from my own personal shopping experiences I do think it helps to shop for big purchases over a holiday.  But keep in mind that others will have the same idea also.  Be prepared that stores may be more crowded and that it may be more difficult to get attention from a salesperson. We actually got a little lucky during our trip.  We started our shopping late Saturday afternoon around 5 p.m.  By that time the Saturday rush seemed to be over.  Shopping  late in the day on Saturday actually helped us get a better price for the bed.  See more on that below.  But first…
  • Really try out the mattress in the store - I know it feels a bit foolish to be sprawled out in a bed in a store.  But who really cares?  What’s important is finding a bed you like.  It’s not enough to lie on the bed either.  Get comfortable.  Pretend you’re about to take a nap.  Take your time and try to pay attention to what you like or don’t like about a bed.  I have to admit that I was biased about one of the beds we first tried out.  As soon as I lay down on it I could tell it was a foam and I really didn’t want to get foam.  But after spending a lengthy amount of time trying other beds we actually wound up going with the foam one.  Lastly…
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate - We may be more prepared to negotiate at a flea market or garage sale but we often don’t feel comfortable doing this in a brick and mortar store.  Although we had narrowed down our bed choice, it was a little higher than we thought we wanted to pay.  My husband told the salesperson our price point for where we wanted to be (which was $500 lower than what he quoted us).  Because he really wanted to make the sale, the salesperson offered to call the manager to see if he would honor that price.
    Even though we were impatient and wanted to head to the next store, the salesperson practically begged us to give him a couple minutes.  He said that because their sales had gone so well earlier that day the manager would be much more agreeable to a discounted price.  He warned us that if Sunday was slower the answer might be different.  Turns out he was right.  The manager agreed to the discount and we were able to get the bed we wanted within our original budget.

We were so excited the day the bed finally arrived!  And we weren’t disappointed.  That first night of sleeping on our new bed I don’t think I even moved – I woke up in the same position I fell asleep and it felt great!  It was sooooo nice not to wake up sore and grumpy.  Overall we’re thrilled with our purchase and are sleeping much better.

Next up is making a king size quilt for our new bed.  Stay tuned for more posts about that project!

 

Happy Swatching!

Swatch Missy 300 px-Missy
0 comments

The Great Garden Experiment 2014

Life at Missy's House

When Spring rolled around this year I have to admit the gardening bug bit me hard.  I’m definitely not a gardener by nature but over the past several years I’d longingly admire the flowers in someone else’s yard and wish they’d magically bloom one day in our yard.  Or I’d hear folks at the office talking about their bumper vegetable crops and imagine I could just walk out and harvest my own little vegetable garden.

I’d been reluctant to take the plunge because I knew the odds were against me.  I was already pretty busy and didn’t want to add a “plant watering regimen” on my plate.  I know I also do much better at projects where I can see some sort of instant gratification along the way.  I wasn’t sure I’d have the patience to take care of plants on faith that some day way in the future I’ll see some magical payoff for the work.

Garden wk1

Long story short, I thought it might be more fun to take care of plants in a raised garden bed.  So hubby Dave and I bought some cedar at the local lumber mill and built this little baby.  It’s about 8 ft by 2 and 1/2 ft.  And Dave also put up 7 ft high fencing to protect the garden from deer and other critters that frequent our backyard.

Over Memorial Day weekend we planted some vegetables and herbs that we picked up at the local nursery.  So here’s the tally of what we planted in the raised garden bed (all were plants unless noted otherwise):

Garden2

Herbs wk1


Vegetables 

  • 5 Tomatoes
  • 4 Cucumbers
  • 2 Green Peppers
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper
  • Carrot Seeds

Herbs:

  • 2 Basil
  • 2 Thyme
  • 1 Rosemary
  • 1 Dill
  • 1 Chive

Others:

  • 2 Lavender
  • 3 Dahlia
  • 1 hanging plant (petunias and some other little blue flowers)
  • Sunflower Seeds

Fortunately the weather’s been really good to us lately.  After a healthy mix of sun and rain our sunflower seeds have sprouted after only 1 week!  So far I’m still digging the gardening thing.  Stay tuned to see how long this phase lasts!

Sunflowers p1 wk1 v2

Happy Swatching!

Swatch Missy 300 px-Missy
0 comments

Swatch This!

Using Swatch Buddies

Welcome to the Swatch Buddies blog! I’m Missy Azen and I’m one half of the Swatch Buddies team.  I’m a DIY’er at heart and love to to put my personal spin on my projects.

I don’t get the opportunity to spend too much time on my hobbies so that greatly influences which projects I choose to tackle, how much complexity I bring to them and the techniques I use to manage their completion. Sometimes I’ll start a quilting project only to find that I have to put it down for several weeks (or months!) before I can pick it up again. And on top of that I’m prone to make mistakes so I definitely try to “dummy-proof” what I’m doing as much as possible.

I look forward to sharing my own unique experiences with you as I try various projects. I also plan to share inspirations and stories from others as I find them. I get a lot of my inspiration and ideas online so I’m hoping you’ll feel the same way about some of the ideas shared here.

I like to think of the name and spirit of this blog as “Swatch This!”. Besides the obvious nod to our Swatch Buddies products, it also makes me think of how we use swatches. To swatch something is to basically take a little snippet of something bigger to try it out - just like how we take swatches of fabric to the store with us to see how they work with other fabrics out in the world.  In that sense I hope that some of you will be inspired to “swatch” some of the ideas in this blog to try them on for size in your world.

So “Swatch This” blog for posts about quilting, miscellaneous home dec and crafty projects, some gardening efforts and of course some ideas about using Swatch Buddies!

Happy Swatching!

Swatch Missy 300 px-Missy
0 comments