Busy Book #2

Remember the Busy Book I made for the boy last year? I mentioned I might write a pattern for it, and guess what? Fat Quarterly has added it to their Issue #9 which is all about sewing with and for babies and kids!

I hope you’ll go check it out. The issue is already being sent to subscribers, and will be available to everyone else starting April 30. I read through the whole issue and there are so many great patterns and tips in it. I’m really excited to show it to Alexis. Time for some mommy & daughter sewing time!

I am so bad. I got picked for the Moon Munkie Mystery Make about a month ago, and was supposed to get this project finished and posted by sometime last week. Well the project was done, but I couldn’t get decent photos of it because of weather and DST! But no more excuses because I managed to snap a few decent ones at lunch today.

For those of you who don’t know what Moon Munkie’s Mystery Make is all about here’s a quick recap: Moon Munkie sends out 4 bundles of mystery stuff and the “winners” have to make something using some or all of the mystery stuff within 4 weeks of receiving their package. This is what she sent me:


Oh dear. It’s purple. You all know how I feel about purple. Well, honestly I don’t hate it, I am just still kind of done with it since this quilt. But no matter, that fat quarter has better things in store for it. Like this:

Outer Cover - Moon Munkie Mystery

I decided to make a notebook cover like this one from Rachel at Stitched in Color. Easy peasy. Only, I didn’t want plain stripes. Oh, no, I had to make it hard. So I decided to make chevrons or zig zags or whatever you want to call them (Is there a difference? No, seriously I really don’t know). If you look closely at all the pictures you can definitely see where I had to squeak out a little bit of fabric with creative piecing to complete the pattern.

Pleasantly, the purple became quite muted after I’d created the “new” fabric!

Front Cover - Moon Munkie Mystery

The charm squares she sent along helped me get enough length in the strip of fabric I would need to hold the whole cover on. And they make a nice pocket for all the junk that is forever falling out of my notebook.

I did have to add a couple of my own scraps in the back because I used up just about all of the fabric she sent along.

Back Cover - Moon Munkie Mystery

And for kicks, I made a little bookmark string from the embroidery floss and some of the buttons.

Alexis saw this thing and wanted it immediately. And to be honest I had planned to give it to her when I was done. But I changed my mind. I like it, I’m keeping it. She can make her own.

So this was a fun experiment, and I might be playing along and creating my own bundles soon. So stay tuned if you are interested in making something from a big package of mystery stuff!

Remember way back when I had the Mystery Quilt Giveaway going? Was that really nearly a year ago? Well, this quilt has been in the works for much longer than that. I first dreamt it up after our school’s spring auction in 2009. I had contributed this quilt for that auction, and started thinking about what kind of quilt I could make for the next auction. I think it was about that time that the students voted for the school mascot to be a Firebird, and the art teacher drew up a beautiful little firebird line drawing. That’s when it hit me that a mascot quilt would be perfect for the auction.

But, I have to tell you, this quilt has been nothing but trouble from the start.

It was a year before I enlarged the original sketch onto an enormous sheet of butcher paper. And did I mention that I was about 7 months pregnant at the time? So there’s an image for you. Giant pregnant lady crawling around on the floor sketching on a giant piece of paper that insisted on rolling up.

After the pattern was made, I sat on the project again for a long while trying to decide what fabrics to use. I knew I would use (obviously) fire colors, but no matter what fabric stacks I pulled I didn’t like anything. I can’t remember what I was working on when I realized that these “almost” solid cottons would be perfect for this project. Just enough movement.

Firebird Pre-picking

The actual applique wasn’t bad at all, and it came together fairly fast. I was really excited at how well it was going so I was ready to get it quilted when I discovered I had no thread that I thought would work. Back then I did all most of my quilting by hand and I planned to do the same on the Firebird. After searching at multiple stores for a variegated hand quilting thread in firey colors, I finally settled in and started stitching the starburst pattern.

It was not to be.

Some of you may have seen me sitting in the sewing room at Sewing Summit stitching a thousand straight lines on this quilt. I was about halfway through by the end of the Summit. That’s when I decided I hated the quilting. I mean really really hated it. So I put the quilt down and walked away. For about 6 months. When I picked her back up, I realized that part of what I hated was the fact that the quilting was causing the bird itself to bunch up in the middle of the quilt.

Firebirds Soar

I decided that it must be picked out. Really, it didn’t take that long. Pretty much a snip at the starting end and a yank on the other end and out came each thread. I was still sad looking at that pile of used threads. It just seemed like so much work wasted. And by now I was running out of time to get the quilting done in time for this spring’s auction. I decided I would machine quilt it starting with stitching in the ditch around the bird to anchor it down this time.

Firebird quilting sketching

I had this quilting pattern in my mind from the very beginning, and so when I finally decided to draw it on paper I was really glad to see that it looked as good in the real world as it did in my head. Now I was super excited to get the quilting done. So I fired up my machine with it’s new walking foot and started stitching. It wasn’t long before I realized that using white thread on both the upper thread and the bobbin was a mistake. The back of the quilt is Kona coal, and that white thread just looked awful. But by now I was feeling really pressed for time. I was exploring options to actually color the thread on the back with a marker or pencil or something… I wouldn’t recommend that approach. Both the sharpie I tested and the pencil showed through on the white front.

Ok, so the only option was to once again pick out the quilting and start over. And once again, it took a lot less time than I anticipated. It also got me thinking about thread tension because the lower thread tension was way too loose and the threads slid right out.

Firebird Done!

Well, third time must be the charm because I finally finished the quilting. This time with a dark gray in the bobbin and the tension adjusted properly.

Firebird back stitching

The firebird’s quilting was done in various shades of red, orange and yellow, and it shows on the back. I think I like it, but I’m not sure. I love the gray though.

Firebird label

After making the label for Alexis’ quilt, I think I might be addicted to the freezer paper + printer method. Because this quilt shouldn’t need to be washed often, I just used the printed label and didn’t add any hand quilting.

Firebird binding

The binding presented another challenge. I had originally planned to use a very pale solid gray, but after the way that turned out on this quilt, I thought that might just be too blah. I considered using one of the fabrics from the bird, but thought that might detract from the bird itself. I considered using the Kona coal, but decided that would be too much of a frame. By chance I had ordered some Sally’s Skirt from the Sweetwater Reunion line, but in cherry and ink (that’s red and black to the non fabric geeks). That tiny herringbone just speaks to me. The graphite color way was the perfect shade of pale gray. I love the binding on this quilt. Love. It.

Firebird dowel sleeve

I also added a dowel sleeve for hanging using Rachel’s tutorial.

Firebird Done!

As it turns out, the school wants to save the quilt for next year’s auction (hence the future date on the label). Which was fine by me, because when they called to tell me, I was still agonizing over the binding. I debated putting the whole thing away for a while, but then decided to get it off my to do pile once I found the binding fabric.

So, 3 years and 2 froggings later, the firebird is done. I couldn’t be happier with it.