Monday, 18 January 2016

"Urban Scandinavian Sewing" Book Review (not sponsored, just for fun)

I have some Scandinavian blood. My Great Grandparents on my father's mother's side were Norwegian. My Grandfather on my father's side was Finnish. My grandfather's mother was named Sophie and she died giving birth to him so not a lot of Scandinavian traditions were passed down. Maybe that's what interested me in learning from this book. Besides that, who doesn't love Scandi style!?

"Urban Scandinavian Sewing" by Kirstyn Cogan.
 The style of this book is beautiful and just what you would expect with "Urban Scandinavian" in the title. What I really love about this book though it that it's not just a craft book. There are also recipes! Swedish meatballs people!!! More an that further down,
Felt Cup Warmer from Urban Scandinavian Sewing made by Daydreams of Quilts.
 With Valentine's Day coming up I was searching for Valentine Heart projects online. If you subscribe to my newsletter I have a link pack coming out in this week's issue. (Subscription sign-up is at the top of the side bar.) As I was looking through this book what did I find? A felt heart project! How perfect. So I made this up on Sunday afternoon. This is such a fun and easy make. There is no sewing except for the two buttons. You can only see one in this shot. I was happy to have a nice project to showcase some of my vintage pearl buttons on.

What I really got excited about though during my Friday night book perusal was the recipe for Swedish meatballs!

My Swedish meatballs frying in butter. So good! I think I made these too big as they are supposed to be only one inch. 
These meatballs were delicious. My kids ate them all up off their plates and asked for seconds. I didn't have Lingon berries to make Lingonberry sauce so we ate the with ketchup. That is probably very much frowned upon in Sweden but what can we North Americans with no Lingon berries do? Anyway, they were so good! Not the same as IKEA but still very good! A 16-month-old, a 7-year-old and a 10-year-old's empty plates don't lie. There are 9 recipes in the book.

Besides the recipes there are 18 projects in the book from home decor to wearables. I really like the felt medallion necklaces and am currently raiding my husband's stash of metal washers to accent mine with.

So, all that to say - I highly recommend this book! I am having a lot of fun with it and hopefully learning some Scandinavian traditions that were not passed down to me. :)

Friday, 15 January 2016

Make-it-in 1/2 a-day Modern Baby Quilt

Hello! Happy Friday! In keeping with my continuing quest to use fabrics in my stash that were bought on a whim, and hopefully helping some of you to use yours, I bring you a very quick-to-sew baby quilt tutorial. Perfect when you need a last minute baby gift. Or, maybe it's not last minute but you are pretty swamped and don't have a lot of time to make a gift.

I bought the fox fabric thinking I would fussy cut it but when I actually looked closely at it with my rulers I found it was hard to fussy cut it and get a complete fox without wasting a lot of other cute foxes. So I decided to keep it as a whole half yard and came up with this simple quilt idea to allow myself to do that.

Here's what you need:

  • Two half yards of medium to large scale prints (perhaps one that is difficult to cut without chopping off heads of adorable critters)
  • three 2 1/2 inch strips of coordinating solids
  • two 1 1/2 inch strips of another coordinating solid
  • a 45 inch square piece of batting (or larger if you prefer)
  • 1 1/2 yards of backing fabric
  • five 2 1/2 inch strips of binding fabric
My prints and strips all ready to sew.
Here's what you do:

1. Sew your strips together in the following order
    1 1/2 inch strip, three two inch strips, 1 1/2 inch strip
    Press each seam to the side as it is sewn. Press all seams in one direction.

2. Sew your set of strips to the bottom of the print you wish to have at the top of the quilt along the width of the fabric (the long side). It won't matter which long side you sew on unless your print is directional like the fox print above. Press seam to the side in the same direction as the seams on the strips.

3. Sew your bottom print to the other side of the strip set. Press seam to the side. Trim and square up the side of your quilt.

Trim off selvage edges and square up if necessary.

Machine bound edge of quilt.

That's it! Not every project has to be epic to be great! :)

4. Layer into a quilt sandwich with batting and backing.
5. Baste the quilt (I used spray baste.) Quilt as desired. The quilt above was quilted with a walking foot with straight lines about two inches apart.
6. Bind using your preferred binding method. I machine bound my quilt and I literally had this finished in three hours from cutting to binding. (You might be quicker than me if you don't have kids at home.)

Happy Quilting!

This quilt is for sale here.

Update: I sewed another quilt the next day! Modern Mermaids. :)

Modern Mermaids Baby Quilt is available for purchase here.

Linking up with "Finish it up Friday".

Monday, 11 January 2016

5 Things I Learned From My Failed Attempt at Starting an Online Fabric Shop in Canada

A year and a half ago in the summer of 2013 my husband got posted by the military from the city to a small town. Postings come with extra pay to help with the move and general inconvenience of it all. We thought that since we had a bit of extra income and it was a new beginning that it would be a good time to order a fabric line and start the online fabric shop we had always wanted.

I did the background work before the move including registering my business name and making it a partnership with my husband being a silent partner. I researched the fabric companies and distributors and sent out emails to make inquiries on purchase minimums and requirements for setting up accounts. Several companies had minimums that were out of our reach. The Canadian distributor for Windham Fabrics was helpful and had attainable minimum order levels. I decided to order in Heather Ross' Briar Rose line that was coming out that summer.

If you order the whole line you get a better rate per meter so I ordered the whole line including the knits. My plan was to sell bundles of the complete collection on Etsy. When the bundles sold through, or even half sold, I would order in another line. I already knew I wanted to order another Windham Fabrics line by Allison Harris called Wallflowers. It was her first line and I was excited about it.

Well, I waited and waited and waited some more for my fabric to come in. I had ordered a couple of months ahead of our move and thought we'd hit the ground running with the shop when we arrived here. In my mind I envisioned the UPS truck pulling up with all of my fabric order the same day as the moving truck. That did not happen. Shops in the US got their bolts. ALL of their bolts. They were listing the full line in their online shops. I was still waiting. I kept calling the distributor and they kept telling me that not all the bolts had come in yet. Finally I asked them to send what they had. Now, the whole line is great but let's face it... people really wanted the cute bees and frogs.

This is what came in.

These are half bolts (7 meters).

Beautiful fabrics but only one bolt of the Nanny Bees (in orange) and two bolts of the clover with the crickets. The rest are what I would call supporting fabrics.

I tried to sell them as bundles but I never actually sold a bundle. I gave away four fat quarter bundles in various giveaways trying to promote the line. I even bought an ad in a Canadian quilting print magazine. I also sponsored a Canadian podcast. Still no sales.

Two people bought the orange nanny bees from me and one person bought a yard or two of the calico knit. Only one of those three customers was a Canadian. The rest of the fabric sat. By this point, anyone who was desperate for the whole line had ordered it from the United States. Including me. I still have my fat quarter bundle from Westwood Acres uncut downstairs in my sewing room. (But I will sew with it this year.) Then the American shops started putting theirs on sale and it was costing Canadians the same or less than what I had paid wholesale. I wasn't going to sell for less than I paid wholesale! So, I took my listings down and added the fabric to my stash. They are almost gone now as I have backed several quilts with them.

In the end I cancelled the rest of the order that never did appear at the distributor's warehouse and paid about $600.00 for what I did have.

So here's what I learned:

  1. It is stiff competition out there especially when you are competing with the whole world and not just within your own country.
  2. Due to high minimum orders (We are talking $3,000.00 here) it is tough to get into the business without a substantial amount of money.
  3. I can't prove this but in my experience it seemed that the American shops were favoured over the Canadian ones as they got their fabrics (and the full collection) first and my order was put on back order. Or maybe they were more established and well respected accounts.
  4. When the Canadian dollar was near par with the American dollar it was almost impossible (for me anyway) to sell in Canada, especially when I didn't have the whole line to bundle. Now might be a better time to start up as Canadians are shopping in Canada.
  5. You are not going to sell through the fabric as fast as you think you are and could potentially have it around for years. So the buy a line, sell it, buy another line scenario did not work (at least in my case).
Am I giving up? Well, let's say the dream is on the back burner. It's still a life goal to have the online fabric shop.

So what about you? Is this a dream of yours? Have you made an attempt at achieving it? Are you a Canadian fabric seller who has more insight on the topic?

What I am working on though is building an email newsletter! Would you like to sign up? If you do you will receive a free pattern from me. :) There's a sign up at the top of the sidebar. I would love to help with ideas for using your stash, keep you updated on great things I find on the web, my new pattern releases and fun projects I am working on.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Half Square Triangle Quilt Tutorial

I confess that at times I buy fabric without any idea what I am going to sew with it. There are usually two reasons for this. 1. It's on sale. 2. It might sell out and I might miss out on it (usually related to reason 1). And sometimes 3. A false sense of urgency to buy has been created and even though I know this is happening I still fall for it and buy.

I don't think I am alone here. So if I am not alone that must mean that perhaps you, or a quilter friend of yours, do this too and then find yourselves with fabric sitting around in your stash and you wish you knew what to sew with it. Have no fear because today I am here to help with a solution. 

Here is what you need for this project: 48 charms and 1 yard of coordinating background fabric. (My charm pack came with 40 charms so I picked 8 extras out of my charm square collection. You could also cut 8 charms from coordinating scraps.) This will make 12 blocks that are 10 inches finished. A perfect size for a crib quilt. Or, add borders with more yardage for a lap quilt (which is what I will probably do). If you have two charm packs and two yards of background fabric then you have enough for 24 blocks.

My fabric for this project. The impulsively purchased charm pack. For the background I had bought a half meter in the summer and then, forgetting that I had it, I bought another half meter in November. I was thinking I would use it with the Cotton and Steel Christmas fabrics but when it came I realized it doesn't really match with those fabrics. Luckily, it matches with the Cotton and Steel Mesa line.

Start by cutting 48 charm squares (5 inch squares) from your yardage. Cut your yard into six 5 inch strips. You should be able to get 8 background squares per strip.

Place each charm right sides together with a background square. Sew each pair together around the entire perimeter of the square with a quarter inch seam as in the diagram below. Then make two diagonal cuts across the square to yield four triangles which when opened are HSTs (Half Square Triangles) forming a square. This trick for making four HSTs at a time has been around in the quilting world for a while now. I'm not sure who first thought of it but it wasn't me.

Place one charm right sides together with a background square and sew a quarter inch seam around the entire perimeter. Make two diagonal cuts with your rotary cutter and ruler across the square to make four triangles. Open your HSTs and press seams open.

I recommend pressing seams open on these HSTs because it will reduce bulk when we put our squares together. We are going to have 8 fabrics coming together at the seams. Now it is time to trim up your squares to 3 inches square. I'm not going to lie... this step is time consuming and tedious but it's worth it for the accuracy you achieve in your finished blocks.

If using your grid lines on your mat then line up your seam line with the 45 degree line on your mat. I find it is easier to use your ruler. (See next photo)

If using your ruler to square up: Line up the seam line with the 45 degree line on your ruler. Make sure all of the three square inches have fabric under them for the first two cuts. (Those little 15s on my ruler are the back side of bits of sand paper I have stuck on with double sided tape to keep my ruler from slipping.)

Make your first two cuts and then rotate your mat if you have a rotating mat. Or, if not, then turn your block on the mat. Line up the 3 inch lines with the two sides you just cut and your 45 degree line on the seam. Make your next two cuts to trim up the last two sides.

This may not look like I trimmed off a lot of fabric but these little bits add up to a significant amount across a whole block and even more across a whole quilt top.
 I recommend breaking up your trimming into a few shorter sessions rather than trying to do it all at once. Maybe trim enough for two blocks. Sew those and then trim some more. Or sew two blocks a day. In less than a week you'll be ready to put your top together.

Lay out 16 HSTs in four rows of four. This is the layout I chose but if this is not for you feel free to spin your HSTs around until you find a block layout you prefer. In this block all the charm prints face inward in the four quadrants of the block except for the four outermost corners. They face out and will form diamonds when all the blocks are sewn together into a quilt top.

Block layout diagram.

Sew your HSTs into four rows and press seams open. Then join your four rows to make the block again pressing seams open.

When sewing your blocks remember that because we cut across our squares on a diagonal we created bias edges which are stretchy so be mindful not to stretch your fabrics too much while sewing.

So there you have it! A simple charm pack will turn into an amazing quilt top. I will update this post when my quilt is finished.

Quilt layout diagram.

Keep following Daydreams of Quilts in 2016 as I write more tutorials and patterns that will help you and I work with what we have to make valuable quilts from our stash.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

My Quilt Is Going To UN Headquarters in Geneva

This fall I entered the Quilt for Change quilt challenge called "Water is Life: Clean Water and its Impact on the Lives of Women and Girls around the World." I designed a quilt and submitted it for consideration and it was accepted to be part of the exhibit  at the United Nations in Geneva.

My quilt is titled "When the Tap is Finally Turned On."

"When the Tap is Finally Turned On" designed, pieced and quilted by Anita LaHay.

Women and children dancing and rejoicing when they are finally freed from having to search for and haul water.

Giant tap pouring out a rainbow of hope with clean water for all.
The opening for the exhibit has been set for March 22nd. I wish I could attend! My quilt has been entrusted to Canada Post and is on it's way to the US Embassy in Italy as I type. It will also hang at the US Embassy in Rome in October. This quilt will be much more well travelled than I am.

My Artist's Statement:

"Water is a precious commodity." That is what my mother always used to say to us when we were kids in the 70's and 80's. This statement is true now more than ever. I have never had to haul water every day to survive but I often think of those who do. Recently the safety of water in our town was compromised and we were under a boil water order. This really made me think about how much we need water and how difficult it is for those who don't have access to clean water. When thinking about the theme of the quilt challenge I kept wishing that I could think of a solution for the women and children who do not have clean water and must work so hard to get what water they can. I know it will take the work of many powerful people and governments all over the world to create a lasting and viable solution. My quilt conveys what I imaging it would be like for the women and children when the tap is finally turned on. A beautiful rainbow of hope with the women and children dancing and celebrating their freedom from the labour of finding and carrying water.