Warm Hearts and Toasty Toes

When you make something with your own two hands with the intention of giving it away to another person, there's always something that keeps you going, gets you through the ripping and redoing, the stupid mistakes, the body aches, the feeling that the project won't ever end. For me, it's this face:


This is my dear friend Stefie. We met in college, were in the same fraternity. She is just a wonderful human being. We have all sorts of things in common, but one of them is a love of this stationery brand Rifle Paper Co. I was beside myself last year when they put out their first fabric collection with my favorite quilting design house, Cotton + Steel. Completely unprompted, Stefie messaged me about it. We both loved it.


Stefie had just gotten engaged to the kind of person you always hope your best friends will marry: smart, funny, kind, and loves the hell out of your friend. Pair that with the knowledge that Stefie is worthy of handcraft and it was obvious: Stefie and Marcus were getting a wedding quilt.


I thought a lot about exactly which fabrics to use, what pattern to make. I settled on my own spin on the Wanta Fanta block from Blossom Heart Quilts (it's free if you want to try it too). I am many things, but crazy enough to attempt a traditional Double Wedding Ring Quilt I am not. I just loved how the combination of snowball blocks and a paper pieced cross could make a block that looked so similar to the DWR. I did a lot of sketching and math (I rearranged the blocks so that the edges would be complete circles floating on a background rather than being bisected by the binding of the quilt), followed by a lot of shopping (my background fabric was a variety of white and off-white low volume fabrics), followed by A LOT of cutting followed by A LOT of sewing. I stood on balconies to assess my layout, arranging and rearranging. I used SuzyQuilts' tutorial for chain piecing blocks. I did a lot of ripping and resewing so that points matched perfectly. Eventually my top was finished.


I sourced and pieced my backing fabric (Cloud9 organic cotton from my ever favorite Gaffney Fabrics) basted and got to quilting. Friends, when I tell you that this nearly killed me I only exaggerate slightly. For love or money I could not get my machine to keep good tension. I quilted, ripped and restitched the same sections. I gave up to preserve my sanity (and my neck and back!) many nights but I kept at it. I had the wedding date as my target but I had a countdown clock of another sort limiting my craft time and my baby made his presence known (oh yeah, surprise! I had a baby!). I missed my deadline. But I managed to pull it out and finish it up and bang on a label (my first appliqué!) this week in time for a trip to NYC this weekend. I handed over that amalgam of cloth and thread and love that I'd had my hands and heart on for over a year. I'll admit I was a little sad to give it up but I know it will be well loved with them.


Congrats you crazy kids. Use it in good health.

Me Made May

If you're at all into the online sewing community, especially on Instagram. You've heard of Me Made May. A challenge started years ago by Zoe who blogs at "So, Zo, What do you know?" Essentially the point is to wear something you've made each day in the month of May. I love the idea but frankly I'm not prolific enough at this point that that's really feasible (#lifegoals). So my goal (I'm making a goal rather than a pledge, don't want my failure to be that catastrophic if it happens) is as follows: 

I will do my level best to wear, dress my daughter in or use something that I have made, mended or altered with my own two hands each day this month.

I'll document my progress as best as I can manage on my instagram account: @KnitsMcGee. Today I'm wearing an Itch to Stitch Idyllwild Tee (my TNT t-shirt pattern) that I lengthened to tunic length and made into a swing top using this tutorial from Hey June Handmade. It's just a selfie shot since I slept in wet hair last night so my hairdo looks like I woke up at 7:56 for an 8am class. At least you get to see the pretty neckline which I totally nailed.


If you want to follow along with the Me Made May fun, hit up the Instagram hashtag #mmm17.

Poppy - Pattern Testing

I am a magpie when it comes to patterns. Always into the new and shiny. I love the Jo-Ann pattern sales and just grab up tons of $1 Simplicity and $2 McCall's. But as I get more experienced at sewing garments for myself and my kid (all of my early, formal sewing education was costuming, so I never got much guidance in how to select and tweak patterns for my own body), I'm learning the value of TNT (tried and true) patterns and designers.

For me, I love Itch to Stitch. Kennis' block is just spot on for my body and her designs have a really classic, wearable aesthetic.  The only changes I have to make are usually to add length (I like tops longer than most designers or RTW manufacturers for that matter, design them) and sometimes grade between sizes, depending on my body measurements. Likewise, I've found the perfect designer for kid dresses: Bubby and Me Creations (the designer of my all time favorite kid sew, the Ava Dress). Both designers have really clear instructions, with professional finishes and layered pdfs (this is HUGE. It means that you can print the pattern in only the size(s) you need. No more going blind trying to find your line where ten sizes converge!).

I've been lucky enough to test upcoming patterns for both of them as well. In fact, I've got some tester photos and a review of the newest Bubby and Me pattern for you now. Poppy is a knit, princess seamed dress in toddler to big girl sizes. It has options for long or puffed sleeves, or sleeveless with armbands. It has circle and gathered skirt options (I went circle for both of mine for two reasons. Number one is obvious: maximum twirl factor. Photo evidence to come. Number two is my own oddity, but I feel like I have a problem with my serger making gathered seams in knit waistbands appear in big bumps rather than nice gathers when I finish the waistband seam allowance so I just try and avoid them.). There's optional faux piping (which looks so slick and was super easy) and a ton of color blocking opportunities.


See, I told you the twirl was out of this world. I used ITY on both versions from Gaffney Fabrics in Germantown, Philadelphia (a must shop if you sew and are ever in the area). I picked the purple and yellow but she was adamant about the black flowers. At $3/yd. we compromised and got both. Her review was as follows: 

I like it because it has a big neck hole and doesn’t squish my face. It is great for spins! Here watch!
— Nina

I made the first version with long sleeves per her request but now that the temps are warming up around here (HELLLOOOOO SPRING!) I'm planning to shorten the sleeves this week. There was no unpuffed short sleeve cut line in the tester version so for the flower dress I sewed up the long sleeve version, tried it on her, had her point to where she wanted the sleeve to end, cut it an inch longer than that and hemmed. I didn't bother to hem the purple skirt because my fabric didn't even curl. It looks even better than the rolled hem I attempted on the subsequent version.

 Here's a shot of the faux piping because I love it so hard. I'm totally using this trick in garments for myself in the future.

Here's a shot of the faux piping because I love it so hard. I'm totally using this trick in garments for myself in the future.

If you couldn't tell already, I highly recommend this pattern. I've gotten tons of compliments on it and I have to explain to Nina that she can't wear the same two dresses to school every day. Once I have a bit of time to sew for myself I'm going to make up a few sleeveless versions for this summer. With pockets this time (once I find a pocket pattern to steal from elsewhere) because the circle skirt has side seams. This has the added bonus of taking less fabric because you can stagger the pattern piece instead of needing the full width to cut a traditional full circle skirt. You can get Poppy for yourself (well, your kid. I keep nagging on Nikki to make her designs in mom size too. I'm milking the age where twinning with mom is cool for all its worth!) right here. And send me your photos when you're done, I want to see!

Best of all, Poppy is on sale right now for $9! It will go back up to the regular $11 price in the next few hours so go ahead and snap it up now!


This post contains affiliate links. You pay the same price if you buy something but I earn a small commission if you purchase after following my link.

Status update

Part of why I disappear for a while is always that I'm bad about blogging. Well, probably more truthfully I'm bad about remembering I like to blog. When I'm not doing it it feels like a chore so I avoid it. When I finally sit down and start writing I tend to write a bunch at once.

The other part is that my main project has stalled. I've hit a number I'm pretty happy with piecing together (500 some, I can't remember exactly.) and settled on a layout I like (it involves a large bag of white 60 degree triangles to offset the blocks I'll piece in rows. The problem is this: when I was actively working on it, I would take and make blocks from virtually any piece of quilting fabric I bought or was given. This means I have a lot of stuff that isn't exactly my vibe in here. I found myself laying out rows, trying to distribute the browns so as to minimize its impact (I am so not a brown person) and generally camouflage the blocks I like least amongst my superstars. So I'm left with two equally unappealing options:

  1. include blocks I don't much like into this quilt I'm spending year to make and many more to keep and love
  2. keep offing making more of these blocks. I won't lie, I'm enjoying having other projects to work on. I'm making tops and dresses like mad (especially for the kid). It wouldn't be the worst thing to have a handwork project on the go again, but I've been dragging my feet on it, especially since I'll have to get back to the hand sewing anyway to piece the whole top together.

Oh, also, by laying out my rows, I totally spaced on marking the blocks I've already photographed for the blog (I had stored them separately to prevent duplication) which just adds a layer of complication. I'll stop whining now and give you what you came for, hexie of the day.

Hexie count: 71

Spring, finally!

I've decided to stop fretting about how long it's been since I blogged last and just get back into it.

This morning I let the dog out and it was so much warmer than it has been. In the few minutes I stood outside I counted six different bird calls. I couldn't believe it. Spring is finally here! (Despite my crazy allergies, spring is my absolute favorite season.) So here's a springy hexie I photographed last year.


Hexie Count: 69


Make it work

Sometimes a block will just scream out where it should be photographed, bugs in the grass, matches on the grill. Sometimes I want to shoot 20 blocks but my kid refuses to leave the house so I have 5 feet in either direction from my front door so I can still see her through the window. There are only so many times you want a concrete backdrop. It's these moments, friends. Necessity really is the mother of invention. My background is a workout dress I'm wearing today. Hey, it works.

Hexie count: 66


I've done a lot of these (close to 500 at this point) so naturally there are some I like better than others. My friend Meghann sent me scraps of this Lizzy House constellation fabric. It's my current fave. It just makes me happy. The fabric has a lovely hand, cushy and soft and plush enough to hide all the stitching. This one will get a prominent feature in the final quilt (whenever that actually happens!).

Hexie count: 65

How does your garden grow?

You get a three-for-one deal on this post. I won't lie, I'm pretty sure I picked up this fabric because I liked that there were several different images in rows. I fussy cut enough tomatoes, beets (or are they radishes?) and eggplants for a block apiece. When you're making 600 of these things every extra bit of yardage you don't have to buy anew helps! 

On an almost related note, you've seen Coneheads, right? One of my very favorite movies. My favorite moment is Jane Curtin walking up to the display of eggplant in the grocery store. I'm giggling now just thinking about it. If you haven't seen it, rent or Netflix it now!

Hexie Count: 59-61