Finish It Up, 2017 Edition

As has been my practice for the past few years (2010, 2014, 2015, 2016), near the end of 2016, I made a list of all the sewing projects that I have outstanding. I have already made good progress on them but, as has been par for the course of my blogging life, haven’t written anything until now.  I did manage to post something on Instagram in order to join up with the Finishalong and I’ve posted a few updates there.  I do want to have a more comprehensive list for myself though so here it is!

Here’s my official Finishalong list (find the picture of everything here):

Finished already:

  1. Marko’s birthday shirt (finished but not blogged about yet because I haven’t managed to convince him to wear it even though he requested that I sew him one. Sound familiar?
  2. The Hobbit quilt (now finished!)
  3. The Firefly quilt (now finished!)
  4. surprise project #1 – there are two of these and I just finished them but can’t reveal them until they’ve been delivered!
  5. Finish last details on Ellie’s birthday dress (buttonholes, buttons, etc.) (also now finished but not blogged but I do have tons of adorable pictures! Here’s one to keep you happy for awhile.)
  6. Make a change purse for my niece Selah (finished! See it here.)

Still to do (before the end of March hopefully!):

  1. surprise project #2 and #3 – These need to be finished and mailed along with surprise #1 before they can be revealed.
  2. Two B-More Bags totes (I have the kits but haven’t started them)
  3. Make Ellie’s family reunion skirt a bit bigger and make a new reunion flower for me.
  4. Finish two more flowers made from a bridesmaid’s dress from my wedding.
  5. Finish my Carkai Hexies project and turn it into our guest room bathroom curtain.
  6. Finish my Facing East mini-quilt.
  7. Make a storage case for the “Happy Birthday!” bunting.

Additionally, I have several more projects I really would like to get done this spring (some of which will likely end up being on my quarter 2 Finishalong list):

This is what I’ve already finished:

  1. Fix Ellie’s knitted doll’s hat.
  2. A pouch with zipper for my bullet journal markers

Still to do:

  1. Hem my new jeans and Nik’s new jeans.
  2. Put Ellie’s Easter 2016 dress back together so she can wear it again. (Clearly I made it too big last year.)
  3. Finish the curtains that I made for our community association hall’s upstairs bathrooms.
  4. Make the cupboard door cover for our upstairs guest bathroom.
  5. Make fancy dinner napkins (to match the tablecloth I made last year during this time).
  6. Make Christmas stockings for Nik and me.
  7. Make several more corn sacks for our family.
  8. Make napkin rings for us to use at our dining room table (to hopefully reduce the number of cloth napkins we go through in a week).
  9. A new curtain for our main bathroom (from last year’s list)
  10. Fix our bathmats (also from last year’s list)
  11. A new wallet for me (to match my sidekick tote)
  12. Add Easter words to the back of the “Happy Birthday!” banner!
  13. Fix our wool pillows.

Think that’s enough to do? 😉

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Handmade Christmas 2016: A Hobbit Quilt

Last year, I had the brilliant idea of making a Gandalf felt ornament for my brother and his family for Christmas.  It didn’t happen so this fall, as I was searching Pinterest for ornament ideas, I came across a site, Fandom in Stitches, that has hundreds of paper-piecing patterns for all kinds of books and TV shows, including the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

With this treasure trove, how could I not use a few and make them a Hobbit Quilt instead?


Not being a Hobbit expert myself, I ended up choosing blocks based on general familiarity (Gandalf and ring) and visual appeal (river and dragon).

239Gandalf: “Tales and adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever he went, in the most extraordinary fashion.” (The Hobbit, Ch. 1)

236The Bridge to Rivendell:The elves had brought bright lanterns to the shore, and they sang a merry song as the party went across.” (Ch. 3)

237The Precious: “He guessed as well as he could, and crawled along for a good way, till suddenly his hand met what felt like a tiny ring of cold metal lying on the floor of the tunnel. It was a turning point in his career, but he did not know it. He put the ring in his pocket almost without thinking; certainly it did not seem of any particular use at the moment.” (Ch. 5)

238Smaug:He was just about to step out on to the floor when he caught a sudden thin and piercing ray of red from under the drooping lid of Smaug’s left eye.” (Ch. 12)

For the backing, I used the last of this original Denyse Schmidt Flee Market Fancy.  I had no idea what I was buying when I bought it way back when and it was years before I realized that FMF was a super popular fabric line.  Anyway, I love how it looks with the other colors in the quilt and now feel slightly justified for hoarding it for so long.


For the first time in my quilting career, I decided to do some big stitch hand-quilting to finish off the quilt and had a lot of fun figuring it out as I went.  I still much prefer the speed and precision of machine quilting but I can definitely see adding some big stitch details to future quilts!

Throughout the quilt, I had fun using some of the low-volume, shimmery fabrics that the members of the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild had given me. I like how each block has the added dimension of shimmer in some way (Gandalf’s hat and beard, the bridge, the ring, and Smaug’s background). It’s one unifying factor in the quilt.  The other is that I tried to be intentional in how I used the background fabric.  Unlike the block samples, I wanted Gandalf and the ring to float on the quilt (i.e. to seem as if they weren’t in a block). And I wanted Smaug’s block to be sort of shattered, partly block-ish, partly fading into the sashing.  All in all, I’m so pleased with how this turned out and I hope their Hobbit-loving family loves it too.

Finally, thanks to this quilt, now Ellie wants me to read her The Hobbit.  I need to reread it myself to figure out when she’ll be ready to hear it.  I haven’t read it in probably at least 25 years!


One note on the paper-piecing patterns.  I found the patterns themselves to be really easy to use.  But when I started to trim the blocks to sew them together, I discovered that they finished at all different sizes (some smaller and some larger than the stated 7″ finished size). So if you do use these patterns, just be prepared to do some creative sashing to get them all together.  I can hardly complain though. The patterns are free, after all. 😉

Posted in family, holidays, sewing | 4 Comments

Handmade Christmas 2016: Star Wars and A Star

Earlier in the year, I came across Quiet Play‘s paper piecing patterns and knew that the [free!] Star Wars themed patterns would be perfect Christmas presents for Nik’s brother and nephews. I also bought the “Striped Star” pattern from the same shop, not wanting to force my sister-in-law into having a Star Wars pillow of her own but wanting to have somewhat of a theme. 😉

And so, I present to you, “Star Wars and a Star.”


I chose these particular colors because I wanted the pillows to match the Twister quilt that I made them in 2013. (I still need to make one of those for my family!)

AT AT for Andreas

img_9859Millennium Falcon for Alex

img_9856Tie Fighter for Luke

img_9858Striped Star for Nikki

The quilting plus the many pieces from the paper piecing meant that the front of the pillows were fairly uncomfortable.  So I backed the pillow covers with flannel strengthened with Pellon SF 101 (my new favorite interfacing) and used invisible zippers along the bottom seam.  This made for a warm, cozy back and will hopefully extend the life of the paper-piecing front too.

img_9861My flannel stash being what it is, I only needed to buy the blue. 😉


A few thoughts about my process, the technique, etc. for those interested:

1. I love paper piecing but  I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into when I decided to sew these particular patterns.  The AT AT in particular had some super teeny tiny pieces. But once I got into the rhythm of sewing them, I really enjoyed the process and the final product. And now that I’ve conquered these, I know I can paper-piece anything.

img_9862I should have included something for perspective to help you understand how small those pieces are.  The quilted squares are about one inch square, so that should tell you that each one of those “feet” took forever!

img_3888so many tiny pieces to rip out


2. I had no idea how long these geometric patterns would take.  Making these four pillows ended up being my full-time job for a couple weeks (albeit the most fun full-time job I’ve ever had!). I did the bare minimum needed to keep my kids alive and fed and just kept sewing.  If you are considering the patterns, just be sure to factor in more time for completion than you think you need.

img_3859another process picture – so you can see how the AT AT was slowly assembled.

3. Generous quilty friends are the best.  Back in November, I put out a plea for scraps to my friends at the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild, knowing that my stash of scraps wasn’t even close to sufficient for this project.  They delivered!  I’m so grateful to everyone who contributed scraps, and especially to Nancy, who gave me a whole set of shimmery charm squares, which were so fun to use!


4. What is paper piecing anyway? This blog post gives a pictorial overview but basically, you sew fabric to the back of a paper pattern and the paper gives enough stability to allow for sewing tiny shapes and awkward angles. I learned how to do it at the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild Carolyn Friedlander workshop in April and right away, I knew it was a technique I would be glad to use again and again. 🙂


Blurry pillows because immediately upon receipt the “good guy” had to fight the “bad guy”! Ha!!

Posted in family, holidays, sewing | 3 Comments

Handmade Christmas 2016: France Firefly Quilt, delivered in person!

I’m just going to pretend that it hasn’t been months since any regular blogging has happend and just write this blog post as if everything was its normal old self. 😉

I had a lot of fun with the Christmas presents that I made this year.  Some of them didn’t even get sewn until 2017 but I’m still counting them as Handmade Christmas 2016! 🙂

First up, the mini-quilt I made for my sister, Rachel.  Ellie has requested that I sew her a “Fancy Forest” quilt so I bought the pattern and this is two of the Frances Firefly block from that quilt. Rachel told me she liked gray (grey?) and red, hence this color scheme.

img_4164front (the quilt is about 16×18)

img_4165back (with loops for inserting a dowel for hanging)

I do love straight-line quilting and hand-sewn binding!

The light of fireflies is one of my favorite parts of early summer!

Rachel and her kids came to visit us in January (from New Mexico!) so I had the fun of giving this to her in person.  Actually, I sewed down the binding to the back while we were hanging out in the evenings!  What a gift to have my sister with me! 🙂

img_4032attempting to recreate a very silly picture our three brothers took before my wedding in 2007 – couldn’t quite do the “hang off the front of the cannon” trick that Eric pulled off!


Thanks to Rachel for taking all the quilt pictures in this post – I was so excited to give it to her that I finished it off and handed it over and she was back in NM before I remembered that I hadn’t done a photo shoot!

p1100406Eric, Chris, baby Adella, and Jon, circa June 2007 🙂


Posted in family, holidays, sewing | 6 Comments

That night the great I AM came down!

img_9934Merry Christmas!

Love, Nik, Laura, Ellie, and Marko

(For the rest of the words, and the tune, to the lovely Christmas carol from which the title of this post is drawn, see last year’s Christmas post. )

P.S. Want to watch our children grow? Christmas 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010


Posted in Ellie, family, friends, holidays, love, Mark | 1 Comment

And For My Fourth Year At The Fair…

Yes, I know, it’s been over a month since I blogged.  Sorry about that, everyone! If you follow me on Instagram (where’s I’m also salmonandsouvlaki), you’ll know that we spent 2.5 weeks up in Alaska with my family and had a fabulous time. That’s my excuse…

This year, I entered six items for the fair. (I had plans for three more but Mark refused to let me take his apron out of his house, the potholders were surprisingly dirty and worn already, and I didn’t get one last mini-quilt finished.)

Here’s what I entered:

fair entries 2016Ellie’s Greek Parade dress, Ellie’s Easter dress, my totally awesome new bag, my stuffed Thanksgiving turkey, Nik’s Easter tie, and a table runner/mini-quilt (not yet blogged)

So, if you’re going to the Maryland State Fair, be sure to go to the Home Arts building because it’s the coolest one (literally, the AC is awesome and also because the best things to look at are there)! While you’re there, look closely at the baked good section too, FCF friends, you’ll see lots of familiar names there!

The dresses, my bag, and the tie will be in the clothing section, the quilt with the quilts, and the turkey in crafts and decorative arts. Here’s hoping I at least win a little bit of money to spend on lunch! 😉 (Be sure to try the lamb sandwich in the Maryland food section.  It’s the best!)

Posted in sewing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

June/July Sewing: Tiny Hexies and An Awesome New Bag

I didn’t accomplish all that I had hoped to sew in June and July (but when do I ever get to sew as much as I want to, right?).  What I did finish though, I really love!  My major project for June was to sew myself a new bag.  My sister super kindly sent me a gift certificate to Bear’s Paw for Mother’s Day, specifically so I would buy myself fabric for a bag and actually sew one instead of just complaining that I needed a new one!  I already had this really cool heavier fabric so I bought lining/accent fabric to go with it.

IMG_2681 (800x800)me, texting her after the shopping trip to say “Thank you!” 🙂

I chose fabrics by Carolyn Friedlander and Alison Glass and used the Sidekick Tote pattern from Noodlehead.  (As a side note, although I’ve used and loved her free tutorials for years, this was the first pattern I’ve purchased from Anna Graham and it was impeccable – super easy-to-follow instructions, pattern pieces which perfectly fit with each other, and a really lovely finished product – totally worth the really reasonable price.)

I used both pocket options on the outside (rather than just one as the pattern states) and also added an inset zip to the inside to keep lip balm, hair ties, bandaids, etc. all contained.  I also discovered that my vintage wooden spools make great holding places for bias tape!

IMG_2829 (800x800) IMG_2811 (800x800)Here’s the outside, with adjustable strap.  I’ve mostly been wearing it long, cross-body and I love having a purse like that again.

IMG_8230 (534x800) IMG_8231 (800x533) IMG_8233 (800x533) IMG_8234 (800x533)The first time I’ve sewn a bag with a zipper like this! I used hardware a half-inch bigger than the pattern called for (because I already had it) so I made the strap a half-inch bigger too.  You can see that this strains the edges of the bag just a bit but it’s working fine none-the-less.

Inside, I’m really proud of that inset zipper pocket! The zipper came out perfectly.

IMG_2930 (800x800) IMG_8235 (800x533)Here I am, showing it off during the show and share at our most recent Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild meeting.  (Thanks to Elaine for the picture!)

laura with bag (800x800)No, my legs aren’t shaved, in case you’re wondering.


So, enough about my amazing bag. Here’s the other crazy thing I sewed recently – a name tag with super tiny hexagons! We went on vacation with Nik’s family in early July. I, knowing that I would be away from my sewing machine, decided to take on a crazy hand-sewing project.  I signed up for a name tage swap for my quilt guild (which did NOT have to be hand-sewn.  I just assigned that to myself!).  I decided to use half-inch hexagon templates to do some English paper piecing.

IMG_2868 (800x800)My finger and a little friend to give you some perspective on how small these are.

In the end, I hand-sewed the whole blue/brown grid and then fused the letter to the front, machine quilted it to finish it off.  I had a few extra (made nine too many actually) so as not to waste them, I added them to the back. I also couldn’t resist adding a hexagon flower (like Ellie’s but much smaller) to make the back really fancy.

IMG_2896 (800x800) IMG_2897 (800x800)I doubt I will ever sew with hexagons this small again but it was a fun experiment!


This is a project that I’ve been working on since January.  I made much shorter versions of these a couple years ago as Christmas presents but wanted longer strings for our tree and to go all the way around our dining room.  I finished the tree one months ago and I finally finished the dining room one on Wednesday.  There are 134 felt light bulbs on this, making it around 45 feet long! (I know, I’m probably crazy but I did do all this hand sewing when I otherwise would have just been sitting and doing nothing with my hands.)

IMG_8238 (800x533)Christmas in July, right?


Finally, here’s a few other smaller things I sewed in June/July:

some Christmas secrets rainbow projects:

IMG_2780 (800x800)a few quilt blocks to contribute to the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild’s quilt donations for the victims of the Orlando Pulse shooting,

IMG_2839 (800x800)a couple quilt blocks to add to one of the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild Quilt Bingo prizes (coming up this fall!),

IMG_8226 (800x534) IMG_8227 (800x533) IMG_8228 (800x534)isn’t that the most adorable selvedge edge?

 and a portable ironing pad (first front, then back) – basically, a really giant pot holder.

IMG_8236 (800x533) IMG_8237 (800x533)**********

If you have made it this far in this mammoth post, then either you love me a lot or sewing a lot so thank you for reading! 🙂  Sewing is my therapy, for sure! And yes, I know, we’re not all the way through July yet but I have one big sewing project that will all consume my sewing time for the rest of the month.  Follow me on Instagram (@salmonandsouvlaki) if you want pictures of that!

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts and Finish it Up Friday

Posted in sewing | 6 Comments