Shark Halloween Costume

Shark before

Here’s the way I like to tell the story. Greg and I were in Target a few weeks ago, and he said, “Oh, we need to get you a gray hoodie for Halloween.” “Why,” I asked, as I didn’t remember any recent discussions about Halloween. “You’re going to be a shark. I’m going to be Quint, and you’re going to be Jaws.” Oh.

It’s true I didn’t have a better idea for a Halloween costume, so a shark seemed to be as good an idea as any. And since Greg’s philosophy is the comfier the Halloween costume, the better, I knew it wouldn’t be too bad.

So we bought that gray hoodie, and a week or so later we stopped by Joann to get some felt. I was very pleased with their selection, as they had both regular craft felt and stiff craft felt. Of the regular craft felt, we bought one sheet of black (for eyes and gill slits) and two sheets of white (for the belly). Of the stiff felt, we bought one sheet of white (for teeth) and one sheet of gray (for the dorsal fin).

Since Greg is the resident shark expert, he cut out the teeth, fin, and eyes. I sewed the belly on first. I just cut one corner of each 8.5 x 11-inch sheet of white felt into a curve and sewed them to either side of the zipper on the hoodie. This, of course, covered up the pockets, but that was a small price to pay for an authentic shark costume.

Shark belly and gill slits

Space was a bit tight for the gill slits, so I just sewed three on each side, right under the arms of the hoodie. So much for authenticity (a great white has 5 gill slits on each side).

Shark hood

Next, I sewed the teeth around the hood. I’m sure the regular craft felt would have been fine for the teeth, but I wanted to be sure they didn’t droop, so I used the stiff felt. With the teeth pointing out from the hood, they didn’t poke me or get in the way, so it worked out well. With my belly, gill slits, and teeth in place, I put on the sweatshirt and had Greg place the eyes for me (“lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes”). Then I just edge-stitched them in place.

Shark complete

The front was looking pretty good! (And I think the gill slits look really sporty!)

I really didn’t have a great plan for the dorsal fin, but I asked Greg to leave 1/2-inch or so at the bottom of the fin shape so I could attach it.

Shark dorsal fin

I ended up making a cut in the middle of that edge and folded one half to the right of the fin and the other to the left. Then I laid the two edges flat on the sweatshirt and sewed them down. The sweatshirt bunched a bit at those two seams, but the fin stayed perfectly erect, even after folding it to one side to ride in the car.

For Greg’s role as Quint (the Robert Shaw character in the movie Jaws), he shaved his beard into mutton chops (what good is growing a beard if you don’t have a little fun with facial hair!) and paired that with a hat from Target, a green jacket from a thrift store, and an old denim shirt.

Greg as Quint

We wore the costumes to a party last Friday night, and we managed to get a few votes for best and funniest costumes, so we considered that a success. I had to keep my hood up, though, so people could tell what we were.

Quint and Jaws

Greg captioned the photo above: “All you need is love . . . and a bigger boat.”

Part of the reason I decided to sew the costume, rather than glue it, was so I could take everything off and use the sweatshirt. But now that it’s all together, I really like the way it turned out. So I think I’ll leave it intact. You never know when you’ll need a comfy shark costume.

Green and Yellow String Quilt

Green string option 2

When I wasn’t working on my improv Churn Dash at the sewing retreat earlier this month, I was working on a new string quilt. Yes, another string quilt. I can’t help it—they’re just so fun to make.

My plan was to use bright and novelty print scraps to make a child’s charity quilt, probably for Project Linus. I decided to start each 8-inch block with a green triangle and end it with a yellow triangle, with the strings in the middle.

Green string blockI made 25 of the blocks before I ran out of the green fabric. So I started to play around with them to see what my setting options were. And the abundance of options is just one of the things I like about string blocks.

Green string option 1Zigzag strings with the green arrows pointing up.

Green string option 4Zigzag strings with the green arrows pointing down.

Green string option 2Green and yellow squares starting with a yellow in the upper left.

Green string option 3 Green and yellow squares starting with a yellow in the lower left.

I decided I liked the third option best, with the yellow square in the upper left, which left the partial green squares at the bottom of the quilt rather than at the top.

But the blocks together didn’t seem as playful and bright as I had hoped. So I decided to lighten up the whole thing with white sashing.

Green string with white

I cut the sashing strips to 2 inches, so they finished at 1.5 inches. I do think the sashing lightens it up. It also takes away from the neat shapes made by the strings and the triangles, but you still kind of see them. I was thinking that one way to knock back the white just bit would be to quilt over it with colored thread. But, man, my quilting would need to be good to do that!

Right now, the quilt is measuring 46 x 46 inches. If I give it to Project Linus, I will make it a bit wider and longer with borders of some sort. Or I just found out that a benefit is taking place for my friend with colon cancer. So maybe I’ll finish it with a scrappy binding and call it a big, square baby quilt.


Improv Churn Dash

Improv Churn DashThis past weekend, I joined a bunch of crafty ladies at Shawnee State Park in Portsmouth, Ohio, for a sewing retreat. It was a fun and well-run event (with tons of great prizes that I’ll share with you later). And I got a good bit of sewing done, too.

I had wanted for a while to make a white and orange Churn Dash quilt. I had yardage of both Kona Snow and Kaffe Fassett’s Tangerine shot cotton ready to go for whenever the muse hit. Then I edited the book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood. In it, she encourages readers to take a favorite traditional block and create it without measuring or planning too far ahead.

The idea of not using a ruler to cut my fabric didn’t bother me. But I did struggle a bit with all the pieces involved in the block. I ended up thinking about each half-square triangle and each set of strips on each block. That seemed really time-consuming when you’re used to grouping like pieces and figuring out the most efficient way to make them. There didn’t seem to be any efficient way to make these. But perhaps that wasn’t the point.

Improv Churn Dash detail

I tried to make each of the guys a little different in size and width, just to mix it up.

Improv Churn Dash detail 2

Instead of using the orange shot cotton for the blocks, I pulled from my stash of orange prints. Playing with the prints kept things more interesting for me as I worked.

I didn’t have a set number of blocks I wanted to make going in, but I hit a wall after making these twelve. I struggled with the improv process at first, and after the first day of the retreat, I wasn’t even sure I’d keep making them. But then I decided that the retreat was the perfect time to challenge myself, so I kept going and ended up enjoying the process. Once I finished these blocks, though, I couldn’t think how to change it up more, and I kind of wanted to finish as much as I could at the retreat. So with my blocks made, my next challenge was to fit them together.

Improv Churn Dash

I used the orange shot cotton and a Moss green shot cotton to make some of the blocks larger so I could sew them onto other blocks. I ended up making two long rows of the blocks and then sewed those together to arrive at this finished size of about 40 x 21 inches. As you can see above, I didn’t square up the piece—I just let it take the shape it was going to take.

For the quilting, I just did my usual thing of echoing the shapes with straight lines. Nothing too fancy to detract from the blocks themselves.

Improv Churn Dash quilting

I finished most of the quilting at the retreat and then added the binding since I’ve been home. Once I got home, I realized I have the perfect place to hang it—right behind my desk (so if you ever video conference with me, you’ll be sure to see it!).

I do like the improv idea of  just going where the process takes me, so I know I’ll try improv again. I just won’t choose such a fussy shape to make.



Low-Volume Ohio Star

OhioStar2 Earlier this summer, as I was finishing up my latest charity quilt, I got to thinking about how nice it would be to actually see someone receive one of my quilts. Greg seems to be content with the one quilt I made for him. And my family members have Mom to make quilts for them. Well, I thought, maybe Greg’s mom would like a quilt. Susan has always been a supporter of my craftiness, and I knew she’d be an appreciative recipient.

I decided to make her quilt with the Ohio Star quilt block. While she’s originally from out east, she’s lived a good part of her life in Cincinnati, and she spends only a small part of each year here now. So with an Ohio Star quilt, she could have a bit of Ohio with her wherever she is.

Next Greg and I started talking about fabrics. I knew yellow was one of her favorite colors, so I pulled together some yellows and purples from my stash for a bright-ish quilt like I usually make. Greg, though, had pictured a more subtly colored quilt for his mom, and I agreed. So I went back to the stash and found some lighter blues and greens to go with the yellows.


I’ve never make a low-volume quilt like this before (low-volume meaning the colors are similar in value, and therefore, there’s very little contrast). But I really liked the way it came together. And when I like making the blocks, the whole quilt comes together pretty quickly, too.

OhioStar_quilttopI decided to finish up the top with a thin white border and larger green border to bring the quilt top to 60 x 72 inches.

Once it was finished, Greg and I started to second-guess ourselves. I don’t know why, really, but the light yellows and greens just kind of seemed like a quilt you’d make for a baby when you don’t know the gender. So I brought the top to the August Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild meeting to see what the members thought. The conversation that ensued was fascinating. I didn’t take a formal poll, but it seemed like the crowd was split down the middle. Some members couldn’t see why anyone would think it looked like a baby quilt, and others thought it really did look babyish.

One of the members, Janine Keeton, made the good point that the quilting would make a big difference as to the look of the final quilt. When I asked her what quilting motif she’d recommend, she suggested something classic, like feathers. Since there was no way I could accomplish feathers on my machine, and since Janine has a long-arm business, I decided to ask her to try her hand at the quilting.

My only requests when I gave her the quilt were to quilt each block individually, rather than quilting it with one overall pattern, and to include feathers.

OhioStar_quilting2OhioStar_quilting1She decided to sew one of two different designs on each block. Each has feathers, but I like that each also includes circles. The half circles on the white border tie into the circles on the blocks, and the feathers on the wider borders pull everything together. I think the quilting turned out great—and it took the quilt completely away from the baby realm. Thanks, Janine!

OhioStar_quiltingJanine used a wool batting for the quilt. I had never used wool before, but I love the soft and light feel it gives the quilt.

The quilting also looks great on the back of the quilt. I used leftover fabric from the quilt top to piece the back.

OhioStar_backAnd I used one more Ohio Star block to make the label.

OhioStar_labelI finished the quilt by binding the edges using the same fabric as the outer border. Something about it, though, seemed just a bit too tidy. So I threw in a section of white binding on the lower left edge.

OhioStarGreg and I stopped over on Saturday to give Susan her quilt. And she was extremely appreciative, just as we knew she would be. She seemed to really like the colors and the design. And before we left, she’d already found a place for it in one of the sitting areas. You can’t ask for a better reception than that for a quilt!