Monday, January 31, 2011

Zig Zag Quilt completed

I think we have all the kinks worked out of the new computer set up.  I can now blog from the comfort of anywhere, while still accessing the pictures on the office computer.  Hubby had to get a new external drive to hold all the photos.  Apparently, we were one upload of kid or quilt pictures away from filling up the hard drive.  I didn't think I took that many pictures.  Who knew!

I finally finished the binding.  See how neat it is?  No visible stitches!  Doesn't the lavender minky play nicely with top?  See how the binding coordinates with the other lavenders, but isn't matchy, matchy.

And here is the whole quilt.  All completed.
Hubby isn't big on the process.  He prefers if I show him the finished product.  I used to show him my knitting and proclaim victory when I was done knitting, but hadn't yet finished it- sewed seams, wove tails etc.  He started calling me on it, because I'd never get around to the fiddly icky stuff like weaving tails.  I had projects sit around for years 99% done.  He refused to give any kudos until it was COMPLETELY finished.  At first I was majorly annoyed, being deprived of my expected head pats was hard.  But, you know what, I started finishing projects completely because I didn't get any acknowledgement until they were done.  Now that the system has been in place for a while, it's a good thing.  Now I finish something completely before I mentally move on to the next project.  I'm even learning that the fiddly finishing details aren't as bad as I thought they were and don't take nearly as much time as I thought.  I'm EVEN learning to to enjoy the meditative process of sewing a binding by hand.  Now when I finish a project and show it to Hubby, I get kudos and satisfaction that there are no fiddly finishing details still left to be done.

Lets take another look at that binding.  She's a beaut and totally, completely, utterly finished!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Zig Zag Quilt continued

I technically finished the zig zag quilt for my sister in law a week ago, but as I mentioned things have been crazy.  I got the mistakes corrected.  Remember how I stayed up too late and sewed past the point of competence.  It was easy to fix, but I'm glad I caught it before I sewed the long strips together.
 After you get all the diagonals sewn together, then you trim the points off.  I picked up a great piece of lavender minky with blue dots for the backing and got to basting.  I like to work on the living room rug.  It's flat, but soft on the knees and the friction provided by the rug keeps everything from shifting.

 Once I got everything pinned I started to tie.  I wimped out.  I'm a coward.  I was too afraid to trying quilting the minky.  My story, and I'll stick to it, is that I wanted a really soft drapey quilt and I thought quilting it would make it stiff.
 I used embroidery thread in colors that matched the colored zig zags.
 Then I got to the binding.  I used a two tone lavender feather on white.  I used to hate doing the binding, now I look forward to it.  The delightful woman who does quilting for me, convinced me that I should try hand sewing the binding.  I was skeptical, hand sewing seemed like a pain.  However, the finished product is so perfect, and hand sewing turns out to be so meditative, that now I'm thinking about going back and redoing, my old quilts.  Ok, maybe not redoing the old quilts, but it really is lovely.  I use an invisible stich that I learned in a doll making class.  It's called the zipper stitch, but I've also seen it called the ladder stitch.  Whatever you call it, it completely disappears, unlike a whip stitch.
 This is a pretty big quilt, more than 50 inches on a side, so sewing the binding took me a few nights in front of the TV.

crazy busy

I'm still here, I've been so busy quilting and doing family things I haven't had time to post.  My grandmother's funeral was wonderful.  It sounds strange to say that, but it was so wonderful to reconnect with family members that I hadn't seen in many years.  Then, it was the wee monsieur's birthday and I was working every spare moment to get ready for his party and get his quilt finished in time.  Well, I missed the deadline on the quilt and didn't get it finished until late last night.  I laid it out where he would see it first thing this morning, but he ignored it and then wasn't terribly impressed.  Sigh!  I wasn't expecting a huge reaction, after all it's a quilt, not a transformer, but a little something would be nice.  He'll appreciate it later.

  After we got home from running errands this morning, the woman who does my quilting called to say she was done with the quilt she was working on for me.  I had to run off and get it.  I'm just blown away.  I'll post pictures as soon as I can.  I have to to the binding, but I think I'll post pictures anyway, because the quilting she did, just elevates the whole piece.

In other news, my husband has been hard at work rewiring all the electronics and updating everything that needs updating.  I asked him if he could figure out a way for me to access the office computer, where we keep all the data like pictures, from the laptop.  This is important because it would be nice to be able to blog from the laptop, as I'm doing now, but still be able to use pictures located on the office computer.  He thinks he's got it figured out, but as he's currently backing up the hard drive on the office computer, I can't test it out.  So hopefully soon I'll be able to blog from the laptop but also post pictures.  Won't we all enjoy that?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Today is my baby boy's birthday.  The wee monsieur is 5.  I can't believe how time has flown.  Happy Birthday Baby Boy!!!

I've been working on a cuddle quilt for his birthday, but it's not even close to being done.  I guess that's what happens when you don't work on anything for a week.  Remember the random log cabin squares? Well, I'm working on a bunch more, but I don't think i'm going to have quite enough scraps, so I might have to improvise.  In the mean time, I have cupcakes to make for him to bring to preschool tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

a sewing machine

You know how when you've been really busy doing something, you say you are a machine.  I've been a cleaning machine, an exercise machine, etc.  That expression doesn't work so well when what you've been doing is sewing.  Anyway, I've been a sewing machine lately, which is to say I've been busy.

I finally finished sewing the borders on the Happy Robot quilt for my son.  That's a lot of fabric to manipulate on your own.
 I'm really pleased with how I got the squares in the corners to line up perfectly.  I sewed on one piece of the rocket border and then trimmed the end once it was sewn on.  Then I took the next piece of rocket border and sewed the blue corner square to one end.  I took that piece and sewed it to the quilt and then trimmed the end of the rocket fabric even.  Repeat on the last two sides.  On the last side I stopped sewing about 6 inches from the end, trimmed the rocket fabric to size and sewed the blue corner square to it and finished sewing the border on.  It was so much easier than measuring a million times, cutting and sewing the border pieces independently only to have something end up the wrong size anyway.

Next I tackled the backing.  I was too cheap to go buy many, many yards of the coordinating fabric from the LQS.  So I hit J's with a 40% off coupon, to see what they had.  I was thinking a solid yellow, orange or blue, but they didn't have a perfect match and this yellow orangey stripe was actually cheaper. I got 8 yards which was everything on the bolt.  It's not a perfect match, but at $15 for 8 yards I can live with it.  I made a center stripe with the strip going perpendicular to the big pieces and used some scraps to piece the center.  I love a pieced back, the lady who does my quilting, not so much, but this is just a little and she'll live.

I'm not going to be around for the rest of the week.  My grandmother died Saturday and I'm flying to Ohio for her funeral.  I'm named for my grandmother and she taught me to needlepoint among other things.  It was her time to go, but she will still be sorely missed.
My grandmother was an amazing botanist, her home has thousands of daffodils and she could tell you the variety of every single one.  This is her at the daffodil show in 2005.  She always raised her hand like that when she was going to tell you one little thing.  At the time, I didn't think anything of having captured that motion, but now the photo is priceless, because it captures her as she lived and spoke.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Zig Zag Quilt

Over Christmas vacation we were at the in law's house and I finished up my hand sewing projects pretty quickly.  That left me with nothing to do except surf the internet looking for quilting inspirations.  I started a flickr account and favorited all the quilts that caught my eye.  After a few hours of this, I went back through the pictures and found that there were a couple of patterns I had saved over and over again.  One of them was a zig zag pattern.  I'm not quite good enough that I want to do triangles yet.  Bias sewing, shudder!  However, I found this tutorial for how to do a zig zag quilt using squares.  Crazy Mom Quilt's zig zag without triangles tutorial.  Another design feature that caught my eye again and again, was quilts with a lot of white in them.  I thought I'd combine the two ideas and make a quilt for for sister in law, who is having a baby girl in April.  Her favorite color is purple, so I wanted that color to be a feature, but not the only color.

I picked up these fabrics at Joann.  It's hard to see in this picture, but the white on the bottom is a white on white print with dots of all sizes.
For the zig zags you first start with 3 inch wide strips.  You sew a colored strip to a white strip. and then cut squares that are half white and half colored.  I was quite sure how many I would end up needing, because Crazy Mom's pattern was for a smaller quilt than I wanted to make.  I have a great piece of lavender with blue dots minky that was 60x60, that I wanted to use as the back.  I wanted to use most of the minky, so I was shooting for 50x50.  Also, I wasn't sure how I wanted to arrange the colors.  I'm a sucker regular color progressions.
 However, I still needed to know how many blocks and of each color.   Given the end dimension I wanted, I did some quick math.  The square blocks are arranged on their points, so if you know the side dimensions of the square you can figure out how long it is from point to point.  A squared plus B squared equals C squared.  Thank you geometry and the scientific calculator on the computer!  Because I sure don't remember how to get a square root on a regular calculator.  To all the math teachers I tortured over the years.  I'd like to apologize now.  You do need math in the real world, after all!

I figured out I could have 8 zig zags, but I had 5 colors, and I didn't really want to drop a color.  Eventually, I decided that I'd do two zigs of each of the purple, pink and blue and one zag of the green on one end and one of the yellow on the other end.  I'm hoping it looks like the pattern is two of each color and the green and yellow had simply gotten cut short.

This is as far as I got the second night.  I was tired but very pleased with myself, until I noticed and once again, I had sewed past my competency point.  Do you see where I went wrong?

I got to spend some quality time with the seam ripper the next day.  Fortunately the strips of squares hadn't been sewn together yet and I only had to take apart that one strip.  I also realized I was missing some squares, so I got to cut and piece some more white and colored blocks.

 Lesson taught, but not fully learned again, that one should not sew past the point the point in time when you are competent.  Just go to bed already, there's always time to sew tomorrow.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Big Girl Bed

My baby girl's big girl bed was delivered today.  I spent ages looking for just the right one.  Hubby HATES metal beds, so that eliminated a bunch.  The rest of her furniture is white, so I thought white was a good idea.  We ended up getting her this one from PBK, surprisingly cheaper than anything similar we saw.  We wanted something feminine, but not over the top girly.
 The head and foot boards have a bead board detail that goes nicely with the shabby chic thing that is sort of happening in her room already.  Shabby chic is a great unifier for a bunch of hand me down mismatched furniture.  Work with a consistent color scheme and you are good to go.  Pink is an obvious choice for a girl's room and there are two fabulous victorian chairs upholstered in an incredibly ugly pea soup green brocade that have no where else to live, so we needed to pull in some green.  When we moved to our current house the petite mademoiselle's room was already painted a fresh light green with a focal wall that had 3 horizontal stripes in 3 shades of green.  Amazingly, the green walls of the room make the green brocade look good.  Add some white furniture which lightens everything up and the whole thing works.  I'd take pictures, but she's currently not feeling very well and I finally got her to sleep.  I didn't plan this post very well, sorry.

When I bought her crib bedding eons ago, I bought the matching bed sheets too.  You don't often find a pink and green chinoserie toile.  Now I get to make her a quilt.  I'd like to use her crib sheets and maybe even the crib skirt and bumpers in the quilt.  My idea is that I'd fussy cut the the toile scenes from the crib sheets to use as the centers of blocks.  The only problem is that I don't want to cut up the crib sheets until I'm REALLY certain I know what my plan is.  I won't have enough pieces, from the crib sheets, to make all the blocks I'll need, so I'll need to alternate with something else.  I just haven't found a design that truly grabs me.  For now I made up the bed with a quilt that was given to us for a wedding present.  My wedding colors were pink and green, and those are the colors of the quilt, so it works nicely in the room.

Any suggestions for quilt patterns that have largish focal blocks mixed in with other blocks?  I need some inspiration.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What have I been doing with my time?

I haven't worked on my son's quilt at all.  It seems like he's always around when I have a moment to sew.  I think I'm going to call it the Happy Robot Quilt.  The fabric has funny robots and the block pattern is from the Happy Hour book.  So there you go.

Instead I've been eagerly anticipating some goodies in the mail.  I got these goodies from overstock.

No, I'm not getting paid by them.  I wish!  The big O, (No, not Oprah) is an oft overlooked source for all sorts of stuff.  I got a smokin' deal on my sewing machine from them last summer.  This week I got a set of square rulers, one of those suction cup handles and a straight ruler.  My wrists get sore when I cut a lot of fabric at once.  Plus, I'm seriously tired of one end of the strip being an eighth of an inch thinner than the other end because my hands slip a little as I'm holding the ruler.  I think the suction cup handle will be a big help.

So what have I been working on this week?  I tried an exercise is letting go.  I took all the little scraps and miscuts from the Happy Robot Quilt and I've just been sewing them together.  No planning, no cutting, just going with the flow.  I've been doing rough log cabin blocks and aiming for about 9.25 inches square.  Here are the first few.
 I just pick two scraps to start that have at least one side that is approximately the same size.  Sew them together, add a third along one side and so forth.  Or should I say, "Sew, Forth!"  Oh, geez that would make a great blog title.  I can't help the puns.  It's a genetic thing, from my father and his father.  It's in my blood.

I had one block left over from the front of the quilt and it is a 9.25, so that is my guide.  I'd like to do a cuddle quilt.  For real this time, it's not going to turn into another full size.  I think I'm going to have to sash it pretty heavily to get the size I need.  I love scrappy quilts, but I use my scraps so efficiently that I rarely have material to just play with.  My first quilt is double sided, because I used ALL the scraps from the front to make a second quilt for the backing.  Now, I'm sad that there isn't anymore of any of that fabric to play with because I used it all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The robot birthday party

I mentioned that we are having a robot themed birthday party for my son.  I found some super cute robot prints on etsy and a very good friend of mine, Nikki, is making some gumpaste  robot cupcake decorations.

 Nikki is amazingly talented and we worked out a swap.  She is making cupcake decorations and I will be forever in her debt.  I'll also send her a few unworthy offerings.  Nikki makes jewelry, tiaras and bridal accessories at Tradewind Tiaras.  Over the years she has made me many wonderful pieces, including all the jewelry I wore at my own wedding.

The robot quilt

I fell in love with this fabric at a LQS (local quilt shop for those in the know).
I didn't quite know what to do with it, so I didn't buy any.  I was trying to be good. Fast forward a few months.  They had a big sale, so I bought a couple of yards total of a few different fabrics.  Then I got inspiration.  My son is having a robot birthday, he's always asking for blankets to cuddle with on the couch.  I decided to make him a cuddle quilt for his birthday.  Of course I had to go back to get a few more fabrics from the collection and they were having a sale on 60x60 cuts of minky.  I ended up picking the blue with black dots you can see in the picture.  I've never used minky, so that counts as stretching myself technically.

I picked the Happy Hour pattern again and got to work.  I didn't really want to repeat patterns, as I had already used Happy Hour in my first quilt, but I really though the simplicity of the pattern would show off the fabrics well and be masculine at the same time.  It is a quilt for my son after all.  Plus, his birthday is at the end of January so time is short.  Happy Hour is simple and sews up FAST.

Well, I started cutting and sewing and quickly realized that I had enough fabric for a full sized bed quilt. Ooops!  Coincidentally, my son sleeps in a full sized bed.  In for a penny, in for a pound right?

I still need to sew the border on.  The blocks themselves are just 8 inches short of the proper size and I had 80 inches of the rocket fabric to make the border with.  My advanced math skills calculated that I'd need 2 widths of the fabric for each side, so I decided I should cut the rocket fabric into eight 10 inch strips.  Perfect right?  Yeah, except for those pesky corners.  Good thing I still have 1/2 a yard of one of the blues.  I can cut corner squares out of that and go get more for the binding.

Sharing the love

I think I mentioned that I'm going to be joining the local quilt guild as part of my goals to learn and grow as a quilter.  Well, I just took the first steps to start a quilt club with my MOMS club.  There's no better way to learn a subject, than to help someone else learn it.  On Sunday I spent the afternoon, helping a friend learn to sew because she wants to learn to quilt.  Yay!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Do you...

Watch TV while you craft?  I've always found that I concentrate better if I have background noise going.  In high school I did all my home work with the TV on, in college I wrote papers to the sound of movies or CDs running in the background.  Now I quilt to the sound of movies I've watched a 100 times.  I have my sewing machine and ironing board set up so they face the TV.  I can barely hear the TV over the sound of the sewing machine, and mostly of the time I'm not even looking at it, but I like the back ground noise.  I have a big selection of my favorite cheesy movies and I pop one in as I get to work.  After last night's post ended with a James Bond reference, I clearly had to pull out the complete Bond collection.  Last nights selection was Live and Let Die, perhaps one of the worst of the bunch, but for some reason I was in the mood for it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Where have you been all my life?

I was watching a series of videos on youtube about quilting.  This was right after I taught myself to do a yarn over by watching a video on youtube.  (If you don't know what a yarn over is, it's ok, I didn't either for a long time.)  You can learn just about anything you might care to know, by watching a video on youtube.  If you are a visual learner like me, this is amazing.  You can try to teach me something verbally a million times and unless I see it, it will never stick.  If I have to remember a phone number, I picture it in head, like it was written on a piece of paper, otherwise, poof!  It's gone.

Back to the topic at hand.  One of the videos in this series was on basting, which I assumed meant basting with thread.  I'm pretty sure that's what Little House on the Prairie meant when Laura talked about basting dresses together, which is the first time I read the word.  Believe it or not, basting didn't come up very often when I was growing up in suburban Maryland.  In the video, thread was never used.  I was pretty shocked.  I know you must be as well.  There was an aerosol can of adhesive, which looked pretty scary, and I'm sure Ma Ingels is rolling over somewhere.  There were also these babies.
Those are curved safety pins so that when you pin your quilt sandwich together, the point curves upward and the pin is easier to snap closed.  So very, very, very much easier to snap closed.

I ask you again, Where have you been all my life, beautiful curved safety pin?  Between the curved safety pin and finding out that all those little cross hatches on my ruler can be used for something, I'm having a good week.

Ok, you don't have to run off to google.  A yarn over is a knitting term for purposefully making a hole in your project and increasing a stitch at the same time.  Beginners tend to do this accidently, but if you know the term and make a bunch of them, then you can say you did it on purpose.

Feel free to remind me of my disparaging remarks about spray adhesive basting.  A year ago I would have said you were crazy if you told me I'd be trying to teach myself free motion quilting in 2011.  I'm even considering learning hand quilting.  Never say never, unless you are James Bond.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sometimes that little voice says something smart

Last night I got caught up on some shows on the DVR, after the kids were asleep.  Hubby was playing cards with the guys, so I had the house to myself.  Around 10 pm, I finished with watching TV and thought, "hmmm, I could go to bed early and get caught up on my sleep." Then I thought, "or I could go sew for just a little bit and get sister in laws quilt laid out while there aren't children running across the basement floor."

Sleep or Sew?  What do you do when you ask yourself that question?

I answered sew.  I put in a movie and said I'd only sew until the movie was over.  I got all the blocks done and the strips mostly sewn and pressed.  The movie came to an end and I saw I only had a few blocks left to sew before I was done with all the strips.  I finished and laid everything out on the floor to admire my work.  Yeah, that's when I realized I sewed those last few blocks in upside down.  So sometimes you should listen to the little voice that says it's time to go to bed.  This morning I get rip a few seams.  Sigh!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Crafts for kids

My son loves to play dress up.  He finds it very convenient that I can sew and makes a lot of suggestions for projects for me to work on for him.  For Halloween I made both a set of bat wings and a last minute Boba Fett (bounty hunter from Star Wars) costume when he changed his mind.  We couldn't buy a Boba Fett costume, 1. because I don't buy costumes, 2. because he didn't actually want to be Boba Fett, he wanted to be LEGO Boba Fett.  He only knew Star Wars through the lego video game, so when I showed him pictures of an actual Boba Fett costume, he kept saying it was wrong. this is what I came up with.
You can sort of see the bat wings I made for the petite mademoiselle along with my first attempt at a tutu.  She wore it for about as long as it took me to take the picture.  Sigh!  If you couldn't tell from the picture, she was a bat fairy for Halloween.  I did have to explain that one once or twice.  Once she ripped off the tutu, we called her a bat.

This brings us to today.  The kids and I headed downstairs for some sewing for me and a movie/destroying the toy closet for them.  As we were walking downstairs, the wee monsieur said, "Mama, I have a good idea."  I brace myself when ever he utters this phrase, because something outrageous or flagrante de lecto, usually follows.  He continued, "Mama, you should sew me a beard.  Isn't that a good idea?"  Now, don't worry, I didn't fall down the stairs despite not being able to brace myself.  This actually wasn't the first time he had asked me to sew him a beard.  You read correctly, my 4 year old has asked me to make him a beard more than once.  Then he specified that it should be a grey beard.

Oke-dokey, one grey beard coming up.  I trotted over to my bin of fleece and grabbed two grey scraps probably left over from when I made knight helmets, cut triangles big enough to cover his face, off set them a bit and sewed along the top.  Then I cut enough super thin elastic to go behind his head from ear to ear, sewed the elastic to one corner of the sewn together triangles, measured and sewed the elastic to the other corner.  Finally, I cut a slit for his mouth.
Hmmm.  I appear to have a problem getting pictures to stay in the correct orientation.  Well, just turn your head to the side for the moment and I'll try and fix it later.  He was VERY pleased with his new beard.

Crafting for your kids can be fun and they are kids so they don't know if you aren't very good or hate finishing things properly.   Fleece is great for kids dress up.  It has enough body to make great armor and hats or um, beards.  You don't have to hem it, you can hot glue if needed and it is CHEAP.  Boba Fett up above is all fleece as are the numerous knight helmets, armor, cowboy vests and gun belts that I've made in the last few years.  Between fleece and the oriental trading company, you can outfit a very nice dress up box for not very much money.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I used to cook.  I used to really enjoy cooking.  When I was single and lived by myself, I'd make a big pot of tomato sauce and eat spaghetti 3 meals a day for as long as it lasted.  Then I'd make the next thing and eat it until it was gone, etc.  I could make whatever I felt like.  Now there are 3 other people whom I have a moral obligation to feed and cooking isn't quite so fun.  Nobody else is willing to eat lasagna 3 meals a day for 4 days straight.  Besides there are quilts to work on, who wants to cook when you can sew.

Occasionally, I still hit one dish out of the proverbial park.  This is a recipe I created last spring.  What I really love about it is that all the ingredients can usually be found in the house.  My kids LOVE this dish, they call it shrimp and noodles, I call it shrimp with shallot cream sauce.  I think it was Tony Bourdain who wrote that two things a home cook can do to make meals taste more like restaurant food are using shallots and finishing sauces with butter.  Check and Check!

I'm going to channel Pioneer Woman for a moment.  I promise not to do it very often.  Assemble your ingredients, thawed frozen shrimp, pasta of your choice, olive oil, butter, garlic, shallots, cream, salt, pepper, cayenne and parmesan.

As you can see I'm all about easy, my shallots and garlic come in jars.  If my grocery store has shallots, so does yours, trust me.

Bring water to a boil and cook your pasta.  While the pasta is cooking, melt a teaspoon of butter with a teaspoon of oil.  Add half a tablespoon of garlic and the same of shallots.  Cook for a minute or so, until you can smell the garlic, throw in the shrimp and season with salt and pepper.  I keep bags of frozen raw shrimp in my freezer at all times. Cook the shrimp until it just turns pink, then use your pasta scoop to take the shrimp out of the pan.  This is another trick I learned from the experts, take your protein out of the pan before your finish your sauce.  Leave all the liquid from the shrimp in the pan,  Add the cream until it looks like it will be enough sauce.  Somewhere between a quarter and half a cup.  Simmer until it reduces a little, then add a shake of cayenne, this is the secret, and a quarter cup of parmesan.  The sauce will instantly thicken.  Add back your shrimp and pour over your pasta. There should be just enough sauce to coat the pasta, but not pool.

Forgive the bad picture.  If I were a food stylist, I'd add shaved parmesan and parsley or something.  Then, because I'm a mom, I'd have pick everything shred of green off the plate before my children would even look at it.  It's easy to not add the green than to take it off later.

I started off making one pound of shrimp and one pound of pasta, but then I didn't get to eat any as the rest of the family ate it all by the time I finished filling sippy cups and the like.  Now I make 2 pounds of shrimp and half a pound of pasta.  It is sort of an insane amount, considering one of the diners is only 2, but one night she ate 16 shrimp.  It's always better to have leftovers then to run out.  The garlic and shallots don't overwhelm the delicate flavor of the shrimp and everything is better with cream.  The cayenne adds the perfect little kick, that keeps the dish from being flat and dull.

Whew, taking pretty pictures of food is hard.  Tomorrow we will go back to creating with fabric.

The Modern Quilt Guild Challenge

I'm going to do it!  I'm going to enter the Modern Quilt Guild Challenge.  The challenge says,  "Design and make a quilt that is monochromatic. Create interest, life and energy in a quilt by using tints, shades and tones of a single color."  

I thought about it all of yesterday.  I've been thinking about doing a grey scale quilt for a while, but every time I picture a grey quilt it has a bright accent color to make it pop.  All grey might be sort of somber.  I was also thinking that I should use an original design.  It came to me as I was trying to fall asleep last night.  Beige!  White, cream, and beige are monochromatic, but warm and bright.  If nothing else, when I'm done I'll have a nice neutral baby quilt or quite a quiet quilt for the wall.  Say that five times fast!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sewing area

I hate packing projects up in the middle.  I'm one of those people who likes to have all my materials spread out around me.  I made my first quilt at the dinning room table.  It was rather problematic to pack up for every meal and then scrub the table down after every meal.  We've got 2 kids, ages 2 and 4, the table is always smeared with something.  Now I have a conference table in the basement for my cutting mat and sewing table.  That's the only window in the basement.  I claimed it for my own.  Of course most of the time I have for sewing is after small people are in bed, so I don't really get to take advantage of the natural light.
I'm always interested in what sewing machines people have.  So under the table is the New Home that my sister in law gave me.  On top of the table is the refurbished Janome I bought from overstock this past summer.  It does free motion quilting, though I haven't tried that yet.  I also bought a Brother embroidery machine over the summer.  My embroidery machine lives on the end of the desk, so it is next to the computer, for easy downloading of designs.

Crafting resolutions

I've got almost all the blocks for the robot quilt done.  Those Happy Hour blocks come together so quickly.  What was I saying about a cuddle quilt.  Yeah, it's going to be queen size and I think I might still have enough to make a cuddle quilt.

Anyway, this year I resolve to replace my cutting blades more often, or um, ever.  I replaced the blade for the first time right before I started cutting the robot fabric.  What a difference!  Why did no one tell me that makes a difference?  I think someone might have mentioned it to me once, but nobody whacked me on the head about it.  I think I might try replacing my needles when they haven't bent or broken.  Is that too revolutionary?

I also resolve to stretch myself creatively.  I will try new patterns, new techniques and new ways of connecting to other crafters/quilters.  I'm off to a good start.  I started this blog and I'm joining my local quilt guild.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

My process

I might have spent a few too many years in school or maybe I read one too many books on design.  Anyway, there are two things I like to do when I approach a new project.  The first is called the research circle.  It goes something like this.  Research, follow one source to another, to another, to another, until your sources start referring to sources you've already consulted.  Then you can be reasonably certain that you have seen all the information on any topic.  My second process is to spend hours looking at all the images of my target that I can find.  My target could be a new rug for a the living room, a chair, or a quilt design.  After a while, I find that some designs stick with me, while others that seemed interesting at first glance have faded.  With quilt designs you can search google or flickr and see thousands of designs in seconds.  One of my favorite searches is "modern quilt design".  I favorite all the quilts that appeal to me and then you can look at all your favorites on the same page.  I find that I've often unconsciously gravitated to the same patterns over and over again.  You can do the same thing browsing books at the library or store.   Which patterns do you find yourself looking at a second, third or forth time?

When it comes to fabric, sometimes I have a quilt pattern in mind and then I go looking for fabric.  This is what I did with my first quilt.  The pattern said to use a mixture of pattern sizes and color for contrast.  I knew what color palate I wanted and I went from there.  Sometimes, I find fabric that I simply love and I look for a pattern that would show off the fabric.  A perfect example of this is my first project for 2011.  I'm making a quilt for my son.  I have been coveting these fabrics in my local quilt shop for months, but I couldn't think of a project.
Finally, they had a sale and I bought a few of the fabrics just for the stash.  Then I realized that the wee monsieur is having a robot birthday pretty soon.  He is always asking for a blanket to curl up with.  He never took a baby blanket, so I think he needs his own cuddle quilt.  Of course, I had to go back and get more fabric once I had a project.  Now, the cuddle quilt might turn into a full size quilt.  If a quarter yard is good then, half a yard is better, right?  We'll just have to see how big it turns out to be.  Once I had the fabric, I started thinking about what quilt pattern would be simple and use big enough blocks to show off the fabric.  Scrolling through my favorites on flickr, I realized one of images was the small version of my first quilt from the Happy Hour book.  It is simple, masculine and I already had the pattern.  If only I could find it....

First post

It's a new year, why not try a new thing.  I meant to start yesterday, but I had some projects I was working on and we ended up having a card party.  Oh Well, January 2nd is a good day to start too.

On to the meat of it.  I intend to use this space to journal my progress as I work on my various crafts.  My current obsession is quilting, but I dabble in jewelry making, knitting, machine embroidery, needlepoint and scrapbooking.

I've been crafting all my life, for a while I thought I'd like to be an artist, but then I realized I wasn't good enough to make a living at it.  If you ever see my handwriting, you'll know what I mean, fine motor skills aren't so good.  My crafting fulfills something inside of me, I can judge my moods by how creative I feel.

We moved to Iowa a year ago to be close to my husband's family.  We had been living in sunny California, where houses are small and expensive.  All my crafts had to fit into a nook in the office.  Plus it was warm, so there wasn't much need for quilts or scarves or sweaters.  Since moving to Iowa, we've discovered how nice it is to have a cozy quilt to cuddle under and warm hat to cover your head while you shovel snow.  Not to mention, now I have a finished basement where I can lay things out and not have to look at the mess if I don't want to.

As I mentioned, my current obsession is quilting.  I had made a few quilts with my mother in high school and college.  My mother worked in the costume department in college, so she knows quite a bit about sewing generally.  Our first quilt was a pink, green, blue and purple log cabin for my new bed, then we made a rainbow texas star for my cousin who was starting college (I still shudder when I think of the mountain in the middle), then came a celestial boston common for my college dorm room, a couple of lap quilts for friends and finally a quilt for my apartment in NYC.  These were all tied quilts, and frankly I still like a tied quilt for softness and cuddliness.

As the weather got cold at the beginning of our first year in Iowa, I began to look for blankets for our living room.  Leather furniture may be practical with two small children and two small dogs, but it is cold in the winter.  I couldn't find anything I liked for a price I was willing to pay.  (We have a rather modern aesthetic and small creatures who are hard on fabrics.)  I noticed how we kept fighting over the little lap quilt I had made in college, and resolved to make a quilt, that would match our decor.  After many trips to the local fabric store, I had my pattern from the book Happy Hour, by Terry Atkinson, my fabric and the tools of the trade.  My sister in law gave me a sewing machine that her mother in law had given her.  This is what I made.

You can see how nicely it goes with the carpet in the living room.  After this I was off and running, but I'll get to that soon.

In the next few posts, I intend to talk about my creative process, post pictures of the crafts of 2010, and lay out my plan for 2011.  I already have a few months worth of projects in mind.