Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Progress, Girlfriends

It was sunny for the first time in a couple weeks and I hope this picture shows the true colors of the floral print. I'm counting on the sun because it won't be due to my photography skills.

The star is pieced and came together fairly painlessly. I've got half of the squares and triangles set in too. No problems there either. Yeah!

I'm on vacation this week and enjoying sewing and cooking. One of my resolutions from last year(s) that I did nothing with was to organize my recipes. I've made a dent! Actually, more progress than in past attempts. But certainly will not finish before year's end. And, found two more recipes to try in today's food section so. ...

I'm trying to distinguish between tried-and-will-make-again recipes and haven't-tried-yet-but-will ones. How do you do that? Recycled a bunch of clippings that I decided I would not in any real-world scenario ever actually make because they were too complicated, would take too long or required an ingredient I was not likely to find without a great deal of effort on my part and therefore was not likely to even look for. I'm so lazy in my old age! Or maybe just more realistic.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It always starts with fabric

Found this Phillip Jacobs' print at the local quilt shop when I was looking for something to go with the Transformers fabric. No, I did not think the Rowan colors and prints would match Megatron, but you never know what you will find where so you must look at everything in the shop.

The Transformer star blocks are all done, and I've decided on a setting, but need another 2.5 yards of solid blue that is currently on-order at the shop, so I had no choice but to find a suitable pattern for the Daffodils and Dogwoods. I think this is it: The "Girlfriends Galore" pattern from Material Obsession's book.

I buy a lot of fat quarters so I don't have the yardage the pattern calls for, but a bunch of fat quarters in similar colors will substitute for each single fabric in the pattern, with the print above substituting for the the light green floral. I hope I have enough. Would hate to have to go back to the shop to buy more and be forced to look at everything again.

I spent the good part of a day cutting out the diamonds for the center star. It takes longer to cut when you go scrappy, but it's worth the effort. So much texture.

I got part of it pieced, and I'm really liking the way it is coming together although the photo isn't so great. I'll cut as I get to each section so I can change my mind about what fabrics to use along the way. Kathy Doughty did such a good job with the fabric placement in her pattern. When I studied the composition, trying to figure out what fabrics to use in mine, I was really impressed by what she did. I like this pattern so much more than when I started!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mapping out a new career

A friend of mine from work who knows I quilt, sent me this link. What a cool idea: Map quilts. I need to think up a great idea like this and start a new career. I like the idea that each quilt made would be different. I'd get too bored doing the same thing over and over. And it's unique. You need a niche to set your creations apart.

I didn't feel comfortable inserting a photo of a soft map quilt from the Haptic Lab site on my blog so you'll have to head over there yourself to check them out. But so that this post isn't just words, here's a quilt of mine that's related. It was made for a guild challenge in 2003. The theme was "Florida State of Mind." I was living in Orlando then.

All the blocks that make up the quilt are somehow related to Florida. The land area is covered with Alabama and Georgia blocks for the neighboring states; Tallahassee and Key West for those areas; Cypress, Orange Peel and Sunshine for those symbols of the state; Seminole piecing for our Native Americans; Crackers for what native Floridians call themselves; and President's Choice for the role the state played in the 2000 Presidential election. The water area is Ocean Waves and Storm at Sea for the annual hurricane season.

The backing is flamingos, of course.

This quilt was machine and hand pieced and appliqued, and machine quilted. This really was a challenge! I used every technique I knew and tried some I hadn't before. While I'm proud of what I accomplished, when it was finished I could clearly see where different choices in value would have made it much better. I should have kept the land green and the water blue, but made the greens dark and the blues light. Then within the greens used lighter darks and darker darks to distinguish the values in the blocks themselves. Same with the blues.

Every once in a while I think, I should make that again and do it right. Then I think, I must be crazy to make another of the same thing. Maybe a different state? Maine, where I grew up. I have some great lobster fabric. Hmmm. Maybe all 50 states? Maybe. Someday. I need to be a little more crazy first.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mr. Morris, say good bye to Megatron

You can see a bit of the William Morris at the bottom of this picture. For a while he was up there with these fussy-cut Transformers stars. I had to get him down. Quickly.

Now I can concentrate on these stars. Not exactly sure what the big plan is, but the test block (the green one) came out OK. So at least I know what the block will be. I decided I didn't want to make the stars different sizes, so figured out what size could be used for cutting Megatron, Bumblebee, Optimus Prime and Barricade out of this fabric I found online. Quality is crap, but there wasn't much choice of Transformers fabric on the world wide web. I bought the only yard and a half I could find. Hope my nephew still likes them by the time this is done!

I didn't want to make sawtooth stars. Too boring. And I might need to make 20 of these. Or more. To help keep my interest that long I switched up the proportions on the star points and then drew out the pieces to exact size so I could make freezer paper templates and start cutting this at night. We have a no-math-after-dark rule in this house and several cautionary tales to accompany it. Because I wasn't reading numbers on the ruler, I felt I could bend the house rule against rotary cutting after dark.

The only tricky bit is lining up the odd angles so that the points meet where all four pieces come together. I think I'll cut quite a few (during the day today -- not going to press my luck) and then piece them all at once. After a few I should be able to eyeball the placement and it will go quickly, and I need to make room on the wall for some ideas backing up in my head.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Today's weather: 2F, feels like -18F

That's -16C, feels like -28C if you're into Metric. How exactly anyone can tell the difference between 2F and -18F is beyond me. As I walked to the train this morning, my eyes watered constantly -- no doubt to keep them from freezing -- and soaked my face and scarf. Where's this global warming all the kids are talking about?

I finished this top last weekend. When I started it, I thought it might be the backing for another quilt, which I haven't posted about. (Then again I haven't posted.) But this one isn't big enough and I rather like it more than the other one so it's deserving of a top all its own.

The inspiration for this came from a posting on Fibercopia that I sketched on the back of a grocery list and kept with other piles of scribbled ideas until it was time. I have lots of notebooks, but they never seem to be within reach when I get an idea.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Spider-shaped pumpernickel bread! And in keeping with the quilt theme of this blog, it's on a Gee's Bend tin plate.

Bought this at the bakery for a potluck. I thought it was a little gross looking, but it was gobbled right up. Not as gross looking as this hand-shaped meatloaf from Not Martha though.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oprah was outside my window

More than two weeks ago, (I'm a little behind in my posting) this was the view outside my work window. That little yellow speck is Oprah, who appeared after the audience spent hours learning to dance and watching sound checks for the Black-Eyed Peas (the specks to the left of Oprah's speck), James Taylor, Jennifer Hudson and Rascal Flatts.

This being a quilt blog, we'll now move to something quilt related. My mother sent us kids boxes of stuff from her recently-sold house. She's moving to a smaller place. Among the stuff in my boxes was this quilt she made my dad's mother in 1973.

She had my grandmother's children, their spouses and their children write their names and then she embroidered them on hourglass blocks. My brother, Joey, was four when he wrote his name on the square below.

My mom helped me make this signature quilt for my wedding:

And 10 years later I made this one for my brother-in-law's wedding:

Signature quilts are such fun to look at. I love the drawings the children at the wedding made on my quilt, which hangs in the stairwell so I see it every morning as I head for my coffee. Sometimes my eyes are even open.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Snoring is my revenge

Nightly there is a battle of the bed covers, which I invariably lose. Not so much a problem during the summer, but we haven't really had one this year. Last night, after the annual block party, we slept under this:

Stack-n-Whack, pattern by Bethany Reynolds.

The quilt is probably 10 years old. I really should label these things, but by the time I finished this queen-size top I was so sick of it I almost didn't get it quilted. Fortunately there are long-armers so I didn't have to look at it any more. By the time I got it back I didn't detest it. It's definitely not a favorite, but it fits the bed.

And this:

Half Log Cabin, technique by Sharyn Squier Craig. Beautifully quilted by Maggi Honeyman.

I took this class in 1997 when I was relatively new to quilting. I like how the variety of background fabrics bring texture to the quilt. Unfortunately, I didn't have the same variety in the darks. Probably I was trying too hard to match colors and limited the number of different fabrics I used.

And this:

2002 Florida Cabin Fever Quilt Guild mystery quilt.

The real solution was Aunt Sukey's Choice, but I was playing around with the pieced units before the last clue and liked my solution better because it was more suited to the Asian fabric. This is one of my favorite quilts. I wish I'd had enough fabric to make it bigger, and that I hadn't experimented with black bobbin thread.

The block party was great even though it was quite chilly. We have the best neighbors, and every year on the last Saturday in August the street is blocked off, we set up tables and chairs in the streets, fire up the grills, play games and share appetizers, salads and desserts.

We lost seven trees this year on our block to Dutch Elm disease so there's no good way to string up the volleyball net. Instead one of the adult games was to guess which famous persons' name was written on the stickers on our foreheads by asking each neighbor two yes-or-no questions. My husband guessed he was Oprah after just three questions!

Don't look now! is having an unbelievable giveaway, and I am shamelessly plugging it here in order to get some extra entries. Although now probably you'll enter and my chances will go down. Kellie is giving away this gorgeous quilt. I can't believe it! I love her applique and patterns, but it's not really my quilting forte, so winning would be heaven.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bombs away

Galt Airport flour drop target. It looks easy to hit from the ground, but it's not!

Saturday was the 2nd Annual Galt Airport Flour Drop, and this year we actually hit the target! At one point we were in a six-way tie for third place with our 10-point hit (the ring outside the bullseye), but were quickly knocked out by better bombadiers.

Some of the competition in the flour drop.

View from the air. Not all that smoke is flying flour. Some of the planes purposely created smoke to heighten the drama of the day. Like someone afraid of heights needs any more excitement than hanging flour bombs out the window of a small plane.

We went up in "Chubby," a fabric and plywood contraption with "Experimental" emblazoned on the side. I don't mind small planes at all, which is a good thing when you are married to a pilot who insists that every vacation involves getting there via our little Mooney. (We regularly take separate vacations!)

The pilot.

But, I don't like heights. At all. My able pilot had the plane sideways. I had one hand extended out the window, clutching a 1-pound bag of flour, and the other one clutching the camera. My eyes were tightly closed (from both the wind and the frightening view of the ground), so Larry had to yell "Now!" so I'd know when to let go of the flour sack.

The bombardier.

It was great fun. Especially when we were back on the ground!

St. Ignace, MI.

Earlier in the week we flew to St. Ignace, Mackinaw Island and Traverse City, Michigan, for vacation. We both enjoyed being away for a few days, and then coming home for a few days around the house before going back to work.

St. Ignace was pretty and quiet. We stayed at the Tradewinds, which was clean and comfortable, although not fancy, and within walking distance of the downtown area.

Ojibwe Museum, St. Ignace, MI.

The area is home to the Ojibwe, and the museum in town is small, but good. The gift shop is nice because it features crafts from Native Americans and not a bunch of things made in China. There was a display of Ojibwe crafts, including stitchery with porcupine quills. I didn't get any pictures of the museum pieces nor could I afford to buy any of the ones on sale, but this site has pictures of some birch bark boxes decorated with quill stitchery. Beautiful.

Unpacking the plane at Mackinaw Island, MI.

Flew to Mackinac Island for the day. Our folding bicycles came in handy, but after a full day of biking -- Larry estimated we did 15 miles -- I wasn't sure I would be able to sit down again. Ouch. All that padding didn't seem to help.

He didn't really bike up that hill. If he had, he probably wouldn't be smiling.

No cars are allowed on Mackinac Island. It's walk, bike or ride a horse-drawn carriage. All those horses in August meant a rather smelly bike ride through the high-traffic areas of the island. Phew! Worth it for the beautiful landscape.

View of Mackinac Island from the air.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sue Ross BOM

When I saw the Sue Ross BOM on Material Obsession's blog, I signed up right away. I know, I know. I can't keep up with my blog, how am I going to keep up with a block of the month. One block a month. One. Not 15 a month like that flag exchange. One.

When the email arrived saying it was coming I would have started right then, but no templates and no fabrics. And the instructions said hand piecing. Seriously? I've never done that in my life. Should I make a practice block or just go for it? One block a month. Remember? A practice block might be all I got done. Plus I had to cut out and draw seam allowances on 61 pieces per block. One block. Easy decision. Do it by machine or take a stab at hand piecing? What's life without learning? Besides how hard could it be? (Don't know yet as I haven't finished it, but it still looks like it could fit together.)

And, then I asked to join the Sue Ross BOM blog. Two blogs? That second blog will push me to blog AND finish the block each month. Playing psychological tricks on myself seems to be working. I've already posted twice today! And that other post has links to some great hand piecing tutorials I found online.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

What happened to/in July

Yikes! It's a week into August. How'd that happen?

Nothing to show for July? Really there was. Here's some of it.

July 4th inspired me to pull out my flag blocks (take pictures and then put them back in their UFO drawer). My friends Joni and Angie and I went to the AQS show in Nashville and saw this quilt hanging in a hallway of the Opryland Hotel.

We decided we could make 15 five-inch blocks every month, send five to each other and keep five and in less than a year we'd have enough different blocks to put together this wall hanging. We even bought blue star fabric at the show to unify the blocks. Well, it's been six years now, and this UFO isn't any closer to getting done. The blocks are simple, but those stripes finish at 1/2 inch, and so it takes some effort to get them nice. And only the best effort will do for your swap partners!

I made this tea wallet for a friend using this tutorial. Her favorite color is grey, and this daisy print said Heather to me. She really seemed to like it. She got us drinking tea at work every afternoon at 3, a tradition we're trying to maintain now that she has left us to marry a Dane and live in Copenhagen.

My friend Fran came to Chicago with her daughter, Maddie, for a day of shopping at Nordstrom's big July sale. I think they spent all their shopping money before lunch! They stopped by, left a pile of bags and went out again. I stayed at the office and worked. Boo.

We had dinner at Frontera before Maddie left for the airport and went back to Orlando. Rick Bayless' Mexican food is so good! One of the best dishes I've ever had was the ox tail at Frontera. This time, he had his winning tongue tacos from Top Chef Masters on the menu so we had to try them. They were good! Really. I doubt I'll be making them at home, but the recipe is on Bravo's site. (Love the recipe from this week's winner, which can be made in under four hours. Ha. Won't be making that for dinner.)

The next day we drove with hubby to Spring Green, Wisconsin, to see Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's house. All three of us had read "Loving Frank" by Nancy Horan and were excited to see the house. If you haven't read the book, I recommend it. But don't look up anything about him, his mistress Mamah Cheney or the house before you do. It'll spoil the book.

Good thing I'd ordered house tour tickets ahead of time because our tour was full. Would have been awful to have driven three hours to see the house and then not be able to. But it was worth the six-hour round trip. The tour was really good. Wright was an amazing man. The guide explained how Wright was constantly changing the house, such as adding a study to his bedroom before it was photographed by a magazine, and adding a library so his friend Guggenheim would have a nice place to drink his coffee when he visited.

We couldn't take pictures of the inside, which is too bad. The amazing thing was all the plywood! A new building material at the time, and Wright seemed enamored. Now it seems odd. Also, no kitchen in sight!

Wright's grave is on the left of the big pine tree near the family chapel, although our guide told us his last wife's family dug him up and had his ashes scattered in Arizona. Mamah Cheney is buried under the pine.

On the way home we stopped at Culvers. We had to get some cheese curds for Fran this being her first trip to Wisconsin. They didn't have fresh, but the fried were good. We got some fresh at the farmer's market the next day before I took her to the airport, but they didn't squeak. Very disappointing. She probably thinks I lied about that.

Speaking of food, July was a good month for trying recipes and reading food blogs. This is one of my favorites. I've made her zucchini, pizza dough, pie crust and blueberry crumb bars. And, I found this amazing potato salad recipe. Amazing because I, who hate mayonnaise and pickles (and ketchup), actually like this (after cutting the mayo in half and still having way more dressing than potatoes). For those who know me, my eating mayo is one of the signs of the apocalypse.

Our neighbor gave us a big bowl of currants so I boiled them, strained them and added sugar to make a drink as he instructed. Wasn't sure what else to do with currants besides make jam.

And, in July, I started a new project! On the plus side, this got me motivated enough to get one of the Monkey Wrench tops done so I could use the design wall for the new project. I deleted the Monkey Wrench pix because as I was going through them I saw that I'd turned one unit around and sewed it in backwards. It was, of course, in the middle of the quilt necessitating a rather long session of "reverse sewing."

The finished top and the new project in the next post. Later this month. Promise.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

When two seams meet

Pull seams in opposite directions to loosen stitches and fan out seams, flattening them.

This blogging stuff is hard work. I guess I'm going to have to learn HTML instead of just poking around in the code trying things to see what works. Especially because the preview never looks anything like the actual post. Well, it sort of does, but to someone as anal retentive and detail-oriented as I am, it doesn't.
I have picked up this book at the library, but I haven't started reading it yet. (The pix above are courtesy of Picasa's "I'm feeling lucky" feature and the online help.)

Anyway, the point of the photos above is: Here's a trick for flattening out the seams at intersections such as in a four-patch (short of pulling out a hammer). The pictures are arranged clockwise starting at the upper left to show you what I did (after the fact because I couldn't get an action shot without a photographer's assistant or on-screen talent, and this blog doesn't have that kind of budget). You pull the seam in opposite directions to loosen the stitches in the very middle so that you can press one seam going one way and the other seam going the other way. The center seams fan out to make a little 4-patch of their own.

Can't remember exactly where I learned this, but it is in Sally Collins' "The Art of Machine Piecing." If you've ever seen one of her quilts in person, especially a miniature, you will be blown away at the precision. No cut off points here! What she does in a three-inch block, I strive to do in a 12!

Here's another tip, also not sure where I learned it, and I don't see it in my copy of Sally's book: To keep pieced seams nestled together and matching, whenever possible, feed the pieces into your machine with the cut edge of the seam toward the needle. (Does that make sense? If not, check out the picture. It's worth a thousand words!) The machine foot will push the fabric on top, while the feed dogs will pull the fabric on the bottom keeping the seams of the four-patch together.

I may be a wee bit of a perfectionist, but I seldom pin. This little trick helps me maintain my anal retentiveness without the extra work.

Why all this posting about four-patches? Because I'd tired of the half-square triangle trimming and thought if I made a few four-patches (56) and started putting things up on the design wall I'd be a little more inspired to trim more half-square triangles. I was right.

I trimmed more half-square triangles after I took this photo. Getting it up on the design wall really was inspirational!