Saturday, February 28, 2009

A little more than 24 hours in NYC

Last Friday I met my friend Fran in New York -- well, actually Newark airport. After helping reunite a lost little boy with his parents, we took the train to Penn Station and walked 40 blocks in the cold!

The exercise was a good thing because we ended up at Crumbs, splitting cupcakes and having coffee for lunch. We started with chocolate coconut and then devil dog (chocolate with marshmallow filling), and passed on the Elvis (banana with a smear of peanut butter on top, not fried).

Along the way we wandered into the gift shop of the American Folk Art Museum, which happened to have a quilt exhibit going on. The last time I was in New York with Fran, about 6 years ago, we accidentally ended up in another museum having a quilt exhibit. The exhibit last weekend was small, about a dozen quilts, all scrappy and made in the '30s.

Wish I had pictures to show. Of course the museum website shows some, but not my favorites. (Check out this one. That's a lot of really small squares!) One favorite was made of pieces of knitted garmets including an argyle sweater and a man's bathing costume. Not my idea of a quilt, but so much fun to look at, and I'm sure it is warm. My other favorite was made of miscellaneous blocks of various sizes and scales. Wondering if I can do something like that with all my one-off blocks and piles and piles of half-square triangles. What made that quilt work was the color scheme pulled everything together. The fabrics were all pastels from the same time period. I'll have to play around with my leftovers to see if they'll play nice together.

The reason we were in New York? To see Buddy Miller, Patty Griffins, Shawn Colvin and Emmylou Harris at the newly renovated Beacon Theater for their "Three Girls and their Buddy" show. Sadly, Buddy wasn't feeling well and didn't perform, but the three girls more than made up for it. What a great show! And the theatre is incredible. The hotel next door is nice, lots of great restaurants nearby (not to mention Crumbs) and a much better vibe than the touristy areas of New York. I think we'll be back for more shows.

We walked around the next morning before heading to different airports and saw Jack McBrayer of "30 Rock" walk past us. Last time I saw Stanley Tucci. Now I'm not going to feel like a trip to New York is complete if I don't see someone famous.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Two tops finished!

Half-square triangle quilt. 40-inches square.

Woo hoo! I finished the half-square triangle top last weekend. And a spider-web top that I hadn't mentioned before.

The half-square triangle was nine blocks waiting for a border while I debated various ideas. One plan was to turn all the leftover squares from the half-square triangles into applique circles of various sizes and scatter them over a vine on a solid navy border. Circles inside circles would form the flowers on the vine.

I found circle templates from my kaleidoscope and Dresden plate quilts, cut some more in different sizes and even tried Anna Maria Horner's super circles on a couple before I confessed to myself that I was totally going to hate making all those circles no matter what method I used, and I was not going to enjoy sewing them to the border either. (The kaleidescope and Dresden plate experiences still being too fresh to repeat no matter how in love with the border idea I was.) And then, I pulled some of the leftover squares and scattered them over the border fabric and realized that the border idea would be too busy and would compete with the already busy interior.

Feeling guilt free about abandoning the applique circles, I pulled different fabrics for the border (didn't have enough navy and trying to use up stash). I didn't have quite enough of this purple stripe leftover from the backing of another quilt, but by using partial seams to set it, I had just enough. The width of the border was determined by the length of the fabric I did have. There was just enough for binding too!

I like how the stripes move around the quilt. This would have looked good mitred too, and if I'd had enough fabric that's what I would have done.

Last Sunday was very productive. I sewed all day. Besides that top and binding, I also finished a spider-web quilt and the backing for it and -- finally -- the backing for Luke's quilt.

Spider-web quilt in progress.

Year's ago (kind of a theme with my quilting) I saw a spider-web quilt at a quilt show in Lake County, Florida. Always wanted to make one, but never did. Then, I saw Marit's spider-web blocks and her tutorial, which includes a link to Bonnie's tutorial and decided that now was the time to give it a try. (Also, I was still avoiding making the back for Luke's quilt). I used paper like Bonnie and shortened my stitch length to reduce the chances of the stitching coming out when I removed the paper.

I squared up my blocks after stitching them together because they weren't as uniform as this anal-retentive quilter would like. I figured my blocks needed to be squared to 11 inches. I kept the 45-degree line of the ruler along a diagonal seam line, the midpoint of the finished size (5.5 inches) on the ruler at the intersection of the seams, and the 11-inch ruler marks on the seams at the corners.

To reduce bulk in the center, I pulled the seams in opposite directions so that I could fan them out, making a tiny four-patch and letting the seam lie flatter.

I used a bunch of strips that had been given to me years ago (I told you this was a theme in my quilting) by a quilt shop owner who didn't want them because they weren't her colors and she thought I'd be able to figure out something to do with them. I don't know where she got them. This was before jelly rolls, and these strips were not cut to a uniform width, which is just fine for the spider-web blocks.

I had some strips leftover, but had to supplement with two other fabrics from my stash to nearly complete the piano-keys border. There wasn't enough of the black polka-dot for the cornerstones so I used plain black and plan to embroider (or quilt) spider webs in bright pink and orange thread.

This quilt and a copy of Charlotte's Web will make a nice present for a certain little girl. I had bought some fabric for her, but couldn't figure out what pattern to use. Still don't know what to do with that fabric, but I'm sure years from now I'll figure it out.

Completed spider-web quilt top. 44-inches square.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Last week my husband left a love note in my giraffe measuring spoons,
which decorate the kitchen window. He's a keeper!

Yesterday I realized it was Friday the 13th, and therefore the next day was Valentine's Day and it was too late to buy and send cards to my nieces or even make something Valentine-ish -- whatever that might be. That's when I had the idea to make the woven construction paper hearts from grade school with fabric! Brilliant, but I'd have to remember it about a year from now when I could actually make and send them. Not likely to happen. In fact, despite musing over the construction on the train to work, I promptly forgot all about the idea (and that it was going to be Valentine's Day, until this morning.

I won't remember this next year, so I decided to try it out now. It worked out pretty well, and if you are interested in making these in a less than a year, here's how:

2 pieces of fabric approximately 10" x 4.5" (red)
2 pieces of contrasting fabric approximately 10" x 4.5" (b&w zebra print)
2 pieces of fusible web approximately 10" x 4.5" (I used MistyFuse)
1 Teflon pressing sheet, parchment paper or whatever you use to keep the fusible from gumming up your iron
1 piece of paper 9" x 2.5" to make the pattern template (I used an ad from the paper.)

Instructions: Fold the paper in half lengthwise so it's 4.5" by 2.5" and trim the unfolded end into a rounded shape.

Layer one piece of fusible between one of each color of fabric, with wrong sides of fabric against the fusible. Place between Teflon sheets and fuse according to the instructions on your fusible.
Repeat with the other two pieces of fabric and fusible.

Place the template on top of the fabric sandwiches and trim.

Fold the trimmed fabric in half and press lightly. Fold so that a different print is on the outside of each piece. It occurs to me at this point, that you probably don't need a template. You could just cut the fabric sandwiches into 9" x 2.5" rectangles, fold in half and round the open ends. I will try to remember to do that next year. Ha!

Make three 3"slits into the folded edge. I used a ruler and rotary cutter to make the first 3" slit 1.25" from the edge so it was exactly in the middle. The other two slits are 5/8" from the outside edge. I didn't take a picture of this step, but I'm sure you can figure it out. If you're not as anal retentive as me, you can free form cut with scissors. Just be sure that your slits are slightly longer than the width of the heart.

Now weave the two pieces together. This is hard to explain -- and I'm not sure the pictures really capture it -- but I'll try. Picture the two pieces like hands and position them in front of you as if you put both hands in front of you (rounded edges toward you and fingers away from you, pieces side by side). Open the loop of the "thumb" on your right "hand" and pass the "thumb" of your left "hand" through it. Enough with the quote marks, you get the idea.

Pass the right hand thumb loop through the left hand index finger loop. Open the right hand thumb loop and pass the left hand middle finger through it. Then pass the right hand thumb loop through the last finger on the left hand.

Weave the index finger of the right hand through the thumb of the left, then open the loop of right index finger and pass it over the left index finger. Continue weaving, alternating which side passes through the other. Don't worry about keeping it all neat until the weaving is finished.

It also looks kind of neat when you open it up and fold it in half so the edge is now in the middle.